Russian Soldiers Raising Soviet Flag Over Occupied Ukraine Cities

Russian soldiers have begun raising Soviet-era flags in recently occupied areas of Ukraine. On April 19 in the southern city of Kherson, troops from a Rosgvardia police unit hoisted the red "banner of victory" up the main flagpole in the city's "Alley of Glory," a park dedicated to the memory of locals who fought in the Red Army during the Second World War.

In the runup to Vladimir Putin's February 24 invasion of Ukraine, Russian domestic media frequently made light of Western claims that the Russian president was seeking to reestablish the Soviet Union. However, when the "banner of victory" was raised in Kherson, Kremlin-controlled television channels were quick to praise the development.

During its noon news broadcast on April 20, Russia's First Channel featured a laudatory segment that began: "May 9th is fast approaching, and the red flag under which fascism was crushed in the 20th century again flutters above Kherson's Alley of Glory. It is a symbol of the great feat of the Soviet people, one which local residents again recall with a special feeling."

First Channel had sent a correspondent to the flag-raising ceremony, and a collection of interviews with a few of those aforementioned local residents followed.

Russian Soviet victory banner
People carry red flags and banners as they take part in the Immortal Regiment march during the Victory Day military parade in Moscow on May 9, 2015. Russian President Vladimir Putin presided over a huge Victory Day parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the Soviet win over Nazi Germany, amid a Western boycott of the festivities over the Ukraine crisis. AFP via Getty Images

"I want my grandson to learn the Russian language and Russian history, and for him to know about the victory," a woman said, with her back to the camera.

An older man, who also spoke with his back to the camera, said that the flag meant "liberation from everything that has been happening on this territory for the past thirty years," an apparent reference to Ukraine's 1991 declaration of independence from Soviet rule.

A younger man, who spoke on camera, commented that the victory banner "should not be trampled on."

The ceremony in Kherson was not the only example of Russian soldiers in Ukraine using Soviet iconography, nor is it the only example of Kremlin-controlled media praising them for it.

On April 18, First Channel talk show host Artyom Sheinin opened his broadcast with an homage to the "red banner with yellow hammer and sickle and star under which so many of us served, and which was unfurled over the Reichstag." That event occurred when Russian forces entered Berlin on May 1, 1945, the day after Adolf Hitler committed suicide in his bunker.

Sheinin then showed photographs of a Russian soldier climbing a factory smokestack in order to replace its blue-on-yellow Ukrainian flag with the red Soviet banner he had just described. The Russian federal channel host considered this to be an appropriate symbolic gesture, as "the territory has been liberated from the heirs of those same fascists over whose capital that red flag was once unfurled."

In November of 2021, the independent polling center Levada published survey results indicating that 66% of Russians "regretted the breakup of the Soviet Union," with only 25% answering that they did not.

A similar poll conducted in 2020 by the Kyiv International Institute of Sociology found that only 33% of Ukrainians "regretted the breakup of the Soviet Union," with 50% answering that the dissolution of the empire had been a positive thing.