Estonia

Hey, Fanatics! I am back with another edition of The Flag Review. We are taking a trip to the Baltics to learn about the flag of the Republic of Estonia, a simple but beautiful flag.

Estonia is a small European nation situated on the Baltic Sea. It is one of three countries that make up the Baltic states, the other two being Latvia and Lithuania. Just north of Estonia, 50 miles across the Gulf of Finland, is the nation of Finland. Estonia has a strong Nordic identity due to its proximity to the Scandinavian nations.

The current tricolor flag of Estonia

Estonia’s long history dates back to almost 9000 B.C. when the first inhabitants settled in the area. Some of the original settlements are still inhabited today. Throughout most of this time, up until the Medieval era, the people in the region remained a loose collection of small states. The 9th Century saw the rise of Estonian Vikings, who engaged in successful raids on their Nordic neighbors.

In the Middle Ages, Estonia was introduced to Christianity. The area would change hands for many years, with the Danes, Denmark, Sweden and Russia all claiming the region at some point between the 12th and 18th Century.

Estonian national identity began to take shape in the 1800s during the rule of the Russian Empire. Vironia, an Estonian student organization at the University of Tartu, designed a flag for their organization. This flag, a horizontal triband of equal blue, black and white bands, caught on in popularity as a symbol of Estonian independence and was used by Estonians during the revolutions in the early 20th century against the Russian Empire. Estonia gained independence from Russia in 1918 and shortly after, the flag was officially adopted as the flag of Estonia.

In 1940, as a result of the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact between Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union, the Soviets occupied (and eventually annexed) Estonia and quickly banned any national symbols that might threaten Soviet identity. During this half-century rule, the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic flew under a different flag. The version of the flag used throughout most of the Estonian SSR’s existence consisted of a yellow hammer, a sickle and a star on the upper hoist. On the bottom center of the flag were blue and white bands in a wave pattern. Both the charge and waves sat on a red field. The red field (and the color red, in general) is a common symbol for communist and socialist nations/movements. The flag design alludes to the Soviet Union’s own flag, which is typically referred to as the Red Banner.

The flag of the Estonian Soviet Socialist Republic. The blue in this image is darker than other images I have seen of this flag, but the general patterns and charges are the same.

By the late 1980’s, the Iron Curtain began to collapse internally. In Estonia and across the Baltic states, a series of protests and folk festivals known as the Singing Revolution demanded independence from the Soviet Union. With anti-Soviet sentiment growing, Estonia re-adopted the tricolor flag in 1990, replacing the Estonian SSR flag. The following year, on August 20, 1991, Estonia restored their independence.

The blue, black and white tricolor, with its unique 7:11 ratio, still remains an important symbol for the Estonian people. The meaning of each color isn’t officially defined; some see the colors representing the landscape of the countryside (blue sky, black forests and white snow or summer nights lit by a bright moon); others interpret the colors as symbols of ideas: blue for loyalty, black for Estonia’s difficult past and white for enlightenment.

A young nation, but rich in history, Estonia has endured many years of foreign rule while still developing and holding a national identity. Their flag is a beautiful representation of the nation’s persistence through difficult times. I wholeheartedly approve of their flag!

Thank you for reading.


Sources

Central Intelligence Agency. (2021). Estonia. The World Factbook 2021. https://www.cia.gov/the-world-factbook/countries/estonia/flag

Estonian Flag Act. (2018, June 25). Riigi Teataja. Retrieved 2021, from https://www.riigiteataja.ee/en/eli/525062018002/consolide

Estonian flag – sky, earth and snow. (2021, June 4). Visit Estonia. Retrieved 2021, from https://www.visitestonia.com/en/estonian-flag#

Estonian history and culture. (2021, August 2). Visit Estonia. Retrieved 2021, from https://www.visitestonia.com/en/why-estonia/estonian-history-and-culture

Estonia’s Blue-Black-White Tricolour Flag. (2011, June 18). Republic of Estonia: Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Retrieved 2021, from https://vm.ee/en/estonias-blue-black-white-tricolour-flag

Office of the President of Estonia. (n.d.). National Symbols: State Flag. Office of the President. Retrieved 2021, from https://www.president.ee/en/republic-of-estonia/symbols/index.html

Znamierowski, A. (2020). The World Encyclopedia of Flags. Lorenz Books.