Bulgaria’s flag is a rectangular-shaped tricolor with white, green, and red. The colors are in the form of three horizontal bars of equal width running from top to bottom.
Bulgaria achieved its first period of independence after the 1877 to 1878 Turkish–Russian war, which resulted in Russia defeating the Ottoman Empire. After the war, Bulgaria was finally freed from Ottoman Rule.
Bulgaria’s flag identifies it as an independent state. The flag’s top is white, with green in the middle, and red at the bottom.
Bulgaria launched its current national flag on November 22, 1990. So, what’s the history behind this flag? What does it mean, and what does it symbolize?
Let’s discover the history, meaning, and symbolism of the flag of Bulgaria.
History of the Flag of Bulgaria
The earliest documented Bulgarian flag was a simple white pennant with three red lions around a white shield. This design was based on Tsar Ivan Shishman’s arms, which controlled the Second Bulgarian Empire during that time.
After Tsar Ivan Shishman, the Ottoman Empire took over and flew a flag with a white star and a new moon on a crimson background.
In 1879, the independent state of Bulgaria adopted a tricolor flag of white, green, and red to represent its nation. The country was keen on underlining its relationship with Russia—hence, it designed a flag identical to the Russian one.
The Bulgaria People’s Republic assumed control in 1948, and it positioned a lion and a red-star emblem on the flag’s white stripe. The Bulgaria People’s Republic frequently changed its symbols; hence there were several distinct variations of the flag.
When the communist regime was overthrown in 1990, Bulgarians decided to reinstate the previous design of their flag.
The contemporary Bulgarian flag is multicolored, with three equal-sized horizontal stripes.
The present flag was re-established following the country’s constitution in 1991, and its legitimacy was reaffirmed by a law passed in 1998.
Meaning of the Bulgarian Flag
The White Color
The white color represents peace, neutrality, love, purity, brotherhood, and freedom.
Peace and Neutrality
The flag’s white color represents peace and neutrality. This is because the country was freed from Ottoman Empire rule in 1878, after which it became independent and enjoyed peace for a long time.
Peace and neutrality were essential elements of Bulgarian history. For many years before independence, Bulgarians were oppressed by their rulers. For instance:
- They had to speak Turkish in public
- They could not wear traditional Bulgarian clothing
- They were denied the right to practice their religion
- Their schools were closed
The situation worsened when hundreds of thousands of Muslim peasants from Anatolia migrated into Bulgaria, along with refugees from Serbia and Montenegro after Turkey invaded those countries in 1876. The immigrants took the jobs held by Christian Bulgarians.
Bulgaria’s peace has been remarkable since communism collapsed. The country is a prime example of how a struggling nation can spring back to life.
The country’s highly trained army commits to worldwide peacekeeping operations. Bulgaria has contributed over 2,000 troops and police officers to UN peacekeeping forces since 1992.
In addition, Bulgaria has participated in NATO-led peacekeeping missions in Bosnia and Kosovo following the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. Bulgaria joined NATO in 2004 and the EU in 2007.
In addition, Bulgaria has a low crime rate, making it one of the safest European countries.
Love, Purity, and Brotherhood
The white color also represents love, purity, and brotherhood. Since independence, Bulgarians have been loving people, taking each other as family. The country has a strong relationship with its neighboring countries as well.
Bulgarians allow foreigners to invest in the country and are willing to work with countries worldwide to achieve economic success.
In Bulgaria, many non-profit charity organizations are working to help people in need. Children of Bulgaria is an organization that helps children and families in need.
Charity organizations provide food, clothing, medicine, and more to those who cannot afford them. They also give scholarships and help with homework.
Bulgaria has also demonstrated love by allowing Ukrainian refugees to enter the country following the war between Ukraine and Russia. Furthermore, Bulgarians have contributed their time, money, and energy to help the Ukrainian refugees who have lost everything due to the ongoing conflict in their country.
The white color on the Bulgarian flag also represents freedom among the country’s citizens. The concept was fundamental to the people who advocated for the creation of the modern nation.
During the initial stages of creating a new national identity, Bulgaria felt dominated by its neighbors, particularly Russia and Turkey, who had dominated and ruled the country for many years.
Today, Bulgarians enjoy freedom of movement. They can travel within the European Union and to various parts of the world without restrictions.
In addition, Bulgaria has progressively won the war on corruption and is now almost corruption-free. This is a goal the country has aspired to achieve since it gained independence. The governing structure is similar to that of some other European countries, such as Germany and France, where checks and balances keep government officials from abusing power.
Bulgarians enjoy sharing their opinions and ideas as freedom of expression is guaranteed by Bulgarian law and is part of the democratic process that has developed since independence.
Although all citizens may enjoy the freedom of expression, it is not without limitations. The law limits this right in an effort to protect other people’s public safety and morality. This means that there are certain things that you cannot say or publish, even if they are true.
In Bulgaria, you cannot use the freedom of expression to defame someone else or say things that endanger national security.
Bulgarians also enjoy freedom of religion, with four religions officially recognized, the largest being Christianity and Islam. Furthermore, people have the right to exercise their religious beliefs without interference from the state, provided they do not infringe upon the legal protections of others.
Religious groups can also contribute to society through charity work without any hindrances or restrictions on the part of the government.
The Green Color
Green represents the agricultural abundance of Bulgaria. The country has plenty of fertile arable, ideal for livestock and agricultural production.
Bulgaria has four different climatic zones:
- A temperate continental climate in the north
- A mild oceanic climate in the west
- A Mediterranean climate in the south
- A semi-arid climate in the east
This variety of climates means Bulgaria has a vibrant agriculture industry.
Bulgaria produces a wide range of crops, including sunflower seed, barley, rice, grapes, maize, and potatoes. The main crops the country grows are wheat and corn. Bulgaria is one of the largest producers of both crops in Europe. Wheat is used for domestic consumption and export.
They use sunflower seeds for domestic consumption. They use barley in the northwestern parts of the country for brewing beer.
Poultry and pig rearing is a large part of the livestock industry in Bulgaria. The country has several favorable conditions for raising livestock, including low production costs, availability of feeds, and high-quality animal products.
Bulgaria is a perfect place for nature lovers because of its diverse terrain—from mountain ranges and sandy beaches to forests and lakes.
The Red Color
The red color represents the struggle for independence and military courage.
The red color is a symbol of the country’s struggle for freedom and independence. Freedom fighters shed blood, and some died in the process.
During the struggle for independence, the persecution of ethnic Bulgarians by Turks reached its peak. The Bulgarian population endured brutal economic exploitation and violent abuse, including heavy taxation and outright theft by corrupt officials.
During war times, women and children suffered the most. With men on the battlefield, women managed farms, businesses, and other home activities.
Bulgaria has a long history of conflict, and its people have suffered greatly during times of war. For example, during World War II, Bulgaria allied with the Axis, and many of its citizens received persecution for their ethnicity or beliefs.
The red color on the flag of Bulgaria also signifies courage and sacrifice, the hallmarks of Bulgarian soldiers. The Military has remained a stable and reliable institution since the fall of the communist regime.
The constitution and the law on defense, adopted in 1998 and amended in 2004, determines the military’s role in Bulgaria.
The National Defense Strategy (NDS), which Parliament adopted in 2002, maintains the military’s traditional role as a guarantor of Bulgaria’s dignity, territorial integrity, and constitutional order.
According to the NDS, the primary national defense tasks include:
- Defend the country and guarantee its territorial integrity.
- Participate in crisis management operations.
- Contribute to international peacekeeping activities.
- Assist in preventing and fighting natural disasters, direct armed attacks against the country, and threats to internal security.
The NDS focuses on national security, as outlined in the Bulgarian Constitution. Therefore, it complies with the NATO and EU strategic concepts.
The Bulgarian army equipment comprises weapons and systems produced or under license from Russia, Ukraine, Belarus, Israel, France, the Czech Republic, and Sweden.
The Bulgarian military budget is one of the lowest in Europe and is half the average of what NATO requires member states to spend on defense. Although the budget is small for such a large country, the government seems to have no problem maintaining a steady military presence and training level.
Although Bulgaria has faced many hardships throughout its history, it has retained a stable military force. Bulgaria is proud of its professional and courageous service men and women.
The lion is another bravery symbol in Bulgaria, which is conspicuous on the country’s coat of arms. Similarly, ancient aristocrats wore clothes and jewelry featuring the lion symbol as early as the 13th Century. Interestingly, the King of the Jungle was cemented as part of Bulgaria’s heraldry after the Ottoman Empire took over the reins of power.
The Bulgarian flag means a lot to Bulgarians. It reminds them of the nation’s struggle before independence. The flag’s red, green, and white colors have three critical meanings. Red means the struggle for independence, white represents peace, and green signifies Bulgaria’s rich agricultural lands.
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- History, Available here: https://www.history.com/topics/middle-east/ottoman-empire
- Commons, Available here: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Coat_of_Arms_of_the_Bulgarian_Tsar_Ivan_Shishman_(1371-1395).jpg
- NATO, Available here: https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_52060.htm
- National Geographic, Available here: https://education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/all-about-climate