Let's get one thing clear, right at the start. There is no such thing as a 'Mordovian Cross' in the flag of the Russian republic of Mordovia. It is a solar symbol. Not a circle usually associated with a Sun Cross, and to be frank, that's difficult to imagine from four concave hexagonal bits joined together in the middle. Ah well, it's their flag, and they have every right to describe it as a solar symbol if they wish.
According to the vexillology Russian webpage www.vexillographia.ru/..., Mordovia's Constitutional Law No. 98-1 specifies the shape of this solar symbol to have "shoulders of the cross arms are 1/3 the width of the symbol". In other words, it's a symbol in a cross shape, but representing the sun rather than a cross.
The design is not unique to Mordovia; some 1,500 km west-northwest is Latvia, which has used a similar symbol in its civic and military emblems for many years. And approximately 800 km northeast of Mordovia is the Republic of Udmurtia, which has a very similar symbol in their flag, adopted a few years after Mordovia. The flags differ in the colours, dimensions and orientation of the bands, but both have a central cross representing the sun.
These four concave hexagons are the same as the pagan auseklis symbol. There is no evidence to suggest that Mordovia or Udmurtia are trying to promote paganism, rather they needed a symbol to replace the hammer and sickle, topped with a five-pointed star, from the Soviet Union era.
The four hexagons are as different to the hammer and sickle as they are to the Russian Orthodox Cross. The church in Russia, including Mordovia and Udmurtia, values its independence from the State, and this is one reason why the symbol in the civic flags are referred to as solar rather than Christian.
Mordovia hit the international news in 2012/13 with several stories, including:
- about its athletes' performance at the Olympic Games and other international meets, where Mordovian speed walkers showed the world how to go really, really fast from the start line.
- about the Pussy Riot rock band's performance in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in Moscow, after which its members were incarcerated in Mordovia. That was not their intention but it did help them to go really, really fast from president Vladimir Putin, whom they didn't like very much.
- about the French actor Gérard Depardieu's legal performance, who moved to Mordovia where the tax rate was more acceptable. Indisputably a loyal Frenchman but moving to Mordovia helped him to go really, really fast from the tax man, whom he didn't like very much.
The flag, designed by Andrey S Aleshkin, was approved on 30 March 1995 by the State Assembly. The symbol is officially recorded as solar in the following two laws:
- 19 November 2002 No. 48-Z – On the State Flag of the Republic of Mordovia:
Article 2. The national flag of the Republic of Mordovia is a rectangular cloth consisting of horizontally arranged in sequence from top to bottom three bands Rubiaceae (dark red), white and dark blue. The upper and lower bands are identical in size. The width of each of them is 1/4 of the width of the flag. The ratio of the flag's width to its length is 1:2. In the middle of the white band is an eight-socket solar sign Rubiaceae (dark red) colour, a symbol of the sun.
- 20 May 2008 No. 35-Z – On Amendments to the Law of the State Flag of the Republic of Mordovia (adopted by the State Assembly May 15, 2008)
The ratio of length to width of the flag instead of 1:2 was equal to 2:3, the height and width of the solar symbol becomes equal to 3:8, the width of the flag.
On other webpages, for example en.wikipedia.org/..., you may find reference to the four hexagons representing the four Mordvin tribes. The most well-documented tribes are the Erzya and the Moksha, and there are also the Shoksha in the south, but it is not clear which tribe is supposed to be represented by the fourth hexagon.