RUSSIAN EMPIRE
 


 

NAVAL ENSIGNS, FLAGS & PENNANTS  •  1700-1917
 

Images Added September 2013

Ensigns & Jack of the Galley Squadron
 

Notes
 

The Andrew Flag was personally designed by Peter the Great and was incorporated into the ensigns and pennants introduced in 1700, replacing the various ensigns and jacks used during the late seventeenth century.

Flag Proportions: Naval ensigns and flags of the Russian Empire were generally made in 2:3 proportions, as illustrated.

Credits: Many of my drawings are based on images posted to the FOTW Mailing List by Zeljko Heimer (Croatia). Information was also taken from VEXILLOGRAPHIA, the outstanding website devoted to the historical and current flags of Russia and related countries, the Russian Navy's official website, and Whitney Smith's Flags Through the Ages and Across the World (1975).
 



FLEET ENSIGNS & PENNANTS 1700-10
 

The naval ensign of the Russian Empire, the famous "Andrew Flag," was personally designed by Peter the Great. On a white field it displayed the diagonal blue Cross of St. Andrew, Russia's patron saint. (A similar flag with the colors reversed—blue field, white cross—is the national flag of Scotland.) The first naval ensigns incorporating the Andrew Flag were introduced in 1700. Following the English example, these were white, blue and red squadron ensigns with the Andrew Flag as a canton. Corresponding white, blue and red masthead pennants were also introduced. In 1710, the white ensign was abolished, being replaced by the Andrew Flag proper, a white flag with the blue Cross of St. Andrew. In the original design the arms of the cross did not reach the edges of the flag, but in 1712 a new version was introduced with the cross throughout the field. To complement the ensigns, a jack was also introduced in 1700; it bore a marked resemblance, possibly intentional, to the British Union Jack. This jack also served as the naval fortress flag and the rank flag of the General Admiral of the Navy. In 1913, however, a variant of the jack charged with the lesser imperial arms was specified as the flag for naval fortresses. The Andrew Flag in its 1712 version and the jack remained as Russia's principal naval flags until the fall of the tsarist regime in 1917.
 


 


 

ENSIGN & PENNANT OF THE ADMIRAL'S SQUADRON



 

ENSIGN & PENNANT OF THE VICE-ADMIRAL'S SQUADRON



 

ENSIGN & PENNANT OF THE REAR-ADMIRAL'S SQUADRON

 


JACK • 1700-1917
NAVAL FORTRESS FLAG • 1700-13


 NAVAL FORTRESS FLAG • 1913-17
 

 

FLEET ENSIGNS & PENNANTS 1710-1917
 

In 1732 a decree of the Empress Anna abolished the squadron ensigns, specifying that all warships of the Russian Navy should fly the Andrew Flag, the jack and the white masthead pennant. In 1743, however, a decree of the Empress Elizabeth reinstated the squadron ensigns and pennants. Then, in 1764, the squadron ensigns were once more abolished, this time by a decree of the Empress Catherine II, leaving the Andrew Flag, the jack and the white pennant as Russia's sole naval flags. Squadron ensigns were reintroduced in the reign of the Emperor Paul I and in 1797, he ordered that the blue and red ensigns be altered to display the jack rather than the Andrew Flag as a canton. (The jack was also the rank flag of the General Admiral of the Navy—at that time the Emperor himself.) The Baltic Fleet was now organized in three divisions, each of three squadrons. To indicate squadron identity within each division, ships flew either the white, the blue or the red masthead pennant. Thus ships of the First Division flew the Andrew Flag, the jack and either the white (1st Squadron), blue (2nd Squadron) or red (3rd Squadron) pennant. During his reign, Russian warships also sometimes flew the flag of the Knights of Malta—a red flag with a white cross—as a jack. (The Emperor held the title of Grand Master of the Order of the Knights of Malta.) After Paul's death in 1801 his successor, Alexander I, reinstated the former blue and red ensigns with the Andrew Flag canton. With some variations, the squadron ensigns continued in use with both the Baltic and Black Sea fleets until they were officially abolished in 1865. Thereafter, the Andrew Flag was Russia's sole naval ensign.
 


ANDREW FLAG  •  1710-12


ANDREW FLAG  •  1712-1917

 

SECOND DIVISION OF THE FLEET  •  1797-1801

 

THIRD DIVISION OF THE FLEET  •  1797-1801

 

KNIGHTS OF MALTA JACK • 1796-1801

 

ST. GEORGE HONOR ENSIGN & PENNANT
 

In 1827, a decree of the Emperor Nicholas I created the St. George naval ensign and pennant to be flown by ships that had particularly distinguished themselves in action during the Russo-Turkish War (1827-29). (The Cross of St. George was tsarist Russia's highest military decoration for valor.) The first vessel to be so honored was the ship of the line Asov for the Battle of Navarino (1827). During World War II, the Soviet Union introduced a similar honorary flag, the Guards Ensign.
 



ST. GEORGE HONOR ENSIGN & PENNANT  •  1827-1917


ENSIGNS & JACK OF THE GALLEY SQUADRON
 

The Russian Navy also maintained a galley squadron in the Baltic Sea. Distinctive ensigns and a jack for galleys were introduced around 1700 and were similar to the fleet ensigns but forked. White, blue and red ensigns were specified, but since there was never more than one galley squadron, only the red ensign was actually used. When the squadron ensigns were finally abolished in 1865, a forked version of the Andrew Flag was introduced for galleys.

 

ENSIGN  •  1700-1865

 

ENSIGN  •  1865-1917

 

JACK  •  1700-1917
 



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