Have you ever paused to wonder about the meaning behind your country’s flag? It may seem like an ordinary object, but flags represent so much more than they appear on their surface. The flag of Lithuania is no different — it has a long and meaningful history, with symbolism that reflects the past as well as modern times.
Lithuania has not one but two official flags! A historic coat of arms and a modern tricolor flag. Here, we will explore the history of the Lithuanian flag from its creation in 1918 to this day, discuss each color, and what it symbolizes for Lithuania’s heritage. So get ready to learn about everything related to Lithuania’s beloved tricolor!
Brief History Of Lithuania
Lithuania has a rich and fascinating history that spans over 1,000 years. It is one of the oldest countries in Europe, with the first known settlers arriving in the region as early as 12,000 BC. The first Baltic tribes from whom modern Lithuanians are descended came to the area as far back as 2500 BC.
Throughout its history, Lithuania has been ruled by a series of different powers, including the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, the German Empire, the Russian Empire, and the Soviet Union. In 1918, Lithuania declared its independence from Russia and was an independent country until WWII. Modern-day Vilnius (the current capital of Lithuania) was part of Poland during this brief period of independence. During World War II, the Nazis briefly occupied Lithuania, and eventually, the Soviet Union took control of the territory, and Lithuania became a part of the USSR.
In 1990, Lithuania once again declared its independence, and it has been a sovereign state ever since.
Today, Lithuania is part of the European Union and NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization). It continues to honor its unique culture, which blends elements of Catholic traditions and pagan folklore. Despite numerous upheavals throughout history, there is one thing that Lithuanians have never lost: pride in their nation’s rich heritage.
History Of Lithuanian Flag
The historical Lithuanian flag has been in use since the early 15th century. Initially, it stood for the Grand Duke of Lithuania. However, from the middle of the 16th century until the end of the 18th, it also symbolized the entire Grand Duchy of Lithuania, which was a Kingdom under the Polish-Lithuanian commonwealth.
Like many other European nations, the national flag was inspired by the coat of arms. Records of conflicts between the Teutonic Order and Lithuanian (Trakai) kings include the first known reference to the Lithuanian flag. According to Wigand of Marburg’s chronicle, in 1337, Tilman Zumpach, leader of the riflemen of the Teutonic knights, destroyed a Lithuanian flag with a flaming spear during the fight at Bayerburg Castle (near Veliuona).
20th Century Onwards
In the early 20th century, Lithuania was a part of the Russian empire. But as the Russian Empire was collapsing to the Red army, Lithuanian independence was on the minds of many. The historical banner of Lithuania depicts a white knight on a red background. It was proposed by Jonas Basanaviius to be officially recognized as the flag of Lithuania when the nation declared independence in 1918. But the plan was initially shot down because of the flag’s red color. This is because it was seen as being too closely associated with the communist revolutionary movement.
Both the modern tricolor flag and the historical flag were adopted by the Council of Lithuania in 1918. The historical flag has a white knight on a red background on one side of the flag and the Columns of the Gediminids on the other. The President of the Republic used the historical flag throughout his official duties. Located in Kaunas, the temporary capital of Lithuania, it floated above the Presidential Palace and the War Museum.
Current Flag of Lithuania
The current flag of Lithuania was established on April 25, 1918, around two months after independence was declared. But Lithuania’s period of independence, from 1918 to 1940, was brief. The Soviet Union invaded the nation initially, followed by Nazi Germany, and then eventually the Soviet Union once again.
The Soviet takeover of Lithuania resulted in the abandonment of the Republic of Lithuania’s flag and its replacement with the flag of Soviet Union. This red flag eventually evolved into a large red strip with the iconic golden hammer and sickle with smaller green and white stripes underneath it. In 1990, Lithuania declared independence yet again, and the official tricolor flag was adopted.
On July 8, 2004, the Seimas of the Republic of Lithuania revised the Law on the National Flag of Lithuania to also include the historical coat of arms with a white knight on a red backdrop. This acknowledged the significance of the historical flag and its several hundred-year history. It was given the designation “historical national flag of Lithuania” to differentiate it from the current Lithuanian flag.
Symbolism in the Lithuanian Flag
The traditional red heraldic flag with the knight was brought back into use after Lithuania won its independence from the Russian Empire on February 16, 1918. The stylized white gates, known as the Columns of Gediminas, could be seen on the back side of the flag. However, the flag’s complexity made it impractical for use as a standard national banner. So, on August 1, 1922, they formally adopted a basic tricolor that had been flown since November 11, 1918.
The tricolor was restored on March 20, 1989. This was a year before Lithuania declared independence from the U.S.S.R., after years of Soviet control under a modified version of the Red Banner. It is believed that the flag’s three horizontal stripes of yellow, green, and red represent important cultural aspects of Lithuanian history and identity.
The flag’s bright yellow color represents prosperity and joy. Green for trees, grass, freedom, and optimism. The bravery and sacrifice of those who fell for Lithuania are represented by the color red.
Today, the flag has evolved into a potent emblem of freedom, democracy, national pride, and independence for the nation. Civilians fly the flag with pride because of their nation’s long and historical participation in the battle for sovereignty. No matter where you go in the world, whether in Lithuania or abroad, you’ll be sure to get a glimpse of this resilient tricolor hoisted proudly in the sky.
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- Flags World (1970) https://flagsworld.org/lithuania-flag.html
- Lithuania (1970) https://www.lrs.lt/sip/portal.show?p_r=38112&p_k=2#:~:text=The%20origins%20of%20the%20national,to%20the%20late%2018th%20century.
- The Flager (1970) https://theflager.com/lithuanian-flag/