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22 Aug, 2009 08:49

Russia marks State Flag Day

Rallies, street processions and gala concerts are being held across Russia as the country marks the State Flag Day on Saturday.

August 22 only became a holiday in 1994 to commemorate the events of 1991 when the three-color flag was first hoisted over the white marble building of the Russian government to replace the Soviet red flag with hammer and sickle.

The day is not on the list of official holidays or days off, but since 1994 has been celebrated annually.

The holiday may be young but the history of the white-blue-red flag dates back four centuries.

It dates back to 1667, when it began to be used as the identification emblem of Russia's first warship, The Oryol (The Eagle), built during the rule of Tsar Aleksey Mikhailovich (1629-1676).

But it was his son, Peter I, who officially approved the symbol. The tsar-reformer – as historians label him – personally drew up the sketch and established the order of stripes.

The flag surrendered its place to the red banner after the revolution of 1917 but came back in August 1991.

A law passed in 2000 stipulated that the state flag be used only for official purposes and on public holidays. But last year a new law allowed the use of the flag in any situation that wished to demonstrate the feeling of patriotism.

The state flag has since been taken to the North Pole, the bottom of the Arctic Ocean, the tallest peaks, remote corners of the world and even to outer space.