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On some buildings in Moscow (and other cities in European part of Russia) there are carvings of three interconnected wreaths.

For example, some are on the Pushkin Museum building on Prechistenka:

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This building was erected around 1814, but unfortunately I didn't find information about the meaning of the carvings (apart from the shield with emblem of the building original owners). As usual, people are blaming Masons and I wouldn't be surprised if it is a part of masonic symbolism, however, I didn't find anything exactly like that. I.e., IOOF symbol is similar, but it should be chain which would look different. It is also not Borromean Rings which should be interlocked.

So, where does this symbol come from?

A couple more images from other sites:

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Very interesting! I saw these rings many times, but never asked myself what they represent. A search in Russian language yielded a lot of esoteric nonsense, as well as Masonic references and an assertion that the rings represent the Trinity; the latter one would make sense if not for elaborate ornaments inside some of the rings. If you are confident that the ring originated in 1814 try some reference on Napoleonic wars: that year was the year of the victory over Napoleon for Russia. I couldn't connect via online searches the rings with that victory though. –  Michael Jan 20 at 15:11
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Oh, and one more conjecture I couldn't connect with the rings in a brief search: in Imperial Russia, besides the Christian Trinity, there was a notion of Tri-Unity of "Православие, Самодержавие, Народность", roughly translated as "Christian Orthodoxy, Absolute Monarchy, and Common Nationality". This may very roughly correspond to the West's Church, Noble, and Peasant classes, except that the Russian slogan proclaimed tri-unity of those. The victory over Napoleon was widely attributed to that tri-unity: the war effort by nobles, the guerilla war by peasants, and God's blessing via the Church. –  Michael Jan 20 at 15:27
    
@Michael Yes, I searched on this issue for a few hours in Russian internet (including official info about the buildings) and all I found are unsupported references to Masons with no further elaboration, and, as I mentioned, if it is a masonic symbol, it is not an obvious one. –  sashkello Jan 20 at 21:43
    
I would consider it to be merely an ornamentation if not the fact that it is present in the centre of the buildings' façades, often being almost the only decoration. Pushkin Museum building was rebuilt after 1812 war and there is no information if it has been altered afterwards. I found photos taken in 1910 and all the ornaments are there, so that seems legit. The other two examples are in Tver and were built around late XIX - early XX centuries. –  sashkello Jan 20 at 21:49
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@Michael "Christian Orthodoxy, Absolute Monarchy, and Common Nationality" was proposed by Uvarov around 1830's, so it's a highly unlikely explanation. –  sashkello Jan 20 at 21:53

1 Answer 1

Before Russia was an empire, it was a collection of duchies, each kinged by a duke. When all these dukes adopted Christianity, which happened at around the same time, they used a crest of three circles in a triangle as a sign of their fidelity to the conversion. Supposedly this was to answer to the trinity, but in truth it probably dates back to being a Mongol symbol from the time when Russia was ruled by the Golden Horde. The dukes just re-adapted the symbol to mean the holy Trinity. In the circles were placed their names, oaths and personal badges. Strahlemberg "Description de l'Empire Russe" vol I p. 240 (1757)

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Is there any indication that the symbol was used before Peter I? –  Anixx May 13 at 20:44
    
@Anixx Nope, before Peter the Great, Russia was called "Muscovy" and was pretty much a dirt patch with a bunch of log cabins. They didn't have books or stone buildings or anything like that. High tech in old Muscovy was having like a boat or something like that. –  Tyler Durden May 13 at 20:59
    
Nope, before Peter the Great, Russia was called "Muscovy" Ah, then I guess we should start removing references to the 200 year old Tsardom of Russia from history books... –  Yannis Rizos May 14 at 8:28
    
@YannisRizos All books written before about 1720 talk about the duchy of Muscovy as just that, Muscovy. The idea of Russia, as we know it today, was invented during the reign of Peter the Great. –  Tyler Durden May 14 at 13:02

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