It didn’t always look like it does now. It is wrapped in lots of myths and stories. We struggled for our independence under the flag, and it covers our soldiers who are protecting our independence today in Donbas. Here are the most interesting facts about one of the key symbols of Ukraine.
The flag is one of three state symbols of Ukraine together with the coats of arms and national anthem. It is regulated by the Constitution in set terms, “the flag with two equal-sized horizontal blue and yellow bands.”
Disrespect to the flag is prosecuted. An individual who puts offensive writings on the flag, tries to tear it, set it on fire etc. will be fined or even arrested. The object of the crime, in this case, is the authority of the state.
The flag is the symbol of the struggle for independence. Ukraine was fighting for its independence several times in the course of history. The blue-and-yellow flag was covering the heads of Ukrainians during the Ukrainian-Polish war (1918-1919) as well as during the Ukrainian-Russian war (1917-1922). Mykhailo Hrushevsky, the president of the Ukrainian People’s Republic (1917-1920), announced these colours as an official symbol of the state.
The location of colours is still being argued. From time to time, some people claim that the yellow band has to be located above the blue one “as it used to be in the Ukrainian People’s Republic.” However, researchers assert that there are no documents proving this exact location of the colours. Postcards of that time depict both variants while black-and-white photos don’t let us indicate how colours were placed. Thus, the proof-points in favour of the “inverted” flag are quite poor.
The Independence, Revolution of Dignity and war in Donbas have been covered with the blue-and-yellow flag. All key events of the Ukrainian independence such as the adoption of the Declaration on State Sovereignty, Constitution, and declaration of independence itself were conducted under this flag. Blue and yellow colours have become a symbol of fighting Russian aggression. This flag is held by Ukrainian soldiers in Donbas who are protecting the country from the enemy.
The first time blue and yellow colours appeared together was on Lviv’s coats of arms in the XIII century. The coats of arms depicting a yellow lion against the blue background were given as a gift to the city of Lviv. The same colours were used by regions’ authorities, royals and noble people. And even Kozaks, especially starting from the XVIII century, used blue and yellow colours on their flags.
However, the Ukrainian flag wasn’t always blue and yellow. It used to be red, crimson, red-and-blue.
Once a Chinese woman asked president Kravchuk to change the location of the colours. At least, it is said that in 1992 Chinese artist Mao Mamo asked Leonid Kravchuk to invert the flag. She is told to have been sure that the blue-and-yellow flag would bring mischiefs and grief to Ukraine. She explained that in Chinese culture, such a combination of colours meant something bad. The inverted location, however, according to the woman, was to bring wellness to the state.
The Flag Day started to be celebrated only in 2004 after the decree of president Kuchma. Before that, it used to be celebrated only in Kyiv on the local level.
An annual ceremony of the state flag-raising across Ukraine was launched in 2009 due to president Yushchenko’s decree.
The first official Soviet bodies to have raised the Ukrainian flag in the USSR were a small village and town in western Ukraine. It happened in 1990 – a year before Ukraine declared its independence.
The USSR prosecuted those who used or even kept blue-and-yellow flags. However, it didn’t stop Ukrainians from streaming the flag and thus opposing the Soviet regime.
In the night of May 1, 1966, two young men raised the yellow-and-blue flag above the Kyiv National Economic University, having torn off the Soviet flag. They made the flag by themselves and wrote on it, “Ukraine hasn’t died yet – it is still alive”. They were sentenced to imprisonment, and even after many years when Ukraine was independent already, they weren’t rehabilitated for a long time.
There were other occurrences of Ukrainians raising their national flag above state and residential buildings of the USSR. They wrote patriotic slogans thus letting the authorities know they were against the Soviet regime.
The date of the celebration of Flag Day can be wrong. At least, some historians are sure it is so. They claim that president Kuchma had set the date of the holiday without consulting with anybody. When Yushchenko became the president, he didn’t correct the mistake and added a ceremony of the flag-raising to the celebration. However, no significant event connected with the flag had happened on this date.
“On August 23, 1991, after the failure of the Putsch in Moscow, some parliamentarians brought the blue-and-yellow flag to the debating chamber of the Parliament,” historians believe that it never happened so. However, this version became so popular that Kuchma used it as a reason for setting the Flag Day on this date. The reality is that there was no Parliament meeting on that day. The fag was brought in the debating chamber on August 24, 1991, in the evening just after the declaration of independence – the minutes prove that.
“Dear Colleagues! I have an offer to make. I’ve been told that outside we have a flag which was present near the Parliament of Russia. I claim this flag to be set in our chamber. I also ask to raise our flag above the Parliament’s building before we adopt the national symbols. Thank you for your attention,” Viacheslav Chornovil (an MP, patriot, presidential candidate for the first elections of Ukraine in 1991, died in a car accident) told.
Ukrainian climbers set the Ukrainian flag on the top of the highest volcano in the world – Ojos del Salado. It is 6872 meters high.
The blue-and-yellow flag was waving above the Donetsk Airport during the whole period of its defence. The enemy was constantly beating the flag, but “cyborgs” (the defenders of the Donetsk Airport are called so) raised it again and again. The Ukrainian flag was waving above the highest object of the airport – the control tower – up until it was destroyed.
The Ukrainian flag has recently been raised in Crimea. At the beginning of August 2019, some local patriots raised the flag in the temporarily occupied territory, namely town of Sudak, Crimea. They did it to commemorate four marines who had died in Pavlopol. Earlier, on December 2018, the flag had also been raised to honour 24 Ukrainian seafarers who are still in the Russian captivity.
Text by Dmytro Zhuravel
Illustrations by Nastasia Petrova