Dead Confederates, A Civil War Era Blog

A Quick Note About that Ukranian Separatist Flag

Posted in Memory by Andy Hall on June 16, 2014

SeperatistSouthron hearts have been all a-flutter in recent days because Russian separatists in the Ukraine have adopted a banner (right) that looks a lot like the Confederate Battle Flag. Like so many other “heritage” arguments, though, this one requires a certain ignorance of actual history and a willingness to believe pretty much anything that sounds good.

There’s a general similarity, certainly. But the design the separatists are using has a much older, and much more relevant, history that most in the West may not be aware of. The diagonal cross, the Cross of St. Andrew, has been used as a symbol of Russia for centuries. (St. Andrew is that country’s patron saint.) It first appeared in proposals for a Russian naval ensign more than 300 years ago, during the reign of Peter the Great, and was formally adopted as early as 1710. On a red background, it was adopted as a jack and as a flag for coastal forts in 1700, remaining in use until the Revolution of 1917. Both the ensign and the jack were brought back in 1992 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, and remain in use today.


Russian ensign, 1712-1917 and 1992-present (left), and the Russian naval jack, 1700-1917, 1992-present (right).

By adopting the banner that they have, the Новороссия (New Russia) separatists in the Ukraine are making a very public show of their allegiance to Russia — not to some abstract principle of secession, or states’ rights, or anything else. The Hit & Run blog over at the Libertarian magazine Reason cuts through the Confederate nonsense:


The pro-Russian rebels, known for their dislike of all things American, do not take direct inspiration from the U.S. secession movement or fear the implications of separatist bad luck that their flag entails. . . .
Now, there have been a few incidents of Europeans waving the rebel flag as a banner of anti-tyranny, such as at the fall of the Berlin Wall and, in fact, when pro-Western Ukrainians deposed their corrupt, pro-Russian president earlier this year. But, again, this separatist movement is anti-Western.
The insurgents, by their own admission, don’t know jack about Dixie and certainly aren’t defending its heritage. A lot of them are just Chechen mercenaries, not history buffs.



I know that a lot of southern nationalists in this country have a chubby for Vladimir Putin, seeing him as an ally in the culture wars. Fine, whatever. But what’s going on in the Ukraine, and the symbols chosen to define it, has nothing to do with the American South or the Confederacy. It’s about ethnic Russians making an appeal to fellow Russians, using a symbol that other Russians know.

That’s all it is. Move along, folks.





5 Responses

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  1. Rob Baker said, on June 16, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    Well, it doesn’t help when different media sources covering the issue make the correlation. Then there was the whole hanging of flags in Kiev. Which is an interesting photo-op.

    • Andy Hall said, on June 16, 2014 at 10:39 pm

      I expect the media to be dumb — as well as to run with any “Confederate” angle they can imagine. I expect the True Defenders of the Southron Cross to have more sense about their own symbols.

  2. M.D. Blough said, on June 16, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    Given their perversion of Scottish history to support their moonshine and magnolias view of the South, this doesn’t surprise me.

    • M.D. Blough said, on June 16, 2014 at 11:25 pm

      I should add that I find it particularly annoying because I’m Scots on my mother’s side of the family and I still have family in Scotland, including a second cousin.

  3. Clint said, on June 17, 2014 at 4:36 am

    I can’t believe it. You have actually written something that I wholeheartedly agree with and yes, many League members are “cheer-leading” for Vlad. It makes no sense and if they believe he is so “in tune” with their ideals I would invite them to move into Russia proper and try and start a secessionist movement (it wouldn’t go far).

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