The Ukraine coat of arms is a powerful symbol of the nation’s history and cultural heritage. It features a blue shield adorned with a gold trident, officially known as the Emblem of the Royal State of Volodymyr the Great, or colloquially as the tryzub (тризуб in Ukrainian, meaning “trident”). This emblem traces its roots back to the seal-trident of Volodymyr the Great, the first Grand Prince of Kyiv.
Adopted on February 19, 1992, the small coat of arms of Ukraine was designed by Andriy Grechylo, Oleksii Kokhan, and Ivan Turetskyi. It is currently displayed on the Presidential Standard of Ukraine. Although provisions exist for a greater coat of arms in the Ukrainian Constitution, it has yet to be officially adopted. The blue-colored tridents are considered irregular representations by the Ukrainian Heraldry Society.
The trident symbol did not gain national prominence until 1917 when Ukrainian historian Mykhailo Hrushevskyi proposed its adoption as a national symbol. The Central Rada (parliament) adopted the trident as the coat of arms of the short-lived Ukrainian People’s Republic on February 25, 1918. During the Soviet era (1919–1991) and Ukraine’s brief period of independence (1991–1992), the state symbols reflected those of the Russian SFSR and the Soviet Union, including the hammer and sickle over the rising sun.
The modern trident symbol, designed by Vasyl Krychevsky, was adopted as the coat of arms of the Ukrainian People’s Republic in February 1918. The design has historical precedent in the seals of the Kyivan Rus, with the first known archaeological and historical evidence of the symbol appearing on the seals of the Rurik dynasty. However, some scholars argue that the stylized trident and similar tamgas found in ruins are of Khazar origin.
The trident symbol was stamped on gold and silver coins issued by Prince Volodymyr the Great (980–1015), who may have inherited the symbol from his ancestors as a dynastic coat of arms. It was passed on to his sons, Svyatopolk I (1015–19) and Yaroslav the Wise (1019–54), and has been found on various artifacts, including ceramics, weapons, rings, medallions, seals, and manuscripts.
Most historians agree that the medieval symbol was not intended to depict a trident but rather symbolized the Holy Trinity or a stylized falcon. Depictions of a flying falcon with a Christian cross above its head have been found in Old Ladoga, the first seat of the Kievan Rurik dynasty of Scandinavian lineage. Falcons and crosses also appear on coins of Olaf Guthfrithsson, a Viking king of Dublin and Northumbria.
Falconry has long been a royal sport in Europe, and the gyrfalcon, also known as the Norwegian falcon, was considered a royal bird. The gyrfalcon is mentioned in one of the earliest epics of Ruthenia, the 12th-century poem The Tale of Ihor’s Campaign.
Later images of the trident among the Rurikids resemble more a bident or the letter “У”, which in the modern Cyrillic alphabet denotes the sound “u” as in “Ukraine.”
Today, the Tryzub is heavily used in military heraldry to commemorate participation in the Eastern Front during World War II. At least 36 units of the Italian Army carry the Tryzub in their coat of arms, as they were awarded a Medal for Military Valor during their service on Ukrainian territory. The Tryzub is also the Coat of Arms of Zaslawye. It is worth noting that the Tryzub was used in conjunction with the Russian tricolor as the symbol of the anti-communist movement National Alliance of Russian Solidarists in the early 20th century.
The Tryzub has also inspired a three-fingered hand salute, used to mimic the symbol in pro-independence demonstrations during the late 1980s and in the logo of the Ukrainian Svoboda party.
In conclusion, the coat of arms of Ukraine, featuring the iconic Tryzub, is deeply rooted in the nation’s history and cultural heritage. As a symbol that has evolved over centuries, it continues to hold significant meaning and serves as a unifying emblem for the Ukrainian people.