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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Not All Can Celebrate With a Flag

MTUnited Russia celebrating Flag Day on Wednesday with a 24-meter-long tricolor at the Krylatskoye rowing canal.
Political parties and youth organizations put on shows of patriotism Wednesday in honor of Flag Day.

But any ordinary citizens who wanted to express their patriotism by hanging Russian flags outside their homes for more than one day found themselves in a dilemma, since such private displays of the flag are illegal.

The law on displaying the flag, passed in 2000, says the official Russian tricolor may only be hung year-round outside government buildings. Private enterprises and other nonstate organizations may display the flag only on holidays. Flag use is also permitted for "family celebrations."

Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov, who leads the party A Just Russia, took the opportunity of Wednesday's holiday to argue that the ban on private flag displays is unjust and needs to be overturned.

"I think each citizen of Russia should have the right to hang the state flag of the Russian Federation outside his home, each day of the year, up to 365 days a year," Mironov said at a celebration in Irkutsk, RIA-Novosti reported.

Mironov submitted a bill to the State Duma last year that would allow the flag to be hung outside any sort of building, including people's homes. Another bill submitted last year by a group of Duma deputies goes even further, permitting any use of the flag that does not violate laws on the desecration of state symbols.

The bills would clear up a legal gray zone in which common practices such as waving flags at athletic events and wearing T-shirts with the flag may be breaking the law. Even the recent planting of a Russian flag at the North Pole may have been illegal, since the law spells out a list of situations in which the flag may be displayed, and says that other uses of the flag carry a penalty.

Duma Deputy Alexander Babakov, a senior official in A Just Russia, backed Mironov's proposal. "We need to educate our citizens to respect symbols of state authority and Russian state power, including the flag," Babakov said, Interfax reported.

Russians may need some education. A survey by the VTsIOM polling center in June found that only 55 percent of respondents could correctly describe the country's flag, while an additional 34 percent could remember the colors but not the order in which they are arranged.

Russia's restrictions may be surprising to some foreigners. In many U.S. neighborhoods, for example, homeowners regularly hang the U.S. flag outside their houses. The flag can also be found on bumper stickers and swimming suits.

The white, blue and red tricolor served as the Russian state flag from 1896 to 1917 and returned after the failure of the August 1991 putsch, when it became a symbol for pro-democracy activists. In 1994, then-President Boris Yeltsin declared Aug. 22 to be Flag Day.

To celebrate the holiday Wednesday, United Russia unfurled a giant flag -- said to be the largest in history -- for a gathering at the Krylatskoye rowing canal in western Moscow. The flag was 24 meters long and 16 meters wide.