The current flag above the Tall Hermann tower, Toompea castle, Tallinn
|Use||Civil and state flag, civil ensign|
|Adopted||21 November 1918|
7 August 1990
|Design||A horizontal triband of blue, black, and white|
Variant flag of Estonia
|Design||Tricolour, swallowtail, defaced with the shield of the state arms off-set towards hoist.|
The national flag of Estonia (Estonian: Eesti lipp) is a tricolour featuring three equal horizontal bands of blue (top), black, and white. The normal size is 105 by 165 centimetres (41 in × 65 in). In Estonian it is colloquially called the "sinimustvalge" (lit. "blue-black-white"), after the colours of the bands.
First adopted on 21 November 1918 after its independence, it was used as a national flag until 1940 when the Soviet Union occupied Estonia. After World War II, from 1944 to 1990, the Soviet Estonian flag consisted first of a generic red Soviet flag with the name of the republic, then changed to the red flag with a band of blue water waves near the bottom. The Estonian flag, which was also used by the Estonian government-in-exile, was officially re-adopted 7 August 1990 one year before its official restoration of independence.
The flag of Estonia fundamentally grew out of the flag of the German Order of the Cross, the black cross on a white field (this flag was later to be used as the flag of the United Baltic Duchy). In the era of the crusades, the particular geographic domain of the contemporary Estonia's location (the Eastern Baltic shores) was proclaimed to be "Maryland", the Land of the Virgin Mary, "Terra Mariana" in Latin (as the region more to the South, the then-Prussia, was named the Land of St Peter), and, when creating its flag, the generic Teutonic banner was adapted so as to include two fields of the colour blue (Mary being the "Queen of Heaven", blue representing the heaven/sky; the "Marian flag", the flag of St Mary (St Maria) has two fields, white over blue; it is popular in Poland, it is the flag of the Cathedral of St Mary in Luxembourg, this flag is also taken for the background in the San Marino (St Marinus) banner). The pattern is also used in the coat of arms of the Jungingen family (Ulrich von Jungingen, notably, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order active in the Baltic domain) and in the coat of arms of the German town of Jungingen. The State of the German Order of the Cross ceased to exist in 1561.
In 1860 the students of the Baltic-Prussian extraction studying in Germany (in Danzig, in Karlsruhe) established a society, the Baltica-Borussia (Prussia) student organisation ("corporation"). The coat of arms of that corporation was based on the known pattern of colours and their arrangement associated with the region and its German past (the coat of arms also incorporated the German eagle). The corporation also adopted a flag. As the idea behind the French revolutionary tricolours demanded that flags be composed of three fields of equal width (representing the equality of the citizens), so was the old Terra Mariana flag transformed into a tricolour (technically, a triband).
In 1881 the Society of Estonian Students at the University of Tartu (Estonia) was formed, a similar tricolour was constructed. Yet by that time the selection of the particular colours was also attributed to the Finnish flag, and the colours were ascribed symbolic meanings.
The Estonian flag was therefore officially adopted first as a student organisation flag on 17 September 1881 by the constituent assembly of the first Estonian national student Corps "Vironia" (modern Estonian Students Society) in the city of Tartu. The colours and the pattern eventually became the national flag.
The flag became associated with Estonian nationalism and was used as the national flag (riigilipp) when the Estonian Declaration of Independence was issued on 24 February 1918. The flag was formally adopted on 21 November 1918. 12 December 1918 was the first time the flag was raised as the national symbol atop of the Pikk Hermann Tower in Tallinn.
The invasion by the Soviet Union in June 1940 led to the flag's ban. It was taken down from the most symbolic location, the tower of Pikk Hermann in Tallinn, on 21 June 1940, when Estonia was still formally independent. On the next day, 22 June, it was hoisted along with the red flag. The tricolour disappeared completely from the tower on 27 July 1940, and was replaced by the flag of the Estonian SSR.
During the German occupation from 1941 until 1944, the flag was accepted as the ethnic flag of Estonians but not the national flag. After the German retreat from Tallinn in September 1944, the Estonian flag was hoisted once again.
When the Red Army arrived on 22 September 1944, the red flag was just added at first. Soon afterwards, however, the blue-black-white flag disappeared. In its place from February 1953, the Estonian SSR flag was redesigned to include the six blue spiked waves on the bottom with the hammer and sickle with the red star on top.
The flag remained illegal until the days of perestroika in the late 1980s. 21 October 1987 was the first time when Soviet forces did not take down the flag at a public event. 24 February 1989 the blue-black-white flag was again flown from the Pikk Hermann tower in Tallinn. It was formally re-declared as the national flag on 7 August 1990, little over a year before Estonia regained full independence.
A symbolism-interpretation made popular by the poetry of Martin Lipp says the blue is for the vaulted blue sky above the native land, the black for attachment to the soil of the homeland as well as the fate of Estonians -- for centuries black with worries, and white for purity, hard work, and commitment.
The shade of blue is defined in the Estonian flag law as follows:
The most recent Estonian Flag Act was passed 23 March 2005 and came into force on 1 January 2006. It has been amended several times since then. The Act specifies the colours in Pantone and CMYK formats, as well as specifying when it can be hoisted and how it can be used and by whom. The Act specifies that the flag is "the ethnic and the national flag".
More specifically, the Flag Act specifies that the flag be hoisted on the Pikk Hermann tower in Tallinn every day at sunrise, but not earlier than 7.00 am, and is lowered at sunset". The lawful flag days are as follows:
In 2001, politician Kaarel Tarand suggested that the flag be changed from a tricolour to a Scandinavian-style cross design with the same colours. Supporters of this design claim that a tricolour gives Estonia the image of a post-Soviet or Eastern European country, while a cross design would symbolise the country's links with Nordic countries. Several Nordic cross designs were proposed already in 1919, when the state flag was officially adopted, three of which are shown here. As the tricolour is considered an important national symbol, the proposal did not achieve the popularity needed to modify the national flag.
Advocates for a Nordic flag state that Estonians consider themselves a Nordic nation rather than Baltic, based on their cultural and historical ties with Sweden, Denmark, and particularly Finland. In December 1999 Estonian foreign minister—later the Estonian president from 2006 to 2016—Toomas Hendrik Ilves delivered a speech entitled "Estonia as a Nordic Country" to the Swedish Institute for International Affairs. Diplomat Eerik-Niiles Kross also suggested changing the country's official name in English and several other foreign languages from Estonia to Estland (which is the country's name in Danish, Dutch, German, Swedish, Norwegian and many other Germanic languages).
The current flag above the Tall Hermann tower, Toompea castle, Tallinn