Sunday, February 23, 2020

Karelian Activists to Mark Centenary of Their National Flag and It’s Not the One Moscow Prefers

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 17 – The initiative group “Official Status for the Karelian Language” has announced a photo contest in the lead up to the centenary of the flag designed by a Finn and that flew over short-lived independent republics during the Russian civil war, an indication of the flag’s continuing resonance with the Karelian population.

            Karelia is the only non-Russian republic in the Russian Federation in which the language of the titular nation does not have official status largely because of its closeness to Finnish –and thus in Moscow’s view, a threat to the territorial integrity of the Russian Federation -- and of the dominance of ethnic Russians in the population.

            That makes the decision of the group to use the pre- and even anti-Soviet flag a symbol especially interesting. According to the initiative group, Karelians can submit pictures showing the flag flying or its use as a source of design for clothing or other goods (

            The centenary of the flag will be marked on March 29, but the results of the competition won’t be announced until April 20, a possible indication that the language group has a much larger agenda and plans to continue to use the flag as a rallying point for the growing Karelian national movement.

            As the Nazaccent portal notes, “the Karelian national flag was created in 1920 by Finnish artist Aksel Gallen-Kallell” and remains a symbol of independent states that existed briefly in the region during the civil war. Among these states were the North Karelian State, White Sea Karelia, Arkhangelsk Karelia, and the Ukhta Republic.

            The officially recognized state flag of the Republic of Karelia was adopted in February 1993 on the basis of a design by Aleksandr Kinner who drew on the flag that Moscow used for the Karelo-Finnish SSR between 1953 and 1956. It is the one that is registered to this day in Moscow.

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