Flag of Guatemala

The original flag of Guatemala was adopted on August 17, 1871, and the current version was adopted in 1968. The flag is rectangular and divided into three vertical fields. The left and right fields are sky blue and the center field is white with the Guatemalan coat of arms in the center.

The blue and white colors on the flag of Guatemala represent the original colors used by the Federal Republic of Central America: a republican democracy that spanned what is now Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and the Mexican state of Chiapas. The blue stripes on the side of the flag also represent the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, the two large bodies of water that border Guatemala. The white symbolizes peace and purity.

In 1968, the Guatemalan coat of arms was added to the center of the flag. The coat of arms contains five main elements. The bird is the Resplendent Quetzal, and is a species distinct to Central America and also symbolizes liberty. The scroll contains the phrase, “Libertad 15 de Septiembre de 1821,” meaning “September 15, 1821 is that date of Central America’s independence from Spain.” The crossed rifles with bayonets represent the Guatemalan people’s willingness to defend their country by force if necessary. The crossed swords represent honor and the laurel branches, common to many coats of arms, signify victory.

Guatemala used several different flags between its independence from Spain in 1821 and the adoption of its current flag. When Guatemala was part of the Federal Republic of Central America (1825-1838), it flew a blue and white tricolor flag, but with horizontal stripes instead of vertical stripes. After the dissolution of the Federal Republic, Guatemala flew the same tricolor but with a different coat of arms in the center until 1851. When a pro-Spanish faction took over Guatemala in 1851, red and yellow stripes were included in the Guatemalan flag until 1871.

Flag of Armenia

The flag of Armenia was adopted on August 24, 1990. The flag is rectangular and a horizontal tricolor. The top stripe is red, the middle stripe is blue, and the bottom stripe is gold.

The colors on the Armenian flag have symbolic meaning but the exact interpretation varies. According to the Constitution of the Republic of Armenia, the red stripe has five meanings: it represents “the Armenian highland, the Armenian people’s continual struggle for survival, maintenance of the Christian faith, Armenia’s independence, and freedom.” The blue stands for the Armenian people’s determination to live under peaceful skies. Finally, the orange represents the Armenian people’s creativity and hard-working attitude.

Another tradition presents a slightly different interpretation. The red stands for the bloodshed and lives lost by Armenian soldiers in wartime. The blue represents the sky, and the orange represents the fertility of the Armenian soil and also the agricultural workers.

Previous versions of the Armenian flag are very different from the country’s current banner. The earliest Armenian flags used in ancient times varied by dynasty. The flags would usually include a symbolic animal—a dragon, eagle, or lion, for example—on a solid background.

In the nineteenth century, Armenia split between the Persian and Ottoman Empires and the region did not wave a flag for most of the century. In 1885, however, the Armenian Students Association of Paris requested an Armenian flag to fly at the French writer Victor Hugo’s funeral. Father Ghevont Alishan, an Armenian Catholic Priest, designed Armenia’s first tricolor flag with red, green, and white stripes. Alishan designed the flag with intentions of the red stripe symbolizing “Red” Sunday (the first Sunday of Easter) and the green band symbolizing the “Green” Sunday. Alishan chose white was chosen arbitrarily to complete the flag.

When Armenia gained independence on May 28, 1918, the Democratic Republic of Armenia adopted the first version of the modern Armenian flag. The flag was officially adopted again in 1990 by the Armenian Supreme Soviet (the Armenian legislative body) with a slightly different ratio than the original 1918 flag.

Flag of Georgia

The flag of Georgia was adopted on January 25, 2004. The flag known as the “five-cross flag” because it features five St. George’s crosses: one cross stretches across the flag’s white background and one small cross appears in each quadrant of the flag.

The flag of Georgia is based on the single St. George’s cross flag, which pays tribute Saint George, a Christian soldier, priest, and martyr.  He is one of the most venerated saints in the Catholic, Anglican, Eastern, Orthodox, and Oriental Orthodox churches.  According to legend, St. George saved the King of Silene’s daughter from a plague-bearing dragon that the king’s daughter was sent to slay herself. Saint George tamed the dragon and brought the beast into the king’s village where Saint George told the townspeople that he would slay the dragon if everyone agreed to become baptized Christians.  The townspeople consented, Saint George slayed the dragon, and the king built a church on the site of the dragon’s death.

The single St. George’s cross flag is probably one of the oldest flags in the world, and was used in Georgia by King Vakhtang Gorgasali in the fifth century. In the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the “five-cross flag” was used under the reign of Queen Tamar of Georgia and George V of Georgia, respectively. According to medieval tradition, the five crosses represent the five Holy Wounds of Christ.

After the medieval era, the “five-cross flag” was not used and many other versions of the Georgia flag were developed. In the twentieth century, the Democratic Republic of Georgia flew a red rectangular flag with two short horizontal stripes—one black and one white—in the upper left corner. This flag was used from 1918 until 1921 and from 1990 until 2004.

When Georgia was under Soviet rule and known as the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic (1921-1990), the country used three different communist flags. Each flag was red and included either the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic’s name or the hammer and sickle icon.

Flag of Sri Lanka

The flag of Sri Lanka, known as the Lion Flag, was adopted on May 22, 1972. The flag is rectangular, bordered in gold, and divided vertically into two sections. On the left side is a rectangle with two vertical stripes: the stripe on the left is green and the stripe on the right is saffron orange. On the larger, right side of the flag is a crimson red rectangle with a gold lion holding a sword. The rectangle also includes four golden bo leaves, one in each corner.

The flag of Sri Lanka has intricate symbolic meaning. The flag was designed to represent the country’s heritage and to unite all races living in Sri Lanka. The lion represents the Sinhalese ethnic group, the majority ethnic population in Sri Lanka, and also represents the nation’s strength. A red flag with a lion on it was used as early as 486 B.C., when Vijaya, the first King of Sri Lanka, arrived on the island from India. The bo leaves are symbolic of Buddhism and its influence on Sri Lanka. The four leaves stand for four Buddhist virtues: kindness, friendliness, happiness, and equanimity. The sword held by the lion represents the nation’s sovereignty. The lion’s hair symbolizes religious observance, wisdom, and meditation, and his beard represents purity of words. The sword’s handle represents the elements: earth, air, fire, and water. The lion’s nose symbolizes intelligence and his paws symbolize purity in matters of wealth.

The remainder of the flag represents Sri Lanka’s minority groups. The vertical saffron stripe represents the Tamil ethnicity and the green stripe represents the Muslim faith and the Moor ethnicity. The flag’s yellow border represents people of all other cultures living in Sri Lanka. The crimson red background behind the elephant stands for minority religions and ethnicities, including the Portuguese and Dutch Burghers, part of Sri Lanka’s colonial heritage.

Flag of Singapore

The flag of Singapore was adopted on December 3, 1959, when Singapore became a self-governing nation within the British Empire. When Singapore gained true independence on August 9, 1965, the flag was officially declared that national banner. The flag is rectangular and divided into two horizontal fields: the top half is red and the bottom half is white. On the left side of the red field is a crescent moon facing five small white five-pointed stars.

The flag of Singapore’s colors and images have symbolic meaning. The red represents “universal brotherhood and equality of man.” The white stands for “pervading and everlasting purity and virtue.” The crescent moon, an important Islamic symbol, represents a young country ascending towards greatness. The stars represent five important national ideals: democracy, peace, progress, justice, and equality.

In the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth century, Singapore was under British rule and part of the Straits Settlements, which included Singapore, Malacca, and Penang. During this time, Singapore used a Blue Ensign that included a British flag in the upper left corner and a red and white symbol on the right side with three crowns on it. During World War II, Singapore was controlled by Japan and flew the Japanese flag.

After World War II ended, Singapore began developing its own flag. The flag was designed in 1959 in just two months and represents a compromise between a several religious and political views. The flag committee initially wanted a flag with an entirely red background, but eventually decided against it because of red’s communist implications in the 1950s. After deciding on a red and white flag, Singapore needed to distinguish itself from countries such as Indonesia, Poland, and Monaco, countries that also flew red and white flags. The Chinese constituency in Singapore advocated for five stars, like the flag of the People’s Republic of China; the Muslim constituency wanted a crescent moon. The inclusion of both symbols represents both populations in Singapore.

Flag of Algeria

The flag of Algeria was adopted on July 3, 1962, when the country gained independence from France. The flag is rectangular and divided vertically into two fields.  The left field has a dark green background and the right field has a white background.  Intersecting the two fields, in the center of the flag, is a red star and crescent.

The colors of the Algerian flag have symbolic meaning. As with many countries, the white symbolizes peace.  The green part of the flag represents nature.  The star and crescent were widely used in parts of the ancient Mediterranean regions and also in parts of Asia.  Today, the star and crescent combination is most commonly recognized as the emblem of Islam, and the star and crescent appear on the Algerian flag for these reasons.  Although the star and crescent are often green, the red star and crescent on the Algerian flag represent the blood of the many soldiers that were killed fighting for Algeria’s independence from France between 1954 and 1962.

The detailed history of the Algerian flag is somewhat unclear. The colors in the flag—white, red, and green—are used in the flags and emblems of many Islamic nations.  The best explanation of the Algerian flag’s design is that it is a combination of two flags used in what is now the country of Algeria.  The flag of the Algerian Regency, which governed the area from the sixteenth until the nineteenth century, had a red background with a white star and crescent in the center.  In the nineteenth century, Prince Abdel Kadir, an Algerian Islamic scholar and political and military leader, led a French resistance movement flying a flag with two vertical stripes, one green and one white.  It is also possible that Messali Hadj, an Algerian nationalist, designed the Algerian flag in the late 1920s.

Flag of Bulgaria

The current flag of Bulgaria was adopted in 1991 when Bulgaria’s Constitution was readopted, although the original Bulgarian flag was adopted when Bulgaria gained independence following the Russo-Turkish War.  The flag is rectangular with three horizontal stripes: a white stripe on the top, a green stripe in the middle, and a red stripe on the bottom.

The red and white stripes on the Bulgarian flag represent the pan-Slavic colors: red, white, and blue.  When the Bulgarians designed their flag, however, they chose a green stripe in place of the traditional pan-Slavic blue to represent freedom.

Since the Bulgarian flag’s adoption in 1879, the flag has existed in two versions: with and without the emblem of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria.  In 1879, after Bulgaria gained its independence during the Russo-Turkish War, the Tarnovo Constitution mandated that the Bulgarian flag consist of a horizontal tricolor with white, green, and red stripes. When Bulgaria was under the rule of the Bulgarian Communist Party and known as The People’s Republic of Bulgaria, the country used a horizontal tricolor flag with the emblem of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria placed on the left corner of the white stripe.

The emblem of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria depicts a rampant lion surrounded by a wreath of wheat. Above the lion is a red five-pointed star.  Below the lion are the dates 681 and 1944.  Asparunkh, ruler of the Bulgar tribe during the 7th century, founded the First Bulgarian Empire in 681. The Fatherland Front, a Bulgarian resistance movement that led to the start of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria, took control over Bulgaria in 1944, at the end of the World War II.

In 1991, the new Constitution of Bulgaria again mandated that the flag of Bulgaria be a simple horizontal tricolor of white, green, and red; and the emblem of the People’s Republic of Bulgaria was removed.

Flag of Catalonia

The flag of Catalonia is known as the senyera (“signal flag” in Catalan) and is one of the oldest European flags still in use today. The flag is a rectangular shape with four red horizontal stripes equally spaced on a golden background.

The colors of the flag of Catalonia have their roots in the coat of arms of the Crown of Aragon, which consists of a golden shield with four red stripes and a jeweled crown on top.  According to a legend from the fourteenth century, in 897, when Barcelona was under siege by the Moors, King Charles the Bald drew four red stripes with his blood-drenched fingers as an act of gratitude on the Count of Barcelona’s golden shield. Although scholars debate the legend’s validity, the red blood and golden shield depicted in the tale influenced the colors for the Crown of Aragon’s coat of arms.  The red and golden colors are used in the flags of four of Spain’s autonomous communities: Catalonia, Aragon, the Balearic Islands, and Valencia.

The origin of the actual senyera is, again, debated as scholars argue over whether the flag has its roots in the Catalan or Aragonese region of Spain.  The Gran Encyclopedia Catalana argues that the senyera first appeared in the tomb of Ramon Berenguer II, a count of Barcelona who died in 1082.  Advocates for the Aragonese theories argue, however, the flag was first found in the seal of Alfonso II of Aragon in 1159.

Catalonia is an autonomous community of Spain, one of seventeen self-governing regions in the country. Catalonia is in the northeast region of Spain and is bordered by France to the north. The area consists of four provinces: Barcelona (the capitol), Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona.  Although the history of this region dates back to the eighth century, Catalonia has only been an autonomous region since August 9, 2006.

Flag of Zimbabwe

The flag of Zimbabwe was adopted on April 18, 1980, when Zimbabwe’s status as an independent nation was officially recognized.  The flag is a rectangular shape with seven horizontal stripes of green, yellow, red, and black.  From the stripes are in mirror image order and are arranged in the following order from top to bottom: green, yellow, red, black, red, yellow, green.  On the left side of the flag is a white triangle with a black border.  Inside the white triangle is a soapstone bird behind a red star.

The colors of the flag of Zimbabwe have symbolic meaning similar to many African countries that use the pan-African colors.  The green stripes symbolize the products of the agricultural and farming areas of Zimbabwe.  The yellow stripes symbolize Zimbabwe’s mineral resources.  The red stripes toward the center of the flag symbolize the blood of the many Zimbabweans that fought in the First and Second Chimurenga wars.  Chimurenga means “revolutionary struggle” in Shona, a Bantu language.  The First Chimurenga was fought between 1896 and 1897 against the British colonial rule and the second was fought between 1966 and 1980 against the Rodesians, a white minority regime in Zimbabwe.  Finally, the black stripe on the flag symbolizes the Zimbabweans’ native African heritage and ethnicity.

The triangle and images inside it also have symbolic meaning.  The white triangle symbolizes peace.  The red star represents the Zimbabweans’ hope and optimism for the future, but it also stands for the country’s socialist ideals.  The Zimbabwean bird in front of the red star is a depiction of a soapstone bird and is the national emblem of Zimbabwe.  The bird was carved on the walls of the ancient Great Zimbabwe in the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries.  The walls on which the bird is carved formed the largest ancient stone construction in Zimbabwe.  The bird is a bateleur eagle and can be found on the Zimbabwean flag and coat of arms.

Flag of Norway

The flag of Norway was adopted on July 13, 1821. It is rectangular with a red background and a blue Scandinavian cross that is outlined in white.  The cross covers the entirety of the flag but the center of the cross is slightly to the left side of the flag.  The design and colors of the flag resemble the Dannebrog, or the flag of Denmark, except that the Norwegian flag features a blue and white cross while the Donnebrog is plain white.

The colors of the Norwegian are based on the Coat of Arms of Norway, which features a red shield with a golden lion holding an axe.  On top of the shield is a bold crown and a red escutcheon.  The Coat of Arms of Norway originated in the Middle Ages and is one of the oldest coats of arms in Europe.

The history of the Norwegian flag is somewhat unclear, although the flag may have originated during the reign of Inge Haraldsson in the early twelfth century.  During Inge’s rule, a flag with a red lion on a gold background was used.  In the late thirteenth century, Erik II of Norway flew a flag with a golden lion on a red background.  This flag is now known as the Royal Standard of Norway; it is used by the King of Norway and was officially adopted on November 15, 1905.

From 1536 until 1814, Norway united with the Kingdom of Denmark and used the Dannebrog, a red flag with a white Scandanavian cross. When Norway separated from Denmark in 1814, it continued to fly the Dannebrog, but also included the golden lion from its own coat of arms in the upper left corner of the flag.

Fredrik Meltzer, a member of the Norwegian parliament, designed the current flag of Norway. Although the Norwegian chambers approved the design, the King of Norway approved the flag for civilian use only. In 1899, after three consecutive chamber sessions, the flag was finally approved for use as the country’s national banner.