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Russia’s Coat of Arms

Designed by Russian artist Yevgeny Ukhnalyov, and officially adopted on 30 November 1993, Russia’s coat of arms is directly derived from the coat of arms used in medieval times. While the coat of arms was modified at different times over the years, the two-headed eagle was used during the reign of Peter the Great, where it was depicted in black, rather than the golden color of today. The rider on horseback and the slain dragon have also been an almost constant feature on the coat of arms, although today the rider is not referred to as Saint George as this has religious overtones and modern Russia is viewed as a secular state.

The two-headed eagle on the coat of arms, which was adopted in 1472 by Ivan III upon his marriage to the Byzantine princess Sophia Palaiologina, has an imperial crown on each head which are joined to a third, larger crown. The eagle holds a scepter and orb in its talons, which traditionally depicts sovereign power and authority. Retaining these symbols on the coat of arms of the Russian Federation led to some objections being raised, but they nevertheless remain. It was only during the Soviet era that the coat of arms dropped the symbols of the dragon-slaying rider and the two-headed dragon in favor of the communist symbols of the hammer and sickle, along with the red star and stalks of wheat.

Interestingly the double-headed eagle frequently features in historical heraldry, particularly relating to the Byzantine Empire, the Holy Roman Empire and the Russian Empire. The two heads represent total dominance over both church and state. Quite a number of eastern European nations feature the double-headed eagle in their national symbols today, including Albania, Armenia, Montenegro and Serbia, while numerous provinces and cities in the Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Italy use it on their flags or coat of arms.


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