Last modified: 2008-08-30 by alex danes
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2:3 , image by António Martins-Tuválkin
A blue-yellow-red vertical tricolour. Adopted 27 Dec 1989. Smith (1982) mentions that the
first tricolours were allowed in 1834 by the Ottoman sultan, that in 1848 the
tricolour (but not in current in "French" pattern) was popularized and finally
officially adopted in 1859. The tricolour has been used since as national flag,
war ensign (also state flag?) with coat of arms, and the vertical version was
adopted in 1866. After WWII, in 1948 all the variants of
the flag (civil, state, military) were defaced with the emblem ("coat of arms")
that was changed several times and finally cut out (literally) and plain
tricolour was re-established in 1989.
Željko Heimer, 21 December 2002
The Constitution of Romania, adopted on 21 November 1991, effective on 8
December 1991, says:
Title I: General Principles
Article 12. National Emblems
1. Romania's flag is a tricolour, consisting of vertical stripes: blue, yellow, and red, in this order, from the mast.[...]
4. The coat of arms of the country and the state seal are established by statutory laws.
Source: Vagnat & Poels (2000). Constitutions - what they tell us about national flags and coats of arms
Ivan Sache, 23 December 2002
According to 1938 Romanian Encyclopaedia, "The 1866 Constitution as well as
the Law for establishing the coat of arms of Romania from 1867 (art. 6) and the
Law for changing the country's coat of arms from 1872 (art. 6) stated the
[vertical] arrangements of the [flag] colours... Same laws established that the
army flag will bear in the middle the country's coat of arms and the civil flag
will not bear any coat of arms". So, according to the law, the military flag
should bear the entire Romanian coat of arms in the middle, on the yellow strip.
However, by use, the coat of arms was surrounded by two olive branches and in
every corner there was the king's monogram surrounded itself by 2 olive
Alex Danes, 8 January 2008
From a Romanian flag page at: http://www.presidency.ro/?_RID=htm&id=11. Note some of the statements here are disputable - see notes. An English version of this page is also available, although it is not a direct translation (see our translation of the Romanian language page):
Dov Gutterman, 01 January 1999
The national flag of Romania is a tricolour: red, yellow and blue. It has not undergone many or major changes in the course of history. Only the distribution of the colours (in point of proportion and position) changed to a certain extent, being made equal after the Revolution of 1848 when, under the spur of the French revolutionary spirit, many states in Europe adopted as their national flag the dimensionally standardised three-colour banner. Sigillography attests that at certain historical stages, the Romanian flag had the three colours arranged horizontally with the red in the upper part, the yellow in the middle and the blue in the lower part. Also, the proportion of the colours was not the same as it is now (33 per cent for each colour).
Basically, however, the three colours so dear to the Romanians are to be found in banners dating back to the time of Michael the Brave and even Stephen the Great. Moreover, recent research indicates that they existed even on the Dacian standard presented on Trajan's Column in Rome. This standard was of a special form: a bright metal wolf's head hanging from which were long coloured bands of cloth.
As the wind blew, the standard gave a whiz that scared the enemy and encouraged those who carried it in battle. In critical moments, hiding the standard so that it should not be taken by the enemy was a custom common with several peoples, including therefore the Dacians, the Daco-Romans and the Romanians. Such a hidden standard was the one belonging to Tudor Vladimirescu, the leader of the 1821 revolution. When the revolution was stifled, Tudor's chieftains decided to bury the standard in a courtyard. Only 60 years later, in 1882, was the standard found, reconditioned and brought to Bucharest, the capital of the country, being deposited, in the framework of a special ceremony, at the Army House (today the Central Military Museum). The 1821 revolution Tudor Vladimirescu helped the country get rid of the Phanariot rulers imposed by the Ottoman Empire in Wallachia and Moldavia in the early 18th century (the Phanariot rulers came from the Phanar district of Constantinopole and were aliens imposed on the country by the Sultan as mere administrators).
The flag, the standard, the banner are profound symbols, connected to history, to the resistance of the people and the secret of their survival. The Romanian tricolour (the colours red, yellow and blue are to be found also in Romania's coat of arms) resisted, as a symbol, even after the advent of communism in this country, when the entire heraldry of the USSR's satellites was reduced to a caricature.
In the course of time, poems and hymns were dedicated to the Romanian tricolour; one of these, Three Colours, on music by Ciprian Porumbescu, has been very mobilising and is one of the most liked by the Romanians. The flag of Romania has the colours placed vertically as follows: blue (hoist), yellow (in the middle) and red (fly). The width of each colour band is one-third of the length. The blue is cobalt, the yellow-chrome and the red-vermillion.
Colours recommended for the Romanian flag by Album des Pavillons (2000) are:
I have a friend who is in Romania. He said that the yellow and red seem to have been standardized; however, there is a great variance in
the shade of blue. He has seen anything from a blue as light as that used in the flags of Israel and South Africa to as dark as that of the United States flag.
Calvin Paige Herring, 1 January 1999
As a Romanian, I can tell you a large part of this is based on unreliable and
biased information, and, largely, on wishful thinking. Its source is qualified
enough, but it did not bother to look beyond the shroud of what is, in fact,
very recent myth.
"Sigillography attests that at certain historical stages, the Romanian flag had the three colours arranged horizontally":
nothing like that! First of all, there is no medieval sigillography for Romania, just for its individual Principalities. There were no common symbols, other than incidental (during certain reigns, as a union of -usually- the seals of Moldavia and Wallachia). The flags (always several) had a wide variety of colours (most I have seen were either white or green) and stood for army units. And also, flags in Transylvania, a polity linked to the Hungarian crown throughout its medieval history, should not be included in any professional description.
"Moreover, recent research indicates that they existed even on the Dacian standard presented on Trajan's Column in Rome. This standard was of a special form: a bright metal wolf's head hanging from which were long coloured bands of cloth. As the wind blew, the standard gave a whiz that scared the enemy and encouraged those who carried it in battle. In critical moments, hiding the standard so that it should not be taken by the enemy was a custom common with several peoples, including therefore the Dacians, the Daco-Romans and the Romanians."
- I challenge anybody to try reconstruct colours on a marble monument. The wolf standard did exist (with a very unclear meaning and purpose), but linking the Dacians and Romanians of today belongs to the realm of anti-science. Incidentally, the description that the site gives of the Phanariotes is absurdly biased and out-of-date.
The flag appeared as a fact (and not legendary "recent research") at some point in the early XIXth century, probably introduced by a prince of Wallachia. It's hard to find info about this, but I remember that it was allowed by the Porte in the 1830s (it makes the story about it being Tudor's standard, a decade earlier, highly doubtful - I don't know the flag in the Military Museum, but I know that the expos in there have never been updated since Ceausescu). The prince, I think, was from the Ghica (also known as Ghika) family. The flag was horizontally red-yellow or yellow-red, with a crest on blue - even a blue crest, it's not clear to me (either the Wallachian eagle or both it and the Moldavian bull's head). Flags of this combination of colours were spawned individually in the both of the extra-Carpathian principalities, out of obscure but recent traditions (no later than the late 1700s, if not the early 1800s). These are featured on the Moldavia and Wallachia pages. It became standard to speak of blue-red for Moldavia and yellow-blue for Wallachia, with the 1848 Revolution placing them together (the Revolution was the very first traceable event to have a Union as its goal, no matter what the folklore may be). With it started a Romantic re-invention of the past: the two flags would feature in paintings from the period, but dealing with XIVth-XVIth century subjects. At the same time, the colours became symbols to the Romanians living in other regions, such as Transylvania, but never actually stood the regions as such. They were "extended" to the idea of a Romanian nation, but were not symbols of geographical entities other than Moldavia and Wallachia. In parallel, it was also what happened with the name - the word "Romanian" was very loosely used prior to the XIXth century, and is to be found mostly in Wallachian tradition - the proper name for this principality, in our language, is "Tara Romaneasca" (roughly: "The land of the Romanians" - arguably, connected somehow to the fact that serfs in this part of the country were known as "rumani", than from any direct connection with the Romans - although our language is, beyond doubt, a Romance one). Also, the flag was and was not a symbol of resistance: the Austro-Hungarians made sure to limit any nationalism in Transylvania and the Banat - parts of the very centralised Hungarian half - but had no problem with the three colours featuring on the crest of autonomous Bukovina, placed there through local initiative.
Dan Dima, 7 September 2005
The official web site of the President of Romania contains a short history of
the national flag of Romania at
http://www.presidency.ro/?_RID=htm&id=11. There are three versions of the
document: Romanian, French, and English. While the French version is a direct
translation of the Romanian one, the English is not. The English version is
actually a different document, markedly inferior in both style and content to
the Romanian one. Below, under "The National Flag", there is a condensed English
translation of the Romanian version. I omitted some parts which are not relevant
to the Anglophone reader; these omissions are marked by [...]. I also made a few
small additions, which are inserted in square brackets.
Translated by Alex Neumann, 18 March 2006
The National Flag of Romania
The national flag of Romania is defined by an act of the Parliament of Romania (Law No. 75 of July 16, 1994, available for download here http://www.presidency.ro/static/ordine/Lg.75_1994.pdf) as a blue, gold, and red tricolour of vertical bands of equal size, with blue at the hoist. The colours are defined as cobalt blue, chrome yellow, and vermillion red (Annex 1 of Law No. 75).
Modern Romania was formed in 1859 by the personal union under Prince Alexander John Cuza of the Danubian principalities of Moldavia and Wallachia, under the name of "United Principalities". In 1862, it became a unitary state and it adopted the current name.
The principalities accepted the suzerainty of the Ottoman Empire in the late Middle Ages, and this relationship continued until 1877, when Romania declared its independence. In 1881, it was proclaimed a kingdom under Charles of Hohenzollern-Sigmaringen, who had replaced Cuza in 1867.
In the Middle Ages, Transylvania was an autonomous dependency of the Hungarian crown (Crown of St Stephen). After the destruction of the Hungarian kingdom, it became a dependency of the Ottoman Empire, under terms similar to those of Moldavia and Wallachia; later, it was acquired by the Habsburgs. Upon the transformation of the Habsburg empire into the dualist monarchy of Austria-Hungary (1867), Transylvania lost its autonomy and it was incorporated in the Kingdom of Hungary. It became part of Romania in 1918.
The National Flag
The national flag of Romania is a blue, gold, and red tricolour. The colours are arranged in vertical bands of equal size.
The blue, gold, and red tricolour is a relatively recent symbol, having appeared in the first half of the 19th c. [...]
As a rule, the main colour of the [mediaeval "great banner"] of Moldavia was red, while that of Wallachia was white or a light colour (pale gold). However, there were exceptions, such as the flag from the reign of Vlad VII Vintila de la Slatina (1532-35), described in the oldest written record of such a banner. We are told that the flag was of red silk, on which was embroidered the coat of arms, a bird (raven?) standing on a mountain peak, with the head turned and a cross in the beak.
In the reign of Stephen III the Great (1457-1504), the great banner of Moldavia was red, charged with the head of an aurochs with a star between the horns and flanked by the sun and the moon. An engraving of the battle of Baia (1467) contains a depiction of Stephen's personal flag: a long and narrow banner, half of which was painted in vertical bands (from his family's coat of arms), while the other was charged with the aurochs' head.
According to a report of the time, the flag of the great Moldavian boyars who attended the coronation of Henry of Valois as King of Poland (1574) was blue and charged with the head of an aurochs.
Around 1600, under the reign of Michael II the Brave (1593-1601), the great banner of Wallachia was white, charged with a raven standing above a bough of green juniper and carrying a double cross in the beak. At roughly the same time, the banner of Moldavia under Prince Jeremiah I Movila was red fringed with gold, charged with the head of an aurochs with a star between the horns and flanked by two gold crescent moons; the flag bore the Prince's name and title, and the date of manufacture.
None of the great banners of the 17th c. have survived; however, there is extant an interesting personal flag of Prince Mihnea III (1658-59). The dark red fabric is charged with the double-headed eagle of Byzantium painted in gold, crowned with a princely crown and supported by two lions rampant. Above it there is an archducal crown supported by two angels, and, above that, the Prince's name and title [...]. Another [surviving] personal flag, which might have served also as a great banner, is that of Constantine II Brancoveanu (1688-1714). On one side it bears the coat of arms of Wallachia flanked by St Constantine and St Helen, as well as the Latin inscription "Konstantinus Brancovan, Valachiae Transalpinae Princeps, Anno Domini 1698". On the reverse there is a depiction of the Baptism of the Lord.
The first flags joining the heraldic symbols of Moldavia and Wallachia date back to the epoch of the Phanariotes (1711-1821), as, for instance, a white silk banner from the reign of Constantine Ypsilanti, who, for a short while (1806-07), reigned in both lands.
The flag used by Tudor Vladimirescu in the Uprising of 1821 in Wallachia was modeled after the military banners of the Middle Ages. It was of white silk, bearing in the centre a painting of the Holy Trinity flanked by the military saints George the Martyr and Theodore the Recruit (Tyron). Below, circled by a crown of laurels, there was the crusader eagle of Wallachia. On either side of the crest there was a Cyrillic inscription [...] and, below, the date of the Proclamation of Islaz [...]. In addition to the flag itself, the staff bore, hanging under the finial, three groups of tassels. Each tassel was bicolour -- red/blue, gold/blue, and gold/red -- the ensemble having a tricolour appearance.
The first joining of the three colours as individual bands dates back to 1834, in the reign of Alexander II Ghika in Wallachia, where they appeared not as a national flag, but as a merchant flags and in flags of native militia units. The bands were horizontal, with red on top; the yellow band was charged with the crusader eagle with sceptre and sword, circled by a crown of laurel and oak leaves; the corners of the flags also bore eagles. After the Hatt-i-Sharif of 1834, wherein the Sultan approved the usage of the three colours in flags, the "National Party", under the influence of the French model, came to see this tricolour as a national symbol of all Romanians [...].
At about the same time, Prince Michael Sturdza of Moldavia also granted new standards to units of native militia. These flags were blue with red squares in the corners. One side was charged with the Moldavian aurochs' head, with the star between the horns and crowned with a princely crown; the other, with a depiction of St George killing the dragon. The red squares bore the Prince's monogram.
At this time there was not as yet a national flag. The princely flag of George Bibesco (1842-48) was red fringed with gold flowers, and charged, on the obverse, with a shield over a crossed sword and sceptre, carrying the crusader eagle, crowned with a princely crown, and supported by two lions rampant; all above an array of flags, weapons, gun barrels, drums, and cannon balls. The reverse was charged with a depiction of St George killing the dragon.
In 1848, the Romanian revolutionaries [...] flew the blue, gold, and red tricolour. Initially, some tricolours were displayed horizontally, but the vertical arrangement, with blue at the hoist, was more popular and was codified by a decree of the revolutionary Provisional Government in Bucharest.
In Transylvania, the Romanian revolutionaries originally flew tricolours in blue, white and red, arranged horizontally (a usage possibly influenced by the green, white, and red tricolour of the Magyar revolutionaries), as they did at the National Assembly of Blaj (April 26, 1848). The white band bore the Latin inscription "Virtus Romana Rediviva" in gold letters. However, gradually, during the course of the Revolution, gold replaced white in Romanian tricolours everywhere.
The tricolour became the national flag in 1859, when Alexander John Cuza was elected Prince in both Moldavia and Wallachia; but, until 1862, it was horizontally arranged, with blue on top. From 1862 to 1867 it was still horizontally arranged, but with red on top. In 1867, when Charles of Hohenzollern- Sigmaringen became Prince of Romania, the national flag, as well as the military ensigns, were changed to the vertical arrangement, with blue at the hoist. [...]
As first codified in 1872, the national flag was a plain tricolour, while military and naval ensigns were charged with the coat of arms and the sovereign's initial. [...]
[This usage continued until 1948, when, after the Communist take-over, the national tricolour was charged with a new coat of arms of Soviet inspiration. During the Revolution of December 1989, flags were flown with the Communist coat of arms ripped out. The tricolour with a hole in the middle became a symbol of the Revolution, much as the red, white, green tricolour with a hole in the middle had been a symbol of Hungarian uprising of 1956. After the Revolution, the traditional usage of the plain tricolour as the national flag was resumed.]
For antiquarians and biologists!
The term "aurochs" (pl. aurochsen) is used here to denote the extinct wild ox, Bos primigenius. Some references use "aurochs" to denote a different species, the European bison (Bison bonasus), which, although endangered, is not yet extinct; these authors use "urus" for B. primigenius (e.g., Webster's, 1913 edition). This usage is incorrect and should be discouraged. "Aurochs" and "urus" shold be used for B. primigenius, and "wisent" for the European bison.
Translated by Alex Neumann, 18 March 2006
Romanians have celebrated the National Flag since 1998, symbolizes the
state's sovereignty. Every year on Flag Day, all public institutions are adorned
with national flags. [This year a] special ceremony was organized yesterday in
Bucharest's Tricolorului (three colors, in reference to the colors of the
Romanian flag: blue, yellow and red) Square, in front of the Military Palace.
The ceremony consisted of the blessing of the flag by priests and was attended
by Prime Minister Calin Popescu Tariceanu.
Source: Bucharest Daily News
Ivan Sache, 27 June 2006
Four countries use blue-yellow-red vertical tricolour flags:
Moldova, Andorra, Chad and
Romania. The Moldovan flag is distinguished by the addition of the Moldovan
arms, but the colours are obviously related to and similarly derived as those of
Romania. The flag of Andorra is based on the French flag, but with the
addition of yellow from the Catalan or
Spanish flag; it also bears the arms. The
blue-yellow-red colours of Chad are a combination of the
blue-white-red of France, the former colonial power, and
the green-yellow-red of the Pan-African (e.g., Ethiopian)
ones. The Chadian flag is therefore essentially identical to the Romanian flag.
Album des Pavillons (2000) distinguishes
the blue in the Chadian flag as being darker (closer to that of the French flag)
as Pantone 281c (CMYK 100-70-0-35).
Željko Heimer, 18 August 2003
image by António Martins-Tuválkin, 8 September 2005
When the Aero-show took place in 1993 in Paris the flag manufacturer wanted to know about the new flag of Romania. I had just received the message that the Romanian parliament had decided to show the
coat of arms in the flag. So I informed the manufacturer. He handed that design to another manufacturer, and he produced that flag. And in Paris all the Romanian flags had the
coat of arms in it. A week later I was informed that the parliamentary decision was deleted (for several reasons, one was the costs). But it was too late. The flags flew, and soon I received the information from several vexillologists that Romania had a new flag.
Ralf Stelter, 27 June 1999
One book with the Romanian coat of arms-bearing flag is Harenberg Lexikon
der Gegenwart, Aktuell'94, although the '99 edition has the flag without the
coat of arms. Two websites also show this flag:
J. Patrick Fischer, 9 September 2005
This Romanian flag with full coat of arms is labeled "erroneous" which would
be true from an official government standpoint. However, such flags are produced
in Romania and are publicly displayed by at least one political party,
especially during election time.
Clay Moss, 21 September 2006
The Wikipedia page for the
makes reference to the "war flag". I do not think that it is right here. This is
a common mistake or source of confusion among vexillologists especially when
translating from language to language. The war flag as defined per FIAV codes is
the flag used as the national flag by the military on land. The war flag shown
on the above-mentioned Wikipedia page is not that, it would be called in English
rather a military colour(s). Such colours are used ceremonially only as the flag
signifying the army (navy, air force etc. or the whole military) as a unit and
exists in principle only in one single example. The war flag as defined per FIAV
terminology is not of such kind, but rather the flag that is used by the military
everyday on their installations, hoisted on the military headquarters buildings,
in the barracks hoisted ceremonially every morning and similarly. The Wikipedia
war flag is certainly not of that kind, the "usual" Romanian tricolour is used
for that purpose in Romania, I believe. There are numerous examples of such
flags in the military depots.
Željko Heimer, 21 September 2006
I've taken my time studying photos of Romanian military ceremonies and reading official recommendations for this, mainly those linked from the Wikipedia page. They're in Romanian but I can translate the relevant ones, particularly this one: http://www.mapn.ro/traditii/drapellupta1.htm .
From what I've seen, there are two types of "war flags" (let's call them that
for a while longer). One type is the one showed at the above URL. The picture is
terrible, but you can find a Romanian description on that page and some English
translation on the Wikipedia page:
There isn't one war flag but 3. They vary in that the coat of arms and the insignia at the flag corners change with the type of army: crossed swords for the land units, an anchor for navy units, some navigation instruments for the air units. There are many pictures showing these flags being used during military ceremonies. However, I should note, if that's worth anything, that I've seen pictures of Romanian units in Iraq and Afghanistan and they had plain Romanian flags, not these flags.
There is another type of flag, which Wikipedia claims is used only indoors
and only at specific ceremonies. Again, there are 4 flags, not one, and the land
unit flag (red) is shown there. The general staff is yellow, the air units flag
is light blue, the navy flag is dark blue. I've seen a picture showing all four
flags together at a ceremony, I'll try to locate it again.
The URL above also clearly states that ships all use the regular Romanian flag,
no matter if they're military or civilian ships.
So both types are "military colors" and not war flags, if I understand you
Ciprian, 24 September 2006
You understand Željko correctly Ciprian, and he is perfectly right that the
flags described are indeed military colours and to describe them as "war flags"
is to misuse the term. There is one point I would make however, and this is that
a war flag can and is often used by the naval forces of a country as well as by
the army, and so may be used on both land and sea.
Christopher Southworth, 24 September 2006