Meaning behind the flag of Croatia

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

UPDATED: 19.3.2024.

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…

When the Croatian flag is used

The flag of the Republic of Croatia is used on the following occasions:

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

[Read: Public national holidays in Croatia]

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 empire’s countries 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 Josip Jelačić was the first to use the Croatian tricolor officially. 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

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.

Coat of arms of Croatia
Coat of arms of Croatia

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:

  • The oldest known coat of arms of Croatia
  • Coats of arms of the Dubrovnik Republic
  • Dalmacija (Dalmatia)
  • Istra (Istria)
  • 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 the 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 the former 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]

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

Law defining the Croatian flag

In 1993, the Sabor passed legislation defining what the Croatian flag looks like. This law is called Zakon o grbu, zastavi i himni Republike Hrvatske te zastavi i lenti predsjednika Republike Hrvatske (Law on the coat of arms, flag and anthem of the Republic of Croatia and the flag and ribbon of the President of the Republic of Croatia).

The law says:

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.

Which translates as:

The coat of arms of the Republic of Croatia is a historical Croatian coat of arms in the form of a shield divided horizontally and vertically into twenty-five red and white (silver) fields so that the first field in the upper left corner of the shield is red. Above the shield is a crown with five spikes, which joins the left and right upper parts of the shield in a slight arc. In the crown are placed five smaller shields with historical Croatian coats of arms, which are arranged from left to right side of the shield in this order: the oldest known coat of arms of Croatia, the coats of arms of the Republic of Dubrovnik, Dalmatia, Istria, and Slavonia.

The ratio of the height of the field on the main shield to the height of the smaller shields in the crown is 1: 2.5, and the ratio of the width of the field on the main shield to the width of the smaller shields in the crown is 1: 1. The oldest known coat of arms of Croatia contains a yellow (gold) in the shield on a blue field, a six-pointed star with a white (silver) new moon. The coat of arms of the Republic of Dubrovnik contains two red bars in the shield on a blue field. The coat of arms of Dalmatia contains in a shield on a blue field three yellow (golden) crowned leopard’s heads.

The Istrian coat of arms contains in a shield on a blue field a yellow (golden) goat facing left with red hooves and horns. The Slavonic coat of arms contains in the shield on a blue field two transverse white (silver) beams, and between the beams is a red field on which a marten steps lightly to the left. In the upper blue field is a yellow (golden) six-pointed star. The coat of arms is bordered with a red line.

You can view the full law here.

View our other related articles

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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