Meaning behind the flag of Croatia

Croatian flag on MUP building in Remetinečki gaj, Zagreb
Croatian flag on MUP building in Remetinečki gaj, Zagreb

The flag of the Republic of Croatia is a national symbol officially adopted on December 21, 1990. It consists of three equally-wide horizontal lines of red, white, and blue with the coat of arms of the Republic of Croatia in the middle.

In this post, we cover:

The facts are these…

Meaning behind the flag of Croatia

When the flag is used

The flag of the Republic of Croatia is used:

  • Permanently on buildings of all state bodies
  • On national holidays
  • In the days of mourning when it’s lowered halfway on the pole
  • On other significant occasions

The flag of Croatia must be visible on ships and other vessels of maritime and inland navigation.

The flag may be exhibited at public gatherings (political, scientific, cultural, artistic, sporting, and other) held in the Republic of Croatia, as long as its use is not in conflict with provisions of the law.

History of the Croatian Flag

Under the Habsburg Monarchy, some of the countries in the empire had their own coats of arms, but no flags. Trobojnica refers to the red-white-blue tricolor created in 1848. In the year following, it became an inseparable part of Croatian national identity.

The installation flag is a commemorative heavily-decorated flag that was given to the Ban as a gift each year. Ban Jelačić was the first to officially use the Croatian tricolor. At the inauguration ceremony of Ban Josip Jelačić in 1848, red, white, and blue colors were an integral part of his uniform.

Meaning of the Coat of Arms on the Croatian flag

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The coat of arms located at the center of the flag is historically Croatian. It has a shield shape with twenty-five red and white (silver) checked fields. The upper left corner must be red, which is a VERY important detail.

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Why the first check must be red

A law was passed by the Sabor that defines which color the first check must be, as well as the check allocation of 5x5 (total 25). The communist coat of arms and other coats that begin with a white check first are forbidden and considered to be fascist and a call-back to WWII when Croatia was allied with the Nazi regime. It is important to note that the version with the first white check predates communism and WWII, but it was appropriated for other purposes resulting in a stigma that remains to this day.

Above the main shield, there is a crown with five smaller shields. The crown contains five smaller shields with historical Croatian crowns, arranged from left to right on the shield in this order:

  1. The oldest known coat of arms of Croatia
  2. Coats of arms of the Dubrovnik Republic
  3. Dalmacija (Dalmatia)
  4. Istra (Istria)
  5. Slavonija (Slavonia)

The oldest known Croatian coat of arms contains a light blue shield with a yellow (gold) six-pointed star which is a depiction of the star Danica (which is a common name for planet Venus) with a white (silver) new moon (the so-called Leljiva).

The coat of arms for the Republic of Dubrovnik is made of a dark blue shield with two red horizontal stripes.

The Dalmatian coat of arms has a light blue shield with three yellow (gold) crowned lion heads. In one period of Croatian history, the Dalmatian coat of arms was used as the Croatian coat of arms.

The Istrian coat of arms contains a navy shield with a yellow (golden) goat turned to the left with red hooves and horns.

The Slavonian coat of arms is made of a light blue shield with two horizontal white (silver) stripes. In some books, it is described as two rivers (Drava and Sava) encircling Slavonia.

Between the stripes is a red field with a marten walking to the left. The word for marten is kuna in Croatian, also the name of Croatian currency. This is not a coincidence, as marten fur was used as a form of currency in some parts of Croatia. If you look close enough you’ll see the marten behind the numbers on 1, 2, and 5-kuna coins.

[Read: Endangered animals you might see in Croatia including the marten]

In the upper blue field is a yellow (golden) six-pointed star. The coat of arms is bordered by a red line.

The law defining the Croatian flag

In 1993, the Sabor passed legislation defining what the Croatian flag looks like. You can read the full law here, but we’ve included the relevant excerpt:

Grb Republike Hrvatske je povijesni hrvatski grb u obliku štita dvostruko podijeljen vodoravno i okomito u dvadesetpet crvenih i bijelih (srebrnih) polja tako da je prvo polje u gornjem lijevom kutu štita crvene boje. Iznad štita se nalazi kruna sa pet šiljaka koja se u blagom luku spaja sa lijevim i desnim gornjim dijelom štita. U krunu je smješteno pet manjih štitova s povijesnim hrvatskim grbovima koji su poredani od lijeve na desnu stranu štita u ovom redu: najstariji poznati grb Hrvatske, grbovi Dubrovačke Republike, Dalmacije, Istre i Slavonije.

Omjer visine polja na glavnom štitu i visine manjih štitova u kruni je 1: 2,5, a omjer širine polja na glavnom štitu i širine manjih štitova u kruni 1: 1. Najstariji poznati grb Hrvatske sadrži u štitu na plavom polju žutu (zlatnu) šesterokraku zvijezdu s bijelim (srebrnim) mladim mjesecom. Grb Dubrovačke Republike sadrži u štitu na modrom polju dvije crvene grede. Dalmatinski grb sadrži u štitu na plavom polju tri žute (zlatne) okrunjene leopardove glave.

Istarski grb sadrži u štitu na modrom polju žutu (zlatnu) kozu okrenutu u lijevo s crvenim papcima i rogovima. Slavonski grb sadrži u štitu na plavom polju dvije poprečne bijele (srebrne) grede, a između greda je crveno polje po kojem lagano stupa kuna na lijevo. U gornjem plavom polju je žuta (zlatna) šesterokraka zvijezda. Grb je obrubljen crvenom crtom.

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Please note: Information provided by Expat in Croatia is only for the purposes of guidance. It does not constitute legal or financial advice in any form. Croatian laws and bureaucratic rules often change, and each personal case is individual, so different rules may apply. For legal advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian lawyer. For financial advice, contact us to consult with a licensed Croatian tax advisor or accountant.

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