Table of Contents
The hammer and sickle symbol is one of the most popular representations of solidarity among the working classes and peasantry. Later on, it became the symbol of communism and was popular among communist movements worldwide.
But how did this come about? In this article, we’re taking a look at why the hammer and sickle are important not just in Russian history, but also in the narrative of laborers throughout the world.
History of the Hammer and Sickle Symbol
The combination of the hammer and sickle as a symbol was originally used in the proletarian struggle back in 1895 in Chile. The symbol was depicted on Chilean coins, representing farmers and construction.
However, the most popular usage of the symbol commenced during the 1917 Russian Revolution. To understand the significance of the symbol, we must first take a look at what exactly happened at the time and why there was a need to use the hammer and sickle in their fight for equality and justice.
- Events Leading to the Russian Revolution
Prior to the revolution, Russia was under an absolute monarchy. At the time, the country was just reeling from the effects of the First World War while the Russian Tsar, Nicholas II lived a pretty well-off life. This aggravated the already difficult situation of the peasantry and the working class. 12 years before the revolution, the proletariats sought the audience of the Tsar to demand better working conditions. However, they were met with bullets. This incident known as the ‘Bloody Sunday’ opened the eyes of the laborers to the fact that the monarchy was not on their side and that they must fight for their freedom they badly needed.
- Russian Revolution
Fast forward to 1917, the Russians finally had enough and staged a series of revolts over the course of the year. The Marxist Bolsheviks led by Vladimir Lenin were able to gain full control of the government and by 1920, Lenin seized power and that’s when Russia became known as the USSR or the United Soviet Socialist Republic.
But where does the hammer and sickle fit in all of these events? Simple. They became the emblem for the Soviets at the start of their fight for justice. Lenin along with another Marxist revolutionary by the name of Anatoly Lunacharsky called to submit Soviet emblems. The winning piece was that of a hammer and sickle on a globe surrounded by a wreath made out of grain with a five-pointed star. The wreath had six translations of the inscription: Proletarians of the World, Unite! Initially, the design also sported a sword. But Lenin vetoed it out because he did not like the violent connotation of the weapon.
However, it wasn’t until 1923, or three years after the USSR was established that the hammer and sickle symbol was adopted as the Soviet’s official emblem.
The Hammer and Sickle – What It Represents
As stated above the hammer and sickle symbol ultimately represents the united forces of agricultural and industrial workers because they were common tools used by the proletariats. The hammer represented industrial laborers like those from the factories, while the sickle symbolized the farmers and those working for the agriculture sector.
However, there are those who define the hammer and sickle as symbols of a “totalitarian and criminal ideology”, i.e. communism, hence displaying these symbols in public are considered illegal. This idea is applicable to all other communist symbols and nations such as Georgia, Hungary, Moldova, Latvia, Lithuania, and Ukraine have all prohibited the use of these symbols. Indonesia also previously banned the use of the symbol during the reign of U.S. backed dictator, Suharto.
Hammer and Sickle in Popular Culture
The hammer and sickle have become one of the most notoriously known symbols because of their association to communism. Despite this, the use of these symbols has been widespread, regardless of political beliefs.
As a symbol for communism, the hammer and sickle have always been part of the choices for flags of communist groups and supporters. Communist parties across the globe have used the hammer and sickle, along with the red star and the color red to indicate their political inclinations.
The hammer and sickle are commonly used to depict social realism. Back in 1976, American artist Andy Warhol created a series for the said symbols after being inspired to use the design in a trip to Italy.
The symbol of the hammer and sickle proves that art can be inherently political. While the tools themselves only serve specific functions, combining the items together creates a different meaning that could either be inspirational or abhorrent to some people.
However, regardless of your political points of view, it is important to understand that the hammer and sickle symbol was created to represent the unity and power of the working class, as the biggest and most significant part of human society.