The Flag of Georgia: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

Written by Taiwo Victor
Published: January 21, 2023
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Georgia is a transcontinental country strategically placed between Western Asia and Eastern Europe. The country is surrounded by Azerbaijan to the southeast, Armenia to the south, Turkey to the southwest, Russia to the north and northeast, and the Black Sea to the west.  The country also features three ethnic enclaves: Ajaria in the southwest, South Ossetia in the north, and Abkhazia in the northwest.

Georgia has a total land mass of 69,700 km² (26,911 square miles) with about 3.7 million people residing in the land. Its capital is Tbilisi, which also doubles as Georgia’s largest city. While the country’s official language is Georgian, the residents also speak Armenian and Russian.

Georgia’s flag can be traced back to St. George, one of the country’s patrons. Was the flag’s adoption an easy process? Find out below!

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Founding of Georgia

The area now known as Georgia was once inhabited by a neolithic culture between 6000 and 5000 BCE. The Kura-Araxes culture also settled in the land between the third and fourth millennia BCE, with the Trialeti culture coming in the second millennium BCE.

From 2100 to 750 BCE, this region was invaded by the Hittites, Medes, Uratians, Cimmerians, and Proto-Persians. By the end of the eighth century, the area had been separated into two kingdoms that would later play important roles in Georgian statehood and culture. These two kingdoms were the Kingdoms of Iberia in the east and Colchis in the west. 

In the early 11th century, the Kingdoms of Iberia and Colchis were unified by the King Bagrat III of Georgia to become the Kingdom of Georgia. This new kingdom prospered under the rule of King David IV the Builder and Queen Tamar the Great between the 11th and 12th centuries. Unfortunately, the Mongols invaded the kingdom in 1243. Local rulers in the kingdom fought for independence, and the Kingdom of Georgia finally disintegrated in the 15th century. As a result, neighboring kingdoms like the Persian and Ottoman empires took over Georgia from the 16th century. 

Moving on, the Russian Empire annexed Georgia in the 19th century, and Georgia enjoyed short-lived independence between 1918 and 1921 before it was incorporated into the Transcaucasian Socialist Federative Soviet Republic (TFSSR) between 1922 and 1936, alongside Azerbaijan and Armenia. In 1936, the TFSSR split into its component elements, leading to the creation of the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic.

Then, with the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991, Georgia could declare itself independent on the 9th of April, 1991. Zviad Gamsakhurdia was elected president on the 26th of May, 1991, but was killed in a bloody coup d’etat. This led to a civil war in the country that lasted till 1995.

History of the Flag of Georgia

The flag of Georgia was adopted in 2004.

©iStock.com/bruev

Several kingdoms existed before they all came together to form Georgia, but these kingdoms used cherry red and white, as well as black, for their flags. These flags were used mainly by royalty or military forces. Queen Tamar, who was one of Georgia’s most famous rulers, used a white flag featuring a dark red cross and a star. However, all these flags ceased to exist when Russia annexed the country in 1801.

After Georgia gained its first independence in 1918, the country adopted an official flag that was initially flown on the 25th of March, 1917. It had a cherry red field with a canton of white and black stripes. The cherry red was and is still considered Georgia’s national color; the white stripe represented the hopes for the future, while the black symbolized past tragedies. This flag was used until the Soviet Union took over in 1921.

Once the Union took over, Georgia flew different flags until it finally adopted one on the 11th of April, 1951. This had a red field with a blue canton and red rays encircling a red hammer, star, and sickle. A blue horizontal stripe extended from the canton to the end of the flag.

Then, the flag flown between 1918 and 1921 was readopted on the 14th of November, 1990, a few months before Georgia gained independence.

In 1999, Georgia’s current flag design was proposed to be adopted as the national flag. It was a flag with a white field and five red crosses—one large cross and four smaller ones. While the Georgia legislature voted to make it the country’s official flag in 1999, the president at that time, Eduard Shevardnadze, refused to sign the bill. Afterward, the flag was used by people who opposed Shevardnadze’s government. The flag was finally signed into law on the 14th of January, 2004, following the installment of a new national government.

The Symbolism of the Flag of Georgia

The crosses on the Georgian flag represent the religiosity of Georgia

©iStock.com/Timur Malazoniia

The national flag of Georgia is also known as the five-cross flag. It’s a basic design consisting of a white field and a large red cross taking up the center position and touching all four sides of the flag. And in each corner, there are four smaller crosses having the same color as the large cross.

The meaning of the features on the flag is as simple as the flag’s design itself. The big cross is the cross of St. George, which symbolizes Jesus Christ the Savior, while the four smaller ones represent the four evangelists. Overall, the crosses symbolize the religiosity of Georgia.

In heraldry, white represents purity, innocence, and wisdom, and red symbolizes love, justice, bravery, and courage.

Why Do Georgia and England Have Similar Flags?

flag of England

The English flag is also known as the St. George’s cross

©Pavlo Lys/Shutterstock.com

Georgia and England have the cross of St. George on their flags; how did this happen? Georgia adopted the red cross of St. George in 319 AD following its conversion to Christianity. In fact, it was a prominent feature on the flag of the Kingdom of Iberia at that time. Also, the cross was used as a national symbol at the peak of the Kingdom of Georgia’s prosperity in the 12th century. 

Around this period, this cross found its way to England and was initially adopted by London in 1170. Over the years, the king of England has fully adopted St. George as its patron, and the cross has become one of its national symbols. This is why the saint’s cross is one prominent feature on both countries’ flags.

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


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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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