Last modified: 2003-08-09 by dov gutterman
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by Zeljko Heimer, 13 May 2002
Official Name: Republic of Lithuania
Previous Name: Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic
Location: Baltic Eastern Europe
Government Type: Parliamentary Democracy
Flag adopted: 20 March 1989
Coat of arms adopted: 20 September 1991
ISO Code: LT
The first of the former SSRs to break decisively with Moscow,
Lithuania adopted its old tricolour as its official state flag in
March 1989. Like the other Baltic states, and indeed, the other
captive nations of the former USSR, the flag had been used during
Lithuania's previous period of independence from Russia - from
1918 to 1940. In the flag, yellow stands for grain, green for
forests, and red for the blood shed in defense of the nation.
According to the Grossen Flaggenbuch, the first horizontal
triband adopted as Lithuanian national flag after WWI had the
proportions 3:2. The current national flag, with proportions 2:1,
is therefore not strictly a readoption of the pre-WWII flag.
Ivan Sache, 9 March 1998
The state flag of the Republic of Lithuania is cloth consisting of three horizontal stripes: yellow (the upper), green (the middle) and red (the lower). The colours of the flag arise from various aspects of nature and Lithuanian values. The ratio of the width and length of the flag is 1 to 2. In olden times, Lithuanians had many flags. During the Zalgiris battle, the flag of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was red, with white coat of arms, the Vytis, embroidered on it. The Lithuanian public renewed discussion as to what the Lithuanian national flag ought to be only towards the end of the 19th century. Various combinations of two or tree colours prevailing in traditional national dresses (red, yellow, green, white) were used in national flags. The present-day flag and its colours were chosen by a special commission (Jonas Basanavicius, Tadas Daugirdas, Antanas Zmuidzinavicius) set up by the provisional supreme body of state power - the Lithuanian Council - of Lithuanian state under restoration. On April 19, 1918 the Lithuanian Council approved the design proposed by the commission. After Lithuania's occupation and annexation by the Soviet Union, the flag was placed under a ban and anyone flying it incurred severe punishment. A great many of these flags appeared at various rallies held by the Sajudis movement in the summer of 1988. Soon the flag was legalized: first, recognized as the national and later as the state flag on November 18, 1988, and on June 26, 1991 (the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania law " On the state flag of the Republic of Lithuania").
Dov Gutterman 17 April 1999
Official Lithuanian tricolor is not based on Lithuanian
heraldic tradition, but still was legitimized in 1918. Many
Lithuanian intellectuals weren't satisfied with this
unexplainable flag with no heraldic tradition and new tricolor
project was offered in February, 1940. This flag was exactly the
same size as existing tricolor, so were lines of colors. Only
combination was different: white-yellow-red. This combination was
based on Lithuanian coat-of-arms colors, white - color of figure,
red - color of background, yellow - color of details. Such
forming of tricolors on coat-of-arms colors base is rather usual.
Legitimization of new tricolor was seriously considered, and
probably would have occured, but Soviet occupation in June, 1940
interrupted the proccess.
Giedrius Kiaulakis, 19 January 2001
From Album 2000 [pay00] -
National Flag (CSW/C-- 1:2) - Horizontal tricolour of
yellow-over-green-over-red. As is already correctly noted by
Ivan, modern flag is ratio 1:2, while the pre-WWII one was,
according to [neu92] in ratio 2:3.
Zeljko Heimer, 13 May 2002
Specification of the colors of flag of Lithuania in CMYK are:
Yellow - C0/M30/Y100/K0
Green - C100/M55/Y100/K0
Red - C25/M100/Y100/K0.
Given by Heraldic Comission of Lithuania.
Robertas Jucaitis, 17 January 2003
The dark shade of the green was already in use in 1918.
Perhaps is a coming to the roots or they are trying to
diferentiate from african countries (where light shades are in
use). In flag Report 14 we can read:
German Ocupation - The territory of Lithuania remained occupied by German forces during most of the war. There existed a flag in the Smaller Lithuania (Region of Memel) with the colors green, white and red (casually the Hungarian colors reverted). These colors were also those of a Konigsberg-based Lithuanian students association since 1829 and other in Tilsit since 1885. The Lithuanians of Russia also adopted this flag during World War I. Togheter with this flag, Jonas Basanavicius proposed to readopt the traditional flag, red with the white knight. In the Conference of San Petersburgo of 1917 Adomas Varnas proposed a variation in the knight who would be endowed with a torch, and with blue background (perhaps derived from an ancient military flag).
Lithuanian Tariba (Council) (Sept. 1917) - The Lithuanian National Council was created in September under the control of the Allies and with very little influence in the country. As the Lithuanians were using various flags and no one had yet prevailed as the national one, the Council adopted de facto a flag green over red. On 11 December 1917 the Lithuanian National Council proclaimed the independence of the country, but the German troops were still there. In February 1918 Germany allowed the proclamation of independence from Russia but kept the occupation regime.
Lithuania State (February 1918) - A special commission ruled that the colors of Lithuania would be yellow, green and red. It was approved on 19 April 1918. Initially the shade of red and green was very dark, later to turn to a medium shade.
Kingdom of Lituania (July 1918) - In May 1918, after the peace with Russia (Brest-Litovsk) this country resigned its rights on the region. Germany agreed to recognize the independence of Lithuania provided that its government would be satisfactory for the German interest. In July 1918 Germany proposed the creation of an independent Lithuanian state, in the form of a Kingdom, that would be in perpetual alliance with the German Empire. There were negotiations with prince William of Urach (of the royal dynasty of Wuttemberg) to be offererd the crown (July) but the pressures of the annexionist groups made the attempt to fail. In November, the German defeat supposed the end of the project. The Lithuanian National Council, supported by the Entente, took the power and established a Constitution in November 1918. on 11 November 1918 the national flag was hoisted. No flag different from the one adopted by the National Council was designed for the hypothetical Kingdom of Lithuania.
Jaume Olle', 28 Febuary 2003
From The Heraldry of Lithuania, Vol. 1, Vilnius 1998:
"The Lithuanian State (National) Flag
Description - The State flag of the Republic of Lithuania is the national flag. It consists of a cloth which is made up of three equal horizontal bands: yellow on top, green in the middle, red on the bottom. The relationship of the width of the flag to the length is 1:2.
Overview - Flags have been used as identifying signs since ancient times. They were most popular in warfare during the Middle Ages, when even army units were named after their banners. The Lithuanian flag is mentioned for the first time in the chronicles of Vygand of Marburg. He wrote that in 1337, during the battle at Bajerburg castle (near Veliuona), Tilman Zumpach, head of the riflemen of the Crusaders, used a flaming lance to burn the Lithuanian flag, before mortally wounding the Duke of Trakai. But the chronicler did not describe what this flag looked like. Much more is known about Lithuania's later flags. In the 15th C., J. Dlugosz claimed that Vytautas brought 40 regiments, all carrying red banners, to the Battle of Tannenberg. Thirty of the banners were embroidered with an armoured knight holding a raised sword and riding a white, black, bay, or dappled horse, while ten bore the embroidered device with which Vytautas branded his horses (the Columns of the Gediminas family). According to J. Dlugosz, these banners were named after territories or dukes: Vilnius, Kaunas, Trakai, Medininkai, Zygimantas Kaributas, Semionas Lengvenis, etc. It is thought that the regiments bearing the Columns of the Gediminas family were brought from the territories of Vytautas' patrimonial estates (the Trakai Duchy), and those bearing the knight from the other regions of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In the Middle Ages the concept of a ruler and a State were one and the same. Thus it is doubtful that we would ever find Information about the flag of the State of Lithuania during the 15th C., because back then, the Grand Duke represented the State. A distinction emerged only in the 16th C. From then on one also finds the State flag being mentioned. The first to describe it was Alexander Guagnini in 1578. The flag of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania was made of red silk and had four points. Its principal side, the one on the right from the flag staff, was charged with a white mounted knight underneath the ducal crown, and the other with the image of the Blessed Virgin Mary, the patron of Lithuania. Later only the knight is mentioned as being embroidered on both sides of the flag. The red flag of the State with its white knight survived until the end of the 18th C.
National flags composed of bands appeared later. The French revolution of 1789, which replaced the royal white flag in use up to that time with the tricolour: red-white-blue (the edge colours later changed position), was the greatest impetus for their transformation. Three equal bands meant the equality of all before the law, as did the new slogan: Freedom-Equality-Fraternity, which is used to this day on the emblem of the French Republic. By the 19th C., most European States had national tricoloured flags. Normally they were composed of the colours of the State coat of arms. Thus the German flag is made up of the colours of the black eagle with red talons and beak on a field of gold: black-red-gold; the Belgian flag, black-yellow-red - bears the colours of the golden lion with red claws on a field of black. Other states like Denmark and the Scandinavian countries assigned their old flags the status of national flag. The crosses depicted on their flags were the symbols of the patron saints of those countries.
In Lithuania, which belonged to the Russian Empire from the end of the 18th C., a national movement developed under exceptionally difficult conditions. Thus flags which aspired to the status of a national flag, first appeared abroad. Perhaps the oldest and most constant was the green-white-red flag of Lithuania Minor, known from the 17th C. American Lithuanian associations began to use double or tricoloured flags in the second half of the 19th C. It is known that there were white-blue, white-red-blue, red-yellow-blue flags, and there is mention in 1912 of a red-green-yellow flag, in 1914 of a yellow-green-red one, as well as other colour combinations. The variety of flags can be explained by the fact that the groups of Lithuanians were divided and scattered, with no strong unifying center which could consolidate one version. There was merely the idea of a national flag.
Discussions in Lithuania re the national flag began at the 1905 Lithuanian Congress in Vilnius. J. Basanavicius thought that the flag of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania - the white knight on red - was the most fitting. But the majority of Congress participants did not agree, because for them the colour red evoked unwelcome associations of revolution. Discussion vis-?-vis the national flag was renewed again in 1917, with the opening up of prospects for the restoration of sovereignty. At a meeting J. Basanavicius and Lithuanian public activists decided that the flag's colours might be found in ethnic weavings. A. Zmuidzinavicius took on the task, and subsequently decorated the hall of the Vilnius City Theatre, which hosted a Lithuanian Conference in September 1917, with small green-red flags. The conference delegates did not like the two-colour flag A. Zmuidzinavicius had created; they found it far too gloomy. A special commission made up of J. Basanavicius, A. Zmuidzinavicius and T. Daugirdas was formed to create a flag. They decided to supplement the two colours with yellow. In the beginning T. Daugirdas suggested inserting a narrow yellow band between the red and green, claiming that such a combination would symbolize the dawn very well. After long argument, on April 19, 1918, the commission finally decided that the Lithuanian national flag had to be made up of three horizontal bands of equal width: yellow-green-red. Yellow meant the sun, light, and goodness, green symbolized the beauty of nature, freedom, and hope, and red stood for the land, courage, and the blood which had been spilled for the Homeland. Soon after the Council of Lithuania confirmed the national flag, and also approved the historical one charged with the mounted white knight on one side, and the Columns of the Gediminas family on the other. However in 1922, the Lithuanian Constitution acknowledged only the tricolour flag, and named it the State flag. The ancient historical one was not officially legalized, but was later used by the President of the Republic. It must be said that before the war there was a great deal of discussion about the colours of the national flag. On May 8, 1940, the State Heraldry Commission had even decided to present the President with a new project for the flag. The yellow-green-red was to be replaced by yellow-red-white. In addition one side was to be charged with an image of the mounted knight, and the other with the Columns of the Gedminas family. The colours were taken from the coat of arms created in 1934. But further decisions were suspended by political changes.
On September 27, 1940 after the Soviets occupied Lithuania, the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Lithuanian SSR replaced the tricolour with a red flag. The canton was charged with the golden inscription "Lithuanian SSR" above a golden hammer and sickle. In 1950 Moscow ordered every republic to manufacture tricoloured flags, whose upper half was to be red, and whose lower half could be of their own choosing. On July 15, 1953 the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Lithuanian SSR confirmed a new red-white-green flag. Its upper red band took up two-thirds (or eight-twelfths) of the cloth, the middle white band one-twelfth, and the bottom green three-twelfths. This flag was used until 1988. By the summer of 1988 the old tricolour had begun to fly during events held by Lithuania's Sajudis and other public organizations. It was officially hoisted on Gediminas Castle Tower in Vilnius for the first time after the war, at 10:00 on October 7, 1988. On November 18 at the tenth session of its eleventh convention, the Supreme Council of the Lithuanian SSR was forced to change a chapter of the Constitution, and to grant the yellow-red-green flag the status of State flag. The colours of the flag (yellow approximating orange, a rich green, and red approximating purple) were recreated according to flags of the Independent Republic of Lithuania which had been preserved by museums and private individuals. It was confirmed by the Presidium of the Supreme Council on January 25 1989."
Audrius Slapsinskas, 24 June 2003
by Antonio Martins, 22 April 1999
The website of the Lithuanian Parliament <www.lrs.lt> has a search engine,
using which I downloaded the full text of the law on the
Lithuanian State flag. URL for the search engine is <www3.lrs.lt/n/eng/DPaieska.html>.
Synopsis of the law:
Art. 1. Colours of the flag and their arrangement in horizontal and vertical hosting.
Art. 2. Proportion of the flag and dimension of the flagstaff.
Art. 3. Places where the flag shall be displayed.
Art. 4. Hours of display of the flag.
Art. 5. Use of historical, local anf foreign flags.
Art. 6. Precedence among flags.
Ārt. 7. Mourning days.
Art. 8. Private use of the flag.
Art. 9. Use on the flag on building facades.
Art. 10. Use of the flag likeliness on airplanes.
Art. 11. Use of the flag likeliness as decoration.
Art. 12. Implementation of the law.
Art. 13. Supervision of the implementation of the law.
Art. 14. Manufacture of the flag.
Art. 15. Respect and outrage to the flag.
Full text of the law:
REPUBLIC OF LITHUANIA - LAW ON THE LITHUANIAN STATE FLAG
The Lithuanian State Flag shall be the national flag-cloth, consisting of three equal horizontal coloured stripes, arranged with the yellow above, the green in the middle, and the red below. When the Lithuanian State Flag is displayed vertically, the yellow stripe must be on the left side, the green stripe in the middle, and the red stripe on the right side.
The Lithuanian State Flag must be 1 metre in width and 2 metres in length, and a flagstaff must be 3.4 metres in length. The flag and its likeness may be of other dimensions but the width of the flag in proportion to its length must always be 1:2, and the length of the flag in proportion to the length of the staff must be 1:1.7. The flag and its likeness must always correspond with the standard likeness of the colours of the Lithuanian State Flag.
The Lithuanian State Flag shall be displayed:
1) daily near the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania, the Government of the Republic of Lithuania, the buildings of the councils of local governments, and, also, on the Tower of the Gediminas' Castle in Vilnius and on the buildings, specified by the councils of local governments. Only the Lithuanian State Flag shall be displayed daily near the governmental institutions of the Republic of Lithuania. The display of the flags of other states near and inside the governmental institutions of the Republic of Lithuania shall be prohibited with the exception of cases specified in Article 5 of this Law.
2) near the buildings of the state power and governmental bodies, enterprises, institutions and organizations, dwelling houses on February 16 and on such other days under the decision of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania;
3) near the diplomatic and trade missions, the buildings of consular institutions in accordance with the requirements of the protocol;
4) on ships and other means of transportation where the President of the Republic of Lithuania, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Lithuania, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Lithuania and other persons, officially representing the Republic of Lithuania are staying, under the agreement of the indicated persons;
5) on ships, registered in the Republic of Lithuania;
6) on ships, entering territorial waters, ports of the Republic of Lithuania;
7) near polling places on the days of election of the deputies of the councils of local governments, referendum, plebiscite;
8) near the buildings, where sessions of the councils of local governments take place - on the days when the council is in session;
9) on sports grounds during championships and tournaments of the Republic of Lithuania, international sports competitions in which national teams take part and during award ceremonies of the winners, representing the sports teams of the Republic of Lithuania, of international competitions;
10) in national defence units pursuant to the statutes of the national defence service.
In cases specified in Paragraph 2 of Article 3 of this Law, the Lithuanian State Flag shall be hoisted at 7 o'clock and lowered at 22 o'clock, and in cases specified in Paragraph 7 of Article 3 - during the time of voting.
The order of approval and use of historical or new sample flags of towns and districts shall be established by laws. The flags of foreign states may be displayed near governmental institutions of the Republic of Lithuania only during official visits, official ceremonies and international events according to the order established by the diplomatic protocol and international documents. The flags of foreign states may be displayed only near the institutions of foreign states, which are legally established in the Republic of Lithuania.
When the Lithuanian State Flag is displayed together with the flag of another state, the Lithuanian State Flag must be displayed, when facing the facade of a building, on the right side and the flag of another state - on the left side. If the flags of several states are displayed together with the Lithuanian State Flag, they shall be displayed to the left and to the right from the Lithuanian State Flag. If the number of the flags of other states displayed together with the Lithuanian State Flag is even, they shall be alphabetically displayed in equal number on both sides of the Lithuanian State Flag. The Lithuanian State Flag must be displayed on the same level with the flags of other states. When the Lithuanian State Flag is displayed on a means of transportation (except ships), it shall be clamped to the left fender and the flag of another state shall be clamped to the right fender.
On the days of mourning, in accordance with the resolution of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Republic of Lithuania the Lithuanian State Flag may be displayed with a mark of mourning, that is attaching a 10 centimetres wide black ribbon to the staff or pole, so that the ends of the ribbon shall reach the bottom of the flag. If on the days of mourning the Lithuanian State Flag is displayed from the pole, the flag shall be lowered to one-third of the length of the pole.
The Lithuanian State Flag may be displayed on other holidays and memorable days, as well as on the occasion of public events. The citizens of Lithuania may display the Lithuanian State Flag near their place of residence during the personal celebrations, and the citizens of foreign states residing in Lithuania may display the flags of their states.
The displayed Lithuanian State Flags must be in good shape and not faded. When the flags are displayed near buildings, the flags shall be set into the holders which are fixed on the facade of a building so that an angle between the staff of the flag and the facade shall not be greater than 45 degrees. The lower part of the holders shall be fixed on the facade not higher than 2 metres from the ground. The Lithuanian State Flags may be displayed on the poles established in front of the facade of a building.
The likeness of the Lithuanian State Flag shall be on airplanes registered in the Republic of Lithuania.
The likeness of the Lithuanian State Flag may be used as the state and national symbol for decoration in general so that no disrespect shall be shown to the Lithuanian State Flag.
The responsibility for the implementation of these regulations while displaying the Lithuanian State Flag near the buildings of the state power and governmental bodies, enterprises, institutions and organizations, shall fall with their administrative heads, and while displaying the flag near dwelling houses, the responsibility for the implementation of these regulations shall fall with their owners and officials, who are charged with the organizing of the exploitation of dwelling houses.
The boards of local governments shall be charged with the supervision of accurate implementation of this Law. Charged with the supervision of accurate implementation of this Law in national defence units shall be the Department of National Defence, in self-propelled ships - captains, in non self-propelled ships - skippers, in harbours and wharfs of the Republic of Lithuania - harbour-masters, in diplomatic and trade missions, as well as in consular institutions - their heads.
The manufacture and sale of the Lithuanian State Flag shall be carried out in accordance with procedure established by the Government of the Republic of Lithuania.
The citizens of the Republic of Lithuania as well as other persons who are staying in Lithuania, must respect the Lithuanian State Flag. The outrage upon the Lithuanian State Flag shall be punishable in accordance with the procedure established by laws of the Republic of Lithuania.
Bronius Kuzmickas , Vice President
Supreme Council Republic of Lithuania
Vilnius 26 June 1991
Ivan Sache, 22 November 2001
I don't quite follow this - are the black-ribonning and
half-masting two mutually excludable procedures one may employ
for expressing mourning, or are they both done in the same time -
i.e. are the half- masted (actually 2/3-masted) flags also
I'd say that one would be proceidure for "indoor" flags and the other for masted flags, but I don't quite read it that way from the text.
Zeljko Heimer, 23 November 2001
The following was written by Reuters at <news.excite.com>:
Prime Minister Faces Fine for Failing to Fly Flag (Updated 11:24 AM ET February 26, 2001).
VILNIUS (Reuters) - Lithuanian Premier Rolandas Paksas could be fined for failing to fly the country's flag at his home on Saturday to mark nearby Estonia's independence day, the daily Respublika said. The paper said Paksas faced a fine of up to $50. His office declined to comment. Homeowners in all three Baltic states are obliged to fly their national flags on the Latvian, Lithuanian and Estonian independence days.
Michael P. Smuda, 26 Febuary 2001
A while back, I noticed a picture of a group of Lithuanian
people gathering for what, I don't remember. What I do remember
is the flag that was present. It was the Lithuanian tri- color,
but, in the upper left corner there was a black double cross. Do
you know of this flag and its meaning?
Tim Plonis, 1 September 1999