The Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

Written by Hannah Ward
Published: December 20, 2022
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Flags are often known for their bright and distinctive appearances. In many cases, they are an important part of the history of the country they represent. A nation’s flag quite often symbolizes what the country stands for and reflects its history. So what about the flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina? Let’s learn all about its history, meaning, and symbolism!

Characteristics of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Bosnia and Herzegovina bridge

Bosnia has a mainly continental climate with hot summers and snowy winters, while Herzegovina has a Mediterranean climate.

©iStock.com/Greg Sullavan

This country is located in the Balkans in southeast Europe. Bosnia is the inland region of the country, while Herzegovina is the smaller, southern region. Bosnia has a mainly continental climate with hot summers and snowy winters, while Herzegovina has a Mediterranean climate.

The country has a short 12 mile coastline on the Adriatic Sea. Much of the country is comprised of mountains and forests, while the land along the Sava River is rich and fertile farmland. This river is the largest in the country and forms a natural northern border with Croatia.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is home to three main ethnic groups – Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs. Although it has no official languages, Bosnian, Croatian, and Serbian are common.

Tourism is also important to the nation, with many people attracted to its diverse natural and untouched beauty. Sarajevo, the largest city as well as the capital, ranks as one of the best cities to visit in Europe.

The Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina Through the Years

Bosnia and Herzegovina has had many different flags throughout it’s rich and varied history. However, they can be divided into four main periods – historical flags pre 1878, the Austro-Hungarian rule, the Yugoslav period, and the post Yugoslav era.

Flags Pre 1878

Bosnia and Herzegovina had many flags in the period prior to 1878. However, the first recognized flag was the flag of the Bosnian Banate. This was a medieval state based in the area that is now Bosnia and Herzegovina. The flag of the Bosnian Banate was in use between 1154 and 1377. This was a dark blue swallow-tailed flag with a white cross in the center.

The next flag was the flag of the Bosnian Kingdom. They flew this flag between 1377 and 1463. Again, it was a dark blue swallow-tailed flag. However, this flag had a white diagonal stripe across it with six Bosnian lilies, three on either side of the line.

Austro-Hungarian Rule

Although there were several other flags that represented Bosnia and Herzegovina after 1463, the next period of significance was that of the Austro-Hungarian rule. In 1878 the Austro-Hungarian army entered Bosnia and Herzegovina. Despite encountering local resistance, they eventually occupied much of the country. From 1878 to 1908 the flag of the occupied Province of Bosnia was red and yellow with a shield in the center. The upper half of the flag was red, while the lower half was yellow. The occupied Province of Herzegovina used a similar flag during that time, although the placement of the colors differed, and it lacked the shield.

Eventually, Austria-Hungary announced the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1908 and at this point the flag changed again. After the annexation, the flag remained with the red upper half and yellow lower half. However, the shield in the center was removed.

Yugoslav Period

The Second World War brought about another major change for Bosnia and Herzegovina as it became part of Yugoslavia. From 1940 to 1946 the flag of the Bosnian-Herzegovina Partisans was flown. This flag consisted of a red background with the yellow outline of a star in the center.

From 1946 to 1992, the country was the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina within Yugoslavia. During this period the flag was again a red background but had the flag of Yugoslavia in the upper left corner. The flag of Yugoslavia was a tricolor with stripes of blue, white, and red, with a red star outlined in yellow in the center.

Post Yugoslav Period (1992 to Present)

In March 1992, Bosnia and Herzegovina broke away and declared independence from Yugoslavia. They adopted a new flag in May. However, the new flag actually harked back the flag of the Kingdom of Bosnia. It consisted of a blue shield with a white diagonal stripe across it and three Bosnian golden lilies.

Many people felt that the flag only represented the Bosniaks of the country, so officials proposed another change. However, as the government in Bosnia could not agree on a solution, the matter was taken higher. The UN High Representative decided upon a new flag. The flag chosen was one that did not have any ties or historical references to the Bosnian state.

Colors and Symbolism of the Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina

flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina

The three points of the triangle represent of the three main groups of people within Bosnia and Herzegovina – the Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs.

©iStock.com/Oleksii Liskonih

The country adopted the current flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina on February 4, 1998. It features a blue field with a yellow right-angled triangle dividing it. Five-pointed white stars line the diagonal edge of the triangle. Seven complete stars and two half stars are cut off at the top and bottom of the flag.

Although this flag does not represent any individual group within Bosnia, it does still have a lot of meaning. In fact, the three points of the triangle are representative of the three main groups of people within Bosnia and Herzegovina – the Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs. Additionally, the triangle is approximately the same shape as the country of Bosnia and Herzegovina itself.

The colors of the flag represent several things. Blue, white, and yellow symbolize peace and neutrality. These colors have long been associated with Bosnian history, culture, and tradition.

Finally, the stars on the flag are also important. For a start, they represent Europe and the European flag (along with the flag’s blue background). However, the stars are also meant to be infinite in number. This is why there are half stars at the top and bottom of the flag. If we look closer, we can see that the two halves would actually form a whole star if joined together.

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The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/EA


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About the Author

Hannah is a writer at A-Z animals where her primary focus is on reptiles, marine life, mammals, and geography. Hannah has been writing and researching animals for four years alongside running her family farm. A resident of the UK, Hannah loves riding horses and creating short stories.

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Sources
  1. Britannica, Available here: https://www.britannica.com/topic/flag-of-Bosnia-and-Herzegovina
  2. Wikipedia, Available here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_flags_of_Bosnia_and_Herzegovina