Flag of Belarus
|Use||National flag and ensign|
|Adopted||June 7, 1995 (original design with a thinner ornament pattern)
February 10, 2012 (current (above) design with a thicker ornament pattern)
|Design||A horizontal bicolor of red over green in a 2:1 ratio, with a red ornamental pattern on a white vertical stripe at the hoist|
The current national flag of Belarus (Belarusian: Сцяг Беларусі, Sciah Bielarusi; Russian: Флаг Беларуси, Flag Belarusi) is a red and green flag with a white and red ornament pattern placed at the staff (hoist) end. The current design was introduced in 2012 by the State Committee for Standardization of the Republic of Belarus, and is adapted from a design approved in a referendum in May 1995. It is a modification of the 1951 flag used while the country was a republic of the Soviet Union. Changes made to the Soviet-era flag were the removal of symbols of communism (the hammer and sickle and the red star) and the reversal of the colors of the ornament pattern, from white on red to red on white. Since the 1995 referendum, several flags used by government officials and agencies were modeled from the national flag.
This design replaced the historical white-red-white flag used by the Belarusian People's Republic of 1918, before Belarus became a Soviet Republic, and again after it regained its independence in 1991. Opposition groups have continued to use this flag, though its display in Belarus has been restricted by the government of Belarus, which claims it was linked with Nazi collaboration during the Second World War. The white-red-white flag is used in protests against the government and by the Belarusian diaspora.
The basic design of the national flag of Belarus was first described in Presidential Decree No.214 of June 7, 1995. The flag is a rectangular cloth consisting of two horizontal stripes: a red upper stripe covering two-thirds of the flag's height, and green lower stripe covering one-third. A vertical red-on-white Belarusian decorative pattern, which occupies one-ninth of the flag's length, is placed against the flagstaff. The flag's ratio of width to length is 1:2.
The flag does not differ significantly from the flag of the Byelorussian SSR, other than the removal of the hammer and sickle and the red star, and the reversal of red and white in the hoist pattern. While there is no official interpretation for the colors of the flag, an explanation given by President Alexander Lukashenko is that red represents freedom and the sacrifice of the nation's forefathers, while green represents life.
In addition to the 1995 decree, "STB 911–2008: National Flag of the Republic of Belarus" was published by the State Committee for Standardization of the Republic of Belarus in 2008. It gives the technical specifications of the national flag, such as the details of the colors and the ornament pattern. The red ornament design on the national flag was, until 2012, 1/12 the width of the flag, and 1/9 with the white margin. As of 2012, the red pattern has occupied the whole of the white margin (which stayed at 1/9th).
|Red||0.553 ± 0.010||0.318 ± 0.010||14.8 ± 1.0|
|Green||0.297 ± 0.010||0.481 ± 0.010||29.6 ± 1.0|
Hoist ornament pattern
A decorative pattern, designed in 1917 by Matrena Markevich, is displayed on the hoist of the flag (as it was previously, on the 1951 flag). The pattern, derived from local plants and flowers, is a traditional type commonly used in Belarus. These patterns are sometimes used in woven garments, most importantly in the traditional 'rushnik' – a woven towel used for ceremonial events like religious services, funerals, and other social functions. An example of their use would be a host offering his guests bread and salt served on a rushnik.
Proper flag protocol
By law, the Belarusian flag is supposed to be flown daily, weather permitting, from the following locations:
- National Assembly of Belarus
- Council of Ministers of Belarus
- Courts of Belarus, and offices of local executive and administrative bodies
- Above buildings in which sessions of local Councils of deputies are carried out
- Military bases or military ships owned by the government
- Buildings used by Belarusian diplomats
The Belarusian flag is also officially flown on these occasions:
- Sessions of local executive and administrative bodies
- Voting/polling places
- Sports arenas during competitions (note that the IOC has its own rules on flag display) 
The flag is also displayed on vehicles used by Belarusian diplomats and various government officials (such as the President and the Prime Minister). The law allows for the flag to be used for special occasions, such as memorial services, and family holidays, and it can be used by various groups of people, such as public organizations, companies, and NGOs. The regulations were issued in the same decree that created the Belarusian flag. May 15 has been declared the Day of the National Emblem and Flag of Belarus (Belarusian: Дзень дзяржаўнага гербу і дзяржаўнага сцягу Рэспублікі Беларусь, Russian: День Государственного герба и Государственного флага Республики Беларусь). The national flag itself has been incorporated into the badge of the guard units in the Belarusian armed forces. The relation of the width of the state flag to the length of the pole that it is used is at minimum 1 to 3.
In the 1995 presidential decree, the national flag is supposed to be used on a staff that is colored gold (ochre). In other parts of the protocol, the finial (metal ornament on a flag pole) is going to be diamond shaped and colored in a yellow metal. In this diamond, there is a five-pointed star (similar to that used in national emblem). The diamond-pattern was another carry-over of Soviet flag traditions.
Soviet flag of 1951
The flag of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic was adopted by decree on December 25, 1951. The flag was slightly modified in 1956 when construction details were added for the red star, and golden hammer and sickle. The final specifications of the flag was set in Article 120 of the Constitution of the Byelorussian SSR and are very similar to the current Belarusian flag. The flag had a length to width ratio of one to two (1:2), just like the flag of the Soviet Union (and the other fourteen union republics). The main portion of the flag was red (representing the Revolution), with the rest being green (representing the Belarusian forests). A pattern of white drawn on red decorated the hoist portion of the flag; this design is often used on Belarusian traditional costumes. In the upper corner of the flag, in the red portion, a gold hammer and sickle was added, with a red star outlined in gold above it. The hammer represented the worker, and the sickle the peasant; according to Soviet ideology, these two symbols crossed together symbolized co-operation between the two classes. The red star, a symbol commonly used by Communist parties, was said to stand either for the five social groups (workers, youth, peasants, military, and academics), the five known continents, or the five fingers of the worker's hand. The hammer, sickle and star were sometimes not displayed on the reverse of the flag. The purpose for this design was that the Byelorussian SSR, along with the Soviet Union and the Ukrainian SSR, were admitted to the United Nations in 1945 as founding members and needed distinct flags for each other. The designer of the flag was Milkahil Gusyev.
Previous flags of the Soviet era
Before 1951, several different flags had been in use since the Revolution. The earliest flag was plain red, and was used in 1919 during the existence of the Lithuanian-Byelorussian SSR. After the formation of the Byelorussian SSR, the lettering ССРБ (SSRB) was added in gold to the top hoist. This design was established with the passage of the first Constitution of the Byelorussian SSR. It was later modified in the 1927 Constitution where the letters were changed to БССР (BSSR) but kept the overall design the same. This design was changed in 1937, when a hammer and sickle and red star were placed above the letters. The ratio was also formally established as 1:2 for the first time. This flag remained in use until the adoption of the 1951 flag.
The design of the flag used between 19 September 1991 and 5 June 1995 had originally been devised by the Belarusian People's Republic (March to December 1918). The original person behind the design of the flag is believed to have been Klaudzi Duzh-Dusheuski before 1917 and this design is known in Belarusian as the byel-chyrvona-byely s'tsyah (Бел-чырвона-белы сьцяг; literally "white-red-white flag"). Red and white have traditionally been used in state heraldry of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The colors are also based on those of the coat of arms Pahonia that was a traditional coat of arms of Belarusian lands and had a white horseman on a red background. There are several other theories explaining the flag's origin. One theory speaks of an allusion to the name of the country: White Ruthenia. Another theory, which is also the traditional explanation, is that the flag traces its origin to the Battle of Grunwald in 1410, when the united armies of Poland and the Grand Duchy of Lithuania defeated the Germans of the Teutonic Order. According to this tradition, a wounded Belarusian knight tore off a blood soaked bandage and raised it as a banner of victory; this story is similar to the traditional accounts of the origins of the flag of Austria and the flag of Latvia, which both are red and white.
Variations of this flag were used during the Belarusian People's Republic in 1918–1919. The white-red-white flag is still used by the Republic's government-in-exile. Lasting from 1919 until 1925, the flag of the BPR retained the white, red, white design, but with the addition of black stripes at the top and bottom of the red stripe. Between 1921 and 1939 the white-red-white flag was used by the Belarusian national movement in West Belarus (part of the Second Polish Republic), both by political organizations like the Belarusian Peasants' and Workers' Union or the Belarusian Christian Democracy, and non-political organizations like the Belarusian Schools Society. The flag was also used by the Belarusian Special Battalion in the army of the Republic of Lithuania. After the invasion of Poland and the annexation of modern-day West Belarus in 1939 the flag was forbidden by the Soviet administration in the newly acquired territories as well.
In 1941 the flag was allowed for usage by the Nazi occupation administration, and it appeared on arm patches of Belarusian volunteers in the German Army and Waffen SS and was used by the Belarusian Central Rada, the pro-German government of Belarus in 1943–1944. After the end of World War II the flag was used by Belarusian diaspora in the West and by small groups of anti-Soviet resistance in Belarus itself. In late 1980s the flag was again used as a symbol of national revival and democratic changes in Belarus. By proposal of the Belarusian Popular Front the flag became state symbol of Belarus upon its regaining of independence in 1991.
After 1995 the white-red-white flag is used as a symbol of the opposition to the regime of Alexander Lukashenko, most notably at the protests after the 2006 and 2010 presidential elections and at mass rallies on Freedom Day celebrations as well as Dziady memorial marches. The flag is not officially banned from public usage, but is treated by the authorities as an unregistered symbol which means that demonstration of it by political activists or sports fans can lead to arrests and confiscation of the flags. In early 2010, the political activist Siarhei Kavalenka was arrested for placing the white-red-white flag atop a Christmas tree on the central square of Vitsebsk. The court gave Kavalenka three years of suspended sentence which was followed by a second arrest and Kavalenka's several weeks long hunger strike. The hunger strike was interrupted by force-feeding on 16 January 2012.
The 1995 referendum
The referendum that was held to adopt the state symbols took place on May 14, 1995. With a voter turnout of 64.7%, the new flag was approved by a majority in the ratio of three to one (75.1% to 24.9%). The other three questions were also passed by the voters. The way of carrying out the referendum as well as legality of questioning the national symbols on a referendum was heavily criticized by the opposition. When compared to the voting population as a whole, only 48.7% supported the adoption of the modified Soviet symbols. Opposition parties claim that this failure to win a majority is a violation of the Law, but Belarusian law states that only a majority of eligible voters is needed to decided on a referendum issue. Upon the results going in favor of Lukashenko, he proclaimed that the return of the Soviet-style flag brought a sense of youth and pleasant memories to the nation.
President Lukashenko had tried to hold a similar referendum before, in 1993, but failed to get parliamentary support. Two months before the May 1995 referendum, Lukashenko proposed a flag design that consisted of two small bars of green and one wide bar of red. While it is not known what became of this suggestion, new designs (called "projects" in Belarus) were suggested a few days later, which were then put up to vote in the 1995 referendum.
Since the introduction of the 1995 flag, several other flags adopted by government agencies or bodies have been modeled on it.
The presidential standard, which has been in use since 1997, was adopted by a decree called "Concerning the Standard of the President of Republic of Belarus". The standard's design is an exact copy of the national flag, with the addition of the Belarusian national emblem in gold and red. The standard's ratio of 5:6 differs from that of the national flag, making the standard almost square. It is used at buildings and on vehicles to denote the presence of the president.
In 2001, President Lukashenko issued a decree granting a flag to the Armed Forces of Belarus. The flag, which has a ratio of 1:1.7, has the national ornamental pattern along the length of the hoist side of the flag. On the front of the flag is the Belarusian coat of arms, with the wording УЗБРОЕНЫЯ СІЛЫ ("Armed Forces") arched over it, and РЭСПУБЛІКІ БЕЛАРУСЬ ("of Republic of Belarus") written below; the text of both is in gold. On the reverse of the flag, the center contains the symbol of the armed forces, which is a red star surrounded by a wreath of oak and laurel. Above the symbol is the phrase ЗА НАШУ РАДЗІМУ ("For our Motherland"), while below is the full name of the military unit.
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|Wikisource has original text related to this article:|
- Media related to Flags of Belarus at Wikimedia Commons
- Belarus at Flags of the World
- Vexillographia – Flags of Belarus (Russian)
- Official site of the President of the Republic of Belarus – Official description of the National Symbols