The Flag of Algeria: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

Written by Taiwo Victor
Published: December 3, 2022
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The People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria is a North African nation along the Mediterranean coastline. The country is also a part of the Maghreb region of North Africa and is predominantly Islamic. Algeria stretches deep into the Sahara, which makes up more than four-fifths of the nation’s landmass. It is home to some of the planet’s most extreme surface temperatures. This ultimately affects the country’s climate, making it hotter than most African countries. 

The country derives its name from the city of Algiers. Although the country’s age is unknown, artifacts from the region date as far back as over a million years ago. This is proof that there were inhabitants of the region long before it became an official country. However, later on, the country ended up colonized by the French. This article explores this colonization and its effects on the country’s flag, along with the symbolism of the flag.

Characteristics of Algeria

With a size of 2,381,741 square kilometers (919,595 square miles), Algeria is the largest country in Africa and the 10th largest in the world. Despite being the largest country on the African continent, it is not as populated as you might think. Algeria is home to about 44 million people, and its largest city and capital is Algiers. The nation is bordered by Tunisia in the northeast, Libya in the east, and Morocco in the west. The countries of Western Sahara, Mauritania, and Mali provide a border to the southwest.

The majority of the country’s population is Arab by descent. Despite Berbers being the dominant ethnic group, the majority of people there identify as Arab. Since 1990, Arabic has been Algeria’s official national tongue and is also the language taught in schools. The majority of Algerians speak one of the various dialects of spoken Arabic. These are usually comparable to dialects heard in neighboring Morocco and Tunisia.

Algeria is one of the largest Francophone countries in the world. Due to Algeria’s colonial past, inhabitants widely speak French in government, the media, academia, and the education system. However, it is not an official language there.

History of Algeria

The discovery of 1.8 million-year-old Oldowan stone tools at Ain Hanech in 1992 provides proof of Algeria’s early human habitation. In the year 24 A.D., the Roman Empire annexed the Berber territory, right before the introduction of Christianity. By the end of the fourth century, most Berber tribes had converted to Christianity, and the populated areas had done so as well. For several centuries, the Romans, who founded many colonies in the region, ruled Algeria. At the time, like most countries in North Africa, Algeria dealt in the exportation of grains and other agricultural products.

Algeria was ruled by the Vandal Kingdom after the Western Roman Empire collapsed. However, the Eastern Roman Empire (also known as the Byzantine Empire) expelled the Vandals from Algeria and incorporated it into the Praetorian prefecture of Africa and later the Exarchate of Africa. 

When Muslim Arabs arrived in Algeria, many of the people converted to the new religion. Arabic and Islam’s entrance had a significant influence on North Africa. In addition to establishing connections with a rich culture and bringing about changes in social and economic relations, the new religion and language also contributed to a potent organizational and political concept.

Despite the many invasions, Algeria finally endured colonization under the French. In 1830, the French invaded and took control of Algiers, claiming Algeria had insulted their consul. The French exiled Husayn, the last Ottoman provincial ruler (Dey), and then seized private and religious structures. They also stole goods, mostly in and around Algiers, and took control of a significant percentage of the country’s agricultural land. By 1848, the French ruled practically the whole region of northern Algeria, and they proclaimed the seized areas to be an important part of France.

French rule over Algeria spanned 132 years, beginning in 1830 and lasting until the War of Independence in 1962. Following both World Wars, in which Algeria suffered a high number of casualties, discontent among Algerians rose. They lost hope in the French colonial system as a result of their low political and economic status. The country clamored for more, and what began as a call for more autonomy turned into a war for independence.

History and Symbolism of the Flag of Algeria

Flag of Algeria
The star and crescent on the Algerian flag are well-known Islamic symbols.

©tatohra/Shutterstock.com

The Algerian national flag was adopted in July 1962. It consists of two equal vertical green and white bars in the center, with a red star and crescent. These astrological symbols are a representation of Islam, the predominant religion in the country. The symbols of the Algerian flag are abundant. Green stands for Islam, while white stands for cleanliness. The white could also symbolize the tranquility Algeria attained after gaining independence. The star and crescent are well-known Islamic symbols. They are red because, according to a widely recognized interpretation, that color stands for the bloodshed during Algeria’s independence struggle.

How Did Colonization Affect the Flag of Algeria?

Flag of Algeria
Algeria adopted its current flag in 1962 when the country gained independence.

©hamdi bendali/Shutterstock.com

During the era of the Berber dynasties, each dynasty had a flag. When the Ottoman Empire seized control of Algeria in 1525, they adopted a flag with red and a yellow crescent. Algeria united while under Ottoman administration and remained so until 1830, when the French arrived. Their appearance upstaged the Ottomans, and they made their blue, white, and red flag the recognized flag of the Algerian area.

Originally, the Algerian flag was a military flag. Although the initial design did not have a star or crescent, it was the first Algerian flag to feature green and white. When he oversaw the defense against the French, Emir Abdel Kadir was the first to fly the banner. Although the defense was unsuccessful, the flag came to represent Algerians in a strong way.

The first time the government of Algeria adopted a green and white flag, the white band was much wider. In fact, it covered 75% of the flag. This version was in use until 1962, when Algeria gained independence and adopted the current flag.

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Algerian flag
The flag of Algeria represents Islam and purity and the blood shed by its people.
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About the Author

For six years, I have worked as a professional writer and editor for books, blogs, and websites, with a particular focus on animals, tech, and finance. When I'm not working, I enjoy playing video games with friends.

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Sources
  1. Flags World, Available here: https://flagsworld.org/algeria-flag.html
  2. Map PR, Available here: https://www.mappr.co/flag-maps/algeria/
  3. Kawa News, Available here: https://kawa-news.com/en/what-does-the-algerian-flag-mean/