Flag of Comoros

July 27, 2010

The flag of Comoros was designed in 2001 and adopted on January 7, 2002.  The flag consists of a green triangle on the left side of the flag. Inside the green triangle is a white crescent and four white stars.  The remainder of the flag consists of four stripes, one each in yellow, white, red, and blue.

Comoros is officially referred to as the Union of Comoros and consists of four main islands: Grande Comore, Mohéli, Anjouan, and Mayotte.  The archipelago is located off the eastern coast of Africa in the Indian Ocean between Mozambique and Madagascar.  Each of the stripes on the flag represents the main color of the flag for one of these islands.  The blue stands for the flag of Grande Comore, the red for the flag of Anjoun, and yellow for the flag of Mohéli.  The white stands for Mayotte, which is actually administered by France.

The green area, white crescent, and white stars have been used in every former flag of Comoros.  With the exception of the Comoros state flag used from 1976 until 1978 during the Ali Soilih Regime, all flags of Comoros have consisted of a simple green rectangle with the white crescent and stars.  The only variations in the flag have been in the orientation of the crescent and stars.  This motif represents Islam, the archipelago nation’s most prominent religion.  The crescent and stars also served as an important motif from 1975 through 2002, during which Comoros sought independence from France.

Today, the islands of Comoros are still troubled, experiencing more than twenty coups or attempted coups in the last eight years in addition to presidential assassinations and other forms of political unrest.  Mayotte is still administered by France, and Anjouan and Mohéli occasionally express desire to secede from Comoros and re-attach to France.  The nation also experiences extreme poverty: approximately half of its citizens earn less than $1.25 per day.


Flag of Antigua and Barbuda

July 27, 2010

The flag of Antigua and Barbuda was adopted on February 27, 1967 when Antigua became independent of the British-governed West Indies. The flag features two red isosceles triangles that form a “V” shape.  In the center of the V is a white triangle underneath a blue stripe.  Above the blue stripe is a layer of black with a rising sun in the center of the layer.

To develop a design for the flag, the Antiguan government held a competition in 1966, offering five hundred dollars and the national flag design to the winner.  Reginald Samuel, a high school art teacher, sculptor, and painter living in Antigua, won the competition for the flag design, and his drawing was chosen from over six hundred entries.  According to the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda, Samuel designed the flag in only a half an hour, meeting the deadline at the very last moment.  In 1966, the Antiguan government displayed Samuel’s design for the flag, along with the Antiguan national anthem, coat of arms, and slogan outside the country’s administration building.  This original exhibit is still viewable at the Museum of Antigua and Barbuda.

The design of the flag has great symbolic meaning.  The rising sun represents the dawn of a new era, one in which the islands of Antigua and Barbuda are free and independent.  The red represents the energy of the people of Antigua and Barbuda and also the blood shed by the country’s forefathers.  The “V” shape formed by the red sections also represents “Victory at last.”  The gold sun, the black stripe at the top of the flag, the blue in the middle, and the white at the bottom represent the sun, soil, ocean, and sand, respectively.  In more symbolic terms, the blue symbolizes hope and the black symbolizes the African heritage of the country’s citizens.

Until 1994, the sun on the flag of Antigua and Barbuda would often have up to twenty full points, as Reginald Samuel did not specify how many points the sun should have.  Antigua consists of six parishes and a “sister” island, Barbuda; and as of 1994, the rising sun was required to contain seven full points, one for each of the parishes and one for Barbuda.


Flag of Western Samoa

July 22, 2010

The flag of Western Samoa was officially adopted on February 24, 1949.  The flag is a rectangular shape with a red background and blue rectangle in the upper left corner.  Inside the blue area is the Southern Cross constellation with four large white stars and one smaller white star.

The red and white have been traditional colors of Samoa since the Samoan king Malietoa Laupepa, and the Southern Cross links Samoa to other countries surrounding it in the Southern hemisphere.  The Western Samoan flag, however, has experienced drastic changes over the last century.  In 1900, the Samoan Islands were separated into two parts as a result of the Tripartite Convention: American Samoa (Eastern Samoa) and German Samoa (Western Samoa).  Under German rule, the Samoan flag was similar to the German flag:  a rectangular shape with three horizontal lines, one each in black, white, and red.

The Germany-style flag was used until August 29, 1914 when New Zealand troops seized Western Samoa from Germany.  When New Zealand first seized control of Western Samoa, the flag of New Zealand was used.  This flag consists of a blue background with the British Union flag in the upper left-hand corner and four stars of the Southern Cross on the right side. This flag was used until July 30, 1922.  Three years later, on January 16, 1925, Western Samoan adopted a new flag consisting of a red background, the British Union flag in the upper left-hand corner, and a picture of three palm trees inside a white circle on the right-hand side.

On May 26, 1948, Western Samoa adopted a flag similar to its current flag except that the Southern Cross only contained four stars, just like the New Zealand flag’s Southern Cross.  On February 24, 1949, the five-star version of the Samoan flag was adopted and Western Samoa gained independence from New Zealand in 1962.


Flag of Latvia

July 22, 2010

The flag of Latvia was officially re-adopted on February 27, 1990, after the Soviet Union banned its use from 1940 until 1990.  The flag consists of a red rectangle with a white horizontal strip in the center.  The red symbolizes the Latvian people’s willingness to give their lives to defend their liberty and freedom.  The white stripe’s origins come from a legend in which a wounded Latvian leader had wrapped a white sheet around his body.  The sheet became stained with blood on the edges while the center of the sheet remained white.  As the legend goes, at the next battle, this sheet was used as the Latvian flag.

The exact colors and proportions of the Latvian flag were set on November 18, 1918, when Latvia became an independent nation.  The flag was officially adopted for the first time in 1922 and was used until 1940 when the Soviet Union gained control of Latvia.  The Latvian flat is flown on several days during the year including: Lithuanian Independence Day (February 16), Estonian Independence Day (February 24), Constitution Day/Labor Day (May 1), Renewal of Independence Day (May 4, 1990), Lacplesis Day (November 11), and Independence Day (November 18, 1918).  The flag is also flown at half-mast in mourning on the following days: in memory of victims of communist genocide (Marcy 25, June 14, and the first Sunday in December), the beginning of the Soviet Union’s control of Latvia (June 17), and in memory of the Holocaust victims (July 4).

Latvia also uses four other official flags: the Presidential Standard, the Standard of the Prime Minister, the Standard of the Speaker of the Saeima, and the Standard of the Minister of Defense.  All of these flags use a white background with a double-lined red cross.  This red cross, with a white line running through it, represent the pattern of the Latvian National Flag.  The Presidential Standard, the Standard of the Prime Minister, and the Standard of the Speaker of the Saeima all feature the Latvian coat of arms: the Presidential flag features the coat of arms in the center, the Prime Minister flag features the coat of arms in the upper left corner, and the Speaker flag features the coat of arms in the upper right corner.  The Standard of the Minister of Defense features soldier insignia in the upper left corner.


Flag of Hong Kong

July 22, 2010

The flag of Hong Kong, officially called the Regional Flag of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China, was adopted on April 4, 1990 at the Third Session of the Seventh National People’s Congress.  Although adopted at this landmark session, the flag was not officially raised until seven years later, on July 1, 1997, during the handover ceremony, signifying Hong Kong’s sovereignty transfer from Great Britain to the People’s Republic of China.

The flag of Hong Kong features a red rectangle with a five-petal white flower in the center.  Each of the five petals has a red star in the middle.  The red background represents Hong Kong’s allegiance to the People’s Republic of China, which has a red flag.  Red is also a festive color for Chinese people, used at celebrations in addition to patriotic events.  The flower depicted on the flag is the Bauhinia blakeana, a species that originated in Hong Kong in the late nineteenth century.  The flower grows on an evergreen tree but looks similar to an orchid.  It contains five thick, purple-red flowers and has a fragrant smell.  The five white stars on the inside of the flower petals also signify Hong Kong’s allegiance to the People’s Republic of China, as the flag of the People’s Republic also contains five stars.

The strategic combination of the flower—symbolizing Hong Kong—and the red background and white stars—symbolizing the People’s Republic of China—illustrates China’s “one country two systems” idea.  This idea, posing that China would be socialist, but other large cities, including Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan, could have capitalistic systems was introduced by Deng Xiaoping, a leader of the People’s Republic of China during the 1980s.  According to this principle, Hong Kong can retain its capitalistic systems for fifty years after its reunification with China.  This was negotiated with British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher in 1984 and took effect in 1997.  The People’s Republic of China has not made clear what will happen to Hong Kong when the agreement expires in 2047.


Flag of Italy

July 21, 2010

The flag of Italy was officially adopted on June 19, 1946.  The flag is a rectangular shape consisting of three vertical stripes in green, white, and red.  In Italy, the flag is called Il Tricolore, referring to the tricolor design of the flag.

The exact meaning of Il Tricolore‘s colors is not certain.  The first Italian tricolore flag was adopted on January 7, 1797 during the Cispadane Republic.  Between 1797 and 1803, the flag’s colors remained the same, but the design of the flag underwent several design changes as the Italian rule changed hands rapidly.  During the Cispadane Republic, the stripes were horizontal and the flag included the Italian coat of arms.  During the Cisalpine Republic of 1798, the stripes shifted to vertical orientation and the coat of arms was removed.  At the turn of the century during Napoleon’s rule of the Italian Republic, the flag featured a red background and a green square within a white lozenge.

In the nineteenth century, during the Italian resurgence, or Risorgimento, the Italian tricolore remained a symbol of the Italian people.  During this period, between 1848 and 1861, many coats of arms were incorporated into the Italian flag, including the Savoyan coat of arms (from the Kingdom of Sardinia), the Habsburg Lorraine coat of arms (from the Grand Duchy of Tuscany), and the Bourbon coat of arms (from the Kingdom of Two Sicilies).  Although the flag underwent at least seven variations during this thirteen-year period, on April 15, 1861, the Italian flag that incorporated the Sardinian coat of arms was declared the Kingdom of Italy’s official flag and was used until 1946.  During World War II, however, the Italian Social Republic flew a Nazi-era flag, featuring the Italian tricolore with a silver eagle, for military and propaganda use.

In 1946, Italy became a republican nation and officially adopted the plain tricolore.  Today, although the colors have deep historical roots, some attribute them to the country’s green plains, the beautiful snow-white Alps, and the blood of those who fought for Italy’s independence.  Another more religious interpretation attributes the green to hope, the white to charity, and the red to faith.


Flag of Portugal

July 21, 2010

The flag of Portugal was adopted on June 30, 1911. The flag is rectangular and divided into two vertical fields: a smaller green field on the left side and a larger red field on the right side.  The Portuguese coat of arms, surrounded by the armillary sphere, is centered on the dividing line between the two color fields.

Although the red and green colors on the flag may not seem significant today, the color choice and design of the flag represented a radical shift towards a Portuguese republic.  Until the late nineteenth century, Portugal had been governed by religious monarchs and used a white flag with a blue cross. During a revolt on January 31, 1891, however, the Portuguese Republican Party established red and green as their official colors.  Within the next two decades, Portuguese Republicans began to associate the green with the hope of the Portuguese nation and the red with the blood of those who died defending the country.  After the flag’s development, the Republican party quickly propagandized the red and green colors and included them on nearly every republican item.

The armillary sphere that appears around the Portuguese shield commemorates the Portuguese sailors of the Age of Exploration, the two-hundred-year period between the fifteenth and seventeenth centuries, during which Europeans ventured into unknown seas and arrived in Africa, North and South America, and Asia.  The armillary sphere was essential for navigation and was also used in many architectural works, including the Jerónimos Monastery and Belém Tower.

The Portuguese shield appears in the middle of the armillary sphere.  The shield has been the unifyig element of Portuguese flags throughout the centurie–despite the Republican revolution–and it is the oldest Portuguese symbol.  Inside the white area of the shield are five smaller blue shields, or quinas.  The symbolism behind these shields comes from the “Miracle of Ourique,” a tale in which Afonso I, a Portuguese ruler, is visited by a divine messenger who assured him that God was watching over him.  Shortly afterwards, Afonso and his troops defeated five Moorish kings and their troops.  In gratitude, Afonso incorporated the five quinas, which are arranged in a cross pattern, into the shield’s design.  The seven castles on the shield represent Afonso III’s victory over seven Moorish fortresses in 1249.