Russia has a long history as a nation, but a comvparatively short history of having a national flag. The tricolour that they have now is actually a “reissue” of the first official design from 1896, but before they settled on horizontal stripes they had the same colours in a very different layout. The exact origin of the flag are a little vague, but it seems as though it was preceded by the cross shown above. Contradictory accounts exist, but most agree on the possible Dutch origins of the colour scheme, however they are also colours found in the Coat of Arms of Moscow. One story has it that in the mid-seventeenth century the first Russian naval vessel, Oryol, was built. When finished it needed a flag, so the lead engineer asked the Tsar if he had a preference. The Tsar left the decision to the engineer who, as he was Dutch, chose red, white and blue. As an empire of different peoples it is understandable that there may not have been one universally accepted flag, and it makes a strange sort of sense that they would not have needed one until they had a ship to fly it from. This (relatively) short history and relaxed attitude towards vexillology by Russia’s rulers perhaps explains why the country has been willing to change the flag so often throughout Russia’s history – most notably during the Soviet era (when most citizens wouldn’t have been able to do much about a flag they didn’t like anyway).