The Republic of Lithuania has a complex history. Symbols of state power have undergone transformations in accordance with the events taking place.
This is what the modern flag of Lithuania looks like:
The Lithuanian word for “flag” is “vėliava. Etymologically, the word means “land of souls. Lithuanian ancestors believed that by raising a banner over the battlefield, they opened the way from the netherworld to the souls of fallen warriors. And they fought for their descendants. The ancient songs of the Estonians, with whom the Lithuanians fought, mention the Lithuanian troops abundantly decorated with flags.
History of the flag
In 1917, a commission consisting of prominent figures of science and art worked on the project of the state symbol of Lithuania. The commission consisted of the scientist and public figure J. Basanavičius, artists A. Žmuidzinavičius and T. Daugirdas. The latter was, in addition, a famous local historian and archaeologist.
Antanas Žmuidzinavicius proposed a red-green cloth design. However, this combination seemed gloomy and the Lithuanian Council rejected the design.
During further work on the sketch, the commission proposed adopting the flag of the historic Little Lithuania region. It looked like three equal sized stripes – red, white and green. But this version was seen as “Protestant” colors and was not accepted.
Neither did they like the proposal to include a narrow strip of yellow, which was supposed to symbolize the sunrise.
Finally, it was decided that the Lithuanian national flag would consist of three equal horizontal stripes. The colors chosen were yellow, red and green. These colors were chosen based on heraldic traditions and the most popular hues in folk arts and crafts.
The tricolor was first hoisted in 1919 in Vilnius over the Gediminas Tower.
After becoming part of the USSR, the flag was changed. The tricolor was replaced by a red banner with the name of the republic and an image of a crossed hammer and sickle.
The tricolor returned again in 1953. However, the stripes were of different widths and other colors. The widest band was red, indicating the republic within the Soviet Union. Below was a narrow white stripe, followed by a green stripe, slightly wider than the previous one.
The tricolor (yellow, green, red) has been in wide use since the summer of 1988. It was solemnly hoisted over the Gedimin Tower. For Lithuanians, this was a key moment, as they associate the tricolor banner over this tower with freedom and independence.
In the same year the tricolor received official status as the symbol of the republic. This status was enshrined in the Constitution of the Lithuanian SSR and then in 1992. – in the Constitution of the Republic of Lithuania.
Flag Day is a national holiday and is celebrated on January 1.
The official state flag of the Republic of Lithuania is a rectangle with three horizontal stripes of equal size. The upper stripe is yellow, the central stripe is green and the lower one is red.
The ratio of width to length of the cloth was 1:2 until 2004. With the amendments to the law, the ratio changed. Now the ratio is 3:5.
The usual size of 1 m by 1.7 m. Other sizes are allowed with the obligatory observance of the proportions.
The color reference is recreated from pre-war samples in private collections and state museums.
The yellow color (darker, closer to orange), as well as the dark green, were taken from the samples without change.
Red was given a lighter shade, as it was previously too dark, approaching purple.
- yellow corresponds to 15-0955 TP/1235 C/U according to Pantone;
- green 19-6026 TP/349 C/U according to Pantone;
- red 19-1664 TP/180 C/U according to Pantone.
The meaning of colors
- Yellow – represents the sun, prosperity and well-being, nobility and generosity.
- Green – emphasizes the beauty of native nature, is a symbol of hope, bright joy and freedom.
- Red – symbolizes bravery, courage and fearlessness, the blood that heroes shed for their homeland.
In 2004, the law defining the status of the national flag was amended. In addition to the state flag, which is the official symbol, the state historical flag was legally recognized. Later, the definition “coat of arms” was added to the name.
The flag is described as follows: a silver (white) rider, chained in armor, on a horse of the same color, on a red field.
Details of equipment and their color are shown in detail. The knight’s left arm is covered by a blue shield decorated with a gold cross with two crossbars. The right hand of the rider is raised high above his head and holds a silver sword with a golden hilt. The stirrups and spurs, sword scabbard, bridles and harness mounts are also gold (yellow). The saddle and harness are blue.
Drawing of the historical flag was created back in 2002 by A. Kajdalis based on a sample of the 30’s of the 20th century.
Article 3 of the mentioned Law refers to the size of the coat of arms flag. The ratio of its width to length is set as 3:5, and the usual size of the cloth is 1 m by 1.7 m.
It is raised all the time in three places:
- In Vilnius, above the Palace of the Rulers.
- In the historic site of Kaunas – Military Museum Square.
- In the ancient Trakai castle.
There are additional dates on which the historic flag must be raised. These are Constitution Day and State Day, days when the restoration of the state and independence are celebrated, as well as the day of the Battle of Grunwald. The law specifies the places where the historic flag is hoisted during each of the national holidays.
Flag of the President of Lithuania:
Interesting facts about the flag
Back in 1919, several volunteer soldiers first hoisted the Lithuanian flag over the Gedimin Tower in the capital. Each year on January 1, the national flag is hoisted above this tower. It flies for the whole year. Then the flag is given to one of the Lithuanian schools for honorary safekeeping.
Gedimin’s Tower stands on Castle Hill, in the historic center of Vilnius. This place is prone to landslides, which poses a danger to spectators. Therefore, it is not always possible to raise the national symbol over the tower in time for Flag Day. The ceremony is moved to another historical place. However, afterwards, the national flag is hoisted above the tower anyway.
Sometimes the Lithuanian flag is confused with the banners of other countries.
- For example, in 2008, the Lithuanian flag was raised during the awarding ceremony of a Latvian athlete who won bronze at the athletics championship. The organizers mixed up the neighboring states. The ceremony had to be repeated.
- During a friendly match in 2008 between Czech and Lithuanian soccer teams, the Czech Republic and Lithuania were also confused with the neighboring Latvia. And the Lithuanian national symbol was hung upside down. This circumstance angered the Lithuanian team players.
- In Tel Aviv in 2019, on the eve of the Gay Pride parade, instead of rainbow-colored LGBT flags, Lithuanian tricolor flags were flying in the streets. There was a heated discussion about it on social media. By morning the mistake was corrected.
- One year earlier, another event had happened that cast a shadow on the Lithuanian symbol. The team of activists on the day when 100-years anniversary of restoration of the statehood was celebrated, sent the flag of Lithuania in the sky, 30 km high. The activists called the action “Tricolor in Space”. However, they should have known that the Karman line, which separates the Earth’s atmosphere from outer space, is 100 km high. The Lithuanian national symbol was stuck in the stratosphere and never made it to space. Many Lithuanian citizens reacted negatively to this action, considering it a humiliation for the flag of the republic.
There have been more serious incidents of deliberate desecration of the flag.
- In 2013 in Šalčininkai, a Maxima chain outlet hung the national flag above the entrance. However, instead of the mourning ribbons that were due on that day, black pantyhose were flying over it. The event took place on the country’s day of mourning for the deportations during which thousands of residents were expelled from the country. Retail management apologized, and the store manager was fired.
- In 2016, a group of U.S. soldiers desecrated a Lithuanian flag under cover of night, tearing it down from the prosecutor’s office in Kaunas. The incident was recorded by cameras. However, the authorities hushed up the situation, apparently not wishing to complicate relations with the United States.
Most Lithuanian citizens treat the national and historical flags of their country with great reverence, suppressing and condemning disrespectful attitudes toward them both by residents of the republic and by foreigners.
General information about Lithuania
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