Coat of arms (herb). A visual symbol designed according to the rules of heraldry that belongs to a state, city, or family and is passed on from generation to generation. Coats of arms are depicted on flags, seals, weapons, buildings, etc. The coats of arms belonging to noble houses evolved from earlier family signs at the beginning of the 11th century; their development coincided with the growth of feudalism. It is known that Volodymyr the Great and his descendants had coats of arms showing tridents and bidents, the coat of arms of Mstyslav I Volodymyrovych had a representation of Saint Michael the Archangel, and the Halych princes in the 14th century used the lion. In the Lithuanian-Polish period (see Lithuanian-Ruthenian state, Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth) many noble families had coats of arms. The state confirmed or bestowed coats of arms, usually along with new titles. The attributes of a complete coat of arms include the following: shield, helmet, tent, crown, crest, shield bearers, mantle, and motto. The main parts of a coat of arms are the shield and the image on it, which constitute the emblem. During the baroque period coats of arms became very elaborate. A great number of Cossack starshyna families of the Hetman state had their own coats of arms and used them on seals. At the end of the 18th century Empress Catherine II recognized the privileges and the coats of arms of the Ukrainian nobility. Empress Maria Theresa did the same for the noble families of Western Ukraine.
Coats of arms of cities and territories. The oldest coat of arms in Kyivan Rus' was the trident. Lviv's and Halych's coat of arms, dating back to the 14th century, consisted of a yellow heraldic lion rampant on an azure background. The coat of arms of the Zaporozhian Host, which was known from the 16th century, depicted an armed Cossack. This later became the coat of arms of Slobidska Ukraine, and a variant of it was adopted by the Don Cossacks in the 18th century as their coat of arms. Other coats of arms with a long history are those of Volhynia (a silver cross on a red background), Podilia (a golden sun with 16 rays and a golden cross on an azure background), and the Kyiv region (Archangel Michael with a fiery sword and a silver shield on an azure background). In the Lithuanian-Polish, Polish-Cossack, and Hetmanate periods the larger cities in Ukraine had their own coats of arms, which were used on official seals. The city coats of arms that were granted in the 18th–19th century by the Russian government are interesting mostly for their political symbolism: their emblems depict the tsars' solicitude for Ukraine or the bond between Ukraine and Russia. Poltava's coat of arms, for example, consisted of a golden shield with a black triangular monument entwined by a golden snake (symbolizing Hetman Ivan Mazepa), a pair of crossed red swords above (symbolizing the battle of Poltava), and two green pennants with the monograms of Peter I (symbolizing Peter's victory) (see Poltava coat of arms of 1803). Chernihiv's coat of arms depicted, on a silver background, a black crowned eagle holding a long golden cross in the claws of its left foot (see Chernihiv coat of arms of 1782). Katerynoslav's coat of arms consisted of an azure shield containing the golden monogram of Catherine II and the date ‘1787,’ with nine six-point stars surrounding the letters (see Katerynoslav coat of arms of 1811). Kharkiv's coat of arms consisted of a silver shield with a black horse's head and a golden six-point star (see Kharkiv coat of arms of 1883). Kherson's coat of arms had a silver cross and three Russian crowns on the sides and below, against an azure background. The Kuban's coat of arms consisted of a green shield containing a golden wall with two turrets and above them a mace between two Cossack standards surmounted by an eagle. Behind the shield were four azure flags with the monograms of the Russian emperors from Catherine II to Alexander II.
The coat of arms of Transcarpathia—a bear and yellow and blue strips on the left side of the shield—was officially adopted in 1920 and became part of the great coat of arms of Czechoslovakia. In 1939 the Diet of Carpatho-Ukraine sanctioned this coat of arms after adding the trident to it.
State coat of arms. The oldest coat of arms of Ukraine, that of the land of Prince Volodymyr the Great and his dynasty, is the trident, which was used as early as the 10th century. The coat of arms of the Halych princes—the lion—is known to have been used as early as 1316. The Hetman state had a coat of arms depicting an armed Cossack with a musket.
After the proclamation of the Ukrainian National Republic, the Central Rada passed a law on 22 March 1918 adopting the Great State Emblem and the Minor State Emblem as the symbols of the sovereign and united Ukrainian state. Both consisted of the trident, which remained the national emblem under the Hetman government in 1918. On 13 November 1918 the Ukrainian National Rada of the Western Ukrainian National Republic adopted the yellow lion on an azure background as its coat of arms. When the union with the Ukrainian National Republic was proclaimed on 22 January 1919, the trident became the state emblem in Western Ukraine as well.
The constitution of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic defined a somewhat modified version of the coat of arms of the Russian Soviet Federated Socialist Republic as the coat of arms of the Ukrainian SSR. It consisted of a golden sickle and hammer against a red background with sun rays, which was encircled by a garland of wheat sheaves and topped with a five-point star. At the foot of this composition was the inscription ‘Ukrainian SSR’ flanked by the motto ‘Proletarians of All Countries Unite’ in Ukrainian and Russian. This coat of arms was last confirmed on 21 November 1949. In it there were no traditional Ukrainian elements.
After Ukraine reestablished its independence in 1991 it adopted a gold trident on an azure background as its coat of arms (see Coat of arms of Ukraine of 1992).
Skotyns'kyi, T. Ukraïns'kyi herb ta prapor (Lviv 1935)
Pasternak, O. Poiasnennia tryzuba (Prague 1941)
Andrusiak, M. Tryzub (Munich 1947)
Bytyns'kyi, M. Derzhavni insygniï Ukraïny, 1 (Ettlingen 1949)
Sichyns'kyi, V. Ukraïns'kyi tryzub i prapor (Winnipeg 1953)
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[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]
Encyclopedia of Ukraine