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Banner of Victory (Soviet Army in Berlin, 1945)

Last modified: 2024-01-13 by rob raeside
Keywords: banner of victory | reichstag | ww ii | qaldeĭ (evgeniĭ) | berlin | 150 ctp | 150 str. ordena kutuzova ii st idrick. div. 79 s.k. 3 u.a. 1 b.f. | myth |
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Banner of Victory image by Jens Pattke, 05 July 2001
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Overview: Soviet flags over the Reichstag

On 7, April, 1945 Military Council of 3rd Shock Army (lead by general Kuznetsov) decided to make 9 “victory banners”. They were made of table-clothes in Moscow and presented to 9 divisions of the Army in 20ths of April. All banners were destroyed except the banner #5. It was hoisted upon Reichstag on 30, April, 1945 21:50 by sergeants Egorov (russian) and Meliton Kantarija (georgian). Lt. Berest escorted the two inside the building, but he didn’t went to the roof. As you understand nodody (and famous photographer Khaldei too) can take a photograph in that time. It was late evening.
The banner was photographed by plane in early morning ot 1, May. But on afternoon 1 of May the banner was throwed down with german projectile. Somebody (may be Egorov and Kantarija again?) hoisted the banner again in afternoon 1 of May. On 3 of May the Banner was taken off from Reichstag and in June was sent to Moscow.
The Victory Banner was not a first red banner upon Reichstag in 1945. It is a well known fact since 1960ths. It was first official flag, first flag officially adopted and inspired by army command.
Other banners was made by soldiers without official adoption. We know about 40 (!) red banners hoisted by different military units of Red Army upon Reichstag. All they were hand-made, very often plain red without inscriptions. First red flag was hoisted by G. Bulatov on 30, April, 1945 14:25 (plain red banner). It was throwed down soon because the battle was very fierce.
Victor Lomantsov, 08 May 2000

The flag was produced in April 1945 in the trenches with the battle of Berlin. On a red cloth of the bed-underwear, the initials of the regiment and the division were written with white color. There was no yellow color in the confused of the war. At the May 5,1945 a soviet-georgian soldier was hoisted the banner on the northern part of the Reichstag. The famous universally known photo became at the May,7 1945 duplicated. Here was the flag also the classic national flag of the USSR.
Jens Pattke, 28 June 2001

Description of the flag

Ratio 1:2. The hammer and sickle is really larger than usual. The inscriptions and hammer and sickle are really white but a little fade (lost colour) — this is not astonishing, they were drawn with paint (and not a good paint) about 55 years ago).
Victor Lomantsov, 25 October 2000

The Victory Banner is red with big white hammer and sickle and star and inscription:

150 стр. ордена
150th rifle [division, awarded with the] Order [of]
Кутузова II ст.
Kutuzov of II degree,
идрицк. див.
[honour title] Idrickaâ division,
79 С.К. 3У.А.IБ.Ф
79th joint corps, 3rd Shock Army, 1st Byelorussian Front

all in cyrillic letters, of course — It is the full name of military unit. Inscription is on one side of the flag, reverse side is without inscriptions.
Victor Lomantsov, 08 May 2000

  • All letters are letters with big character [upper case and small caps],
  • letters have different heights,
  • no regular and normal fonts,
  • hammer and sickle are the half of the height of the flag cloth.

Jens Pattke, 05 July 2001

Flagmaster shows this flag with a couple of mistakes in the inscription.
António Martins, 10 May 2000

Current location

This flag is now at the Central Museum of the Armed Forces, Moscow. Other thing worth of mentioning is the shape of the star: it is more fatter (inscribed circle diameter if the half of the outscribed diameter).
by Željko Heimer, 01 August 1996

In the German History Museum in Berlin, a copy of the Banner of Victory is in the exhibition. The original is in Moscow.
Jens Pattke, 05 July 2001


The Red Army’s WW II organization was a bit different that that of Western armies, which can lead to some confusion. The basic large unit was the Army, of which there were three types: infantry, tank and shock. They tended to be smaller than Western armies — an infantry army usually controlled 4-8 rifle divisions, with 6 being average. The Corps had been abolished as an echelon of command in 1941 (primarily due to lack of trained commanders and staff), so that divisions were controlled directly by the army headquarters. (The WWII Tank Corps, Mechanized Corps and Cavalry Corps were actually division-size units.) Thus the Army was intermediate in size between the Western corps and army. The next echelon of command was the Front, similar to the Western army group.
The Shock Army originated in 1942 and at first it was a temporary grouping. An ordinary infantry Army would be reinforced with extra artillery and tank units to make the initial breakthrough in an attack, after which a Tank Army would exploit the breach. Thus "shock" = "assault". By 1944, the organizaton of the Shock Army had been regularized and one was assigned to each active Front. If I recall correctly, the 3rd Shock Army remained on the postwar establishment and was part of the Soviet Army Group of Forces in East Germany until the end of the Cold War.
Tom Gregg, 12 May 2000

The famous Qaldeĭ photo

The photo shows a young soldier hoisting a red flag on top of the Reichstag and two officers looking at him, and behind, on the street some tanks and a car, and a tram. On the photo the flag is plain red with the star and hammer and sickle, but without any text. The photograph was later used in the film Battle for Berlin, and is fairly well known and published in many places.
Željko Heimer, 31 July 1997

The absence of inscriptions on the photo explained by the fact that the flag had a plain reverse.
António Martins, 10 May 2000

Yevgeni Khaldei, the Ukranian photographer who has died aged 80, created one of the most celebrated images of the Second World War, that of a soldier raising the Soviet flag above the ruins of the Reichstag on May 2, 1945. Khaldei’s lot, as a war journalist, was to produce propaganda, a task eminently suited to his heroic style of photography. As the Soviet troops approached Berlin he was anxious to acquire a red flag that might act as a suitable backdrop. Since there were none at the front, he flew back to Moscow and persuaded the storekeeper at his employers, the news agency Tass, to lend him three red tablecloths normally used for conferences. Khaldei then sat up all night with his uncle, a tailor, sewing on stars, sickles and hammers. Early on the morning of May 2 he began to pick his way across the smoking rubble that had been the centre of Berlin. He heard the news of Hitler’s death, then climbed to the top of the Brandenburg gate, where he draped a flag around a statue. Spurred on by a desire to avenge the death of his Jewish sisters in the war, Khaldei then turned his sights on the Reichstag. There was still fighting in the basement when he rounded up a group of Soviet soldiers who were celebrating their victory with vodka. The flag party carefully made its way up the broken staircase to the roof, loosing off bursts at each landing to keep German heads down. The roof itself was dangerously slick with blood. The flag was held aloft by a Russian soldier, Alexei Kovalyov, aided by a sergeant from Dagestan.
David Cohen, 21 October 1997, quoting The Weekly Telegraph

A Norwegian newspaper, Dagbladet, carried an interview with the Russian photographer Yevgeny Khaldei some weeks ago. Khaldei is depicted holding a large copy of the Red flag on the Reichstag photo. Khladei is credited with taking the picture. Here are the main points concerning the flag: Khaldei told the newspaper the flag was made by his uncle, who stitched the hammer, sickle and star on to a red table cloth taken from the TASS office in Moscow. Khaldei was then on a short stay in Moscow, but soon returned to the front. On 2 May 1945 Khaldei ordered the three soldiers in his company up to the roof of the Reichstag. Various arrangements were tried before the final famous picture was made. The day after the picture arrived in Moscow. However, a month later Khaldei was ordered to fix the picture because the soldier supporting the one holding the flag had two watches on his arm!
Jan Oskar Engene, 01 August 1996

Apparently there is more to the story. Like the Iwo Jima one, the famous scene was not the original but a staged reenactment. (OK, Iwo Jima wasn’t a fake, just a second flag raising.) Apparently the soldier with the flag was wearing several wristwatches, and Soviet authorities ruled that it wouldn’t do to show the Red Army looting Europe, so they had Khaldei go back and shoot the scene again. (You’d think they could have just touched up the photo, so this might be an urban legend.) Great photo all the same.
T. F. Mills, 20 October 1997

An obituary with more details and two photographs (one was the Reichstag picture) was published in the The Electronic Telegraph for 11 October 1997 (“Yevgeny Khaldei — Ukrainian war photographer who captured the moment of Soviet triumph on the ruins of the Reichstag”). There it is told that «Khaldei always denied allegations that the moment had been restaged for his Leica», but that «The truth, however, certainly succumbed under the hands of the Kremlin’s picture editors. Aware of the potential power of the photograph, they made sure to touch out one of the two watches being worn by each soldier, to prevent accusations of looting. In deference to Stalin, it was also given out that the flag-raiser was a fellow Georgian, Mikhail Kantaria, and that he had been helped by a Russian.»
Jan Oskar Engene, 21 October 1997

Stepan Andreyevich Neustroyev was the commander of the battalion that stormed the Reichstag in 1945 and the man who hoisted the flag over the building… one of the most famous images of World War Two and only last year did it become known that it had been doctored… Khaldei had made the flag in the photograph himself from red tablecloths from Tass, which were emblazoned with the hammer and sickle like the Soviet flag. In Erich Kuby’s book entitled The Russians And Berlin, on page 60 he says:

It seems strange that the Russians should have looked upon the Reichstag, deserted since the [Nazi started] fire of February 1933, and now an empty piece of masonry, its windows and doors bricked up, as the symbol of Germany… …Mednikov describes this historic action in great detail.
About noon on April 28, one of our battalions advanced on the Spree. At the same time the commander of the regiment, Col. F.M. Zinchenko, took charge of a red banner…expressly set aside for planting on the dome. It was Red Banner No.5 of the [150th Rifle Division] 3rd Shock Army…[it was] twenty-three-year-old Capt. Stefan Andreyevich Noystroev…men [who eventually] battled their way into the building, fighting for every room and corridor…Noystroev ordered a shock detachment commanded by Lt. Berest to escort the two [Zinchenko appointed regimental] standard-bearers…[who] took nearly half a day to reach the dome. At 10:50 P.M. on April 30, the banner of victory was unfurled over the Reichstag.
From this account it becomes clear that the famous photograph [by Khaldei] of [standard-bearers] Egorov and Kantariya planting the Red Flag on the roof of the Reichstag could not have been taken at that historic moment. For a start, it was dark at 10:50 p.m., while the picture was obviously taken in broad daylight. Moreover, the soldiers in the street appear to be moving about quite fearleesly and openly, which they would not have done had fighting still been going on all around them-as it was at the time the banner was first held aloft. If we look more closely, we see that there is no trace of anything on the vulgar pinnacle of the Reichstag to which a flag pole could have been attached. The soldier is simply holding up the flag in a dramatic pose. In other words, the world-famous photograph must have been taken a day or two after the storming of the Reichstag.

Ben Weed, 28 February 1998