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Republic of Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Republika Srpska, Republic of Serbska, Serb Republic

Last modified: 2003-07-05 by dov gutterman
Keywords: srpska | republika srpska | serb republic | bosnia and herzegovina | serbia | cross | firestalker | krajina | romanija | west herzegovina | sarajevo | ocila | yugoslavia | serbia | serbian cross | eagle | crown | serbska |
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by Zeljko Heimer, 6 September 2000

See also:


See also:

Official flag

The official flag of the Republika Srpska is the red-blue-white flag in horizontal stripes of equal width. Ratio 1:2. 
Pascal Vagnat, 20 September 1999

The official flag of RS is plain Serb tricolour The status of RS is like this - it is one of the two entities fromtin the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. RS is unitary state (subdivided in municipalities - obstine, IIRC), presidential parlamentary democracy. Regarding flags, the flag of B&H is used officially, together with the flag of RS, and according to my observations (which might be wrong) often together with one of the unofficial variations (cross, eagle...). Municipalities have (right to) flags, of which I believe we have see only the flag of Srpsko Sarajevo and Bileca, and which follow the Serbian vexillologic practice (square banners of arms).
Zeljko Heimer, 21 September 1999

Another variation of the flag of the Republic of Srpska is presented at <>.
Gvido Petersons, 17 March 2000

The flag is tricolour of red over blue over white. Ratio 1:2. When hoisted vertical the red stripe should be on observer's left (as it is usual).
This is the only official national flag of RS. All other variants reported in vex-literature have no official status, though indeed they have been reported used in official purposes more then once. It seems that such variations are tollerated, but sometimes also hoisted side by side with the pure flag, and with several variations together.
The source for the image is a document named (translated): "Original (ethalon) of the coat of arms and the flag of the Republic of Srpska with graphical standards for use, illustrated inset" issued by the official gazette and is not dated. Original title: "Izvornik (etalon) grba i zastave Republike Srpske sa grafie'kim standardima za primenu, ilustrovani prilog", Sluzbeni glasnik Republike Srpske. I have to thank to Pascal Vagnat for this document.
Zeljko Heimer, 6 September 2000

"Serbian Cross" flag

[Flag of Bosnian Serbs]
by Zeljko Heimer

The flag with the Serbian (St. Sava) cross (by the way, the cross has nothing to do with St. Sava, it was so named after the saint patron of Serbia by heraldrists and vexillologists, for convenience in similarity with British crosses) is unofficial, but in early 1990's very often used. The official flag is the simple tricolour.
Zeljko Heimer, 27 November 1995

The flag with "St. Sava cross" *) is often used, but unofficially. However, according to some sources the flag with cross is officially adopted by the Serb Orthodox Church as the flag representing the Church.

*) note that this name is fabrication of the mailing list (or vex community), although usefull, it is rarely called so by Serbs.
Zeljko Heimer
, 24 September 1999

Shouldn't we better replace this with "Serbian cross" (or perhaps even "Byzantine cross") before we create the myth of a "St. Sava's cross"?
Santiago Dotor, 27 September 1999

I think that the most common term that is used does not even mention cross - the Serbs call it "ocila" (c is read as "ts"), which is term that describe the four curious shapes (cyrillic S's). Another word in Serbian for the same thing is "ognjila", but I do not think that this is ever used for those devices in this sence. "Ocilo" is called in english a fire- iron, a cup or plate used for holding the "live coal" in religious service (or most usually under icons), providing the fragnan smoke. Similar device is also known in "western" heraldry, then most usualy with opening above, often with fire bursting from it.
The devices and cross originate from Byzantine "heraldry", where this was interpreted as four B's, So, it would be in Serb "ocila" or "krst s ocilima" (cross with fire-rons). Regarding the use on FOTW, "Serbian cross" (or "Serb cross") would do.
Zeljko Heimer, 28 September 1999

I have read something about the flag with the Serbian cross of the Republika Srpska. According to it the four cyrillic "S" are taken from the motto  "Solamente los Serbios Salvaran Serbia" (only the Serbian people will save Serbia). I obtain this information from the italian magazine "Rivista Militare" (issue 5/2001).
Santiago Tazon, 27 October 2001

"Samo Sloga Srbe Spasava (Only Unity can save the Serbs)" is the correct interpretation of the four Cyrillic S's. The C's more usually face outwards, that is, the C's on the left-hand side are mirror-image, but I have seen them face inward as well on occasion.
John C. Evosevic, 27 October 2001

I don`t think that four cyrillic "S" (looks like latin C) are taken from the motto. More probably that different patriotic mottos were taken from ancient CoA with four "S". I know about two variants of motto:
Samo sloga Srbe Spasava (Only the Unity can save the Serbia), and Svety Sava Srpska Slava (St.Sava - the glory of Serbia)
(note: I can make mistakes in latinized serbian texts because I saw it in cyrillic alphabet only)
Victor Lomantsov, 27 October 2001

This is the most often quoted motto for this interpretation, but the other one quoted by Victor (correctly latinized would be "Sveti Sava - Srpska slava", note the capitalization) is also sometimes find - in what might be called more "clerical" sources.
In any case, both mottoes, and some other variations are rather new, from 18th centruy (or some few hundered years earlier, occasionally, in some arorial collections, I don't have any reference by hand), while the cross with S's stems from much earlier time of Bizantine Empire, where the elements surrounding the cross were interpreted as B's (greek letter 'beta') reffering to a motto if not similar in interpretation ("Basileus Basileon Basileuon Basileusin" - "King of
kings, ruling over kings", the motto of Paleologus dinasty), then certainly similar in idea of providing a motto to initials.
Heraldically speaking, the charges are nither B's nor S's, but firestalks, fireirons - things that are hanged uner the orthodox icons in which fragnant materials are incinerated.
Source: [mrd87]
Zeljko Heimer, 28 October 2001

This is indeed the most frequent interpretation. However, as Victor Lomantsov and Zeljko Heimer already said, what actually happens is that several mottoes were created 'post facto' from the cross, not the other way round.
The four firesteel-like elements surrounding a cross already appeared in the 14th century flag of the Byzantine Paleologues dinasty.
Santiago Dotor, 29 October 2001

See also: Serbian Orthodox Church

War Flag

According to the chart: "Flags of Aspirant Peoples" , "Srpska Bosna Hercegovina (Serbian state of Bosnia-Herzegovina) - War flag" is a Serbian tricolor, charged with a white eagle.
This design is listed under number 40 at the chart "Flags of Aspirant Peoples" [eba94].
Ivan Sache, 16 September 1999

Coat of Arms

by Zeljko Heimer, 6 September 2000

Coat of arms of RS - Gules, a Two-headed Eagle Argent displayed, langued, beaked and membered Or, topped with a Crown of the same bearing an escutcheon Gules, between a Cross Argent four Fire Irons of the same adorsed (Serbia modern).
This CoA is virtually the same as the lesser CoA of pre-WWI kingdom of Serbia. A construction detail, the CoA apears to be in ratio 5:7, but is divided for construction purposes in 8x9 sectors
Zeljko Heimer, 6 September 2000

When it comes to Srpska, it is using a royal crown in spite of the fact that it is not a monarchy.
Elias Granqvist, 16 September 2000

The anwser would be, I guess, that RS adopted the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Serbia of before the first World War. Actually, there were, I believe several consequtive versions of Serbian CoA before 1914, some including fleurs-de-lis, and I am not sure if it was the latest version that was (re)adopted by RS. The version with f-d-l's was not suitable, I guess as today those have other conotations (Bosniaks).
In any case, the crown in the CoA is anachronic, but it may be, and probably is, explained as a symbol of souvereignity, just as are crowns in some other European republics. This crown, even in being royal, is now here to represent the sovereignity weather in reference to previous rolayity or not.
Zeljko Heimer, 17 September 2000

Other Reported Flags

Last night I was watching the news on TV when they carried an article on a rally of Bosnian Serbs in Sarajevo, and as you would expect it was a veritable vex-fest with much flag-waving going on.

However, I noticed that a number of the usual Serb tricolours were adorned with an emblem I have not seen discussed here. It was a small equi-dimensional cross in the centre extending slightly more than the width of the central stripe, and in each angle was a circle.
C. Veale, 30 November 1995

The other day on the news I saw some suburban Sarajevo Serbs protesting that a unified Sarajevo will be granted to the Muslim-Croat federation under the Dayton peace accords.

They were waving what I assumed to be a Serb flag: white stripe on top, blue in the middle, red on the bottom. There was no arms on the flag, as we have previously seen. How is this flag different from the Russian Federation?
Josh Fruhlinger, 26 November 1995

In my humble opinion, what you saw was the red blue white flag turned upside down. From my experience, some people in ex-Yugoslavia don't give much attention to how the flags are flown.

The cross and circles device must be the cross and 4 C's (fire stalkers). More on this see on Republic of Serb Krajina and Serbia pages.
Zeljko Heimer, 1 December 1995

Former Serb Republics or Regions in Bosnia-Herzegovina

I read that at first three serb republics existed in Bosnia :

  • a) Republic of Krajina, capital Banja Luka, proclaimed at 16 September 1991. Flag: serbian tricolour with the cross and four Cs in the centre.
    b) Republic of Romanija, capital Pale, proclaimed at 12 September 1991. Flag: serbian tricolour with crowned double-headed eagle.
    c) Republic of West Herzegovina, capital Trebinje, proclaimed at 12 September 1991. Flag: serbian tricolour with cross and four C only in the central band.

The three republics where merged after 12 September 1993 after the Banja Luka agreement. Is this correct?
Jaume Ollé, 13 November 1996

I am not sure any more of the exact names of these 'Republics'. In fact, I think they were not proclaimed as republics but as authonomous regions, or something like that. I am especially suspicious of the first name. In any case, I don't think they used any official flags as states and even if they did, they would probably have the same definition of the state flag as did the Republic of Serbian Krajina in Croatia that defined it's flag to be a tricolour of red over blue over white, and nothing else.

All the designs you mention where in use, but they where not territorially closed and where used as unofficial and official (with that I mean in official purposes like parlamentary sessions) flags in all areas where Serbs lived - Krajina, Western and Eastern Slavonia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia.
Zeljko Heimer, 16 November 1966