Symbols of the Estonian SSR

The Soviet regime was established in Estonia in summer 1940 and the Sovietisation process began. Among other rearrangements, the symbols of the fraternal republic had to be worked out, directly based on the Soviet standard model. The first things to be used were the main Soviet symbols, such as hammer and sickle (a union of factory workers and peasants), the five-pointed star (a symbol of unity between the workers of five continents) etc.

The constitution of the Estonian SSR was introduced in August 1940 and also contained a description of the flag and coat of arms of the Estonian fraternal republic. Like for most fraternal republics of the USSR, the coat of arms contained two wreaths, a red ribbon with words “Proletarians of the world, unite!”, rays of the rising sun with the hammer and sickle, and a five-pointed star. The slight difference among republics was evident in the type of wreath (conifer branches and ears of rye). The Estonian coat of arms had ‘Estonian SSR’ written on it in Estonian.

The flag relied even more on the Soviet examples – it differed from the Soviet flag (golden hammer and sickle and a five-pointed star) only by the letters ESSR. In the course of general heraldic reorganisations in 1953, the letters ESSR were removed and replaced by a blue-white wavy line that was supposed to symbolise the Baltic sea.

Using the symbols of the Republic of Estonia was strictly forbidden in the Soviet Union and constituted a punishable offence. Banning the ‘bourgeois symbols’ was often taken to the extreme; e.g. a whole print run of a magazine could be collected and replaced merely because the colour combination blue-black-white happened to find its way onto the cover.

The official name, flag and coat of arms of the Republic of Estonia were again taken into use in spring 1990, more than a year before independence was fully restored.

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