World Facts

What Do the Colors and Symbols of the Flag of Latvia Mean?

The national flag of Latvia was first adopted in 1918.

A Brief History of Latvia

Latvia is an independent nation in Europe’s Baltic region. The country encompasses an area of 64,589 square km and has a population of 1,957,200 people. For centuries, the area that is now Latvia was ruled by various powers like the Swedish and the Russians. After the First World War, Latvia achieved independence from Russia, and established the independent Republic of Latvia on November 18, 1918. However, this freedom did not last long, and the country was forcibly annexed by the Soviet Union. For a brief period, starting in 1941, Nazi Germany occupied Latvia, and the Soviets reoccupied the country in 1944 and ruled for several decades. After a long struggle for independence, the Republic of Latvia was reestablished on May 4, 1990.

History of the National Flag of Latvia

The current national flag of Latvia was first adopted in 1918 upon the country's independence from Russia after the First World War. However, use of the flag was suppressed during the period of Soviet rule. On February 27, 1990, about two months prior to attaining independence once again, the original flag was re-adopted. Although officially adopted in the 20th century, the flag of Estonia was used as early as the 13th century. In fact, the flag of Latvia is one of the world’s oldest national flags still in use today. A reference to this flag can be found in the Rhymed Chronicle of Livonia.

Flag Design

The Latvian flag has a simple design that features a carmine (deep red) colored field that is bisected by a narrow white band. The width of the white band is one-fifth the width of the entire flag.

Symbolism

The red color of Latvia’s national flag is often described as "Latvian red," and is one of the darker shades of red and is composed of purple and brown. It is believed that the red color of the flag symbolizes the will of the Latvians to sacrifice their lives for the country and their readiness to defend the freedom of their country at all costs.

A legend is also associated with the choice of colors for the flag. According to legend, a Latvian leader was wounded while fighting a battle. His body was then wrapped in a white sheet which became stained by his blood. Thus, it is claimed that the red and white of the flag of Latvia symbolizes this legend and the white might represent the sheet that wrapped the wounded leader.

Use of the Flag

Latvian law clearly states certain mandates surrounding use of the flag. Any show of disrespect to the flag will not be tolerated. There are special days throughout the year on which the display of the flag is strongly recommended, such as May 4 (Restoration of Independence), November 18 (Independence Day), and November 11 (Lāčplēsis Day).

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