Flag, Naval

Flag, Naval


an ensign that indicates that a naval vessel belongs to the armed forces of a given country. It is a cloth of an officially established color and shape.

Naval flags appeared in antiquity and became established devices between the 16th and 18th centuries. The Russian naval flag, with a diagonal light-blue Saint Andrew’s cross (the Andrei flag), was introduced in the early 18th century. After the October Revolution of 1917, from 1918 to 1920 the ships of the Soviet Navy flew the national and military flag of the RSFSR, which had been adopted by the government on Apr. 14, 1918; a special naval flag of the RSFSR was approved on Sept. 29, 1920. With the formation of the USSR, a new naval flag of the USSR was introduced on Aug. 24, 1923. On June 19, 1942, a guards naval flag was introduced. In some countries, such as the USSR, Great Britain, and Japan, the naval flag differs from the national flag in color and design. The Danish, Swedish, and Norwegian naval flags differ only in shape from the national flags. In several other countries, such as the USA, Spain, and Turkey, the two flags are identical. The size of the flag depends on the class of the vessel.

In the Soviet Navy, the flag flown from the stern of a vessel serves as the ship’s banner—a symbol of military honor, valor, and glory. It reminds each serviceman on board of his sacred duty to serve the Soviet homeland. The anniversary of the raising of the flag is the ship’s birthday, an annual holiday for the crew. When the ship is at anchor or moored, the flag is raised at 8 A.M.(9 A.M. on holidays or days off). It is lowered at sunset or, in the polar seas, by special order of the fleet commander. A ship never lowers its flag when under steam.

In addition to the naval flag, naval ships fly the jack, flags, and various pennants (smaller, tapered flags with variously colored swallowtails) of officials, such as the commander in chief of the armed forces of the USSR, the minister of defense of the USSR, the chief of the General Staff, the commander in chief of the Soviet Navy, a fleet commander, or a commander of a large unit. The flags and pennants of officials of the frontier troops include the flags of the chairman of the Committee for State Security (KGB) of the Council of Ministers of the USSR, the chief of the frontier troops of the KGB, the chief of the frontier troops of a military district, and the commander of a naval unit of the frontier troops, as well as the commission pennant of the commander of a naval unit of the frontier troops.


Al’bom flagov Raboche-Krest’ianskogo Krasnogo flota i Morskogo vedomstva. Leningrad, 1924.
Flagi gosudarstv mira. Moscow, 1964.
Voenno-Morskie flagi SSSR. Moscow, 1964.