Hungary’s flag, which was made official on May 23, 1957, consists of three horizontal colors namely red, white, and green from the top to the bottom respectively. The three colors have been present historically ever since 1608 during the coronation ceremony of Mathias II of Hungary and later coronations of other leaders. The three colors had also been present further back in the 13th century when the monarchs used them. Due to their importance in the history of Hungary, the three colors are also used in the nation’s coat of arms, which has an illustration of the crown of St. Stephen and a double cross. St. Stephen was the first Christian king of Hungary and is regarded as the nation's founder.
Symbolism in the Hungarian Flag
The symbolism behind the colors is varied since people have interpreted the symbolism in a variety of different ways. For example, the red color is associated with strength for some people while others associate it with the blood that was spilled for the country. White equates to faithfulness for some while others attribute it to freedom. The green means hope for some people while others associate it with the green and lush vegetation of Hungary.
However, according to the Constitution of Hungary, which has been in use since January 1, 2012, the red stands for strength, the white stands for fidelity, and the green symbolizes hope. This constitution is not explicit in the ratio of the width to the length. The only law that mentions the ratio is a law from 1957, which states that merchant vessels at sea should fly the tricolor with a width to length ratio of 2:3. More recently, there is a government decree from 2000, which has not been included in any official document, which states the width to length ratio for flags flying around government buildings should be 1:2.
The current tricolor first emerged as a symbol of national sovereignty during the campaigns against the Habsburgs from 1848 to 1849. Unfortunately, the rebellion in Hungary was squashed and the Austrian Emperor declared the tricolor illegal. However, the tricolor was declared legal and the official flag of the nation after the 1867 Compromise. At that time, the flag’s design was slightly different as it also featured an illustration of the Kossuth coat of arms, which was also known as the minor arms.
Following the end of the Habsburg Empire in 1918, the period between 1918 and 1920 was difficult on the nation and some changes were made to the flag. Perhaps the biggest change was observed during the short-lived Hungarian Soviet Republic, which used a banner of solid red. This republic lasted for only four-and-a-half months.
In the following years, until 1945, the tricolor design with the minor arms was used although the version without the minor arms was also in use. Minor modifications were made to the flag between 1946 and 1949 as well as 1949 when it was replaced by a red star. However, all of this changed in 1957 during the Stalinist restoration that saw the official flag change to the current tricolor without the coat of arms.