What does the Ukrainian trident represent?

Slavic Pagan symbol, Symbol of Trinity, eagle, or sword? What does the Ukrainian trident represent?

The Ukrainian coat of arms is a trident, or tryzub (три́зуб – три зу́би – three teeth) – a blue shield with a gold trident. This symbol has a long history. 

The first known archaeological and historical evidence of this symbol can be found on the seals of the Rurik dynasty. The first tryzubs were found on the gold and silver coins of Prince Volodymyr the Great (980 – 1015), who most probably inherited the symbol from his ancestor Sviatoslav I Ihorevich, who used “bidental” as a dynastic coat of arms. Then Volodymyr’s sons, Sviatopolk I (1015 – 19) and Yaroslav the Wise (1019 – 54), continued using the trident symbol after their father – Volodymyr the Great. 

The tryzub became a hereditary heraldic and the symbol of the power of Kyivan Rus. Many examples of the trident are depicted on ceramics, weapons, rings, medallions, seals, and manuscripts.

There are different versions of the origins. One of the most popular hypotheses says that tryzub is most likely a stylized falcon. Depictions of a flying falcon with a Christian cross above its head have been found in Old Ladoha, the first seat of the Kyivan Rurik dynasty.

Сlay molds. At the end of the 10th century. Old Ladoha

Chevron of the Battalion Donbas, 2014

Another version says that tryzub is a cross-anchor. Due to this theory, the basis of the trident is the early Christian symbol of the cross-anchor, which represents Faith and Hope. It appeared on the territory of Ukraine in the first centuries AD, and its origin is connected with the name of St. Clement of Rome, one of the first Christian bishops.

In the coats of arms of Hetman Ivan Mazepa, the main heraldic symbol was the anchor cross.

Coat of arms of Ivan Mazepa

In the early 20th century, due to the Ukrainian national revolution and the formation of the Central Council, there was a revival of ancient historical traditions. Printmakers and artists Heorhii Narbut, Vasil Krychevskyi, and Mykola Bytynskyi created the images of the trident on different state attributes: paper money, coins, state awards, seals, and stamps.

Велика державна печатка УНР за ескізом Василя Кричевського 1918 року

The Great state seal of the Ukrainian People’s Republic based on a sketch by Vasyl Krychevskyi in 1918

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Banknote of the Ukrainian People’s Republic with a denomination of 500 hryvnias in 1918

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In the 1920s, Ukrainians could not imagine any symbol other than the trident. Since then, the trident has united the whole of Ukraine. It has a long history and connects the young state of UNR (Ukrainian People’s Republic) with Kyivan Rus.

Anti-Ukrainian Soviet caricatures depicting a trident

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After independence on 24 August 1991, Ukraine retained the Soviet emblem. 1992 after heated discussions Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine adopted the Small coat of arms of Ukraine – the trident. 

The Small coat of arms of Ukraine

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As historians say, the trident was adopted as the Small but not the Great coat of arms as a compromise with the numerous representatives of the communistic party that was against the adaptation of the trident.

The picture by Oleksii Kohan. The winner of the coat of arms contest in 2020Уряд обрав ексіз Великого гербу України

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For now, the approval of the Great coat of arms is still waiting for its time.

Let us know in the comment your first association with the trident, the Ukrainian coat of arms.

  1. Venya-DutchCossack September 30, 2022

    Hooray, I am finally able to comment again! However, it is a bit difficult, I can only do it with a way around…

    To anyone who has (had) the same issue, the following works for me:

    – Log in with your account;
    – Click on a story/post of the blog;
    – Strangely enough, the website will suddenly act as if you need to log in again, while you are reading a post in the blog. However, if you just refresh the page, you should be able to post in the comments again!

    Perhaps the administrator of the website can look into this issue?

    With that message out of the way, I wanted to say that I very much enjoy reading your posts, Maryna! I learn a lot about the history and culture of Ukraine. As I have a personal connection to this beautiful country, I want to learn more about it.

    I also find you have a pleasant writing style. It reads very nicely. Please, keep up the good work! 🙂

    • maryna.nosachenko October 3, 2022

      Thank you for your comment and warm words!
      We’re glad our readers learn more with the help of our posts.

  2. MarieB14 October 2, 2022

    Wow, it is such an ancient symbol! I never realized that ‘tryzub’ translates to ‘three teeth’. Today I learned something new )
    I was wondering about the anti-Ukrainian soviet cartoon…is that Symon Petliura on the left? What is he doing? What were the Soviets trying to convey?

    Very interesting blog post! Looking forward to the next one(s) )

    • maryna.nosachenko October 3, 2022

      Thank you for your comment, Maria!

      The propaganda caricature says that Simon Petliura is a corrupt beast and the enemy of the Bolshevik Revolution. So they try to show that he is running away from Ukraine to France. Soviets hated him because of his power and tried to discredit him.

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