Branding Socialist Republics

Just as a disclaimer, this post is not intended to push a stance on a particular political ideology, but rather focus purely on its aesthetic qualities. You could say this post is as superficial as it gets and I’m totally OK with that since you and I both know that we are graphic-driven whores.

Growing up, I remember being fascinated by military paraphernalia (now… whether I support the military, that’s a separate discussion). There was a specific article in a military magazine covering the Warsaw Pact that had all of the emblems of its affiliated nations neatly laid out on a map. Each emblem was manicured with lavish decorations and illustrations that caught my attention for hours. And I never really cared for what the emblems stood for, until now.

Even though the Cold War is long gone, one of its most distinguishable remnants is the design system for socialist emblems. Part of the reason why I thought they were so fascinating is that they didn’t follow traditional heraldic rules. However, as it is to be expected with any other design system, they seemed to follow a very specific set of guidelines.

Other than the ubiquitous motifs for the proletarian intelligentsia such as sickles and hammers, the emblems also implemented sheaves of wheat, mechanized objects/parts, red stars, and interwoven ribbons in order to mark a strong cultural connection with the working class.

In terms of color, red is the defining hue. Its symbolism goes all the way back to the French Revolution (from Red Flag wiki article):

The red cap was a symbol of popular revolt in France going back to the Jacquerie of 1358. The color red become associated with patriotism early in the French Revolution due to the popularity of the Tricolour cockade, introduced in July 1789, and the Phrygian cap, introduced in May 1790. A red flag was raised over the Champ-de-Mars in Paris on July 17, 1791 by Lafayette, commander of the National Guard, as a symbol of martial law, warning rioters to disperse. As many as fifty anti-royalist protesters were killed in the fighting that followed.

Inverting the original symbolism, the Jacobins protested this action by flying a red flag to honor the “martyrs’ blood” of those who had been killed.

The Russians subsequently adopted the red flag during the Russian Revolution in 1917 and has since then become the norm for symbolizing socialist ideals.


Armenian SSR

Azerbaijan SSR

Byelorussian SSR

Estonian SSR

Georgian SSR

Kazakh SSR

Kirghiz SSR

Latvian SSR

Lithuania SSR

Moldavian SSR

Russian SFSR

Tajik SSR

Turkmen SSR

Ukrainian SSR

Uzbek SSR

Karlo-Finnish SSR

Transcaucasian SSR

East Germany

People’s Republic of China

North Korea

For more examples of socialist heraldry, check out this Wikipedia article.

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