Last modified: 2003-04-12 by jarig bakker
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by Mark Sensen
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...
The first Czechoslovakian
flag (1918-1920) was identical to the Polish
one 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 colorsť 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 stripes
Jean-Francés 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 Müller 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 of page):
'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* COAs. The blue triangle doesn't (and didn't)
stand for Slovakia (or even for "Slovak mountains") explicitly, it is merely
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
page we can read (in czech):
Česká národní rada zákonem cís. 68/1990 Sb. z 13. brezna 1990 znak malý a znak velký, podle návrhu Jirího 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 CoA and flag. No description
of symbols in this Law. It is a regulation of
using of CoA and flag. But which CoA and which flag? Which Law adopted the CoA 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 CoA - the same as the present lesser CoA (Bohemian lion on red shield)
3. Greater CoA - the same as the present greater CoA (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 isoceles triangle?
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
All other "explanations" are additional myths.
Jan Zrzavy, 23 May 2001
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.
Zeljko 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
Jan Kravcík, 14 Jun 2000
"1990-1992 flag" is NONSENCE. 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.