Flag of Estonia

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Flag of Estonia.svg
UseCivil and state flag, civil ensign
Adopted21 November 1918
7 August 1990
DesignA horizontal triband of blue, black, and white
Naval Ensign of Estonia.svg
Variant flag of Estonia
UseNaval ensign
DesignTricolour, swallowtail, defaced with the shield of the state arms off-set towards hoist.

The national flag of Estonia (Estonian: Eesti lipp) is a tricolour featuring three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), black, and white. The normal size is 105 by 165 centimetres (41 in × 65 in).[1] In Estonian it is colloquially called the "sinimustvalge" (lit. "blue-black-white"), after the colours of the bands.

First adopted on 21 November 1918 after its independence, it was used as a national flag until 1940 when the Soviet Union occupied Estonia. After World War II, from 1944 to 1990, the Soviet Estonian flag consisted first of a generic red Soviet flag with the name of the republic, then changed to the red flag with a band of blue water waves near the bottom. The Estonian flag, which was also used by the Estonian government-in-exile, was officially re-adopted 7 August 1990 one year before its official restoration of independence.

When the Estonian flag is displayed vertically, it should be so that the blue appears on the left of the flag when viewed by an observer.[2]



The flag of Estonia fundamentally grew out of the flag of the German Order of the Cross, the black cross on a white field. This flag later resurfaced several other times, it was used as the flag of the United Baltic Duchy.

In the era of the crusades, the particular geographic domain of the contemporary Estonia's location (the Eastern Baltic shores) was proclaimed to be "Land of Mary", the Land of the Virgin Mary, "Terra Mariana" in Latin. (The region more to the South, the then-Prussia, was named the Land of St Peter). When creating its flag, the generic Teutonic banner was adapted so as to include the colors of the flag of St Mary. Mary being the "Virgin/Queen of Heaven", her flag consists of blue representing the heaven/sky, and white, the color of purity. The "Marian flag" itself, the flag of St Mary (St Maria), has two fields, white over blue. This original flag is still to be found in the flag of the Baltic Germans, and the flag of Pomerania (Province of Pomerania (1815–1945)). The Marian flag is still popular in Poland. It is also the flag of the Cathedral of St Mary in Luxembourg. This flag is also taken for the background in the San Marino (St Marinus) banner.

The merging of the Teutonic cross with the Marian colors resulted in the Terra mariana pattern. The pattern is today used in the coat of arms of the Jungingen family (Ulrich von Jungingen, notably, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order active in the Baltic domain). It is also used in the coat of arms of the German town of Jungingen.

The State of the German Order of the Cross ceased to exist in 1561.

In 1860 the students of the Baltic-Prussian extraction studying in Germany (in Danzig, in Karlsruhe) established a society, the Baltica-Borussia (Prussia) student organisation ("corporation"). The coat of arms of that corporation was based on the known pattern of colours and their arrangement associated with the region and its German past (the coat of arms also incorporated the German eagle). The corporation also adopted a flag. As the idea behind the French revolutionary tricolours demanded that flags be composed of three fields of equal width (representing the equality of the citizens), so was the old Terra Mariana flag transformed into a tricolour (technically, a triband).

United Baltic Duchy flag
The Marian flag

In 1881 the Society of Estonian Students at the University of Tartu (Estonia) was formed, a similar tricolour was constructed. Yet by that time the selection of the particular colours was also attributed to the Finnish flag, and the colours were ascribed symbolic meanings.

Terra Mariana
The coat of arms of Jungingen, Germany (see also Ulrich von Jungingen). The Terra Mariana pattern on the right, rotated.
The coat of arms of the Baltica-Borussia (Prussia) student corporation. Includes (1) the Terra Mariana pattern, (2) the eagle of Prussia (upper right corner), (3) half of the eagle of Russia (upper left corner; though a black eagle in a blue field has also been used in the coat of arms of Denmark to represent Saaremaa/Øsel) covered with the coats of arms (from top to bottom) of the (3.1) governorate of Courland (in the past the Duchy of Courland (lion) and Semigallia (elk)), (3.2) governorate of Livonia (the winged lion, "griffin"), (3.3) governorate of Estonia/Reval (really the coat of arms of Denmark); (4) the date of the establishment, and the (5) insignia (Germ. "Zirkel") with the flag in the background), and the coat of arms of the city of Danzig (now Gdansk (the seat of the corporation)). It is known that the colour scheme blue-black-white was not the first scheme adopted by the corporation. It is also known to have used the scheme green-red-white (the colours of the governorate of Livonia within the contemporaneous Russian Empire, but since the governorate of Livonia was but a small portion of the entirety of the Baltic-Prussian area that the corporation united, a more encompassing colour scheme was eventually arrived at; the existence of the corporation was sporadic because the students of the Prussian/Baltic/Estonian extraction, sometimes understood to be legally Russian, were not always equally welcome to study in Germany).
The original of the flag

The Estonian flag was therefore officially adopted first as a student organisation flag on 17 September 1881 by the constituent assembly of the first Estonian national student Corps "Vironia" (modern Estonian Students Society) in the city of Tartu. The colours and the pattern eventually became the national flag.[3]


The flag became associated with Estonian nationalism and was used as the national flag (riigilipp) when the Estonian Declaration of Independence was issued on 24 February 1918. The flag was formally adopted on 21 November 1918. 12 December 1918 was the first time the flag was raised as the national symbol atop of the Pikk Hermann Tower in Tallinn.[4][citation needed]

Soviet occupation[edit]

The invasion by the Soviet Union in June 1940 led to the flag's ban. It was taken down from the most symbolic location, the tower of Pikk Hermann in Tallinn, on 21 June 1940, when Estonia was still formally independent. On the next day, 22 June, it was hoisted along with the red flag. The tricolour disappeared completely from the tower on 27 July 1940, and was replaced by the flag of the Estonian SSR.

German occupation[edit]

During the German occupation from 1941 until 1944, the flag was accepted as the ethnic flag of Estonians but not the national flag. After the German retreat from Tallinn in September 1944, the Estonian flag was hoisted once again.

Second Soviet occupation[edit]

When the Red Army arrived on 22 September 1944, the red flag was just added at first. Soon afterwards, however, the blue-black-white flag disappeared. In its place from February 1953, the Estonian SSR flag was redesigned to include the six blue spiked waves on the bottom with the hammer and sickle with the red star on top.

Jaan Künnap atop Lenin Peak, the first time the Estonian flag was displayed higher than 7,000 metres (23,000 ft)

The flag remained illegal until the days of perestroika in the late 1980s. 21 October 1987 was the first time when Soviet forces did not take down the flag at a public event. 24 February 1989 the blue-black-white flag was again flown from the Pikk Hermann tower in Tallinn. It was formally re-declared as the national flag on 7 August 1990, little over a year before Estonia regained full independence.


An interpretation version for the tricolour as being a representation of Estonia's natural scenery.

A symbolism-interpretation made popular by the poetry of Martin Lipp says the blue is for the vaulted blue sky above the native land, the black for attachment to the soil of the homeland as well as the fate of Estonians — for centuries black with worries, and white for purity, hard work, and commitment.[5]

Other current flags[edit]

Historical flags[edit]


The shade of blue is defined in the Estonian flag law as follows:

  • PANTONE colour 285 C.[1]
  • CMYK equivalents: C=91, M=43, Y=0, K=0[1]
  • RGB equivalents: R=0, G=114, B=206[1] (HEX conversion: #0072CE:     )

Selections from the Estonian Flag Act[edit]

Early morning fog in the Põhja-Kõrvemaa Nature Reserve.

The most recent Estonian Flag Act was passed 23 March 2005 and came into force on 1 January 2006. It has been amended several times since then. The Act specifies the colours in Pantone and CMYK formats, as well as specifying when it can be hoisted and how it can be used and by whom. The Act specifies that the flag is "the ethnic and the national flag".[6]

More specifically, the Flag Act specifies that the flag be hoisted on the Pikk Hermann tower in Tallinn every day at sunrise, but not earlier than 7.00 am, and is lowered at sunset".[6] The lawful flag days are as follows:

  • 3 January – Commemoration Day of Combatants of the Estonian War of Independence
  • 2 February – Anniversary of Tartu Peace Treaty
  • 24 February – Independence Day
  • 14 March – Mother Tongue Day
  • 23 April – Veterans’ Day
  • The second Sunday of May – Mothers’ Day
  • 9 May – Europe Day
  • 4 June – Flag Day
  • 14 June – Day of Mourning
  • 23 June – Victory Day
  • 24 June – Midsummer Day
  • 20 August – Day of Restoration of Independence
  • 1 September – Day of Knowledge
  • The third Saturday of October – Finno-Ugric Day
  • The second Sunday of November – Fathers’ Day
  • The day of election of the Riigikogu[6]

Nordic flag proposals[edit]

An Estonian Cross Flag used on the island of Vormsi
A flag print file of the Estonian Cross Flag

In 2001, politician Kaarel Tarand suggested that the flag be changed from a tricolour to a Scandinavian-style cross design with the same colours.[7] Supporters of this design claim that a tricolour gives Estonia the image of a post-Soviet or Eastern European country, while a cross design would symbolise the country's links with Nordic countries. Several Nordic cross designs were proposed already in 1919, when the state flag was officially adopted, three of which are shown here. As the tricolour is considered an important national symbol, the proposal did not achieve the popularity needed to modify the national flag.

Advocates for a Nordic flag state that Estonians consider themselves a Nordic nation rather than Baltic,[8] based on their cultural and historical ties with Sweden, Denmark, and particularly Finland. In December 1999 Estonian foreign minister—later the Estonian president from 2006 to 2016—Toomas Hendrik Ilves delivered a speech entitled "Estonia as a Nordic Country" to the Swedish Institute for International Affairs.[9] Diplomat Eerik-Niiles Kross also suggested changing the country's official name in English and several other foreign languages from Estonia to Estland (which is the country's name in Danish, Dutch, German, Swedish, Norwegian and many other Germanic languages).[10][11]

Alternative Nordic cross designs for the Estonian flag proposed in 1919


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e "Eesti lipp (Estonian Flag)". Riigikantselei (Government Office) (in Estonian). Retrieved 17 February 2016.
  2. ^ "Estonia". fotw.info.
  3. ^ "Estonia's History". Estonia's History. December 3, 2013. Retrieved 2013-12-03.
  4. ^ "Estonia's Blue-Black-White Tricolour Flag". Estonian Embassy in Washington. January 1, 2007. Archived from the original on December 17, 2007. Retrieved 2009-04-26.
  5. ^ "Flag of Estonia: History of the Estonian Flag". Estonian Free Press. Archived from the original on 2010-09-05. Retrieved 2019-01-31.
  6. ^ a b c "Estonian Flag Act". Riigi Teataja. Riigikantselei, Justiitsministeerium. 2018-06-25. Retrieved 2019-02-27.
  7. ^ Tarand, Kaarel (December 3, 2001). "Lippude vahetusel" (in Estonian). Eesti Päevaleht. Archived from the original on January 26, 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-26.
  8. ^ "Estonian Life" (PDF). Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 2004. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-03-25. Retrieved 2009-04-26.
  9. ^ Ilves, Toomas Hendrik (December 14, 1999). "Estonia as a Nordic Country". Estonian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 2009-04-25.
  10. ^ Kross, Eerik-Niiles (November 12, 2001). "Estland, Estland über alles" (in Estonian). Eesti Päevaleht. Archived from the original on 2007-11-13. Retrieved 2009-04-25.CS1 maint: BOT: original-url status unknown (link)
  11. ^ Representations on the Margins of Europe: Politics and Identities in the Baltic and South Caucasian States, Tsypylma Darieva, Wolfgang Kaschuba Campus, 2007, page 154

External links[edit]