Volume 8 Issue 1 Spring-Summer 2023
By Austin Shinn
he Ukrainian Flag consists of two equal size horizontal bands of light blue and yellow. Since the beginning of the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the Ukrainian flag has become a prominent symbol across the globe. Adorning everything from private homes to government offices, the banner reflects support for the embattled country from every part of the world. But what’s the story behind the brilliant blue and gold banner?
While variants like the modern flag appear in the region as early as the 15th century, the flag we see today first flew over the Lviv magistrate in 1848. This began a tradition of Ukrainian units in the Austrian army using yellow and blue banners. During the Ukrainian struggle for independence, both blue-yellow and yellow-blue banners were used. The flag was banned during the Soviet era between 1919-1991 with people flying the flag prosecuted for criminal propaganda. The flag first reappeared ceremonially in modern history with a raising over the Kyiv city council on July 24, 1990. The flag was provisionally adopted in September 1991 following Ukrainian independence and officially adopted on January 28, 1992.
The Ukrainian flag has a long history rich in symbolism. As required by the Ukrainian constitution, the flag consists of two equal horizontal bands of blue, traditionally a light blue, and yellow. The colors originate in the historic region of Galicia, which included Western Ukraine and Southeastern Poland, where the colors were common on coats of arms. The symbolism in the colors comes from the pre-Christian era with blue symbolizing water and yellow symbolizing fire. When the order is reversed with yellow on top, such as during the Ukrainian National Republic years of 1917-1921, the yellow symbolizes the golden domes of Christian churches while the blue symbolizes the Dnieper River which runs through Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine.
There are rules regarding the flag. By traditional laws of heraldry, the blue should be a sky blue. When hung vertically, the blue should hang on the left or against the mast. The flag can be decorated with fringe if it does not deface the flag. It hangs at full staff on holidays such as New Year’s Day, Ukrainian Unity Day (Jan. 22), Constitution Day (June 28), Day of the National Flag (Aug. 23), Independence Day (Aug. 24), and Armed Forces Day (Dec. 6). It hangs at half staff on Holodomor Memorial Day, the 4th Saturday in November, and whenever the president declares. Flags that can’t be lowered should be adorned with a bow.
With the war with Russia, the flag has spread far beyond its status as a national symbol. The classic gold and blue have become a reflection of unity and courage, a simple way to show support for the country.
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