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Raising the Red Banner (XX533)

Raising the Red Banner

Each year we produce a special objective marker, which is given away to participants in official tournaments. This year’s model is based on a famous photograph depicting Red Army soldiers triumphantly raising a Soviet banner over the ruined Reichstag building at the culmination of the battle for Berlin. The photograph, taken by Red Army photographer Yevgeny Khaldei, is one of the most iconic images of World War II.

Sculpted by James Brown
Painted by James Brown 

The 2015 Tournament Objective - Raising the Red Banner
Raising the Red Banner (XX533) Raising the Red Banner (XX533)

The Reichstag building was considered one of the Red Army’s major objectives in the battle for Berlin. This was largely due to the building’s perceived symbolic significance, despite the fact that it had not been used as a seat of government since the infamous Reichstag Fire 12 years earlier.

Stalin had given orders for the building to be captured and a red banner symbolically raised above it by 1 May to commemorate May Day, also known as International Workers’ Day, a very important Communist holiday. Nine official banners were distributed amongst the nine assault regiments in the city for this purpose. Numerous attempts were made to put a flag atop the Reichstag in time to make Stalin’s deadline.

Raising the Red Banner (XX533) Raising the Red Banner (XX533)

Pilots from the 115th Air Fighter Regiment flew in at low altitude over the building and dropped several massive red silk banners inscribed with the word ‘Victory’. These apparently got tangled up in the twisted metal of the ruined roof.  

There is disagreement about who has actually the first to successfully plant a banner on the building. Officially, at least, the honour belongs to a scout platoon of the 756th Rifle Regiment. On the night of 30 April, while the building was still held by the Germans, a five-man party of Soviet soldiers fought their way through the building to the roof, where 23-year-old private Mikhail Minin attached one of the official flags to a rooftop statue. They didn’t have a photographer with them, and at 10:40pm it was too dark for a decent exposure anyway. German soldiers shot this flag down the next morning.

Raising the Red Banner (XX533) Raising the Red Banner (XX533)

Khaldei’s photo was taken on May 2, after the Red Army had captured the Reichstag building. It shows a young Ukrainian soldier, Aleksei Kovalyev, holding the banner, assisted by a Dagestani, Senior Sergeant Abdulkhakim Ismailov, and a Byelorussian, Aleksei Goryachev.  The inspiration for the image came from the famous photograph of American marines raising a flag on Iwo Jima. Khaldei had brought a large flag with him from Moscow, where a family friend, a tailor, had made it for him from three dyed tablecloths. 

Raising the Red Banner (XX533) Raising the Red Banner (XX533) Raising the Red Banner (XX533)
Khaldei took a total of 36 shots while trying to capture the perfect image.
Raising the Red Banner (XX533) Raising the Red Banner (XX533)

The photograph was censored before publication. Ismailov appeared to be wearing a watch on each wrist, indicating that he had been looting - hardly in line with acceptable Communist ideals. It was actually a watch and an Adrianov compass, but again, the truth is less important than appearances where propaganda is concerned.

Raising the Red Banner (XX533)
Raising the Red Banner (XX533)

'Raising a flag over the Reichstag' was published in the Russian magazine Ogoniok and quickly became iconic, not just in the USSR but throughout the world. Khaldei continued his career as a photojournalist after the war. But, perhaps due to the Soviet regime’s anti-semitism, he did not receive official credit for his most famous photograph until the 1990s, a few years before his death.

A truly iconic image, and one that we hope tournament attendees will enjoy!

Last Updated On Thursday, March 5, 2015 by James at Battlefront