April 12, 2022

A Nation's Symbol: the Flag of Ukraine

A Nation's Symbol: the Flag of Ukraine
Solidarity with Ukraine. Pexels, Nataliia Pugach. 

One of a nation’s most vital symbols of patriotism is its flag, and with Ukraine's minimalist bicolor unfurling across the globe in a demonstration of solidarity, its origins are worth exploring.

To do this, it is important to know the history that created it. In other words, how did the bicolor flag of blue and yellow that represents Ukraine today come to be what it is today?

The first documented flag in Ukraine using blue and yellow appeared in 1410. Described by Jan Dlugosz, a Polish chronicler, the flag of 1410 was the flag of Lviv's land and was used in the Battle of Tannenberg.

The 1410 Flag of Lviv Land
The 1410 Flag of Lviv's land. Wikimedia Commons, Alex Tora.

The next major development of the flag appeared in 1649 and was used until 1764. The flag was known as the flag of arms of the Cossack Hetmanate, a Ukrainian Cossack state that occupied what is currently central Ukraine.

The Flag of Arms of the Cossack Hetmenate
Flag of Arms of the Cossack Hetmanate (1649–1764). Wikimedia Commons, Alex Tora.

On April 22, 1848, the Ukrainian flag that we know today first appeared. The yellow and blue horizontal bicolor became the national flag when it was adopted by the Main Ruthenian Council. The flag became a stronger symbol of the Ukrainian people during the fight for independence in 1917. The bicolor flag was flown on Ukrainian soil for the first time on March 29, 1917, in Kyiv. Shortly after, on April 1a mass demonstration of approximately 100,000 people displayed over 300 of the flags. On May 18, 1917, the flag flew at the First Ukrainian Military Congress.

The Official Flag of the Ukrainian's People Republic
The Official Flag of the Ukrainian's People Republic, adopted March 22, 1918. Wikimedia Commons, Pilgrim Whynot.

This design was officially adopted as the flag of the Ukrainian People’s Republic on March 22, 1918.

During the time of Soviet Ukraine, between 1922 and 1991, the previous flag of the Ukrainian People’s Republic was banned. Anyone that displayed the flag adopted in 1918 would be accused of anti-Soviet propaganda. The flag that came to be during Soviet rule was adopted as the flag of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic on March 10, 1919. The flag changed appearance slightly until the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, but all echo the flag of the USSR, with red being the main color. Below are some examples of the flags used within Soviet Ukraine:

Soviet Ukraine Flag used from 1949-1991
The Flag of the Ukrainian People's Republic (1949–1991). Wikimedia Commons, Ericmetro.
The Soviet Ukraine Flag of 1937-1949
The Flag of the Ukrainian People's Republic of Soviets (1937–1949). Wikimedia Commons, SeNeKa.
The Flag of the Ukrainian People's Republic of Soviets
The Flag of the Ukrainian People's Republic of Soviets (1917–1918). Wikimedia Commons, Gauravjuvekar.

Following the 1991 breakup of the Soviet Union, Ukraine regained its identity. In an urgency to claim independence, demonstrations were often held in Kyiv and western Ukraine using the bicolor yellow and blue flag, once adopted as the flag of the Ukrainian People’s Republic.

Following Ukrainian independence gained on August 24, 1991, the Ukrainian flag was officially adopted in 1992, alongside other patriotic holidays and customs for the new nation.

Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the Ukraininan flag has become famous the world over as a symbol of resistance. Many cities and nations across the world have displayed light shows on major monuments that represent the Ukrainian flag since the invasion began. Many government leaders and politicians have also been seen wearing small Ukrainian flags, showing support for the nation and its people.

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