Two emblems and one Ukraine: Do we need one more trapping of statehood?

Author : Natalia Lebed

Source : 112 Ukraine

Ukraine is working on the elaboration of a Great State Emblem
16:15, 31 August 2020

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In Schwartz's fairy tale "The Naked King", the wiseman says to his monarch: "With your permission, Your Majesty, I am beginning to blazon." To which the indignant and not very educated King shouts: "What does it mean – to blazon? I forbid it!"

Blazoning is a description of the emblem. Let’s puzzle out the issue of the blazoning of the Ukrainian emblem. According to the 20th article of the Constitution of Ukraine, "the Great State Emblem of Ukraine is established taking into account the Small State Emblem of Ukraine and the Emblem of the Zaporizhzhya Army by law, adopted by at least two-thirds of the constitutional composition of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine. The main element of the Greater State Emblem of Ukraine is the Sign the princely state of Volodymyr the Great (Small State Emblem of Ukraine)."

But the Constitution describes a non-existent emblem. There is no “big” version of it, as opposed to the small one. There have been numerous attempts to introduce such a symbol. But they all turned out to be unsuccessful.

Cossack and lion – eternal friendship?

Small Emblem is our famous trident. It is also a sign of the princely state of Volodymyr the Great. The emblem of the Zaporizhya Army is, in fact, an image of a Cossack. On the project of the large emblem from 1997, the Cossack looks somewhat drum-thumping jingoism, but here, probably, options are possible. In addition, in the 1997 version, the Cossack is adjacent to the Galician lion, which is not mentioned in the Constitution. As there is no mention of Archangel Michael (the symbol of Kyiv), who was also included in the emblem.

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1997 emblem

There is a more laconic sketch of 1991 - the then draft emblem contains a trident, an archangel, and a lion, but no Cossack. Finally, there is a variant of 2009: a somewhat strange triumvirate has worked on it as part of ex-MPs Anna German, Oksana Bilozir, and Kateryna Vashchuk. Three ladies got a sketch that painfully resembles the Soviet emblem, only instead of a hammer and sickle he has a trident, and golden ears of wheat are not encircled by red, but by blue-yellow ribbons. There is no Cossack, no lion, no archangel there. But there is a traditional viburnum.

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1991 emblem

“The government option is not entirely successful. It depicts only a Cossack and a lion - these are symbols of Lviv and Zaporizhya, but where are the other regions of Ukraine? I am also confused by the crown, because Ukraine has never been a monarchical state,” said German, the then chairman parliamentary committee on freedom of speech.

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Government project of the emblem

Nevertheless, the lion and a Cossack, as well as with a crown, are a working version, proposed back in 2000. But why was this Great Emblem not voted on by the parliament?

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Everything is wrong...

First of all, for purely technical reasons. Let us recall that a constitutional majority is needed to approve the Great Emblem. It is not easy to find 300 votes to solve such an ambiguous issue as the Great Emblem In addition, only since the convocation of 2002, the parliament was deprived of the dominance of the communist majority, and until then the Verkhovna Rada was ruled by communists, who percepted lions, Cossacks and crowns with idiosyncrasy.

In this regard, the trident (Small Emblem) was much more fortunate. It was approved relatively painlessly back in 1992.

Historian Oleksandr Zinchenko in an interview with Deutsche Welle states: “On that night, when Ukrainian Consitution was adopted back in 1996, the Communists propped against and did not want to vote at all for the text of the Constitution, which stated that the emblem of Ukraine was the trident of Prince Volodymyr. To their conviction, it was a nationalistic symbol that contained the connotations of ‘class enemies,’ they wanted to remove it. Mentioning the trident only as an element of the Great Emblem became a compromise for the Constitution to be adopted.”

And yet, the lawmakers have not abandoned attempts to adopt the Big Emblem since 1993. But after 2013, events began in the country that made these discussions secondary. The issue was updated by the team of President Zelensky: August 25, at an extraordinary session, the Verkhovna Rada, at the suggestion of a mono-majority, voted to hold a competition for a new sketch of the Great State Emblem of Ukraine.

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Why force majeure?

Moreover, they decided to create this sketch at an urgent pace. And, as noted on the relevant forums in social media, professional heraldists are surprised at the tight deadlines for the MPs to propose to develop and approve a new state symbol.

The Rada's resolution states that an organizing committee should be created by October 1, relevant regulations developed and approved, and the issue of financing, organizing, and holding the competition should be resolved. Prior to November 1, a public discussion of the sketch of the large Emblem should be held. And by December 1, the competition committee must already determine the winner and submit a sketch for consideration by parliament.

It is likely that such a rush is connected with the upcoming local elections and with the need of the authorities to build up image capital for themselves (this is not the opinion of heraldists, but of political scientists). With this, however, they strongly disagree in the Ze-team. And since it has already become a bad habit in power circles to see opponents as ideological enemies, the formal leader of the Servant of the People party, Oleksandr Kornienko, noted the following: "Talk about the inappropriateness of new symbols is talk about the inappropriateness of the state's existence."

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Like, do not encroach on sacred things and do not question the patriotism of the ruling team. Otherwise, you yourself will be branded as unpatriots. Sternly ironic about such an initiative of the ruling party, Zinchenko writes on his Facebook:

"I promise to submit officially the version of the Great Emblem: Seashore, a Golden Trident On a blue background. Seagulls are above the trident, then walruses and other sea bastards go. Hamlet sits on the seashore, dressed in a comfortable kuntush of a Zaporizhia Cossack. He is barefoot and bearded. He holds a stick in his hands. Below is a tape with the inscription: "To swim or not to swim..."

This variant is rather a joke, but what are the counterarguments for introducing the Great Emblem?

It ended on a cliffhanger

First, the aesthetic sense of the president's team in the public of the national patriots is not very trusted. The large Emblem is therefore called large because it has a lot of space around the main element - the trident. How this space will be filled is a separate question. Recalling the current celebration of Independence with men in hare costumes, Zelensky's opponents fear that the artists from the authorities "will depict awful things."

That is, the point is that the trident has coped with the role of "stitching" the nation and the attribute of Ukrainianness. It has already taken place, it already exists, and it would be disrespectful to look for an alternative to this recognized attribute of statehood. This is not even so much an attribute from the series "the best is the enemy of the good", as a call not to rewrite that part of our history that took place under the sign of the Small Emblem.

Since the Great Emblem was not approved immediately after Ukraine gained independence, it is too late and unnecessary to introduce it now.  

Co-author of the Small Emblem Andriy Grechylo says: "As a rule, countries with a monarchical structure and traditions have Large Emblem. In states such as the Russian or Austro-Hungarian empires, the titles of the monarch and the Big Emblem changed with new territorial assets," Grechylo explains. Ukraine is a unitary state, and this should form a different approach to state symbols.

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Let's say more: the Big Emblem is not even in all federal states. For example, the United States does not have an emblem all (here it is important not to confuse the US state seal with it). UK also has no Emblem (unlike the British royal family). The emblem of France is also deprived of official status. And, for example, in Israel, there is a different story: the Great Coat of Arms of this country depicts a menorah and olive branches, but the Star of David has long taken root there as an informal coat of arms.

The Israeli situation, by the way, will resemble the Ukrainian one, if we do have the Big Emblem approved. It is unlikely that any image will be able to displace or compete with the trident. So is it worth breaking reality just to comply with the requirements of the Constitution? Perhaps this is the case when it is more rational to amend the Basic Law than to fit life under it.

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