A detailed description of the Russian Empire coat of arms was adopted in April 1857

On April 23, 1857, Emperor Alexander II gave his highest approval to the detailed description of the State Coat of arms and the State seal. The Russian Empire coat of arms existed without notional variations for 60 years - until February 1917. Alexander Nikolayevich did not just adopted a new coat of arms - he approved the entire system of heraldic symbols of the country, its rulers and state system.

The first preserved to our time image of the Russian state emblem -- the double-headed eagle, was dated 1497. It appeared on one side of the seal of Grand Duke of Moscow Ivan III (1440-1505). The image Saint George, the Victorious, the patron saint of the Princes of Kiev, was depicted on the seal other side. A hypothesis regarding a double-headed eagle appearance on the sovereign symbolics is that the Grand Duke of Moscow received it as his wife Sophia Palaeologus, a niece of the last Byzantine emperor who had alike coat of arms, dowry. However, if on the seal of Ivan III both emblems had equal significance, beginning from the following century onwards the double-headed eagle got priority and became the major emblem of the Russian coat of arms.

As the scepter was strengthening, new attributes were added to the existing images of an eagle and a rider. In the 17th century, the eagle already had a scepter and an orb in his paws -- the regalia of royal, imperial power, generally accepted in all monarchic states. The Russian Empire coat of arms was modified under many tsars. This took place under Ivan the Terrible, Mikhail Fedorovich, Peter I, Paul I, Alexander I and Nicholas I.

During the reigns of Emperors Alexander I and Nicholas I, the double-headed eagle was often depicted in the prevailing in that period Empire style: instead of a scepter and an orb, the eagle held in its paws a laurel wreath, a torch and lightning bolts ("Peruns"). The shield on the eagle's chest was of unusual heart-shaped form, pointed upwards; the wings of the eagle changed their usual appearance -- they became wide-spread and downcast (similar images of coat of arms were allowed on coins, stamped paper, cap insignias and banners, but the state seal was not affected by these changes).

During the reign of Nicholas I another type of coat of arms was officially instituted -- the wings of the double-headed eagle had shields with six titular coats of arms: of Astrakhan, Kazan and Siberian Kingdoms, Kingdom of Poland, Kingdom of the Tauric Chersonese and Grand Duchy of Finland (later shields with coat of arms of Georgian Kingdom and the joined coats of arms of Great Duchies -- Kiev, Vladimir and Novgorod were added).

The era of the Emperor Alexander II reign is deservedly considered by many historians to be the time when Russian Empire, similar to the reign of Catherine the Great, once again embarked on a major expansion of its territory. A new coat-of-arms system was approved, which clearly demonstrated how wide the Russian possessions were.

Through the efforts of the qualifying heraldic commission headed by the recognized authority on the subject, Baron Bernhard von Koehne, who drafted the Imperial Decree, Russian Empire received three versions of its coat of arms - Great, Medium and Small. The latter one resembles the modern coat of arms of the Russian Federation. The Great State Emblem reflects the triune essence of the ‘Russian message’ -- "For Faith, Tsar and Fatherland".

A widespread claim that President Boris Yeltsin restored the pre-revolutionary coat of arms in 1993 is only partly true. The modern heraldic symbol has a purely historical relation to the Russian Empire. The real resemblance can be traced to the coat of arms of the Russian (Moscow) Tsardom until the foundation of the Russian Empire by Peter the Great in 1721.

On the cover: Custody (Latin: Custodia, box for a seal). Russian Empire, the second half of the 18th century

Razhnyov G. V. State Emblem of Russia. History and modernity // Voenno-historicheskiy zhurnal. - 2001