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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia Unveils Symbol for a New Era

Symbolizing a clear break with the past made possible only by the demise of the former parliament, a new coat of arms for Russia was unveiled Tuesday, which would replace the hammer-and-sickle with the double-headed eagle.

The proposed emblem, which will receive final approval from the new parliament to be elected Dec. 12, depicts a gold double-headed eagle with three crowns against a red backdrop, and bears on its chest a seal of St. George slaying the dragon.

Harking back to the five centuries of tsarist rule that preceded the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, it finally consigns to history's dustbin the symbols of the Soviet era. These old symbols, which lived on for nearly two years after the demise of the Soviet Union, proved to be potent weapons in the political conflict that culminated last month in the storming of the White House.

Controversy was still in the air Tuesday as the government commission charged with designing the new symbol presented it.

Confusion reigned, with two versions distributed to the press - one at a news conference, and one by officials who said that the first had been handed out by saboteurs.

A photographer who went to the Russian State Archives after the news conference to take a picture of the correct version said that officials had told him "unknown terrorists" sabotaged the event by distributing a false emblem.

The incorrect symbol showed a black eagle on a yellow background, as opposed to the official gold eagle on a red background.

The confusion was true to form for the three-year-long attempt to readopt the tsarist emblem, which has proved a highly emotive issue. The double-headed eagle has appeared on national coins, but was never approved by the former Congress of People's Deputies.

The emblem is virtually an exact replica of the tsarist-era symbol of Russian statehood designed by Peter the Great. The former legislature had objected to any mark of approval for Russia's pre-communist past.

The main difference is that the Petrine eagle had only one crown, while the newly proposed emblem has three crowns - one for each branch of power: the president, the legislature and the judiciary.

Presidential spokesman Anatoly Krasikov said Tuesday that President Boris Yeltsin would soon decide whether to accept the design, but that the new Federal Assembly would have the final say.

Krasikov said that whichever backdrop the new emblem may have, a replacement of the Soviet hammer-and-sickle was badly needed.

At the moment, when Yeltsin writes a new decree aimed at moving his country toward democratic reform, he still does so on stationery whose letterhead proclaims: "Proletarians of all nations unite! " Krasikov said.

The unveiling of the emblem follows other recent moves by the Yeltsin administration to dispense with the symbols of the Soviet past. The giant gold hammer-and-sickle that emblazoned the White House came down last week and another massive monument to the Soviet Union on Leninsky Prospekt was dismantled Monday.

Natalya Kribova of the committee on drafting the state coat of arms said that among the alternatives considered to the new emblem was a black two-headed eagle against a yellow backdrop, as was used during the 18th century.

But red and gold was selected instead for its "symbolically stronger qualities", she said.

Rudolf Pikhoya, the head of the Russian State Archives and chairman of the committee on drafting the coat of arms, said that the two colors signal "a return to Russian imperial traditions" and are more connected with sovereignty than other alternatives.

The heads of the golden eagle face left and right - west and east - symbolizing Russia's historic and geographical links both to Europe and Asia.

The eagle's right claw dutches an orb topped with a Russian Orthodox cross, a sign of Russia's state unity and the spiritual predominance of a common religion. The left claw holds a scepter, a reference to the sovereignty of the Russian state as a whole and to the protection of that state, according to Pikhoya.

Moscow also gets pride of place in the proposed new emblem. The eagle's chest is adorned with a seal of St. George on a white horse slaying a green dragon - the capital's official emblem.