The white-blue-white flag (Russian: бело-сине-белый флаг, romanized: belo-sine-belyj flag) is a symbol of opposition to the Russian invasion of Ukraine that has been used by Russian anti-war protesters. It has also been used as a symbol of opposition to the current government of Vladimir Putin by several personal Internet accounts, and the Freedom of Russia Legion.
|Russian anti-war flag|
|Proportion||2:3 / 1:2|
|Adopted||28 February 2022|
|Design||A horizontal triband of white (top and bottom) and azure.|
Creation and symbolism
Several people created the idea of the white-blue-white flag shortly after the Russian invasion of Ukraine started on 24 February 2022. Kai Katonina, a Berlin-based user experience designer, and a Russia-based art manager with the pseudonym "Fish Sounds" (Звуки Рыб, Zvuki Ryb), also known as "AssezJeune", are each credited with having created the flag. It was first used on social media on 28 February 2022, and has been flown by Russian expatriates at various anti-war protests.
One of the stated reasons for replacing the red stripe of the flag of Russia by a white one is to remove the association with "blood and violence". AssezJeune, one of the flag's creators, stated: "The red on the modern Russian flag is associated not just with blood, but with its military power and authoritarian strength. So, this is not just the removal of blood, but, most importantly, the removal of the cult of militarism and violence. WBR is a historical authoritarian flag introduced by Tsarist Russia. It's also associated with militarism, with Russian imperial cores."
Usage and reactions
Use of the flag began shortly after the start of the invasion, and the flag began to garner wide appeal among protesters who oppose the war. The white-blue-white flag has an official website, where it is described as the "Flag of the Wonderful Russia of the Future" and "A symbol of freedom and peace"; the website includes background information in multiple languages. The flag has not been associated with representing a single organization exclusively, and several anti-war organisations have demonstrated support for it as a broader symbol of anti-war sentiment and unity. The similarity and analogy with the white-red-white flag that has been widely used during the 2020–2021 Belarusian protests is often listed as one of its advantages, as is the similarity to the flag of Veliky Novgorod, in which the government of the Novgorod Republic had a reputation for developing democratic governance.
The white-blue-white flag has been used at anti-war protests in Tbilisi, Georgia, Berlin, Germany, Sofia, Bulgaria, Bern, Switzerland, Limassol, Cyprus, Prague, Czech Republic, The Hague, Netherlands, and Riga, Latvia. In addition, some media have reported that the flag has also been used by protesters in Yekaterinburg, Russia, although this claim has not been supported by any evidence.
On 31 March 2022, the head of the Duma commission on foreign interference, Vasily Piskarev, appealed to the Prosecutor General's Office to ban the white-blue-white Russian flag as extremist, since "this symbolism is used in protests against the military operation in Ukraine not only in Russia, but also in other countries".
Members of the Freedom of Russia Legion (Russian: Легион «Свобода России», romanized: Legion "Svoboda Rossii"), composed of Russians who defected from the Russian Armed Forces to Ukraine, have been seen wearing patches of the flag on their military uniforms.
The white-blue-white flag (as well as other symbols of Russia) was banned during the Equality Parade in Warsaw, held alongside KyivPride. KyivPride published a statement about possible provocations, labeling any intentions to "display Russian flags of any color" a provocation and an unacceptable step meant to advance the Russian agenda.
On 21 August 2022, the manifesto of a hitherto unknown partisan group within Russia, National Republican Army (NRA) (Russian: Национальная республиканская армия (НРА)), endorsed the adoption of the white-blue-white flag. The manifesto was issued following the car bomb assassination of Darya Dugina and read aloud by exiled Russian politician Ilya Ponomarev on his video outlet "February Morning" (Russian: Утро Февраля), and published via its affiliated Telegram-based news service "Rospartisan" (Russian: Роспартизан). The white-blue-white flag motif is employed by February Morning on the air and in its social media profiles.
On 22 May 2023, the Freedom of Russia Legion posted videos showing the flag being lifted with balloons flying in the center of Moscow following the Belgorod Oblast incursion, which they claimed credit for.
The current flag of Russia, featuring the red stripe and darker blue
The former state flag of Belarus was adopted by oppositionist parties and were used in the 2020–2021 Belarusian protests
Protests of Russians in Yerevan against the war in Ukraine on 17 April 2022
White-blue-white flag in Tbilisi, Georgia on 2 March 2022
Anti-war protest sticker in Germany, August 2022
Flag of the Freedom of Russia Legion
- Peace flag
- Green ribbon (Russia) – used by protesters against the Russian invasion of Ukraine
- White-red-white flag – similar flag used by the Belarusian opposition
- Anti-war protests in Russia (2022–present)
- Sauer, Pjotr (2022-04-03). "Red is dead: Russian anti-war protesters fly a new flag for peace". The Observer. The Guardian. London, UK: Guardian News & Media Limited. Archived from the original on 2022-04-03. Retrieved 2022-04-03.
- Сивцова [Sivtsova], Саша [Sasha] (2022-03-14). У антивоенного движения появился новый символ протеста — бело-сине-белый флаг. "Медуза" рассказывает, кто и зачем его придумал [The anti-war movement has a new symbol of protest – the white-blue-white flag. Meduza reveals who invented it and why.]. истории (Stories). Meduza (in Russian). Riga, Latvia: Medusa Project SIA. Archived from the original on 2022-03-19. Retrieved 2022-03-14; Сивцова [Sivtsova], Саша [Sasha] (2022-03-16). "A new symbol of Russia's anti-war movement Meduza explains the origins of the white-blue-white flag". Stories. Meduza. Translated by Breazeale, Sam. Riga, Latvia: Medusa Project SIA. Archived from the original on 2022-03-16. Retrieved 2022-03-17.
- "Weiss-blau-weisse Flagge – das neue Symbol von Russlands Anti-Kriegs-Bewegung: Weiss-blau-weiss als Hoffnung – die neue Flagge der Anti-Kriegs-Bewegung" [White-blue-white flag – the new symbol of Russian's anti-war movement: White-blue-white as symbol of hope – the new flag of the anti-war movement]. International: Gesellschaft & Politik. Watson.ch (in Swiss High German). Zürich, Switzerland: FixxPunkt AG. 2022-03-16. Archived from the original on 2022-03-19. Retrieved 2022-03-19.
- Krökel, Ulrich (2022-03-30). "Putin-Gegner: Unter einer neuen weiß-blau-weißen Flagge formiert sich Widerstand" [Putin opponents: Resistance is forming under a new white-blue-white flag]. Ausland (Foreign countries). Badische Zeitung (in German). Freiburg, Germany: Badischer Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. Archived from the original on 2022-03-30. Retrieved 2022-03-30.
Im Exil formiert sich eine Anti-Putin-Opposition. Als Symbol tragen die Regimegegner eine weiß-blau-weiße Flagge. […] Auch in Russland tauchen die neuen Farben auf. So demonstrierten in Jekaterinburg schon Anfang März Putin-Gegner im Zeichen der Flagge gegen den Krieg.[An anti-Putin opposition forms in exile. The opponents of the regime bear a white-blue-white flag as a symbol. […] The new colors are also appearing in Russia. In Yekaterinburg, for example, opponents of Putin demonstrated against the war under the sign of the flag at the beginning of March.]
- Sygar, Michail (2022-03-21). "Russland ist ein gescheiterter Staat: Nächstes Jahr in Nowgorod – Auf nach Nowgorod: Das neue Russland braucht eine Flagge ohne Blut" [Russia is a failed state: Next year in Novgorod – To Novgorod: The new Russia needs a flag without blood]. Spiegel Ausland (Essay) (in German). Hamburg, Germany: Der Spiegel GmbH & Co. KG. Archived from the original on 2022-03-22. Retrieved 2022-03-22.
Schon wenige Tage nach der Invasion schrieben viele Russen in sozialen Medien, dass sich die weiß-blau-rote Trikolore diskreditiert habe und das neue Russland, das irgendwann nach Putin entstehen wird, eine neue Flagge brauche – ohne Blut darauf. Der rote Streifen solle daher durch einen zweiten weißen Streifen ersetzt werden: die Farbe des russischen Schnees und der Reue.[Just days after the invasion, many Russians wrote on social media that the white-blue-red tricolor had become discredited and that the new Russia that will emerge sometime after Putin needed a new flag – without blood on it. The red stripe is therefore to be replaced by a second white stripe: the color of Russian snow and of regret.]
- Armitage, Susie (2022-03-11). "Russian flags come down in New York's Little Odessa: 'Putin has turned it into a fascist symbol' – Russia's invasion of Ukraine reverberates in Brighton Beach, home to one of the world's largest concentrations of immigrants from the former Soviet Union". The Guardian. Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, New York, USA: Guardian News & Media Limited. Archived from the original on 2022-03-16. Retrieved 2022-03-20.
[S]ome anti-war Russians on 6 March rallied around a brand-new flag they have chosen to represent them: a single blue band on a white background. […] "We decided we can no longer use the Russian tricolor, because Putin has turned it into a fascist symbol," said Alex Zaporozhtsev, an activist with the group For Freedom in Russia, which has organized protests against the Putin regime for over seven years. "We decided to take away the red stripe – it's the color of blood – and make it white." He said the new flag was conceived in a group chat for Russian opposition activists living around the world and made its debut shortly after the invasion.
- Jordans, Frank (2022-03-13). "Anti-war protests across Europe, small rallies in Russia – Tens of thousands of people have rallied in cities across Europe to protest against Russia's ongoing war in Ukraine". ABC News. Archived from the original on 2022-03-20. Retrieved 2022-03-20 – via Associated Press.
About 50 Russians converged on Limassol's promenade prior to joining with other protesters to chant slogans such as "Stop the war, stop Putin" and waving blue and white flags they said where[sic] the Russian national flag without the red stripe that represented "blood and violence."
- @AssezJeune (2022-02-27). У прекрасной парламентской России будущего еще нет символа. Как вам такой флаг, десоветизированный, без крови, культа войны и примеси имперских амбиций? [The beautiful parliamentary Russia of the future does not yet have a symbol. How do you like this flag, de-Sovietized, without blood, the cult of war and the admixture of imperial ambitions?] (Tweet) (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2022-03-23. Retrieved 2022-03-23 – via Twitter.
- von Kirschner, Alex [@luckykirs] (2022-02-27). Кстати говоря я уже давно держу эту идею в голове и скажу её. Русскиим за границей (в частности Европе и Балтике) уже давно надо придумать свою символику для того чтоб меньше использовать триколор рф. Я могу предложить свой вариант: БСБ (БЕЛО СИНЕ БЕЛЫЙ) [By the way, I have been keeping this idea in my head for a long time and I will say it. Russians abroad (in particular Europe and the Baltic) have long needed to come up with their own symbols in order to use the tricolor of the Russian Federation less. I can offer my own version: WBW (WHITE BLUE WHITE)] (Tweet) (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2022-02-27. Retrieved 2022-03-07 – via Twitter.
- Mememaster (2022-03-03). В твиттере придумали новый флаг России – бело-сине-белый [Twitter came up with a new flag of Russia – white-blue-white]. Memepedia (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2022-03-25. Retrieved 2022-03-06.
- Cords, Suzanne; Oelze, Sabine; Braun, Stuart (2022-03-06). "Culture rallies for Ukraine in Berlin: A "Concert for Peace" headed by star conductor Daniel Barenboim, and a later rally by literary luminaries at the site of the Nazi book burnings, bookended a day of solidarity with Ukraine". Arts. Bonn, Germany: Deutsche Welle. Archived from the original on 2022-03-19. Retrieved 2022-03-19.
One protester at Bebelplatz named Nikitia (sic) Batalov held up a blue and white flag. "This is a Russian flag without a red stripe, without a red bloody stripe of Russia, without Putin," she told DW, explaining that half her family live in Ukraine and half in Russia.
- LaFlamme, Lisa; Jones, Alexandra Mae (2022-03-06). "Russian families divided over attack on Ukraine, some misled by state media". CTV News. Canada: Bell Media. Archived from the original on 2022-03-19. Retrieved 2022-03-19.
Several members of the crowd carried a blue and white striped flag, a symbolic version of the Russian flag, which normally has a red stripe on the bottom. The protesters said Putin had destroyed their flag, so they changed it by rubbing out the red. "We decided we can just take our Russian flag and just wash it from all this blood and just have this blue-white flag," Valaria said.
- Naylor, Aliide (2022-03-10). "Amidst a Crackdown, Russia's Anti-War Artists and Activists Try To Reclaim the Streets". Opinion. ArtReview. London, UK: ArtReview Ltd. Archived from the original on 2022-03-20. Retrieved 2022-03-20.
Even if Russians can't reference the ongoing war, many have changed their profile pictures to black or white to indicate mourning or the need for peace. Instead of using the Ukrainian flag online (some people might not feel safe overtly indicating they are pro-Ukraine), you sometimes see people posting the Russian tricolour, with an extra white band replacing the red – the logic being that it is the Russian flag but 'without the blood'.
- "Symbol des Protests: Russland-Flagge ohne rote Farbe – was hat das zu bedeuten?" [Symbol of the protest: Russia flag without red color – what does it mean?]. Video. Focus Online (in German). Munich, Germany: BurdaForward GmbH. 2022-03-28. Archived from the original on 2022-03-30. Retrieved 2022-03-30.
- Tiesbohnenkamp, Werner, ed. (March 2022). "Die Flagge des schönen Russlands der Zukunft" [The flag of the beautiful Russia of the future]. Lexas Laenderservice (in German). Gütersloh, Germany: Informationsvermittlung Dr. Werner Tiesbohnenkamp. Archived from the original on 2022-03-25. Retrieved 2022-03-25.
Die weiß-blau-weiße Flagge ähnelt auch der Flagge des freien Belarus — Weiß-Rot-Weiß.[The white-blue-white flag is similar to the flag of the free Belarus – white-red-white.]
- mg (2022-03-22). "Ukraine-Krieg: Neue russische Flagge aufgetaucht – das steckt dahinter" [Ukrainian war: New Russian flag appearing – the background]. Der Westen (in German). Berlin, Germany: FUNKE Digital GmbH / Funke Mediengruppe. Archived from the original on 2022-03-25. Retrieved 2022-03-25.
Die Vorteile einer neuen weiß-blau-weißen Flagge seien zum einen die Ähnlichkeit mit der ehemaligen Flagge von Weliki Nowgorod, einer Stadt, die als Wiege der russischen Demokratie gelte. Außerdem würde sie an die belarussische weiß-rot-weiße Protestfalle erinnern.[Among the advantages of a new white-blue-white flag were its resemblance of the former flag of Veliky Novgorod, a city considered to be the cradle of Russian democracy. Also, it would remind of the Belarusian white-red-white protest flag.]
- Morovov-Sheiner, Mitia (ed.). "Anti-war coalitions and organizations". whitebluewhite.info. Archived from the original on 2022-04-03. Retrieved 2022-04-04.
- Kudracheva, Inga [@Inga_Kudracheva] (2022-03-02). Сегодня в Тбилиси уже вышли ребята с этим флагом! [Today, guys have already come out with this flag in Tbilisi!] (Tweet) (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2022-03-09. Retrieved 2022-03-13 – via Twitter.
- Dudley, Dasha. Фотографии с нашей вчерашней демонстрации в Берлине. [Photos from our demonstration in Berlin yesterday.]. Facebook (in Russian). Archived from the original on 2023-04-20. Retrieved 2022-03-07.
- "Anti-Ukraine-Krieg: Weiß-blau-weiße Flagge erklärt – Protest gegen Ukraine-Krieg: Das hat es mit den weiß-blau-weißen Fahne auf sich" [Anti-Ukraine war: White-blue-white flag explained – Protest against Ukraine war: This is what the white-blue-white flag is all about]. Politik (Politics). Kölnische Rundschau (in German). Cologne, Germany: M. DuMont Schauberg Verwaltungs-GmbH / M. DuMont Schauberg Expedition der Kölnischen Zeitung GmbH & Co. KG. 2022-03-28. Archived from the original on 2022-03-30. Retrieved 2022-03-30.
- Todorov, Svetoslav (2022-03-25). "'We Could Be Next' – Marches for Ukraine Spread Over Bulgaria". Balkan Insight (Feature). Sofia, Bulgaria: Balkan Investigative Reporting Network (BIRN). Archived from the original on 2022-03-25. Retrieved 2022-03-25.
Several Russian-speaking people in their early 20's waved the white-blue-white flag, currently a symbol of the anti-war protests in Russia and were often met with questions about what it means. "See, there's no red, no blood", explained one of the flag bearers to a curious person in the crowd.
- Bitoun, Benjamin (2022-04-02). "Gegen Russlands Angriffskrieg: Auch Russen gingen in Bern auf die Strasse" [Against Russia's war of aggression: Also Russians were protesting in the streets of Bern]. Bern. Der Bund (in Swiss High German). Bern, Switzerland: TX Group. Archived from the original on 2022-04-02. Retrieved 2022-04-04.
- Hovet, Jason (2022-03-26). Written at Prague, Czech Republic. "Thousands of Russians in Prague protest against war in Ukraine". Reuters. London, UK: Reuters News & Media Ltd. Archived from the original on 2022-03-27. Retrieved 2022-03-27.
Thousands of Russians marched through Prague on Saturday, waving the white-blue-white flag that has become a symbol of protests against Moscow's invasion of Ukraine.
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- "Video: Protests 'Krievu balss pret karu' Brīvības pieminekļa pakājē pulcē atbalstītājus" [Video: "Russian Voices Against The War" protest at the foot of Freedom Monument draws supporters]. Delfi (in Latvian). 2022-04-23. Archived from the original on 2022-04-25. Retrieved 2022-04-25.
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- Пискарёв потребовал признать бело-сине-белый «флаг России» экстремистским [Piskarev demanded to recognize the white-blue-white "flag of Russia" as extremist]. Общество (Society). NEWS.ru (in Russian). АНО Информационно-аналитический центр "МедиаНьюс" (ANO Information and Analytical Center "MediaNews"). 2022-03-31. Archived from the original on 2022-03-31. Retrieved 2022-03-31.
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While the Belarusian opposition has long been inspired by Ukraine's resistance to Russia and attempts to impose authoritarian rule, the arrival of Russians willing to fight against their own compatriots is relatively new. The uniforms of the Freedom for Russia unit have the white-blue-white patch, in the colors of a new Russian flag favored by some opponents of Mr. Putin.
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