Soiuz and Symbolic Union: Representations of Unity in Soviet Symbolism
“Soiuz” in Russian means “union” — a key word in the formal name of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. Once the world’s largest state, the Soviet Union comprised 15 republics and more than 100 distinct ethnic groups. The country celebrated its diversity while at the same time emphasizing the unity of all Soviet peoples. Throughout the 1922–1991 history of the USSR a highlydeveloped system of symbolic representations was used to portray the strength of the union. For example, the state emblem visually bound the Soviet republics to the state through a heraldic ribbon using all the titular languages of the republics. Likewise, the national anthem celebrated the “unbreakable union of free republics”. The Soviet symbol set also included unique, but visually unifying, symbols to represent the 15 union republics—their flags, emblems, and anthems. There were also flags for the autonomous republics within these union republics, based upon the republic flags. In addition to the symbolic portrayal of the cohesiveness of the Soviet Union, there were two other types of “unions” that were vital to Soviet symbolism — the unity of workers and peasants, as well as the brotherhood of all the world’s communists. Both concepts were central to the symbolism of the Soviet flag and the state emblem, and to other uses of symbols within the country. This paper will examine the many ways in which the concepts of union and unity were symbolically portrayed in Soviet society including the use of flags, emblems, imagery, and slogans. It will demonstrate the importance of the concept of “soiuz” in the Soviet Union. Finally, it will show how unity symbols were central to Soviet messaging both domestically and internationally.