A country’s flag is officially called the state symbol, but despite the seeming obviousness the concept of a national symbol is much more complex. The word “state” usually represents the governing body of the country and not the citizens living in that country, though the flag of a country is obliged to embody the distinctive qualities of the country in the most extensive sense. A symbol is called a depiction of an imagined or a real object which indicates the quality of the object and often carries some kind of a “hidden” meaning in it. So, symbols require the possibility to be read and interpreted. In some countries the flags culture is very well developed and people that live in these countries support this culture by hanging their flags on their homes, cars and so on.


Albanian flag on the hood of a Lamborghini


In the United States the flag can be seen almost everywhere: there are flags on administrative buildings as well as on private homes

In Russia, for example, it was common until 2008 to put the national flag solely on state institutions.

In general, as you can see for yourself, the prevalence of flags even within your own country is very different depending on the politics pursued in the country as well as for a number of cultural and ethnic reasons. It should only be noted that the widespread display of flags is a questionable issue. Therefore, whether you want to see flags around you (and in what quantity) or not — you can decide that for yourself.

Flag of the Republic of Belarus

In general, there are still disputes in Belarus about the design of the national flag. The officially recognized flag is the one accepted on the 10 February 2012 which is an improved version of the 7 June 1995 design. An alternative, which is offered by the opposition, is the “White-Red-White” flag (in Belarusian: “бел-чырвона-белы”). Well, let’s take a deeper look at these flags.

Starting with the colors of the flag of Belarus it is worth saying that red and white colors are distinctive for the Belarusian culture.


Various Belarusian national patterns

Historical Flags of Belarus

The first reliable mention of the flags on the territory of Belarus can be attributed to the existence of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania (GDL). In particular, white flags with red crosses hung during the Battle of Orsha in 1514 (Muscovite-Lithuanian Wars) at the spears of the Lithuanian and Polish troops.


The painting “Battle of Orsha” has red and white triangular flags


This is how the flag on the pikes of the cavalry looks

Of course, these flags are different from the modern white-red-white flag, but, nevertheless, it is possible to talk about their relationship.

It is also worth mentioning the Kotwicz coat of arms which was widespread in GDL. The shield of the coat of arms depicts a White-Red-White flag.


The Kotwicz coat of arms

Next the times of the Belarusian People’s Republic (BPR) can be safely assumed. In those days the White-Red-White flag was actively used. Thus, since 1918 the official flag is the White-Red-White design.


The White-Red-White flag during 1918–1919

In winter 1919 a state was formed under the name SSRB (Socialist Soviet Republic of Byelorussia) which was controlled by the Bolsheviks. In this short period there was a corresponding flag.


Flag of the SSRB, 1919

Later due to a symbiosis of SSRB and the Lithuanian SSR, Lithuanian-Byelorussian SSR was formed and it lasted a little longer but its flag could not be described as a very original one. It can only be compared with an equality “great” flag of Libya of the 1977–2011 period. These flags are truly monochrome.


Flags of Litbel (1919–1920) and Libya (1977–2011)

Then from 1920 to 1924 the SSRB flag was again adopted. Until 1927 there was no official flag. Later, a same flag was later adopted but the place of the letters was changed in the abbreviation. The upper left corner had the BSSR name (Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic).


Flag of the BSSR, the 1927–1937 period

From 1937 a hammer, sickle and a star are added to the flag — the main symbols of communism.


Flag of the BSSR, the 1937–1951 period

The flag of the BSSR took its closest to the current flag form only in 1951. There is an explanation of the symbolism of the pattern near the flagpole. In the center there is a rising Sun, the rays from it symbolize wealth and well-being, in the rhombus — the key to happiness; also the wish of making a dream come true and the symbol of bread are reflected in the pattern. Initially this pattern was found in the pre-war archives on the rushnyk, embroidered in 1917 by Matryona Markevich from the Kastilische Village (Syanno Raion, Vtibesk Region) and was slightly amended by the artist. The red color probably symbolized the Communist Party or the blood shed in the wars of the past and green — the Belarusian forests and natural wealth.


Flag of the BSSR, the 1951–1991 period

After the collapse of the Soviet Union until 1995 there was the historic White-Red-White flag. But with the arrival of the current president on his initiative the flag had been replaced by a vote.


The flag of the Republic of Belarus, 1995–2012 period

The result of the vote was quite predictable for a number of factors: the major part of the population was used to associate themselves with the Soviet Union superpower and its corresponding symbols (some part of the population even today dream of the reunification of the Soviet Union) — this is how the presence of the White-Red-White flag was able to eradicate during the existence of the USSR not only from the Belarusian culture but also from the people’s minds. But, despite this, foreign observers made a number of condemning statements about the organizations of the referendum.

Looking at the history of flags on the territory of Belarus it is logical to give the preference to the White-Red-White flag, but this flag is now fully associated with the actions of the opposition, therefore, before establishing a new government one should not dream about the native and historically justified flag. The problem is not with the flags but with the people which are behind them.

I would also like to mention a number of changes made in the flag of 10 February 2012: now the Belarusian ornament completely fills the white stripe at the flagpole and is slightly extended, the color ratio is not changed but the quality of these colors is greatly improved — they are much nicer now and are less bright.


The modern flag of Belarus

The red color is not clearly associated with the Soviet Union; green also looks better. Unfortunately, despite the change made in 2012, during the holidays (the primary use of the flag in Belarus) or in public institutions both the new and the old versions (before the redesign) can be seen.


The opinion can be considered obvious, that people should decide for themselves under which flag to live and for which side to fight. Despite this, many countries adopt as their national flag completely absurd designs. You can easily find in Belarus a person who likes the current flag but it does not mean that it is historically justified. But politically it is. Despite the social politics of “remembrance” of the past achievements of the Belarusian nation, increased reflection towards our own history, the constant search of a national idea, ways of independence and sovereignty, we did forget about our historical flag for some reason. Modern Belarusian authorities did refuse the ancient and historical flag by adopting the USSR version of the flag (meanwhile Russia, Ukraine and other European neighbors abandoned the Soviet legacy in their state symbols), even though communism is no longer a dominant party in Belarus.

People who are in favor of the White-Red-White flag could be understood, you can also understand the people who stand for the modern flag. But, nevertheless, in order for Belarus to step into a new historical period, the country needs either a new flag or a flag under which Belarusians lived the best and the sovereignty and independence of our people was manifested most strongly. It is unlikely that this flag may be called a flag that reminds of the Soviet past. Perhaps, it is also quite difficult to call this flag the White-Red-White flag. In any case, the lack of progress on this topic and the high decision-making power of the authorities (and not specialists) in this area tells us that this issue is very poorly discussed and the necessary self-determination work is not performed.

In conclusion, I would also like to note the similarities of the Belarusian flag with the flags of some post-Soviet countries in the Asian world. Despite the fact that Belarus is geographically located in Eastern Europe and not in Asia, these flags were probably the prototype for the Belarusian flag:


Flags with the national pattern at the flagpole

Given the geographical factor the White-Red-White flag fits in this group:


Flags with three stripes

I also suggest to take a look to a couple of more versions of the White-Red-White flag:


The funeral version of the White-Red-White


A concept with the national pattern

Perhaps, the flags culture is not very well developed in Belarus, but if it is going to be improved, in that case this matter should be in the hands of experts and professionals.