Understanding the Bulgarian Flag
Learn about the flag, its colours and their meanings, historical facts, the constitutional references, origin of colours and symbolism and the coat of arms.
What do you feel when you see the flag of your country? What feelings arise when you think about what it represents? Depending on the history of that particular country, and your own personal experiences, feelings may vary. However, flags all over the world stand for a country's history and heritage, which is really the case of the Bulgarian flag.
A simple hind back will show the everyday struggle of the Bulgarian inhabitants of prehistoric times, the Ottoman and the Byzantine Empires conquering and ruling it all, and Communism opening a sad parenthesis in an obscure chapter in Bulgarian History, only closed by the country's deliverance after the fall of the former Soviet Union. Bulgarians have a lot to remember when they see their flag fluttering free on the sky.
Some Historical Facts
Far ago, in the 1860's, the Bulgarian Legia, a revolutionary group founded in Serbia by Bulgarian emigrants, used a flag in green, white and red colours. In the war against Turkey, S. Paraskevovo made the first white-green-red striped flag and it was presented to Russian-Bulgarian troops in the Romanian town of Braila in 1877. It had a lion and the word "BULGARIA" in the centre, in Cyrillic characters. It is called the "banner of Braila" and is currently kept in the War Museum in Sofia.
The Flag and the Colours
The Bulgarian flag today has a trio of equally sized horizontal bands: white on top, green in the middle, and the band at the bottom is red. This simple symbol was adopted in recent years, and the national emblem was placed on the hoist side of the white stripe. The national emblem consisted of a five-pointed red star above a lion wearing a wreath of wheat ears. Beneath the lion was a ribbon with the dates 681 and 1944. That symbol has since been removed.
However, some other "national flags" co-exist, some of them really more elaborate, for certain official events. As strange as it may appear for the nationals of other countries, there is not such a thing like a "state flag". Nevertheless, all the different designs share the same colours, white, green, and red: National Flag, Naval Ensign, Naval Jack, Coast Guard Ensign (Government Flag), Presidential Flag (with the coat of arms on it).
Historical Constitutional References to the Flag
The first reference to a national Bulgarian flag, goes back almost 130 years ago, on the First Constitution in Bulgaria adopted on April 16th, 1879, which states in its article 23 that the national flag would be of three colours, and contain three strips in white, green and red colours. The article makes no reference to measures or proportions, but the reader can figure out a flag that would be similar to the one used in the country at present.
After that, the 2nd Bulgarian Constitution, adopted on December 6th, 1947, modified first the flag. The coat was added on the white stripe, as stated by its 97th article, which says that the Bulgarian flag would be of three horizontal stripes in white, green, and red. The coat of arms would be located in the left upper corner.
A new Constitutional amend, in fact the 3rd Bulgarian Constitution, in force since May 18th, 1971, confirms in article 141 the design that had been adopted by the Constitution in 1947, but the text was changed on November 27th, 1990. Since then the article states that the Bulgarian flag would contain three colours, horizontally placed in this order from top to down: white, green, and red. There is no mention of the coat of arms.
That text was enforced until the adoption of the 4th current Bulgarian Constitution in since July 13th, 1991. The constitutional specifications in article 166 state that the flag of the Republic of Bulgaria be of three colours: white, green, and red from the top. Each stripe would be placed horizontally.
However, there were further regulations stated by the Bulgarian State Seal and National Flag Act, stating that the three strips must be identical in both form and size. Those regulations state that the flag's measurements and form must:
- Be a rectangle with a ratio of 3 to 5 for width and length
- Be a size of 18 by 30, 24 by 40, 90 by 150 or 129 by 215 (all centimeters)
- Contain a white stripe that is at least 80% pure per the Pantone-textile scale
- Contain a green stripe that is colour #17 5936 per the Pantone-textile scale
- Contain a red stripe that is colour # 18 1664 per the Pantone-textile scale
Since the flag was officially adopted in November 1990, the Committee of Standards and Metrology have kept colour samples on hand.
Origin of colours and symbolism
The Pan Slavic colours gave birth to the red and white colours in the Bulgarian flag, and the green strip replaced the blue of the Russian Tricolour. According to scholar Fischer Weltalmanach, Russia, in the first years of 19th Century Bulgaria were bound to set the example for the other Slavic states under the rules of the Ottoman, the Turk and the Austrian-Hungarian. These would be Bulgaria, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic colours. However, the green coloured stripe replaced this one in the flag of Bulgaria.
The Coat of Arms
The Coat of Arms of Bulgaria, which is still on some ceremonial flags in Bulgaria, has been in force since 1997 and was the first coat used by Bulgaria since Communism ended in the country in the first years of the 1990s. However, it was object of controversy, and agreeing on its features was rather difficult, for different parties had some arguments about what to put in the coat of arms. In the end both sides agreed on two lions holding a shield with a lion drawing on the coat of arms, topped by the crown of Bulgarian king Ivan Asen II, and the Bulgarian motto.
All these facts confirm what the flag means for those Bulgarians who are conscious of the achievements of the country. They will certainly remember that white represents peace and liberty, green symbolizes their freedom and agricultural wealth, and red stands for shed blood in the name of freedom. It is not just a painted rag - It is a whole national history, the Constitution, the government, the nation. It is the emblem of Bulgaria 's sovereignty.