Russia emerges from Communism

After 74 years the Russian tricolour flag flies again
After 74 years the Russian tricolour flag flies again

A newly independent Russian state

On Christmas Day, 1991 the Soviet hammer and sickle flag was lowered for the last time from the Kremlin to be replaced by the Russian tricolour. Earlier in the day, Gorbachev had made the momentous decision to resigned as head of the party which had steered the Soviet Union since its inception 74 years before, Communist control was over. In its place, a newly independent Russian state.
The Russian people prevail

People all over the world watched the transition from former Communist goliath into numerous separate nations.

Our photography is from August 1991, when hard-liners within the Communist party had managed to cut off Gorbachev, declare a state of emergency and flood Moscow with tanks, troops and armoured cars. But the Russian people prevailed. The emergency committee had acted driven by fears that a potential new Union treaty would devolve power and irrevocably change the Union. Believing that the people would support them, they had severely underestimated the strength and courage of the Russian nationalists, led by Prime Minister Yeltsin. Made bold by Yeltsin’s nerve, people took to the streets and the army was ordered to withdraw following a few days of political stand-off. Those few days left the Communist Party weakened and saw the power shift from the Soviet Union to the independent country of Russia. There was no longer a place for Communism in Europe.
Since its inception 74 years before, Communist control was over

Key facts


March 17, 1991, in a Union-wide referendum 76.4 percent of voters endorsed retention of a reformed Soviet Union.

72 hours

August 1991, Vice President Yanayev and seven hard-liners attempted to usurp control, but their attempted coup collapsed in less than three days.

11 Republics

Signed the Alma-Ata Protocol formally establishing the Commonwealth of Independent States on 21 December 1991.

7:32 p.m.

On Christmas evening 1991 the Soviet flag was lowered from the Kremlin for the last time and replaced with the pre-revolutionary Russian flag.


Declaration by the Supreme Soviet that resulted in self-governing independence for the Republics of the USSR, formally dissolving the USSR on 26 December 1991.