The state symbols of Great Litva/Belarus


9-14th centuries

The ancient Litvan kingdoms: Połacak, Turaŭ, Bieraście, Smalensk, Čarnihaŭ

In the ancient Litvan kingdoms the emblems of the kings were state symbols at the same time.

the coin of the Turaŭ kingdom with the symbol of king Śviatapołk, appr. 1016

the symbol of Iziasłaŭ, the king of Połacak in 988-1001 AD

the ring of Usiasłaŭ the Magician, the king of Połacak 1044-1101

A similar tradition can be observed, p.e., in the Ukraine where the symbol of duke Ruerick was also the the symbol of the Kyiv kingdom (now its modified version is the arms of Ukraine).


Seal of king Hleb of  Połacak, 1330. Here we see the appearance of the Pahonia


14-18th centuries

The Grand Duchy of Litva

The first arms of the Grand Duchy of Litva was the Kalumny - the symbol of the Litvan dukes, based on the royal Połacak trident. Since the battle of Gruenwald the Pahonia became the official state symbol.

a soldier with the Kalumny on his shield

the Pahonia with the Kalumny on the rider's shield

the Pahonia from the Litvan Code of Laws, 1588

the Pahonia from the Warsaw sojm constitution, 1619. To the right you can see the Kalumny

The flag of medieval Litva also consisted of the Pahonia.

on the backside was Madonna with Jesus on her arms


The Res Publica of both peoples

The Polish-Litvan confederation had an arms consisting of the Polish eagle and the litvan Pahonia. In the centre of the shield the arms of the current king was placed.



The arms used under Henry Valois with the French royal lilies in the centre


with the arms of the Batura (Batory) family in the centre



with the symbol of the Vasa family


Michał Korybut Wiśniowiecki

(from Adam Kromer's herbarz)


The arms under Jan III Sobieski


with the Saxonian arms in the centre

1704-1709, 1733-1736

with the Leszczynski arms in the centre

(from Adam Kromer's herbarz)


the arms used under Stanisław August Poniatowski

(from Adam Kromer's herbarz)


18th century - 1918

The Russian Empire

After annexing Litva the Russians didn't ban the Pahonia - but they banned the old arms of most Litvan cities and replaced them with the Pahonia on different backgrounds (the old Litvan provinces had the Pahonia on different backgrounds on their emblems. The Russians just replaced the cities' arms with the emblems of former provinces). Arms of Litvan regions were there on the major state emblem of the Russian empire of 1856

the united arms of Litvan provinces of Russia, 1857: Połacak, Vilnia, Mścisłaŭ

the united arms of the western regions of Russia, 1857: Litva, Poland, Samogitia

The Litvan-Polish uprisings


in the shield we can see the Polish eagle and the Pahonia (taken from Adam Kromer's herbarz)



in the shield there is the Polish eagle, the Pahonia and the symbol of Ruthenia (Ukraine)


1918 - now

The Belarusian Democratic Republic

After the October Revolution Litva, like Finland, Poland, the Baltic countries and other parts of the former Russian Empire declared independence. On March 25th 1918 the Belarusian Democratic republic was established in Miensk. The new state had the old country's symbols: the Pahonia and the Litvan White-red-white banner.

The Democratic republic existed for a very short period of time - isoon the Red Army took control over half of the territory of Litva and in 1919 the Bolsheviks established the Soviet Socialist Republic of Belarus. The other half of Litva/Belarus became part of the restored Poland.

The democratic government was forced into exile, where it used the white-red-white banner with two small mourning stripes


1919 - 1990

The Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic

The Soviet Belorussia was one of the republics of the USSR. Though it had some scale of sovereignty, but in fact it was just a province of the unitary totalitarian Soviet state.


The Soviet state symbols

The Flag of the USSR

The arms of the Soviet Union. The crossed hammer and sickle symbolise the union of workers and peasantry in their fight for their rights. The earthball symbolises that communism will rule the whole world. On the ribbons the motto "Workers of All Countries, Unite!" is written in the 15 languages of the Soviet republics: Russian, Ukrainian, Moldavian, Estonian, Latvian, Samogitian (Lithuanian), Georgian, Armenian, Azerbaijani, Kazakh, Uzbek, Turkmen, Kyrgyz, Tajik and Litvan


The first state symbols of the BSSR

The Lithuanian and Belarusian SSR, 1919

The Soviet Socialist Republic of Belarus, 1919

The Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic, 1937

The BSSR in the 40ies

The arms of the BSSR based on the arms of the USSR - but here we also see oak-leaves. The motto is written in the languages spoken in Litva by that time: Litvan, Russian, Yiddish and Polish


The Nazi occupation 1941-1943

During the Nazi occupation of Litva the russification was stopped for a while, traditional symbols were allowed to be used again. For this reason the communists could set the label of being "fascist" and "collaborationist" on the white-red-white banner and the Pahonia, which is still an argument for revanchist powers to be against these symbols.

a patch of the Litvan SS division "Weissruthenien"


The Soviet comeback

In 1944 the Red army replaces nazist occupation back by the communist occupation.

The flag of the BSSR was based on the Soviet flag. Due to rumours the author of the BSSR flag was a personal portraitist of Nazi generals in occupied Litva. The new Litvan flag had an ornament and a green stripe. The green stripe symbolises the forests of Litva and/or Polesia, a region in the South of Litva.

The hammer and sickle were absent on the reverse side of the flag

The new arms of the BSSR (created in the 1930ies) was made closer to the Soviet arms, the mottos in Yiddish and Polish disappeared. The communists implemented a policy of russification - there was no place for languages except Russian (and the native language)



1990 - now

The Republic of Belarus

In 1990 the Supreme Soviet of the BSSR declared independence from the Soviet Union (actually, Litva was the last republic to do it, even Russia declared independence earlier!). Soon the traditional Litvan national symbols were restored as state symbols.



The Łukašenka dictatorship

In 1994 Alaksandar Łukašenka was elected the 1st president of the Republic of Belarus. In few years he built up an authoritarist regime of his own in Litva, he dismissed the legal parliament and de-facto appointed his own one. By now oppositional politicians are being persecuted, independent newspapers are being closed.

From the first days Łukašenka started implementing a policy of russification of Litva. Russian was made the state language of Litva, Litvan schools are being closed and replaced by Russian. In 1995 Łukasenka banned the traditional symbols and replaced them with newly invented neo-sovietic ones.

The hammer and sickle disappeared, the ornament changed its colours for some reason (for to be a remembrance on the white-red-white banner *sadly joking*)

The hammer and sickle were replaced by the silhouette of Litva, the communist slogan disappeared, on the ribbon it says "Respublika Biełarus" - "The Republic of Belarus" in Litvan

A photo of Łukašenka with the neo-sovietic symbols


The presidential banner of Łukashist Litva

see also: National Symbolism of Belarus: the Past and Present from the Virtual Guide to Belarus



Bartolomaeus Horbač Anno Domini 2003