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Aaland Islands (Finland)

Ahvenanmaa, Åland

Last modified: 2002-07-27 by elias granqvist
Keywords: finland | aaland islands | åland | ahvenanmaa | cross: scandinavian | scandinavian cross |
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[Flag of the Åland Islands] [FIS Code] [FIS Code] by Jan Oskar Engene
Proportions: 17:26
Flag adopted 7 April 1954; coat of arms granted in 1560, present blazon adopted on 18 April 1951

See also:

Description of the flag

The flag of the Åland Islands (Finnish: Ahvenanmaa, Swedish: Åland) is blue with a red Scandinavian cross fimbriated yellow.

Mark Sensen, 27 November 1995

Dimensions of the flag

The dimensions of the flag of the Åland Islands are 16:3:4:3:26 horizontally and 12:3:4:3:12 vertically.

Mark Sensen, 25 September 1995
James Dignan, 26 September 1995

History of the flag

When Finland declared independence from Russia in 1917, the Åland islanders feared for their Swedish language and culture and mobilized for a reunion with Sweden. In the Middle Ages the Åland archipelago was a province of Sweden. Ecclesiastically the islands belonged to the diocese of Abo (Turku) in Finland, and so the province was lost to Russia in 1809. The issue was finally settled by the League of Nations in 1921. The islands were to be a part of Finland, but they were to enjoy autonomy.

However, a flag was not granted until 1954. Unofficially a blue-yellow-blue triband had been in use from 1922. Several versions existed, the dominating one had equal horizontal bands. Another version had a narrower band of yellow - as when the vertical yellow stripe in the cross on the Swedish flag is taken away.

Blue and yellow were naturally the favourite colours, being both the colours of Sweden and the colours of the provincial coat of arms (a golden deer on blue), Therefore, when preparing a design for adoption in the early 1950s, the favoured design was a Scandinavian cross design of a blue field and a yellow and blue cross - that is, the flag of Sweden with an extra blue cross in the middle. This proposal was rejected by the president of Finland as too similar to the Swedish flag. Alternative designs were the old blue-yellow-blue triband, the flag of Finland with an extra yellow cross in the middle, and a design were a red cross was added to the Swedish pattern.

The outcome of the process was the adoption of the blue-yellow- red Scandinavian cross design. This flag was first hoisted on the town hall in the provincial capital Mariehamn 3 April 1954. The red colour was controversial at first, because people felt it lacked a local tradition. However, the colours can be said to come from the provincial coat of arms (blue and yellow - also Sweden's colours) and the colours of the coat of arms of Finland (red and yellow). Also, experts in heraldry have found out that at one point a Swedish king hoisted a flag of exactly the same design.

Source: Erik Tudeer and Lars-Øyvind Liljestrom: Ålands flagga, Mariehamn: Nordens Institut på Åland, 1994, ISBN: 952-90-5534-X (40 pages, 10 colour illustrations mostly of proposed designs)

Jan Oskar Engene, 22 October 1995

Usage of the flag

According to current (1992) legislation pertaining to the flag, the proportions are set as 17:26. The parts are defined as 6-1.5- 2-1.5-6 (hoist), 8-1.5-2-1.5-13 (fly). The colours are described as medium blue, golden yellow and (simply) red. Official flag days are Åland Flag Day, the last Sunday of April, and Autonomy Day, 9 June. There is also a provision against the misuse of the flag.

Source: Erik Tudeer and Lars-Øyvind Liljestrom: Ålands flagga, Mariehamn: Nordens Institut på Åland, 1994, ISBN: 952-90-5534-X (40 pages, 10 colour illustrations mostly of proposed designs)

Jan Oskar Engene, 22 October 1995

The 1992 flag law also requires vessels operated by the government of Åland to use the Åland flag. This means that the Åland flag is also the state ensign within the Åland autonomy context. One can then say that the Åland flag is now filling the four functions it can possibly fill: Civil and state flag and civil and state ensign (CS*/CS*)

Åland is a demilitarized area.

Jan Oskar Engene, 14 December, 1998

The revised autonomy act (1991) for the Åland Islands gave the autonomy authorities increased powers to pass legislation concerning the use of the Åland flag, especially as concerns its use at sea. Making use of these powers, the legislative assembly of Aland passed a flag law, approved by the president of Finland on 3. August 1992 and published in Mariehamn 13. August 1992, that made the Aland flag into a civil ensign. The flag act took effect on 1. January 1993. The use of the Åland civil ensign is optional, and thus only an alternative to the Finnish civil ensign for vessels belonging in the islands.

Further, the 1992 flag law gave the Åland government the power to introduce a special ensign for leisure vessels. This was done on 17. September 1998.

Jan Oskar Engene, 24 May 1999

Provincial Banner of Arms

[Åland Island Banner of Arms] [FIS Code] [FIS Code] by António Martins
The flag is a banner of the arms;
arms granted in 1560, present blazon adopted on 18 April 1951.

Although the cross flag is most widely used, also officially, this provincial banner of the arms is (even if almost forgotten) still official.

António Martins, 24 October 2000


Official blazon in Finnish: "Sinisessä kentässä kävelevä kultainen saksanhirvi. Kruunu: kreivikunnan kruunu."

Official blazon in Swedish: "I blått fält en gående hjort av guld. Skölden krönes med grevskapets krona."

Blazoned in English: "Azure, a stag passant or. The shield's crown is a count's crown."

English blazon by Lewis A. Nowitz, 13 March 2002

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