czech flag
General & Trivia History

Where the Czech Flag Came From

A white band over a red band and a blue triangle. The Czech flag is simple and easy to remember. But where did it come from? Who’s the author? Why these colors? And do you know which flag the Czech one resembles?

The flag of the republic is one of the state symbols of Czech Republic. Let us tell you about it’s look, origin and some more interesting facts.

Blazon of the Czech Flag

Let’s start with what the Czech flag looks like. It’s two horizontal stripes – white up and red down – and an isosceles blue triangle which extends halfway along the rectangle.

czech flag

Common mistakes are to draw the bands reversed (white down, red up) and the triangle shorter. An easy way to remember which band is where is to imagine that the red is a brick and the white is an egg. If you put a brick on top of the egg the egg will break. Therefore, the egg has to be on top. However, if the flag hangs vertically, the bands are the other way round, so you cannot just rotate the flag 90 degrees.

czech flag
Vertical hoisting of the Czech flag

Czech Flag Origins

Independent Czechoslovakia needs a new flag

On October 28, 1918 people all around gathered to celebrate their new country – Czechoslovakia. You won’t see any Czech flags in the period photos though. Some people were waving flags with a red and a white band which was a land symbol back then. It was very inconvenient to make this a Czechoslovak flag since it was (and still is) the flag of Poland and another neighboring country – Austria – also uses horizontal white and red bands.

The new flag was supposed to not only show that there is a new independent country but also that there are in fact two nations bound together (Czechs and Slovaks).

It was the last day of 1918 when the so called “Symbol committee” was founded. Come spring of 1919 its members started working on a flag that would embody both of the things mentioned above and at the same time it would be simple to draw and easy to remember. It was not only the members of the committee who publicly expressed their opinions regarding the new flag but also general and professional public. There were voices for continuing the Hussite legacy and other who preferred to keep the flag in just two colors. And there were quite a few people returning from the asylum in the USA who presented sketches inspired by the US flag.

The Quiet Hard Worker

Jaroslav Kursa was a poor clerk and one of the members of the committee. He worked on the proposals for a flag, seal and coats of arms paying for the paper and paint himself. He is the one who suggested the lion for the Czech coat of arms which was later approved by the artist František Kyselka who incorporated it into the coat of arms.

The director of the Archive of Ministry of the Interior called Kursa “the quiet hard worker” and wrote about him to the minister:

He has been working for almost two months day and night – he is sickly and suffers from malnutrition. He, a poor clerk, who supports his eighty-year-old mother and his sister’s two children from the 260 crowns he earns, had to pay 80 crowns for the paint, paper and other art material which he didn’t tell me until I offered him an advance. It came to my attention in the last days that he has been selling his beloved French books and eats only every other day – being a diabetic!

You have to understand, the level of patriotism at that time was incredibly high and there were many people who were high in spirit to establish and define Czechoslovakia as an independent country.

New Flag Is Born

Kursa’s flag eventually won the professionals over. Whilst Kursa based his flag proposal on rather technical criteria, the Czech painter and architect Jaroslav Jareš presented the same proposal guided only by his artistic feeling. Jareš is sometimes named as the co-author of the Czech flag.

Back to Kursa now. Originally, his blue triangle extended only to one third of the flag’s rectangle and as he presented it to the committee in 1919 he explained that the blue triangle is an ideal representation of the three blue hills on the Slovak coat of arms. As for the flag in general, what he used as a model was a coat of arms of lower nobility from the area of Pelhřimov. On January 23, 1920 a subcommittee decided to extend the blue triangle all the way to the half of the rectangle. The colors of the flag were approved more than a month after that and the flag as a whole was approved on the 30th of March of 1920.

Forced Change and Independent Czech Republic

Sad to say the flag didn’t stay official for long. When Germany occupied Czechoslovakia the flag was replaced by the Protectorate flag. At that time it was the resistance in asylum abroad who preserved the flag.

Protectorate flag

Before and after the WWII the country changed name several times (Czecho-Slovak Republic, Czechoslovak Socialist Republic, Czechoslovak Federative Republic, Czech and Slovak Federative Republic) but after the war the flag never changed again. After Czechoslovakia split the flag remained the flag of Czech Republic.

See the Resemblance?

If you know your way around flags you already know but if you don’t you might be surprised by the flag that looks the most like the Czech flag. Geographical proximity won’t help you guess, you’d have to fly ten thousand km to find the country. The country is Philippines!

flag of the Philippines

Another flag that can be mistaken for a Czech flag when there’s no wind and the flags hang down is the flag of Chile.

flag of Chile

You may also like...