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the emblem of a military unit. A banner is a piece of cloth (fabric) of a specified size and color attached to a shaft with a cap, usually a metal tip in the shape of a spear or some other symbol.
States of the ancient East, India, China, and even some earlier states used banners as signs of the assembly and rallying point of warriors. Such banners consisted of some symbol on a high staff well visible from a great distance. Sometimes special boards or pieces of cloth with inscriptions and symbolic representations were attached to the staffs or crossbars. In ancient Rome, for instance, an eagle attached to a staff was the emblem of a legion. In the 11th century, coats of arms and later images of the cross and other holy Christian articles appeared on banners. The place of the banner in the combat formation, the honors to be rendered to it, the duties in protecting the banner, and the punishment for losing it were established for the first time in the 15th century in France. In the early 16th century the term “standard” replaced the term “banner” in cavalry units.
The banner of the ancient Slav was called stiag and was a pole with a patch of grass or a horse’s mane on the top. Later banners were made of cloth of different colors. In the late 15th century the term znamia (banner) replaced the term stiag in Russia. When the streltsy (semiprofessional musketeers) regiments were formed in 1550, they were given banners, one large banner for each regiment and a small banner for each unit of 100 men. Standard forms and designs of banners with different colors for different units were established under Peter I in the early 18th century. A regiment that lost its banner in battle was to be disbanded, and special awards were instituted for the capture of enemy banners in battle. The Russian army had regimental banners, called standards (in cavalry regiments) and host banners (in the cossack troops).
Banners were introduced in the Red Army in 1918. They were red in color; the size of the cloth and the content and design varied. The first banners were presented to units by party and Soviet organizations and workers of the factories and plants that participated in the formation of the unit.
In June 1926 the Central Executive Committee and Sovnarkom (Council of People’s Commissars) of the USSR confirmed a standard model of the banner for units of the Red Army. In the Great Patriotic War of 1941–45 the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR confirmed a new model of the Red Banner for active units (decree of Dec. 21, 1942), models of the Red Banner for the Guard Army and the Guard Corps and statutes on them (decree of June 11, 1943), and a new model of the Red Banner for units of the navy (decree of Feb. 5, 1944). The banner of units of the Soviet Army consists of a red two-faced cloth, a staff, and a cord with tassels. If the unit has been awarded an order of the USSR, the order or an order ribbon is attached to the banner. Warships have the ensign of the USSR, a white cloth with a light-blue band along the lower edge and red-colored images of the pentagonal star and the hammer and sickle. According to the Internal Service Regulations of the Armed Forces of the USSR, confirmed by the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR on Aug. 23, 1960, banners are presented to regiments, brigades (composed of battalions without combined-arms numeration), individual battalions, air squadrons, military training establishments and units, and fleet training centers. Banners are not given to units of local rifle troops, disciplinary units, medical and sanitation units, transport units, and some other units, except for those units that have been awarded orders of the USSR. Guard units receive guard banners.
A unit receives a banner after it is formed, on behalf of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR. The unit retains the banner for as long as it exists, regardless of changes in the designation or numbering of the unit. The banner is always with the unit, and on the battlefield it is in the area of the unit’s combat actions. If the banner is lost, the commander of the unit and the people directly responsible for it face a military tribunal, and the military unit is disbanded. The banner is “the symbol of military honor, valor, and glory; it serves as a reminder to each soldier, sergeant, officer, and general of the sacred duty to serve loyally the Soviet motherland”(Ustav vnutrennei sluzhby Vooruzhennykh Sil Soiuza SSR, 1969, p. 191).
REFERENCESUstav vnutrennei sluzhby Vooruzhennykh Sil Soiuza SSR. Moscow, 1969.
Reipol’skii, S. N. Boevoe Krasnoe znamia. Moscow, 1964.
A. S. MAKSIMENKO
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