In contemporary times, it is the national which of all flags raises the most tempestuous of emotions – some may become joyously misty-eyed when one’s ‘own’ flag is raised, whilst others may burn the foreign one when associating it with their misfortunes.

The origins of this most important of national attributes are rooted in the replacement of monarchic sovereignty with a national one, a process which has taken place in the Modern Age. Globally, the flags of Denmark (the oldest - dating from the 13th c. - national flag, and the precursor of cross-bearing Scandinavian flags, as well as, the Union Jack), the Netherlands (the predecessor of all tricolours, including the French vertical one, and consequently one of the basic patterns for a national flag), and the USA take special place in the ‘genealogy’ of flags. Apart from compositional models, some colours can be said to form ‘kinship’ groups, such as the pan-Slavic (white, blue, and red), the pan-Arabic (black, white, red, and green), and the pan-African (green, yellow, and red).

As ‘ancestors’ of the Bulgarian national flag, it is the Dutch, which inspired the Russian, and, according to most vexillologists, served as pattern for the confirmation of our national tricolour, formed out of horizontal white, green (replacing the Russian blue), and red stripes. The flag of Fillip Totyu’s detachment, dating prior to the Liberation (1867), is a tricolour (white-red-blue/green). Tricolour is the flag flown by Rakovski (red-white-green) in Andrea Saco’s famous painting. Apart from these, evidence exists, albeit without surviving samples, of other tricolour flags from the 1860s and 1870s. Doubtless the adoption of any combination of colours as a model was made possible by the favourable collective predisposition to the exactly defined white, green, and red colours, which play a prominent role in Bulgarian folklore.

The national flag relates to the nation and nationhood, as well as national minorities in other countries; it is used privately in all sorts of occasion. The state flag is an attribute of the state; it is used by state institutions in strict observance of flag protocol. In most cases the two forms coincide and often no difference is made between them.


The precursor of the national flag, sawn by Stiliana Paraskevova (Braila, 1877) Bulgarian national flag 1879-1947, and since 1991 Bulgarian flag 1971-91 Flag of Bulgarian minority in Serbia 2006