Flag of Belarus

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Belarus
Flag of Belarus.svg
UseNational flag and ensign
Proportion1:2[1]
Adopted7 June 1995 (original design with a thinner ornament pattern)[2]
10 February 2012 (current (above) design with a thicker ornament pattern)[1]
DesignA horizontal bicolour of red over green in a 2:1 ratio, with a red ornamental pattern on a white vertical stripe at the hoist.
Designed byMikhail Husyev
Flag of Belarus (1918, 1991–1995).svg
Variant flag of Belarus
NameБел-чырвона-белы сцяг ("The White Red and White Flag")
Use1918 (Belarusian Democratic Republic and Belarusian government in exile),
Unofficially in West Belarus until 1939,
unofficially between 1942 and 1944 (during Nazi occupation),
Officially from 1991 to 1995
Still often used by opposition groups.[3]
Proportion1:2
Adopted25 March 1918
25 August 1991
DesignA horizontal triband of white, red and white
Designed byKłaŭdzi Duž-Dušeŭski

The flag of Belarus (Belarusian: Сцяг Беларусі, romanizedSciah Biełarusi; Russian: Флаг Беларуси, romanized: 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 Standardisation of the Republic of Belarus, and is adapted from a design approved in a May 1995 referendum. 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 (such as the hammer and sickle and the red star) and the reversal of the colours of the ornament pattern, from white-on-red to red-on-white. Since the 1995 referendum, several flags used by Belarusian government officials and agencies have been modelled on this national flag.

This design replaced the historical white-red-white flag used by the Belarusian Democratic Republic in 1918 before Belarus became a Soviet Republic, then by the Belarusian national movement in West Belarus followed by widespread unofficial use during the Nazi occupation of Belarus between 1942 and 1944,[4] and again after it regained its independence in 1991 until the 1995 referendum. 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 has been used in protests against the government, most recently the 2020 Belarusian protests, and by the Belarusian diaspora.

Design[edit]

Construction sheet of the Belarusian flag

The basic design of the national flag of Belarus was first described in Presidential Decree No.214 of 7 June 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 traditional 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.[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.[5][failed verification] While there is no official interpretation for the colours 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.[6]

In addition to the 1995 decree, "STB 911–2008: National Flag of the Republic of Belarus" was published by the State Committee for Standardisation of the Republic of Belarus in 2008. It gives the technical specifications of the national flag, such as the details of the colours and the ornament pattern. The red ornament design on the national flag was, until 2012, ​112 the width of the flag, and ​19 with the white margin. As of 2012, the red pattern has occupied the whole of the white margin (which stayed at ​19).[1]

Colours[edit]

The colours of the national flag are regulated in "STB 911–2008: National Flag of the Republic of Belarus" and are listed in the CIE Standard illuminant D65.[1]

Standard Colour Sample of the National Flag[1]
Colour Colour coordinate Y10
x10 y10
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[edit]

Decorative pattern

A decorative pattern, designed in 1917 by Matrona Markevich, is displayed on the hoist of the flag (as it was previously, on the 1951 flag).[7] 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 ruchnik, a woven cloth used for ceremonial events like religious services, funerals, and other more mundane social functions, such as a host offering guests bread and salt served on a rushnyk.[8]

The husband of Matrona Markevich was arrested for anti-Soviet propaganda and executed during Soviet repression in Belarus in 1937, after which the family was dekulakised. The original ruchnik has not survived and was either confiscated by the NKVD in 1937 or destroyed during the Second World War. The brother of Matrona Markevich, Mikhail Katsar, head of the ethnography and folklore department at the Academy of Sciences of Belarus, was included into the commission that was ordered to create a new flag for the Belarusian SSR in 1951.[9][10]

A monument to Matrona Markevich was erected in Sianno in 2015.[9]

Flag protocol[edit]

The flag with the Soviet-style star in a diamond finial waving above a government building in Minsk
The colours of the Belarusian flag being interpreted during a flypast of the Belarusian Air Force during the Independence Day Parade in honor of the 75th anniversary of the Liberation of Belarus.

Belarusian law requires that the flag be flown daily, weather permitting, from the following locations:[11]

  • the National Assembly of Belarus
  • the Council of Ministers of Belarus
  • courts of Belarus
  • offices of local executive and administrative bodies
  • above buildings in which sessions of local Councils of deputies take place
  • military bases or military ships owned by the government
  • Belarusian embassies and consulates

The Belarusian flag is also officially flown on the sites of special occasions:[11]

  • 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) [12]

Belarusian diplomats and various government officials (such as the President and the Prime Minister) display the flag on vehicles. 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 organisations, companies, and NGOs. The regulations were issued in the same decree that defined the Belarusian flag.[citation needed] 15 May 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).[13] The national flag itself has been incorporated into the badge of the guard units in the Belarusian armed forces.[14] The pole should be three times longer than the width of the flag.[15]

According to the 1995 presidential decree, the national flag is to be used on a staff that is coloured gold (ochre).[2] Other parts of the protocol specify the finial (the metal ornament on a flag pole) as diamond-shaped and coloured in a yellow metal. In this diamond there is a five-pointed star (similar to that used in the national emblem).[16] The diamond pattern represents another continuation of Soviet flag traditions.[17]

Historical flags[edit]

White-red-white flag[edit]

Flag of the Belarusian People's Republic (1918) and the Republic of Belarus (1991-1995)
White-red-white flag of Belarus defaced with the historic Pahonia coat of arms
The flag used by the Belarusian authorities in exile in 1919–1925
The White-red-white flag on a government building of the Belarusian Democratic Republic in Minsk, 1918
"Do not abandon our Belarusian language, so we would not die"
Matsiey Burachok

The design of the flag used between 19 September 1991 and 5 June 1995 had originally been devised by the Belarusian Democratic Republic (March to December 1918).[18] 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").[19] Red and white have traditionally been used in state heraldry of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth. The colours are also based on those of the Pahonia coat of arms that was a traditional coat of arms of Belarusian lands and had a white horseman on a red background.[20] There are several other theories explaining the flag's origin. One theory speaks of an allusion to the name of the country, White Ruthenia.[21]

In 1918 the Belarusian People's Republic (BNR) was proclaimed, the symbols of which became the coat of arms "Pahonia" and the white-red-white flag. On 11 August, the newspaper Svobodnaya Belarus published the first official description of the flag and coat of arms. In 1919-1920, the white-red-white flag was used by Belarusian military formations as part of the armies of Poland and Lithuania. In 1920, the flag was used by participants in the Slutsk uprising.

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 organisations like the Belarusian Peasants' and Workers' Union or the Belarusian Christian Democracy, and non-political organisations like the Belarusian Schools Society.[22] The flag was also used by the Belarusian Special Battalion in the army of the Republic of Lithuania. After the Soviet 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.[21]


In 1941 the flag was used by the Nazi occupation administration, and it appeared on arm patches of Belarusian volunteers in the German Army and Waffen SS (same as the Russian tricolour) and was used by the Belarusian Central Rada, the fascist anti-Soviet government of Belarus in 1943–1944. Klaudzi Duzh-Dusheuski, the creator of the flag, however refused to cooperate with the Nazi occupation forces and helped a Jewish family to hide in his house. Therefore he was put into the Pravieniškės death camp.[23]

After the end of World War II, the flag was used by the Belarusian diaspora in the West and by small groups of resistors to the Soviet government in Belarus itself. In the late 1980s the flag began to be used as a symbol of national revival and democratic changes in Soviet Belarus. Following a proposal of the Belarusian Popular Front, the flag became the new flag of Belarus upon its regaining of independence in 1991.[21]

The former flag of Belarus has been used widely during the 2020 Belarusian protests

After 1995 the white-red-white flag has been used as a symbol of the opposition to the regime of Alexander Lukashenko, most notably during protests after the 2006, 2010, 2015, and the 2020 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.[24][25] 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.[26] The flag has been widely used by opposition supporters during the 2020 Belarusian protests in rallies in support of presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, and later after the scandalous elections, in which, according to the official statement of the CEC, the current president of the country, Alexander Lukashenko, won the majority of votes. A popular variant used by protesters is the white-red-white flag with the historic Pahonia coat of arms. Initially though, there are reports that some opposition supporters have also used the current flag.[27][28][29][30][31]

The white-red-white flag is almost identical to the flag of Wyszków in Poland, the flag of Berlare in Belgium, flags of Brielle and Enschede in the Netherlands, and the flag of the Atlántico Department in Colombia. The unrelated flag of Austria has the colours reversed.

Soviet era[edit]

1919–1951[edit]

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.[32] It was later modified in the 1927 Constitution where the letters were changed to БССР (BSSR) but kept the overall design the same.[33] This design was changed in 1937, when a hammer and sickle and red star were placed above the letters. The flag dimensions were also formally established as 1:2 for the first time.[34] This flag remained in use until the adoption of the 1951 flag, which did away with the letters.

1951–1991[edit]

FIAV 110000.svg Flag of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, 1951 to 1991

The flag of the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic was adopted by decree on 25 December 1951.[35] The flag was slightly modified in 1956 when construction details were added for the red star and the 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).[36] 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 symbolised 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 Mikhail Gusyev.[7]

1995 referendum[edit]

Flag adopted in 1995. Slightly modified in 2012.

The referendum that was held to adopt the state symbols took place on 14 May 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.[37] The way of carrying out the referendum as well as the legality of questioning the national symbols on a referendum was heavily criticised by the opposition.[38][39] Opposition parties claimed that only 48.7% of the entire voting population (75.1% of the 64.7% who showed at the polling stations) supported the adoption of the new flag, but Belarusian law (as in many other countries) states that only a majority of voters is needed to decide on a referendum issue.[40][41] Upon the results going in favor of President Lukashenko, he proclaimed that the return of the Soviet-style flag brought a sense of youth and pleasant memories to the nation.[42]

Flag proposed by Lukashenko in 1995

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.[43]

Other related flags[edit]

Since the introduction of the 1995 flag, several other flags adopted by government agencies or bodies have been modelled 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.[44]

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 centre 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.[45]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e СТБ 911-2008 Государственный флаг Республики Беларусь. Общие технические условия [STB 911–2008: National Flag of the Republic of Belarus. Technical Specifications.] (in Russian). State Committee for Standardization of the Republic of Belarus. 2008. Retrieved 5 August 2010.
  2. ^ a b c "Указ Президента Республики Беларусь Об утверждении Положения о Государственном флаге Республики Беларусь | Геральдика.ру". Geraldika.ru. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  3. ^ Ulasik, Valeriya; Shalayeva, Alena; Wesolowsky, Tony (4 August 2019). "Unflagging Protest: Belarus's Opposition Inspired By A Pensioner And Her Outlawed Banner". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Archived from the original on 24 March 2020.
  4. ^ Wilson, Andrew (2011). Belarus : the last European dictatorship. New Haven: Yale University Press. p. 110. ISBN 9780300134353.
  5. ^ "State Symbols of the Republic of Belarus". The Official Internet Portal of the President of the Republic of Belarus. Archived from the original on 26 April 2020. Retrieved 30 April 2020.
  6. ^ Lukashenko, Alexander (2 July 2013). "Remarks of the President at the ceremony to inaugurate the State Flag Square". The Official Internet Portal of the President of the Republic of Belarus. Archived from the original on 30 April 2020.
  7. ^ a b Басаў А. Н., Куркоў І. М. Флагі Беларусі ўчора і сёння / Пер. А. Н. Найдовіч. — Мн.: Полымя, 1994. С. 24.
  8. ^ "Belarusian Textiles" and "Belarusian Ruchnik" pages on the Virtual Guide to Belarus website
  9. ^ a b "У Сянне адкрылі помнік жанчыне, якая вышыла арнамент з дзяржаўнага сцяга" (in Belarusian). Budzma. 6 July 2015. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  10. ^ "Адкрыты спіс - Маркевіч Аляксей Захаравіч (1885)" (in Belarusian). Openlist. Retrieved 20 January 2018.
  11. ^ a b "Государственная символика Республики Беларусь". President.gov.by. Retrieved 5 April 2020.
  12. ^ Flag Manual. Beijing, China: Beijing Organizing Committee for the Games of the XXIX Olympiad – Protocol Division; 2008. p. 4.
  13. ^ "BelTA's page about the national flag day". Archived from the original on 11 October 2006.
  14. ^ (in Russian) Badges of the Armed Forces of Belarus Archived 11 March 2007 at the Wayback Machine Note: Works in Internet Explorer only
  15. ^ Государственные символы Республики Беларусь (in Russian). Национальный центр правовой информации Республики Беларусь. Retrieved 30 April 2010.
  16. ^ "Embassy of the Republic of Belarus in Korea — Republic of Belarus — National Symbols". Korea.mfa.gov.by. 20 December 2008. Archived from the original on 29 November 2012. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  17. ^ "ГОРДО РЕЮТ БОЕВЫЕ СТЯГИ!. РВО, № 9 (44) сентябрь 2007". Grinchevskiy.ru. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  18. ^ Understanding Belarus and How Western Foreign Policy Misses the Mark — Grigoriĭ Viktorovich Ioffe — Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  19. ^ "Наша Ніва". Nn.by. Archived from the original on 26 February 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  20. ^ Belarus: The Last European Dictatorship — Andrew Wilson — Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  21. ^ a b c "Пытаньне дзяржаўнай сымболікі ў Беларусі: гісторыя і сучасны стан". Pahonia-plakat.narod.ru. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  22. ^ (in Belarusian)Андрэй Вашкевіч. Нашы сьцягі над Заходняй // Arche, №4 (55) – 2007 Archived 21 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine
  23. ^ "Клавдий–строитель".
  24. ^ "Polskie Radio Esperanto — Затрыманьні на рыцарскім фэсьце". .polskieradio.pl. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
  25. ^ Congressional Record — Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  26. ^ World Report 2011 - Human Rights Watch — Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  27. ^ "Huge crowds rally for Belarus opposition leader in run-up to presidential election". the Guardian. 31 July 2020.
  28. ^ https://meduza.io/en/feature/2020/08/14/here-s-why-are-protesters-in-belarus-are-flying-a-white-and-red-flag
  29. ^ "Tens of thousands rally in Belarus despite pre-election crackdown". www.aljazeera.com.
  30. ^ "Dzmitry Bandarenka: In August, We May See White-Red-White Flags And 'Chaser' On Country's Main Buildings". charter97.org.
  31. ^ https://news.tut.by/society/697649.html
  32. ^ Article 32, КОНСТИТУЦИЯ СОЦИАЛИСТИЧЕСКОЙ СОВЕТСКОЙ РЕСПУБЛИКИ БЕЛОРУССИИ (1919) Archived 27 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Pravo.by. Retrieved on 27 May 2011.
  33. ^ Article 75, Конституции (Основного Закона) Белорусской Социалистической Советской Республики (1927) Archived 29 November 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Pravo.by. Retrieved on 27 May 2011.
  34. ^ Конституции Беларуси – Национальный правовой портал Республики Беларусь Archived 29 September 2010 at the Wayback Machine. Pravo.by. Retrieved on 27 May 2011.
  35. ^ Указ Президиума ВС БССР от 25 December 1951 О государственном флаге Белорусской ССР (in Russian) on the Russian Wikisource ("The decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Belorussian 25.12.1951 on the state flag of the Byelorussian SSR")
  36. ^ Указ Президиума ВС БССР от 8 May 1956 об утверждении Положения о Государственном флаге Белорусской ССР (in Russian) on the Russian Wikisource ("The decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Belorussian 05.08.1956 approving the Regulation on the State Flag of the Byelorussian SSR")
  37. ^ "Internet Archive Wayback Machine". Web.archive.org. 20 July 2011. Archived from the original on 20 July 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  38. ^ United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. "Refworld | Chronology for Poles in Belarus". UNHCR. Archived from the original on 16 April 2013. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  39. ^ One Europe, Many Nations: A Historical Dictionary of European National Groups — James Minahan — Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  40. ^ Belarus: A Denationalized Nation — David Marples — Google Books. Books.google.com. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  41. ^ "Electoral Code Of The Republic Of Belarus*". Ncpi.gov.by. Archived from the original on 23 August 2011. Retrieved 15 August 2012.
  42. ^ Nationalisms Today — Tomasz Kamusella, Krzysztof Jaskułowski — Google Books. Books.google.com. 15 June 2009. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  43. ^ "Флаги Беларуси -VEXILLOGRAPHIA". www.vexillographia.ru.
  44. ^ "Национальный правовой Интернет-портал Республики Беларусь". www.pravo.by.
  45. ^ Flags of the World page "Belarus – Military Flags" Archived 22 November 2005 at the Wayback Machine, and (in Russian) Vexillographia page "Флаги армии Беларуси"

External links[edit]