The Flag of Turkey: History, Meaning, and Symbolism

flag of Turkey
© Efasein/Shutterstock.com

Written by Jennifer Gaeng

Published: December 31, 2022

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The Turkish flag is a crimson flag with a white star and crescent, and it is the country’s official flag. it is also known as “the red flag,” or al bayrak, and “the red banner,” al sancak, in the Turkish national song. The modern Turkish flag is an exact descendant of the Ottoman flag, which was first used in the late 1700s and finally settled in 1844. The Turkish Flag Law, enacted on May 29, 1936, codified the dimensions, geometric proportions, and precise shade of red of the flag of Turkey.

The flag of Turkey History

The Ottoman dynasty was responsible for Turkey’s first national flag. They took over in 1299, but it wasn’t until the Tanzimat reorganization of the Ottoman Empire in 1844 that there was an official flag for Turkey. From the late 18th century or early part of the 19th century, the star and crescent pattern can be seen on Ottoman flags. In 1844, a white star and crescent moon on a crimson background became the official flag of the Ottoman Empire. The final flag of the Ottoman Empire was kept flying by the new administrative government after the Republic of Turkey was declared in 1923. In 1936, Turkey passed the Flag Law, which established some proportional standards.

The flag that eventually became the Turkish national flag was adopted by the navy in June 1793, however back then the star had eight instead of five points. Around the year 1844, an effort was undertaken to reduce the number of star points. On June 5, 1936, following the revolution led by Atatürk, who had proclaimed a republic in 1923 following the fall of the Ottoman dynasty, the flag design was approved once again as the Turkish national banner. This version has remained in use ever since.

The Legend Behind the Flag of Turkey

The Ottomans occasionally used a dream attributed to Osman I, the founder of the Ottoman family, in order to explain the crescent and star sign. In the dream, Osman I supposedly saw the moon rise from the bosom of Sheikh Edebali, whose daughter he desired to marry. “When it was full, he could feel it sink into his own chest. Then a tree erupted from his loins, and as it expanded, it cast its shade over the entire planet.” Underneath it, Osman could see the earth stretch out before him, topped by the crescent.

The Flag of Turkey Design

flag of Turkey

The Turkish flag is used for national days and special country occasions.

©REC Stock Footage/Shutterstock.com

On a red background, the Turkish flag features a white crescent-shaped moon and pentacle star. The flag is rectangular in shape with the moon and the star in the center.

The Flag of Turkey Symbolism

Although several legends attempt to explain the color red along with the moon crescent and star, none of them provide a solid historical explanation. The crescent and star are commonly associated with Islam, yet its origins date back much before the religion’s establishment. A crescent moon was a religious emblem for ancient Middle Eastern cultures, and the goddess Diana was worshiped in the ancient city of Byzantium.

Muslim Turkic peoples from Central Asia conquered the Anatolian peninsula, and later Constantinople, and incorporated the Anatolian flag’s crescent and star design into their own plain red flags. This furthered the flag’s association with Islam. All through the Ottoman Empire, a variety of Turkish flags were flown, although they often included a crescent and star on a red or green background.

As legend has it, the flag’s design was inspired by the moon and star mirrored in a bloody pool at the height of the Battle of Kosovo.   When flown, the flag is often flown vertically with the moon and star facing downward.

Special Occasions

The Turks enjoy commemorating various national holidays, including Republic Day and the anniversary of military achievements. On patriotic holidays, citizens take to the streets to wave the flag of Turkey and rejoice. During other events, such as during protests or memorial services, the flag is used less ceremoniously. Flags may be draped over statues and monuments, and patriotic music may be played. The flag and a picture of Atatürk are shown on television screens during these celebrations as well. In commemoration of significant dates or in tribute to the victims of tragedies, the flag may also be flown at half-staff.

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About the Author

Jennifer Gaeng is a writer at A-Z-Animals focused on animals, lakes, and fishing. With over 15 years of collective experience in writing and researching, Jennifer has honed her skills in various niches, including nature, animals, family care, and self-care. Hailing from Missouri, Jennifer finds inspiration in spending quality time with her loved ones. Her creative spirit extends beyond her writing endeavors, as she finds joy in the art of drawing and immersing herself in the beauty of nature.

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