Espreso. Global

Ukraine celebrates National Flag Day

23 August, 2023 Wednesday

Every year on August 23, Ukraine celebrates the National Flag Day. The flag is a symbol of Ukrainian identity, the struggle for freedom, liberty and independence

The flag’s history

The first usage of the blue and yellow combination in Ukrainian official symbols can be traced back to 1256. Lviv's coat of arms was created in these colors, depicting a yellow lion on a blue backdrop, a gift from Prince Danylo Halytskyi to the city. The gold and blue colors were similarly present in the coat of arms of the Principality of Galicia-Volhynia.

The same combination of colors can be seen on flags, badges, coats of arms, and awards of the Cossack period, especially starting from the 18th century. The Cossacks often had blue flags decorated with golden ornaments, images of Orthodox saints or important Cossack figures.

The contemporary colors of the Ukrainian flag, considered a national symbol, are thought to have emerged during Hetman Ivan Mazepa's rule. The Swedish king granted Mazepa permission to adopt the colors of the Swedish flag in his symbols. This is why the Ukrainian flag resembles the Swedish flag. Under this flag, Mazepa engaged in the Battle of Poltava against Peter the Great.

After the February Revolution of 1917, blue and yellow flags were first displayed in Kyiv, Odesa, and Kharkiv. The announcement of the Central Rada's establishment on March 17 of the same year marked a significant moment. From that point onwards, symbols of Ukrainian statehood began to appear in Kyiv publicly and officially.

The combination of blue and yellow colors finally appeared as a unified national color in the early 20th century. The first official recognition of the blue and yellow flag took place on March 22, 1918, under a law of the Central Rada.

The exact arrangement of colors on the flag of the Ukrainian People's Republic (Ukrainian state with its capital in Kyiv, which in 1917-1921 controlled the territories of central, eastern and southern Ukraine) is still uncertain. It is possible that both variations – blue on top and yellow on the bottom, as well as the reverse – were employed.

After the collapse of the USSR, on August 23, 1991, a group of MPs brought the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag into the session hall of the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine’s parliament, and on September 4 it was solemnly raised over the parliament building. On September 18, 1991, a resolution was signed authorizing "the use of the blue and yellow flag in protocol events," and a resolution of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine of January 28, 1992, granted it the status of the State Flag. The Flag of the State of Ukraine was finally approved by Article 20 of the Constitution of Ukraine in 1996.

The modern holiday was established by a decree of Leonid Kuchma, Ukraine’s second president, in 2004 to foster respect for the state symbols of Ukraine. In 2009, then-President Viktor Yushchenko amended the decree to establish an annual official flag-raising ceremony on August 23.

What does the flag of Ukraine symbolize?

The flag is made up of two equal horizontal stripes of blue (top) and yellow (bottom), with a ratio of the flag's width to its length of 2:3.

There is no official answer as to why Ukraine's flag is blue and yellow. The most popular interpretation says that the blue stripe means a clear sky, and the yellow stripe means a golden wheat field below it.

There is also a version that the colors of the flag have long symbolized the main elements of nature - fire and water. According to religious interpretation, yellow represents God and spirituality, and blue represents everything earthly.

There is a myth that the flag’s colors should be reversed with yellow on top and blue on the bottom, and that the fact that it was rearranged is the main reason for the misfortunes that Ukraine is experiencing. Previously, both color arrangements could be found, and after the overthrow of the Hetmanate in December 1918, the Ukrainian People's Republic government approved the current sequence of stripes.

Interesting facts

During the Soviet era, owning a blue and yellow flag was deemed a criminal offense punishable by up to two years of imprisonment. The public display of the Ukrainian flag was considered an exceptional occurrence during that time.

In 2014, the city of Artemivsk (renamed Bakhmut in 2016) witnessed the unfurling of the largest Ukrainian flag, a 300-kilogram bicolor covering 2,400 square meters. The longest flag stretches for 9.5 kilometers in the Ternopil region, while in Zhytomyr's central square, the largest flag graces the façade of a building.

In 2018, Dnipro city achieved two records: boasting the largest flag displayed over a city and also possessing the flag with the tallest flagpole, soaring to a height of 72 meters. Another noteworthy achievement took place in 2016, when Ukrainian climbers planted a blue and yellow flag atop Ojos del Salado in the Andes, the world's highest volcano, at an altitude of 6,872 meters.

Another interesting fact is that on July 27, 1976, during a soccer match in Montreal between the GDR and USSR national teams, a fan Danylo Myhal ran onto the field wearing an embroidered shirt and holding a Ukrainian flag and danced hopak, a Ukrainian folk dance. The protest lasted 15 seconds, after which the police intervened. At the stadium itself, 150 Ukrainians put up a poster with the words "Freedom to Ukraine!" Myhal explained that he wanted to dramatize the fate of the Ukrainian people and support Ukrainian football players.

During the defense of the Donetsk International Airport, the Cyborgs — Ukrainian servicemen who defended the airport — would raise the national flag atop the buildings despite relentless shelling. The blue-and-yellow flag defiantly waved over the control tower until it was ultimately destroyed by Russian forces. Presently, twice a year, this flag is raised over a military unit in Kropyvnytskyi as a tribute.

The use of the blue and yellow flag today

Today it has become a symbol of the struggle for the national and social rights of the Ukrainian people. The heart of every Ukrainian swells when the national flag is raised. It embodies the age-old aspirations for peace, labor, beauty and wealth of the native land.

As a symbol of the country, the National Flag is the embodiment of national unity, honor and dignity, traditions of state-building, history and the present.

The blue and yellow flag is now used to welcome foreign guests in Ukraine, to bring stars on stage during concerts, to deliver the oath of enlistment for military personnel, to open Ukrainian embassies, to display at the UN, and to fly on all government buildings. 

And since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukrainian territory, it has further symbolized the struggle for freedom, liberty, and independence. During the liberation of a settlement, the Armed Forces of Ukraine raise the blue and yellow flag there. 

Congratulations on the National Flag Day from the military and authorities

"For a Ukrainian, the blue and yellow flag is a star that shows the way to national identity and freedom. Happy holiday, Ukraine!" wrote the North Operational Command.

The Special Operations Forces noted, "The symbol with which we win. A symbol with which we overcome difficulties. A symbol without which the Ukrainian nation does not exist. Its colors make the Russian enemy get bitter, and Ukrainians gain hope. We carry it with pride wherever we are. And we kill for our flag to be raised over our land. Happy National Flag Day!"

The General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces wrote that the flag of Ukraine is a symbol of the country’s history, a source of patriotism and pride. The crown of the dream of statehood, unity and independence. The personification of the courage of the soldiers who defend the country.

"The blue and yellow flag flutters above us in moments of triumph and sadness. Unfurl your flag today and raise it as a sign of unbreakable strength and faith in your own power. As long as we are alive, no flag of any other color will ever be raised over Ukraine. Happy National Flag Day! Glory to Ukraine!" said Lieutenant General Serhiy Shaptala, Chief of the General Staff of the Ukrainian Armed Forces.

The Air Assault Troops also congratulated the Ukrainians.

"On our shoulders, in our hands or in our hearts... it is always with us! Our native blue and yellow flag is our symbol of the struggle for freedom, our battle banner, our talisman!" the Ministry of Defense wrote.

As emphasized, the Ukrainian defenders go into battle with it, and it will be raised on the occasion of Ukraine’s Victory! It will also be raised during the process of rebuilding the towns and villages of Ukraine destroyed by Russia.

"The National Flag of Ukraine has become a symbol of the fight against tyranny and terrorism for the whole world and will forever be one of the symbols of our statehood. The flag of invincibility, freedom and courage will certainly return to all Ukrainian territories and be raised over the space of victory, freedom and democracy. Glory to the Ukrainian flag! Glory to Ukraine!" the ministry added on Telegram.

In turn, the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine Ruslan Stefanchuk called the blue and yellow flag "the flag of free people of a free country."

"On this day, as we celebrate the Day of the National Flag of Ukraine, we know that only our colors will adorn our land. From every corner of our country, the blue and yellow will fly high. And our colors will surely reclaim their place in the temporarily occupied territories.  After all, this is what the selfless and brave Ukrainian people, courageous defenders are fighting for, who are taking back our territories step by step, at the cost of extraordinary efforts, and by tearing down Russian tricolors, are reinstating our flag!" he said.

Stefanchuk noted that blue and yellow is on the armor of the Ukrainian military, in children's drawings, in the windows of Ukrainians, and at solidarity rallies with Ukraine, "The whole world knows the Ukrainian Flag! The whole world honors the Ukrainian Flag! And it is the Flag of Victory! Glory to Ukraine.”

The Kyiv City Military Administration also congratulated the Ukrainians. They say that the flag is a symbol of the struggle of Ukrainians for their freedom. It is a banner of opposition to the evil empires - Russian tsarism, Soviet power, and Putin's ruscism. 

"Right now there is a bloody and fierce struggle between good and evil. And the symbol of victory in this war is the blue and yellow flag. Under our flag, we are bringing peace to Ukraine after our Victory."

The head of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine, Serhiy Deineko, wrote in his congratulations on Flag Day that the Ukrainian flag "demonstrates our dignity and achievements." 

"Today, the whole country honors the Blue and Yellow Flag, which has gone through the times of the Ukrainian people's struggle for an independent united state to become a real sign of invincibility. It is always in our hearts and proudly flies over our buildings. The National Ukrainian Flag embodies the country's independence and was rightfully introduced to the Verkhovna Rada on the day the Act of Independence of Ukraine was adopted," wrote Deineko.

"Soldiers of many generations went into battle with it. Under it, Ukrainian defenders continue to fight for the victory over the enemy who came to our land with war. The National Flag demonstrates our dignity and achievements. Every time we proudly watch it rise, we realize our involvement in traditions and history, and even more so, our responsibility to the future. The future where our children and descendants grow up in peace, free, happy and with our historical symbol," the Head of the State Border Guard Service emphasized.

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