What's in a badge? Symbolism behind the crests of clubs in the former Soviet Union

Never Mind the Bolsheviks looks into symbolism behind the crests of clubs in the former Soviet Union…

Alania Vladikavkaz, Russia (above left)Capital of North Ossetia and once home to the Alans, the north Caucasus republic’s heraldry is evident on Alania’s own badge. The snow leopard is its symbol (and the clube’s nickname), while the horizontal stripes represent the region’s flag: white is purity, red valour and yellow represents prosperity.

Anzhi Makhachkala, Russia (above centre)Translating as “pearl”, Anzhi is how Makhachkala was previously known and the club draws heavily on their Dagestani roots. The snow-capped peaks pay homage to the north Caucasus republic’s topography (literally, “land of the mountains”), while the eagle is not only a symbol of the region and features on its coat of arms, but also Anzhi’s nickname (Orly). The three horizontal stripes form Dagestan’s flag: green represents the land (and is a colour of Islam), blue signifies the Caspian Sea and red is for courage.

BATE Borisov, Belarus (above right)Their name gives away the club’s origins. BATE is an acronym of the Borisov Works of Automobile and Tractor Electrical Equipment. In the middle, the flag was borrowed from PSV Eindhoven’s crest, and represents a desire for success and to finish first. The star was added after the club’s fifth league title triumph.

 

Dacia Chişinău, Moldova (above left)The red, blue and yellow are borrowed from the Moldovan tricolour. Dacia, formed in 1999, may lack history, but have looked to the country’s past to forge an identity. The Dacians were an ancient tribe that once inhabited the region and the wolf a sacred animal they worshipped. Considered a fierce creature and a symbol of courage and strength, Dacians also saw it as a protector of the people. Aside from the obvious sporting connection, the football is also a circle, which was a lucky symbol in Dacian culture.

Dinamo Tbilisi, Georgia (above centre)Dinamo reintroduced the Cyrillic “D” (Д) from the Dinamo Sports Society last year. The letter also forms a falcon’s head. A symbol of the Georgian capital, legend has it that while out hunting, a king’s falcon caught a pheasant and they both fell into a hot spring; it is on that spot that Tbilisi was founded. Part of the thinking behind the new crest was to differentiate them from the other Dinamo clubs across the region.

Dynamo Kyiv, Ukraine (above right)The club’s name, like others in the former Soviet Union bearing the “Dynamo” moniker, stems from the Dinamo Sports Society set up by Felix Dzerzhinsky, head of the Cheka (a forerunner to the KGB). Two stars signify the titles won by the club both in the Soviet championship and in post-independent Ukraine.

 

Kuban Krasnodar, Russia (above left)Hailing from the south-western city of Krasnodar on the Kuban Steppe, the region (and club) takes its name from the eponymous river flowing through it. Krasnodar Krai is a fertile agriculture area and regarded as the country’s breadbasket. The yellow circle flanked by wheat symbolises the sun, the green its verdant fields.

Metalist Kharkiv, Ukraine (above centre)Metalist began at a locomotive factory. Their name, perhaps unsurprisingly, means “metalworker”. The top left portion contains an “M” for Metalist and the right carries Kharkiv’s own crest. A cornucopia adorned with flowers and filled by fruits, which symbolises abundance. It is crossed by a caduceus that represents health, while the two snakes depict wisdom and the green background stands for hope, joy and wealth. Blue and yellow, the club colours, are taken from Ukraine’s flag.

Neftçi Baku, Azerbaijan (above right)Neftçi’s name comes from the Azeri word for oil. They began as a side formed by the Ministry of Oil Industry in Baku who created a sports society, hence the derrick, many of which can be seen on the city’s skyline. The wave at the bottom represents the Caspian Sea on which Baku sits.

 

Pakhtakor Tashkent, Uzbekistan (above left)Pakhtakor, or “the cotton pickers”, take their identity from the cotton trade. Uzbekistan is one of the world’s highest producers of cotton and at the centre of the club’s crest lies a cotton bud.

Rubin Kazan, Russia (above centre)At the ruby-shaped crest’s heart is the Zilant dragon, a mythical creature considered to be the protector of Kazan. It is in flight o– symbolising their desire to reach new heights – and spitting a flame that represents Rubin’s burning passion. The colours are borrowed from the flag of Tatarstan, where a strong sense of nationalism remains: green – revival (and Islam), white o– purity and red – energy, maturity and life. The white stripe also signifies where east meets west.

Sevastopol, Ukraine (above right)The Bell of Chersonesos was cast out of Turkish cannons captured during the Russo-Turkish War of 1776. Taken by the French during the Crimean War, it was returned to Ukraine in 1913. From 1942 it did not chime for 60 years until 2002 – around about the same time as Sevastopol were formed – and this has come to symbolise the club’s development. Representing honour and dignity, and a reminder of Crimea’s defence, it is looking out to sea – to Europe – where the club harbour aspirations of competing. They want the continent to see the bell again, only this time under the auspices of Sevastopol. The yellow and blue portray the beach and Black Sea and are also the colours of the Ukrainian flag.

 

Shakhtar Donetsk, Ukraine (above left)Shakhtar’s name means “miner” and is a nod to their beginnings as a coalminers’ side. These roots are evident on the crest. A black bottom half – symbolising coal – contains a pair of crossed hammers and signifies an energy lying deep within the ground. The orange segment depicts a flame. This also represents the glowing sun that greets miners after emerging from the pits and, what’s more, points to a bright future. Separating them is the club’s name. It is written in Ukrainian (Шахтар) not Donetsk’s main language of Russian (Шахтер). Shakhtar opted for the former as they aspire to become ambassadors of Ukrainian football and this is a notion further reinforced by the first letter, shaped in such a way that it resembles the trident (a national symbol). The outline, rather than circular, is more aggressive and indicates a greater sense of purpose and direction.

Sheriff Tiraspol, Moldova (above centre)It is no coincidence that their badge resembles that of a sheriff’s. Located in Transdniestr, Moldova’s breakaway republic certainly has a Wild West feel to it and the eponymous Sheriff company is a key player. Initially its workers were either police officers or had served in the army; club president (and Sheriff’s co-founder), Viktor Gushan, was a former KGB officer. The star denotes 10 Divizia Naţională league titles.

Terek Grozny, Russia (above right)Terek, whose name is borrowed from the Terek River, recently updated their crest. At its centre in the ball are the letters A and K – the initials of the late Chechen president Akhmad Kadyrov – whom the club’s new stadium is named after. The main part of the badge features the letter “T” and a depiction of the Terek River, while the green, red and white are taken from the republic’s flag.

 

Vorskla Poltava, Ukraine (above left)The crest, rather than round, is shield-shaped – a sign of defence. The bow and arrow, also on the city’s coat of arms, demonstrates a willingness to attack and positivity. As do the four stars that represent the cardinal points (six points means luck). The heraldic wings hint at Vorskla striving to reach higher goals. Green and White are the main colours of the club, while the red is the city’s. The gold outline symbolises victory and prosperity.

Zenit St Petersburg, Russia (above right)Zenit’s logo and, indeed, name has gone through several incarnations over the years. They settled on Zenit (summit) in 1940. That was when the metal plant from where they were born came under the auspices of the People’s Commissariat for Arms and Ammunition. This influence can still be seen through the arrowhead design of the club’s name (written in the Russian constructivism style) which is pointing upwards, symbolic of Zenit’s will to win. A ship is with reference to the country’s naval fleet which is based in St Petersburg.

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