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Slovenian flag - the colours that brought a nation together

Ljubljana, 24 May - The Slovenian tricolour was hoisted for the first time almost 170 years ago, but the current design with the coat of arms dates back to independence 25 years ago. Having seen the nation through momentous times, it is now displayed most proudly at sports events.

A fresco of the coat of arms of the Counts of Celje (Cilly), whose six-pointed starts are featured on the coat of arms of Slovenia.

The medieval coat of arms of Carniola painted at the ceiling of the Ljubljana castle chapel. Coming in blue, red and gold, and later in blue, red and silver or white, the coat of arms gave the colours to the flag of Slovenia.

Slovenian flags at the ski-jumping World Cup meet in Planica.
Photo: Stanko Gruden/STA

Slovenian flags at the ski-jumping World Cup meet in Planica.
Photo: Anže Malovrh/STA

The coat of arms on the flag of Slovenia.
Photo: Tamino Petelinšek/STA

The flag of Slovenia.
Photo: Stanko Gruden/STA

The horizontal tricolour of white, blue and red takes its colours from the medieval coat of arms of Carniola, a historical region comprising much of modern-day Slovenia.

Unfurled for the first time in the revolutionary year of 1848 and subsequently recognized by the Austrian imperial authorities as the official flag of Carniola, it became a symbol of the Slovenian national movement.

The flag's public display was prohibited when Slovenia was part of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in the early 1900s.

During WWII, the Partisan resistance redesigned it by placing a five-pointed red star in the centre, and the flag remained so during the Communist rule all until independence.

Despite efforts by new parties to stick to the plain original tricolour, a decision was taken by parliament at the eleventh hour to add in the upper hoist side a coat of arms designed by Marko Pogačnik.

Known as a land healer, the sculptor produced a cosmogram in the shape of a shield to protect the new-born nation, with references to work by poet France Prešeren and architect Jože Plečnik.

Set against a blue background is the white shape of Triglav, Slovenia's highest peak, with two undulating blue lines at the base representing the sea and rivers.

Above are three six-pointed gold stars, which come from the coat of arms of the Counts of Celje, the most important Slovenian medieval aristocratic dynasty.

The design has drawn criticism from heraldists and others with claims that the emblem runs against heraldic rules and that the flag would look better without it.

Pogačnik countered that Slovenia too acted against rules when breaking away from Yugoslavia. Arguing that his shield protected the nation in the ten-day independence war, he warned against replacing it.

Still, there have been several initiatives to change the flag with arguments that it is undistinguishable from other similar tricolours, not least Russia's.

The closest Slovenia ever got to changing its flag was in 2003 when parliament commissioned a competition after a debate on potential constitutional amendments indicated political support for such a move.

The competition was won by Dušan Jovanovič's design of eleven horizontal stripes of blue alternating with white and red alternating with white following the outline of Mt Triglav in the middle.

The proposal was bashed by heraldists and politicians with one particularly outspoken MP comparing it to a chocolate wrapper, and several others complaining it looked too much like the US flag.

However, Slovenians appear to have accepted their flag, the outward manifestation of which is thousands of Slovenian flags at sports events.

© STA, 2016