University of Leicester
2020platoffamphd.pdf (12.92 MB)

Symbols in Service to the State: The Role of Flags and Other Symbols in the Civil Religion of the Soviet Union

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posted on 2021-09-02, 09:32 authored by Anne M. Platoff
In the mid-twentieth century scholars in the United States began to examine American society through the lens of civil religion, a term first coined by Jean-Jacques Rousseau in the eighteenth century. Although much of the discussion focused on civil religion in the US, other scholars began to recognise that a civil religion also existed in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. While American civil religion developed organically within all strata of society, it can be argued that in the Soviet Union there was a deliberate strategy to use civil religion as a tool to replace established religion, and to create a single sense of Soviet identity among a geographically-dispersed and ethnically-diverse population. Most studies on Soviet civil religion have focused on communist rites and rituals, and the ‘cult’ of Lenin. Few scholars have examined the elaborate system of symbols that were essential to reinforcing Soviet civil religion so that it became an everyday aspect of life in the USSR. This thesis seeks to fill that gap by examining the simvolika, or set of symbols, of the Soviet Union. While the official state symbols included the Soviet flag, state emblem, and national anthem, the set of symbols that were vital to the practice of Soviet civil religion was much more extensive. This study will examine the usage of an array of flags, seals, symbolic elements, imagery, and motifs that were essential to the socialisation of children and the reinforcement of Soviet civil religion in adulthood. Finally, it will examine the symbolic legacies of the USSR in the countries that were once part of the Soviet Union.



Zoe Knox; Andrew Johnstone

Date of award


Author affiliation

School of History, Politics and International Relations

Awarding institution

University of Leicester

Qualification level

  • Doctoral

Qualification name

  • PhD



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