Flag of Belarus
The current national flag of Belarus was adopted and approved by referendum on June 7, 1995, and amended on February 10, 2012. It replaces the flag that has served since the country's independence from the Soviet Union, in 1991.
It is similar to that of 1951, used when Belarus was a republic of the Soviet Union, except that the communist symbols (sickle and hammer) have been removed and the colors of the traditional pattern on the left are reversed.
The red color symbolizes the blood shed by the defenders of Belarus, and the green color represents the country's forests. The pattern on the left of the flag is a representation of the traditional rushnik.
Variants of the flag
Since the introduction of the current flag in 1995, several other flags have been created by government agencies based on the flag of the country.
The presidential flag, in use since 1997, is adopted by decree. Its design takes up the country's flag with the addition of the national emblem in red and gold. Its 5:6 proportions give it an almost square shape and differ from the national flag.
In 2001, a decree issued by President Alexander Lukashenko grants a flag for the Belarusian armed forces.
Belarusian People's Republic (1918-1919)
Incorporated into the Grand Duchy of Lithuania since 1387 and then into the Russian Empire, Belarus did not know until its independence in March 1918 a state symbol such as a flag. At its creation, the Belarusian People's Republic chose to adopt a white-red-white horizontal tricolor which, according to academic Anna Zadora, "refers to the period of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania, considered by nationalists as a century of gold ".
The young republic was however invaded by the Soviets on January 5, 1919. The latter annexed Belarus and founded the Lithuanian-Belarusian Soviet Socialist Republic, then the Soviet Socialist Republic of Belarus (RSSB). The white-red-white flag disappears in favor of the red flag with the Cyrillic characters БССР (BSSR) in gold at the top left, then the sickle and the hammer.
Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic (1919-1991)
The Byelorussian SSR adopts different successive flags. The variant adopted in 1951, which includes a green horizontal stripe and a representation of the traditional rushnik to the left of the flag, is the origin of the current flag.
Republic of Belarus (since 1991)
The white flag crossed by a horizontal red band dating from the Belarusian People's Republic was taken up again at independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, in a desire to challenge the Soviet past.
After the election of Alexander Lukashenko, nostalgic for the Soviet era, to the Belarusian presidency in 1994, the white-red-white flag was abandoned by referendum in 1995 for the current flag, inspired by old Soviet emblems, but without a sickle nor hammer. The opposition then qualifies this referendum as “unconstitutional and distorted”. The new flag is heavily inspired by that of the Byelorussian SSR.
On February 10, 2012, the pattern on the left side of the flag was slightly modified, as well as the shade of green, which became darker.
The white-red-white flag today
The white-red-white flag is currently banned by President Lukashenko's regime and today has become the symbol of the struggle for democracy in Belarus. It is considered by almost all Belarusian opposition groups to be the only and true national flag.
First used relatively occasionally by pro-democracy activists or B