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Slovakian Municipal flags: Introduction

Last modified: 2018-12-19 by rob raeside
Keywords: city | municipality | typology |
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I have received from a visitor of my pages a photocopy of a poster with Slovakian municipal coats of arms and flags. The poster is issued by Slovenska genealogicko-heraldicka spolocnost pri Matici slovenskoj 1996. There are 136 coats of arms on the poster around the map of Slovakia with flags on the sites of the cities on it. All Slovak municipal flags are swallow-tailed, and with no exception with simple geometric divisions. Most of them are horizontally divided in 2,3,4,5 and even more stripes usually in several colors, seemingly based on the colors of the coats of arms . Several are quartered in 4 and some in 6 fields. Some are of saltire pattern, and just a few are simple monocolored, or with a border.
Željko Heimer, 18 Dec 1997.

During my visit of Slovakia last year I bought the map with Slovak Civic Coats of Arms and Flags (edited by "Slovenská geneaologická a heraldická spolocnost pri Matici slovenskej", 1996) mentioned by Željko Heimer. I also have the book "Erby a vlajky miest  v Slovenskej republike" (Ministry of Internal affairs, Bratislava 1991) and I suppose, that this is the main source for the former Tatrarevue and for FOTW. Since the book was edited in 1991, some of them are not valid anymore. Professor Jozef Novák, Slovak Heraldic, one of the authors of that book had a questionable  theory: in his opinion the figures (or characters) of Saints shouldn't be used as the main figure. In a "correct" Coat of arms that is always a character replaced by his (or her) Attributes. His "scientific" theory was based on the fact, that many Saints were in Seals and some of them were really this way replaced - e.g.: St. Catherine was in coat of arms of Kremnica replaced by the "broken wheel" and the letter "C" for Latin "Cremnicia" for Kremnica ).
Aleš Křížan, 22 Jan 2001

Typology of Slovak Civic Flags

Very strict regulations for the approval of municipal flags led to a standardized system of uniform and simple patterns in Slovakia. They might be criticized for not leaving enough self-determination to the local authorities; on the other hand they created a very clear vexillological typology and simple distinguishable flag designs.
In 1975 the Heraldic Commission was established by the Slovak Ministry of the Interior in order to revise old and approve new civic arms of all Slovak towns. During this process the commission came to the conclusion that towns should get their own flags as well. The commission itself made proposals for the design of the 135 town flags.
The design principles were laid down as follows:
  • Flags have to be as simple in design as possible
  • Flags have to be manufactured easily and at low costs
  • Shields of the arms are not allowed on the flags
  • Town flags should be swallow-tailed to get a clear distinction between them and state flags
The commission finished its work in 1990 and published the result in a book, which enables us to analyse the design patterns.
105 Flags, that is more than 70%, have horizontal bars (2-9). Only six other patterns were accepted for traditional reasons: one monocolored flag and two with a border in another color, because they already existed, ten quartered flags, because their arms consisted of four elements, ten flags with saltires, derived from crossed mining tools or saltired in the arms, and seven with three cuts, derived from the Slovak double cross in their arms. And last but not least a unique pattern, a vertical bar at the hoist and two horizontal ones at the fly.
Regarding the colors: most flags have only combinations of two, predominantly red and white. Among three color combinations dominates blue-yellow-white. Four colors are only used in four-bars (with one exception).

As soon as the publication was available communities not having township status started contacting the Heraldic Committee asking for proposals for their own arms and flags. The committee having the dilemma to keep the nation-wide uniform system on the one hand and to gain distinguishable flag design for rural communities on the other, decided two additional rules for the latter:

  • Community flags should have a double-swallow-tail
  • Community flags may have stripes of different width
Since 1992 about 300 flags were codified by the committee. The Ministry of the Interior has published in its official periodical 155 of them up till now. It is the basis of our presentation of Slovak flag types in rural areas.
As the adoption of new flags is still going on there might be more variants of striped flags. Fifty percent of the striped flags have bars of equal width, the proportion 1:1:2:1:1 is used most. Among the equal ones four-, five- and seven-bars predominate; eight- and nine-bars are very seldom. Two colors are seldom as well, combinations of BYW, RYW, YWN and BYVW are preferred.
Apart from the various combinations of stripe width and colors there is a greater difference compared to town flags in shape. An aesthetic problem occurs with the intersection of the double-swallow-tail and the different number and width of stripes. Therefore the swallow-tails were formed in three different ways.
Gunnar Staack, (published in: Flag Data Bank, No. 11, December 1999)
Alexy, Zdenko G. "Slovak civic flags and banners", in "Proceedings of the 15th International Congress of Vexillology", Zollikofen 1999.
"Erby a vlajky miest  v Slovenskej republike" (Ministry of Internal affairs, Bratislava 1991)
"Verejná Sprava", Bratislava 1992-1999; A. Brožek has provided the relevant data
Jarig Bakker, 1 Jan 2001

Am I wrong in assuming that this pattern is in a way a novelty among the town flags? I mean, the vertical partition combined with entirely different horizontal one. I remember someone posted (or I read somewhere) the classification of the patterns used for city flags (those with two tails), and I am wondering is someone following the development here too.
Anyway, nice to see some variety in what is apparently (only on first glance) a boring series of horizontally divided multicoloured flags... And, as a rule we "forget" about the remaining 4 or 5 flags that are as a rule granted together with the "boring" one.
Željko Heimer, 26 Jan 2002