The Flag of North Macedonia: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

Written by Alan Lemus
Updated: May 3, 2023
© Osman Bugra Nuvasil/
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The origins of the first flag are still unclear, but every government, group of people, or military has a unique story as to why they chose to use a particular flag.  

A flag is not just a piece of cloth hanging in the air, but a symbol of patriotism for a country. Officials carefully settle on a design and colors for their flag. In fact, a flag can take a long time to design, especially when various views are considered. Each color, pattern, and symbol used has a meaning, with some representing a particular country’s culture, heritage, sports, navy, economy, or origin.  

North Macedonia is a landlocked country located in southeastern Europe on the Balkan Peninsula. It borders Serbia, Greece, Bulgaria, and Albania. North Macedonia has a dispute with Greece over the use of this name, as the latter has a region in the north known as Macedonia. The country’s lifestyle and culture have European and Ottoman influences. The flag of North Macedonia plays a significant role in representing the country’s history and freedom, as stated in its national anthem. However, it took a long time before the government settled on the current flag.  

So, why did North Macedonia take time to settle on a flag? What designs and colors did they finally choose? What is the symbolism of their current flag?

Let us examine the North Macedonian flag’s history, meaning, and symbolism!  

History of the North Macedonian Flag

A national flag symbolizes unity, the pride of a country, independence, and the country’s heritage. It is a reminder of the sacrifices freedom fighters made.

North Macedonia was declared independent from Yugoslavia in September 1991. Before the adoption of its current flag, North Macedonia had several flags, each with different symbolism and reasons for existence.

Let us look at each of them: 

The Flag of Independent North Macedonia (1944)

This independent region of North Macedonia was short-lived. It was a puppet state of Nazi Germany. That means North Macedonia was still under Germany’s control, although it was technically a free country. They used a flag with two equal parts in red and black divided horizontally. These are the traditional colors of Slavic Macedonia. 

The People’s Republic of North Macedonia’s Flag (1946)

This region was formerly called Democratic Federal Macedonia. The legislative body proclaimed this name on August 2, 1944. The flag had a five-edged yellow star on a red background. 

The Socialist Republic of North Macedonia’s Flag (1946 to 1992)

This was the only Yugoslavia republic that couldn’t use Pan-Slavic colors (red, blue, and white). 

North Macedonia, therefore, took an improved design of the former flag. The flag had a star with five points and a golden edge resting on a red background. This design was similar to the design of the flag of China. 

North Macedonia started using this flag on December 31, 1946, under the constitution of North Macedonia. However, it continued using this flag long after independence due to disagreements on which other design to use.       

The Kutlesh Flag (1992 to 1995)

The nationalist president of the World Macedonian Congress proposed Vergina Sun as the country’s new symbol in 1991. On August 11, 1992, North Macedonia replaced its old Communist “red star” with a new image. 

The new flag showed the Vergina Sun stylized in yellow, centered on a red background. Greece regarded the Vergina Sun as a continuity symbol between them and North Macedonia. The flag had eight prominent rays and eight smaller rays from the sun. 

The North Macedonian people discovered this symbol in Greece during an archaeological excavation of ancient Macedonia. 

Back in 1970, Greece adopted the Vergina Sun as a historical symbol that connected the two states. Later, the flag, the constitution, and the name Macedonia became a subject of disagreement between the two countries. The conflict led to an economic blockade imposed by Greece on North Macedonia from February 1994 to May 1995.

In October 1995, Greece lifted the blockade following North Macedonia’s agreement to modify the constitution, change the flag, and resolve disputes by entering negotiations led by the United Nations. 

Many people resisted the new flag. Greek patriots, nationalists, and conservative North Macedonians initially opposed it. 

In the first years of change, North Macedonia would raise both flags. From 1995 to 1998, the then-opposition party VROM-DPMNE raised the old flag in municipalities where it ruled. However, the self-proclaimed patriots and conservatives remained hostile toward the change. Only about 57% of the population adopted the difference. Popular opinions did not agree on the advantages of changing the flag. 

In 2018, there was an agreement to resolve the dispute. However, the North Macedonian government decided to do away with the Vergina Sun in public places and prohibited its public use.

The Current North Macedonian Flag

Macedonia flag in the wind
The North Macedonian flag’s sun is associated with Greek art, which has depictions of the ancient gods.


Before adopting the current flag of North Macedonia, several people made proposals for a design, but they settled on Miroslav Grčev’s work. It was adopted on October 5, 1995, and celebrated on May 15, 2010. This date was declared the annual celebration day of the flag of North Macedonia.  

The Meaning and Symbolism of the North Macedonian Flag

With a population of over two million, North Macedonia is united under one official flag. This flag portrays a yellow sun with rays originating from it on a red background. These eight rays extend from the middle towards the margin as they broaden, representing “the new sun of liberty,” also considered “The new sun of North Macedonia.”

The sun is associated with Greek art, which has depictions of the ancient gods. They found the craft in a golden box in a North Macedonian tomb. The box contained human ashes believed to belong to one ruling family member just before Alexander the Great reigned. 

North Macedonia has been using the sun as its symbol ever since. However, the use of the same sun style on modern North Macedonian flags was hindered by some political opinions, because it was thought to be a symbol of Greece. Eventually, the government agreed to modify the constitution and change the flag. 

The flag of North Macedonia has yellow and red, the people’s patriotic colors. North Macedonians are proud of these colors, which stand for the field and the sun. These colors represent the historical colors of the North Macedonian coat of arms, and each one of them is symbolic. 


Yellow represents the color of the sun, which implies a new age and liberty. Symbolically, it means a new beginning. Yellow also imitates the golden color depicted in the ancient artifacts’ box, which was the emblem of the North Macedonian royal house. 


Red is the Slavic people’s favorite color. It symbolizes the redness of the flowers that grow in spring and the redness of their blood. To the Slavic people, red also means beautiful.   

Interesting Facts About the North Macedonian Flag

  • The North Macedonian flag has the design of a sun lying on a field with a red background. It has a circle in the middle with yellow rays from the center thickening towards the end. The diameter of the sun disk, together with the overall proportions, are provided in the law. 
  • The circle in the middle is golden and has an imaginary red circle around it. The nation’s parliament proposed the circle as an amendment to the original flag. They changed the proportions from 5:8 to 1:2. 
  • In 2015, the flag was added as an Emoji 1.0. 
  • The largest North Macedonian flag ever used measured 28 meters in width and 50 meters in length. Its weight was about 200 kilograms. This flag was made for a football match between Macedonia and England. The match was played on September 6, 2006, in Skopje, the capital. The flag was later given to the fans as a reward by Skopje Brewery. 
  • North Macedonia celebrates its flag day every year. The first Flag Day was celebrated on May 15, 2010.

Why the North Macedonia People Respect Their Flag

A flag is an important symbol in any country. For Macedonia, landing on their design took time and struggle. However, when they finally chose one, the flag became the most respected symbol for their country.  

Here are reasons why North Macedonians respect their flag:

  • It reminds them of their struggle for independence. After gaining their freedom and finally flying their flag, the people of North Macedonia have since greatly respected their flag. It reminds them of the struggle they went through to achieve freedom. 
  • Represents their identity. Every time North Macedonia’s flag is in the air, it symbolizes who they are and the beauty of the red flowers that grow in the spring.
  • It represents their unity. The flag of North Macedonia represents a new beginning. It serves as a reminder to the people of the importance of staying united as a nation.    
  • It shows the beauty of their country. The flag of North Macedonia shows how beautiful the country is. The yellow color on the flag represents the brightly shining sun, meaning it is an amazing place to be. 

Final Thoughts

North Macedonia is a beautiful country with a long history and a rich heritage. Its national flag reminds its citizens of the long struggle for independence. The flag also carries North Macedonians’ future aspirations.

After a long struggle, North Macedonia finally gained independence from the Yugoslav Republic. As a result, the country was able to design and adapt its national flag, independent from that of Greece. The new flag symbolizes North Macedonia’s freedom and the country’s willingness to adapt to change.   

Today, the North Macedonian flag is seen everywhere. It is flown in front of official government offices and institutions, as well as during sporting events and political rallies. It is a symbol of national unity and represents the North Macedonian heritage. In addition, schools in North Macedonia educate kids on the significance and symbolism of the flag.   

The political hostility that existed between Greece and North Macedonia was finally settled. As a result, North Macedonia buried the flag issue in the books of history. The flag is now used to promote tourism and the beauty of North Macedonia, while at the same time symbolizing the Sun of Liberty.

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Macedonia's flag
The flag of Macedonia features a large sun.
© Osman Bugra Nuvasil/

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About the Author

Alan is a freelance writer and an avid traveler. He specializes in travel content. When he visits home he enjoys spending time with his family Rottie, Opie.

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