>Czech flag turns 90 – or does it?


Czech radio reports on its website that the Czech flag turns 90 today, having been designed in 1920. However, while the design of the flag may indeed have entered its ninth decade, for most of that time it was the flag of Czechoslovakia, red and white being the traditional colours of Bohemia, while the blue wedge was added to represent Slovakia. It was only taken over as the Czech flag when the Czechoslovak federation split up and the Czech Republic and Slovakia became independent states, making the Czech flag more of an upstart teenage than a venerable old banner.

Interestingly, Moravian and Silesia – the two other historic provinces that make up the Czech lands don’t , iconographically speaking, didn’t seem get a look in, perhaps because they were rather disapproved of politically in 1918 – the new state was supposed to be an expression of national statehood, not an assemblage of Habsburg provinces. The Czech Republic’s coat of arms does now, however, makes up for this by adding Moravian and Silesian eagles to the Bohemia lion (right).

Howver, in these days of political and social malaise – although perhaps you should treat that assertion with caution as, if you believe, the commenatators Czech politics and society are in a permanent state of malaise – some national rerebranding and an alternative national flag might be in order. This is the kind of topic that engages British bloggers, who have spotted that the Union Jack might need a makeover if Scotland goes independent, but doesn’t seem to have come up in a Czech context even during the Czecho-Slovak split.

So what would the options be? Officially, the Czech Republic’s flag in 1990-2 as a constituent part of a newly democratized Czechoslovak Federation was a rather unfetching red and white (right) easily confused with the Polish one, which also served as the Czechoslovak flag in 1918-20, so that was clearly a non-starter. A few far-right Czech bloggers want a black, red and white one with echoes of the Imperial Germany and on the same theme the wartime Nazi Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia had a non-descript red-blue-white tricolour (above left), but we don’t think we want to go there. At the time of the Czecho-Slovak split in 1992, Czech politicians did promise not to use the old Czechoslovak flag for the independent CR, but to revisit some of the rejected designs from 1919-20. However, as most of these echo the flags of Panama, Texas or some kind anarcho-syndicalist banner, it’s not surprising they went back on their word and stuck to Jaroslav Kursa’s classic 1920 design – pragmatism is one of many Czech virtues. The best of a not very good selection of proposed Czechoslovak flags of 1918 the period for my money is probably the sweeping asymetric tricolour opposite (left) but to today’s eye that looks far too much the kind of thing you might see flying over the Kremlin, so it looks like the Czechs will just have to stick to the one they have after all.

Perhaps they should call on David Černý of Entropa fame to do the next one?

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