Staunton, June 27 – One of the most striking and important developments in the Russian opposition movement in recent times has been the acceptance of the white-blue-white flag associated with Novgorod, an acceptance that has allowed the Russian opposition to stake a claim to be part of a Russian national tradition, albeit one at odds with the Kremlin.
Stanislav Rudkovsky, a leader of the Russian Libertarian Party, says that in Russia, history remains “politics projected onto the past” and thus it is important for the opposition to link itself to the past rather than to allow the Putin regime to stake total claim to it (forumfreerussia.org/main/2022-07-11/novgorodskij-narrativ-v-istorii-i-simvolike).
For a long time, he points out, Russian democrats have pointed to the Novgorod tradition of democracy and a focus on trade rather than aggression as emblematic of what they stand for. But until they began using the flag associated with Novgorod, even though this flag appeared only in the 1990s, this did not capture the minds of their followers.
But now across Russia and among Russian democratic emigres, the flag is a key symbol of this alternative Russian history, especially now when its mercantilist approach to life stands in sharp contrast to the militarism and aggressiveness of the Putin regime on view in Ukraine and elsewhere.
“In general,” Rudkovsky says, “the new flag embodies the rejection of two fundamental and negative features of [officially supported] Russian statehood – authoritarianism and military expansion.” But more than that, it is something that has emerged from below rather than being imposed from above and lacks even a single standard for the blue used.
Despite that, the Novgorodian white-blue-white flag has been adopted by the Free Russia Forum in Vilnius, the Decembrist movement in Berlin, the Democrats-Yes group in Berlin, Culturus in Prague, Solidarity/Free Russia in Berlin, and For a Free Russia in Warsaw. And it is increasingly recognized by European parliamentarians.