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by Željko Heimer, 30 Mar 2003
Background of the state flag and coat of arms:
The official coat of arms of the Czech Republic is based on the arms of the lands of the Czech crown in the middle ages. The emblem of Bohemia proper (once it had replaced the Premyslid "flaming eagle" still used in depiction of St. Vaclav) is a white lion with two tails, rampant on a red field. The two eagles represent Moravia and Silesia. The red-and-white chequerboard eagle on a blue field is Moravia, which was referred to by Emperor Frederick Barbarossa as an independent Margraviate in the twelfth century, though it was soon tied firmly to the lands of the Czech crown by the tradition of making the Czech king or his heir margrave. The black eagle on the gold field represents Silesia. Only fragments of the historical territory of Silesia remain in the Czech Republic today, around Opava and Tesin, but all of it came under the Czech crown during the reign of John of Luxemburg and his son Charles IV.
Many European national flags derive from former royal coats of arms, and the Czech one is no exception. Since a complicated coat of arms could not be seen from a distance during a conflict, the coat was reduced to a standard displayed on a lance point, usually (following the customary descriptions of coats of arms) as bars of horizontal colors. So, the Czech kings flew a standard of a bar of white "on" a bar of red, representing the white lion on the red field.
During discussions after World War I over what flag to adopt for the new Czechoslovak State, in the end an adaptation of the Bohemian flag was created, with the addition of a blue triangle next to the staff. This made the flag different from the flag of Bohemia alone (recognizing the fact that not only Silesians and Moravians, but also Slovaks were now supposedly part of the "state bearing" nation). The choice of blue meant that the colors of the flag were now red-white-blue, which in the nineteenth century were considered "traditional Slavic" colors and had been adopted by most pan-Slavic oriented movements (including the Czech Sokol movement) during that time.
Actually as far as I know there is no convincing evidence of their being particularly "traditionally Slavic" before the Russians under Peter the Great began using a red-white-blue banner, which probably came from the flag of the United Provinces of the Netherlands, whose shipbuilding and naval prowess Peter greatly admired. Still, the idea was firmly fixed by the nineteenth century, so the flags of Russia, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia and ex-Yugoslavia all made use of these colors for that reason.
When the CSFR broke up in 1993, the Czech Republic by decision of the Czech National Council, now the Czech Parliament, adopted a flag practically undistinguishable from the flag of the Czechoslovak state, while the Slovaks adopted their "traditional" flag, which is horizontal stripes of red-white-blue with the shield (appearing also in the Hungarian emblem, but not in the red-white-blue colors) superimposed on it. The CSFR federal assembly had agreed that neither "successor state" would use any symbols of the federation, but the CNR ignored this resolution, which caused some further resentment among the Slovaks added to all their other resentments, justified and unjustified...
first Czechoslovakian flag (1918-1920) was identical to the
as these are the colors of Bohemia. I saw once a children school book, in Czech,
dating from the thirties, showing such a flag with the comment: 'There are our
colors' and besides the Czechoslovak flag with: 'here is the flag of the
republic'. During WWII the
protectorate of Bohemia-Moravia had the following flag: three horizontal
Jean-François Blanc 31-Oct-1996
Before the separation of Slovakia and the Czech Republic, a resolution was
passed by the Czechoslovak government that neither of the two "new" states could
continue to use the red white and blue flag of Czechoslovakia. Upon separation,
Slovakia adopted the White/Blue/Red flag with the shield of arms in the upper
hoist. The "new" Czech Republic adopted the flag of former Czechoslovakia, in
direct violation of the resolution mentioned above. Slovakia was ticked off over
this, but the Czech folks said "The country that made that rule doesn't exist
any more" and refused to change.
Nick Artimovich 31-Oct-1996
The blue of the triangle stand for Moravia, since the Moravian coat of arms
is blue with an eagle, chequy of white and red.
Josh Fruhlinger and Harald MÃœller 31-Oct-1996
At this website the
image <pic-clinton.jpg> shows the presidents of US, SK and CZ, and two quite
large flags of the latter two states. On the photo, the Czech shade of blue
seems to be
noticeably darker than the Slovak one. Is this a mistake, a meaningless
variation, an optical illusion, or is it supposed to be so?
Antonio Martins, 25 Apr 2000.
I think it is mere variation with no constitutional basis. However,
historical Slovak flags (e.g. the state flag of Slovakia in 1939-1945) seem to
have been rather light blue.
Jan Zrzavy, 26 Apr 2000
While browsing the web I encountered an opinion voiced on
this webpage (bottom
'The Czechoslovak State Flag is assembled of Czech and Slovak national colours.
The Czech colours used on the flag are RED and WHITE. The Slovak ones are WHITE, BLUE
and RED. The Czechoslovak State Flag was designed in 1918 and 1919 as a Czechoslovak
State Flag with paying attention on the national colours of both Czech and Slovak nation.
On the flag the colours stand for: Czech nation RED and WHITE and for Slovak nation WHITE, BLUE and RED.
The Czechoslovak State Flag is a white-red field with the red colour in the bottom, which is in fact the Czech Flag and a blue threeangle, which had been added as the Slovak part of the complete flag.
Because of this, the Czechoslovak State Flag can never be considered as the Czech State Flag or the Flag of Czech Republic.'
Perhaps the change of the shade of blue is also part of a vexi-guerilla
nobody noticed ...
Jarig Bakker, 26 Apr 2000
Historically, Antonio's source is not right. The blue triangle is a mere
representation of the third Slavonic color (blue-red-white, beginning from
1848), and only secondarily it has been linked with blue colors from the Slovak
*and Moravian* coats of arms. The blue triangle doesn't (and didn't) stand for Slovakia
(or even for "Slovak mountains") explicitly, it is merely late mythology.
Jan Zrzavy, 26 Apr 2000
As I recall, part of the terms of the "Velvet Divorce" between the Czech and
Slovak portions of the old CSFR was that neither successor state would use the
national symbols of the federation. But the traditional Czech
white-over-red flag was identical with that of Poland, and the Czechs, following
the path of least resistance (in the tradition of the Good Soldier Svejk), just
decided to leave well enough alone, adding yet another to the long list of
Slovak grievances against Prague.
Joe McMillan, 26 Apr 2000
At this page
we can read (in czech):
Česká národní rada zákonem čís. 68/1990 Sb. z 13. března 1990 znak malý a znak velký, podle návrhů Jiřího Loudy - "Czech National Council adopted the greater and lesser arms with Law No 68/1990 on 13, March, 1990. Author of drawing: Jiri Louda"
I have text of Law No 68. Nothing about view of Coat of Arms and flag. No
description of symbols in this Law. It is a regulation of
using of Coat of Arms and flag. But which Coat of Arms and which flag? Which Law adopted the Coat of Arms and flag of Czechia in 1990 with descriptions?
Victor Lomantsov, 4 May 2001
In 1990, Czech National Council adopted the Czech Republic's symbols as follows:
1. Flag - white over red, 2:3.
2. Lesser Coat of Arms - the same as the present lesser Coat of Arms (Bohemian lion on red shield)
3. Greater Coat of Arms - the same as the present greater Coat of Arms (quartered shield with two Bohemian lions, and Moravian and Silesian eagles).
The artistic rendition was slightly different from the present one. The
author of the 1990 COAs was Joska Skalnik (he also authored the 1990
Czechoslovakian COA), according to Jiri Louda's proposals. AFAIK, the *present*
COAs are authored by Jiri Louda himself.
Jan Zrzavy, 4 May 2001
Anyone know what the colors on the Czech republic flag represent? Why the
Pat B., 23 May 2001
Nothing. They are simply Bohemian traditional color (white and red, derived
from the silver lion on the red shield), plus the third Slavonic color, the
blue, present also in Moravian (and Slovakian) arms. The bicolore-triangle flag
pattern was selected merely to produce a flag that would be easily recognizable
(note that many white-red-blue tricolores existed and still exist).
All other "explanations" are additional myths.
Jan Zrzavy, 23 May 2001
National Flag. CSW/CS- 2:3
White over red bicolour with blue triangle at hoist reaching the center of the flag. Source: Album 2000.
Željko Heimer, 30 Mar 2003
Here is some additional information on the Czech national flag, extracted
from "Le drapeau tcheque - ceska vlajka" by Guillaume Narguet, Radio Prag, 2
On 30 March 2005 the 85th anniversary of the adoption of the State arms (státní znaky) and the Czech flag (česká vlajka) was celebrated by the National Assembly of the Czechoslovak Republic. The author claims that the flag is sometimes used upside down and gives a few mnemotechnic tricks to remember that white should be on top of the flag: adults are told that froth on bier lays always on top, whereas children are told that when painting the flag the red paint would run down to the white part if placed on top.
The 1918 Czechoslovak flag, horizontally divided white-red, was officially
hoisted for the first time in Washington (USA) on 18 October 1918 on the house
where lived Tomas Garrigue Masaryk (1850-1937; President of the Republic,
Source: http://www.radio.cz/fr/article/64995 - Link found by Pascal Vagnat.
Ivan Sache, 31 Jan 2006
The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics (Flags and Anthems Manual
For the Czech Republic: PMS 192 red, 287 blue. The vertical flag is the
horizontal version reversed and turned 90 degrees anti-clockwise - blue at the
top, white to the left
Ian Sumner, 11 Oct 2012
See also: Hanging Flags Vertically.
The Constitution of 1990 set up the Czech Lands and Slovakia as
two equal nations. Each was to have its own arms, seal, flag and anthem, and
these were laid down in laws of 1990. The Czech Republic adopted a greater and
lesser coat of arms and the flag of white over red on 13 March 1990. The Slovak
Republic legislation was dated 1 March 1990, and laid down the arms (almost
identical with those of pre-Communist era), the flag (the plain tricolour), seal
and anthem. The flag of the state was unchanged. As indicated before, the
agreement was made by two countries upon separation not to adopt the previous
state's emblems, but CZ adopted flag with blue triangle as the flag of CZ
republic on 17 December 1992. So the white-over-red flag was official flag of CZ
from 13 Mar 1990 to 17 Dec 1992. I have no idea how much this flag was used.
When I was in Prague recently I got a feeling that this w/r flag is not much
remembered by the citizens, and many were surprised on mentioning it.
Željko Heimer, 1 Nov 1996
There are not many people in Czechia who know about the Protektorat flag or
even about the oldest white-red flag. The flag enacted in 1990 is the same case.
People considered the Czechoslovak flag as theirs for more than 70 years and the
1990 flag was never actually used. Another essential thing is that our common
state was Czechoslovakia, not Czechia and Slovakia. That's why the Czechoslovak
flag was generally more popular. The Slovak flag of 1990 became to represent the
separatist tendencies of some Slovaks, besides the others were still using the
Czechoslovak one that represented the unity.
Jan Kravcík, 14 Jun 2000
"1990-1992 flag" is NONSENSE. Czechia is the name which nobody uses.
Thomas from Prague, 26 Apr 2000
1. The 1990-1992 flag is correct and Tomas only illustrates the fact that
most Czech people did not know flag of the Czech Republic within Czechoslovakia.
It is his/their problem.
2. The name "Czechia" is recommended to be used by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic as a shorter name in English. ("Tschechien" in German, "Chekhiya" in Russian, and "Česko" in Czech. The last name is progressively more and more used in Czechia, predominantly by younger people.)
Jan Zrzavy, 26 Apr 2000.
The first comes from the French magazine L'Illustration and was published in
1919. The illustration shows the flags of all the allies and among them a
white-red bicolour for Czechoslovakia.
Source: Československá státní a vojenská symbolika (Czechoslovak state and military symbolism) by Zbyšek Svoboda.
The second is a photo from the 1990 elections showing the Czech and Slovak arms
and flag alongside the Czech arms and flag, the bicolour. According to the
source the idea of separate Czech state symbols were considered in 1968
but were scrapped thanks to the Warsaw Pact invasion of Czechoslovakia and the
ensuing normalization. The flag and arms were finally approved 01.03.1990.
Source: http://vexilologie.kvalitne.cz/Symboly.htm - The photo is sourced to Michal Doležal of the Czech News Agency.
Kryštof Huk, 7 Aug 2016.