This page is part of © FOTW Flags Of The World website

Zagreb (Croatia): Historical flags, 1896-1990s

Last modified: 2017-03-11 by ivan sache
Keywords: zagreb |
Links: FOTW homepage | search | disclaimer and copyright | write us | mirrors

See also:

External sources:

  • Ž. Heimer Grbovi i zastave grada Zagreba (Leykam,2009) (presentation)
  • I. Bilić, I., H. Ivanković Zagrebacki leksikon 2, M-Ž (Leksikografski zavod Miroslav Krleža, Zagreb, 2006)
  • E. Laszowski Zastava grada Zagreba, in Prosvjeta (1896)
  • R. Horvat Prošlost grada Zagreba (Zagreb, 1942)
  • A. Gulin Srednjovjekovni pecati Zagrebackog kaptola, in Starine JAZU, Vol. 58 (Zagreb, 1980)
  • J. Borošak-Marijanović Zastave kroz stoljeca, Hrvatski povijesni muzej (Zagreb, 1996) [bor96]
  • D. Peić Caldarović Heraldicki Zagreb, Hrvatski povijesni muzej (Zagreb, 2004, online edition)
  • P. Čimbur Natjecanje za grb (Školska knjiga, Zagreb, 1985) [cim85]
  • N. Premerl Vodić Muzeja grada Zagreba (MGZ, Zagreb, 2002)

Coat of arms, 1896

[Coat of arms, 1896]

Coat of arms of Zagreb, 1896 - Image by Željko Heimer, 11 September 2007

After the unification of the previous independent communities of Grić, Kaptol, Nova Ves and Vlaška ulica into the single town of Zagreb in 1850, considerations about the new symbols were raised.
The town leadership contacted Dr. Ivan Bojničić, the head of the State Archives in Zagreb and the leading expert in heraldry of the time (his best known work is the Croatian/Slavonian book of Siebmacher's armorial series [bjn99a]) to prepare proposals for the coat of arms and this was forwarded to the Croatian parliament and government at the time lead by Ban (Viceroy) Kühn-Héderváry.
As noted in the proceedings of the Town Assembly:

On 3 August 1896, on the session of the Town Assembly of the Free and Royal Capital City of Zagreb chaired by the Town Mayor honourable Mr. Adolf Mošinski, a member of the Town Council, Hudovski, read the response from His Excellency Ban of the Kingdoms of Croatia, Slavonia and Dalmatia, informing the Town Council that, based on the research lead in that issues the coat of arms of Zagreb, is established so: 'A shield painted blue depicting on a green mount a silver city with three towers, followed on the right with raising silver moon and on the left a six-pointed golden star. The shield is topped with a golden crown.'

The coat of arms is therefore "Azure issuant from a mount vert a city wall argent with three towers embattled of the same and in chief to dexter a crescent increscent also argent and to sinister a mullet of six or. Atop a crown msssoned with five embattlements or."
The response was duly noted and accepted, and based on it Article 6 of the Town Statutes was amended to include these determinations.

Since then the official colour of Zagreb has been blue (although this was not explicitly stated anywhere, of course). Dr. Bojničić prepared a drawing of this coat of arms, today preserved in the Croatian Historical Museum (Inventory No. 5235); in spite of all formal changes to follow, it still serves as the most frequent model used for the depiction of the town coat of arms.

Željko Heimer, 10 September 2007

Flag, 1902

[Flag proposal]         [Flag proposal]

Flag of Zagreb, 1902, left, adopted proposal, right, rejected proposal - Images reconstructed by Željko Heimer, 11 September 2007

After the adoption of the coat of arms, for the flag one had to wait some more years. The Town Council began considering a new flag and in 1901 required from the Royal Land Government to establish the design of the town flag. Ban Kühn-Héderváry again soon answered it by forwarding a report prepared again by Dr. Bojničić, containing two proposals for the flag.
Bojničić obviously preferred one of them, as he names one of the two "heraldically better and based on the good old heraldic principles" and the other "a newer and less good version". The first proposal is a monocolored flag with elements of the coat of arms, without the outlining shield, that is a banner of arms, or according to Bojničić description: "The flag is of the same blue color as the shield of the town coat of arms, and on both sides have the town coat of arms without the shied and the crown, followed in the right with a silver raising crescent and in the left with a six pointed golden star". The second proposal was blue-white horizontal bicolor with the full coat of arms in the middle.
The Council, on the session held on 5 May 1902, apparently readily followed Bojničić's advice favouring the "old and better" version and it seems that the second proposal was not even discussed. However, a member of the Council, Stjepan Timet, proposed that red and white thin stripes be added vertically along the hoist to highlight the national element*, but this was not accepted. After a proposal by Council member Dr. Ljudevit Schwartz, Bojničić was granted with a formal appreciation and the town award. The Council allotted 1000 crowns for the manufacture of the flag. The town flag and Schwartz's proposal were adopted in the Council with 26 votes for and 8 against. A drawing of the flag was prepared by painter Branko Šenoa in cooperation with Bojničić, the original drawing being preserved in the Zagreb Municipal Museum.
The adopted flag was not manufactured immediately, and we may only speculate why.

*A similar solution adopted for the Sisiak-Moslavina County flag 100 years afterwards, most certainly without any knowledge of Timet's proposal.

Željko Heimer, 11 September 2007

Flag, 1916-1945

[Flag, 1916]

Flag of Zagreb, 1916-1945 - Image by Željko Heimer, 13 September 2007

A richly produced ceremonial town flag was made according to the 1902 Decisions for the coronation of the Emperor and King Charles I (Karlo I) in Budapest in 1916.
As was noted on a piece found sewn in the flag when the flag was being renovated in 1994, the flag was produced in the time when Mayor was Janko Holjac, and it was manufactured by Sisters of Mercy Kvirina, Germanika, Tomislava and Trojana after the design by Branko Šenoa. The flag was carried in the coronation ceremony by Town Council member Josip Radaković.
Thus established symbols remained in use since and they were not changed even when Austria-Hungary collapsed and the new Kingdom, later to be known as Yugoslavia, was established. They were not changed in the period of the Independent State of Croatia that was formed during the Second World War.

The overall proportions of the flag are c. 5:7. The flag is produced of blue silk embroidered along the edges with a rich silver pattern and containing the charges from the coat of arms in the middle. It may be noted that the design of these charges is not of the same artwork as the 1896 Bojničić's coat of arms drawing, but this is quite acceptable according to the heraldic practice - the artwork details are irrelevant as long as they follow the blazon to the letter. Although the base of the town seems to be miscoloured (yellow instead of green) this may only be due to decay of original green coloring due to the time and usage. The fly and bottom edges are trimmed with a blue fringe, while the hoist and top edge have a row of metal rings attached to it, obviously the flag was meant to be hoisted from a staff with an arm above the flag. The flag is today preserved in the Zagreb Town Museum (Inventory No. 5430).

Željko Heimer, 13 September 2007

Flag, 1947

[Flag, 1947]         [Coat of arms, 1947]

Flag and arms of Zagreb, 1947 - Images by Željko Heimer, 14 September 2007

The first mention of the town symbols after the Second World War in official documents is to be found in 1947, when the Executive Council of the Town People's Committee in Zagreb (Gradski narodni odbor u Zagrebu) adopted the proposal of Chairman Vouk:

The coat of arms of the Town People's Committee in Zagreb is composed of a blue field in which on a green curved ground is standing a silver town with three embattled towers with semicircular entrance with half-portcullis and with opened doors, each tower having a keyhole-like loophole; to its right a six-pointed golden star and to the left a half-moon raising. Above the shield is set a red five-pointed star.

So, the previous crown atop the shield was replaced with a star. Although the blazon clearly states the colors, it is not know if the coat of arms was ever used in colors; the preserved examples are mono-coloured.

A flag is not mentioned; although it may be that the Decision led to the adding of the star to the old flag. Namely, after the liberation of Zagreb and the introduction of the new political system, someone sewed a red five-pointed star on the 1916 flag.
This flag was apparently used as such for some time, to be soon stored in the Zagreb Town Museum. The Statutes Statut grada Zagreba adopted on 29 August 1955 and published on 15 August 1957 in Službeni glasnik Narodnog odbora grada Zagreba, No. 13, do not mention either a coat of arms or a flag. Whether this means that the flag defaced with the red star was about that time layed up in the Museum, or if it was used unofficially is hard to say.

The star was removed from the flag in the 1994 renovation, although the stitching in form of a five-pointed star is still clearly visible in the material. Apparently, the museum curator expert decided that it was best to leave it visible, so the object tells its full story.

Željko Heimer, 14 September 2007

Flag, 1964

[Flag, 1964]         [Coat of arms, 1964]

Flag and arms of Zagreb, 1964 - Images by Željko Heimer, 17 September 2007

The Statutes to follow, Statut grada Zagreba adopted on 26 June 1964 and published on 12 July 1964 in Službeni glasnik grada Zagreba, No. 14, included a new description of the coat of arms and the flag in Article 12: "The town of Zagreb has its coat of arms and its flag. The coat of arms of Zagreb is its historical coat of arms: a shield colored blue, in which is depicted on a green mount a silver town with three towers, a raising silver crescent to its right and a six-pointed golden star to its left."
The flag of the town of Zagreb is "blue as the shield of the coat of arms of the town of Zagreb, containing on both sides the coat of arms of the town of Zagreb without the shield."

There are no elements above the shield now. The colored versions were, again, apparently avoided, so is the one shown on the covers of the Statutes. The flags were, apparently, also produced with such white outlined depiction of the coat of arms.
Namely, in the second half of the 20th century a trend of "modernization" of heraldic symbols according to the graphical design trends in the world in general appeared. So, the coat of arms of Zagreb was used in simplified and stylized versions, most often as a white silhouette of the shield only. The flags were then industrially, mass produced, to be hoisted not only over the buildings of the town administration but also by the town-owned companies; they were hoisted as holiday decorations on the street light poles, they were flying on prominent positions in the town during important events, such as the Zagreb Fair, on places like the Marshal Tito Square in front of the National Theatre and the plateau in front of the Lisinski Concert Hall. The ceremonial, single-copy town flag was no more.

The next Statutes Statut grada Zagreba, adopted on 8 May 1968 and published on 15 May 1968 in Službeni glasnik grada Zagreba, No. 8, only mention, in Article 9, that the town has a coat of arms and a flag, whose details would be prescribed by the Town Assembly. However, only some months later Correction Ispravak Statuta grada Zagreba, adopted on 27 September 1968 and published in Službeni glasnik grada Zagreba, No. 22, amended Article 9 with the additional provision that "The use of the coat of arms and the flag is prescribed with a decision of the Town Assembly." The next, consolidated Statutes Statut grada Zagreba (pročišćeni tekst), published on 20 April 1971 in Službeni glasnik grada Zagreba, No. 6, literally repeat the previous determinations.

Željko Heimer, 17 September 2007

Flag, 1975

[Flag, 1975]         [Coat of arms, 1975]

Flag and arms of Zagreb, 1975 - Images by Željko Heimer, 20 September 2007

Statutes Statut grada Zagreba, adopted on 30 June 1975 and published on 10 July 1975 in Službeni glasnik grada Zagreba, No. 12, introduced rewording in the blazon of the coat of arms, without changing its contents. The flag was changed with the addition of a red star in the canton. This was repeated in the next Statutes, adopted in 1982. Finally, Article 6 of Statut grada Zagreba (pročišćeni tekst), published on 3 March 1988 in Službeni glasnik grada Zagreba, No. 8, says:

The coat of arms of the Town of Zagreb is consisting of a blue field in a shield shape. In the middle of the field on a green hill is set a town with three towers and opened town gates. In the chief part of the field on the left is a six-pointed star and on the right is a crescent. The town with towers and the crescent are silver, while the town doors, the six-pointed star and the shield border are golden.
The flag of the Town of Zagreb is blue. In the middle of the flag on both sides is the coat of arms of the Town of Zagreb without the shield. On the flag of the Town of Zagreb in its top left corner is set a red five-pointed star.
With a decision of the Town of Zagreb is determined the mode of use of the coat of arms and the flag of the Town of Zagreb.

The color of the doors was explicitly mentioned, as different from all previous post-Second World War official "blazons". The flag was amended with a defacing red star in the canton, although it still contains the coat of arms elements without the shield outlining them.
This coat of arms variation was also often used in mono-colored depictions, and due to its simplicity and elegance it is quite popular today as well.

The flag defaced with the star was used only in very official circumstances, for instance hoisted in the Assembly Hall, while the previous versions of the flag without the star were onwards used in general, even as newly produced flags (whether due to inertia or ignorance of the flag maker and/or his clients or due to intentional disregard of the new defacement). The flags with the red star were relatively seldom hoisted on the streets, although there are some photos showing the flags with stars as well. I suppose that pre-1975 flags without the star were left standing whenever they were in decent condition and only (some) newly displayed flags included the star.
Although it is nowhere mentioned, these flags were, as a rule, produced so that the coat of arms elements were shown in white only.

This flag was formally abandoned only with the adoption of the 1993 Temporarily Statutes; however, the red star defacing was in practice dropped as soon as it was also removed from the national flag (25th July 1990).

[Flag variant]         [Flag variant]

Flag variants - Images by Željko Heimer, 20 September 2007

Two variants of the flag are documented in the book Univerzijada '87, Zagreb, Jugoslavija (Izvršni komitet Univerzijade, Zagreb, 1988). On photos of the Town Assembly in session the hall is ornamented with a flag of the town hoisted from the inner balcony. The two occasions that were photographed in various periods in the late 1980s show two different flags:
- a flag with colored elements of the coat of arms without the shield shape, defaced with a red star bordered yellow;
- a flag with a white only depiction of the coat of arms in yet an other variation, including the shield shape, defaced with a smaller red star without the outline.

Željko Heimer, 20 September 2007