Page created: 3rd April 1997|
Last updated: 19th June 2004
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The FAME is site devoted to systematic and scientific study of flags and coats of arms. Such symbols often bear strong political and other messages. Inclusion of those symbols here does not mean that the author support or approve the ideas they may stand for.
After the break up of Austrian-Hungarian Empire, the core lands of Austria populated mainly with the German-speaking populations were gathered at first under the name of German Austria (Deutschösterreich). The Republic of Austria was eventually renamed to the Federal State of Austria in 1934, and was occupied by Nazi Germany in 1938.
Much of materials for the preparations of this page was kindly provided by Marcus Schmöger.
The State Council (Staatsrat) for the German Austria (Deutschösterreich) decided on 31 October 1918 that the colour of the German Austria are red-white-red, after a proposal by Wilhelm Miklas, latter Austrian president (1928-1938). It was first officially hosited on 12 November 1918. On the 21 October 1919 was established the law explicitly regulating the triband as the national flag (when also the name Republic of Austria was established). It stated that further regulations would establish in which cases the coat of arms shall be set in the flag. The federal law of 17 March 1921 determines the triband in ratio 2:3 as the merchant flag (on sea, not on Danube) for the ships registered in Austria. As traditional in Austria, the ratio for use on land is not prescribed, and the most usual way of displaying the flag is as long vertically hoised banner. The ensign for river navigation was confirmed legally only in 1929. The use of the triband was forbidden in 1938 after Anschluss but was re-established after the end of World War II.
On 8 May 1919 was established the new coat of arms consisting of a black eagle crowned with a mural crown, holding a sickle and a hammer and with a breast shield of red-white-red. The official drawing was made by Ernst Krahl. The coat-of-arms had been only adopted after quite some debate. The first design for the coat-of-arms of the new republic contained a black tower under crossed red hammers within golden ears (that is containing the black, red and gold All-German colours). However, a more conservative approach was finally adopted. A commentary on the draft text of the above law read: "The eagle is the symbol of statehood and public authority, the fess shield on it contains the colours red-white-red; these are the colours of the old East March, on the ground of which our German Austrian republic has come into being. In his claws he has the sickle and the hammer, the sign of the working population, the peasants and workers ... and the bears the civic crown, the sign of democracy." (Stenographische Protokolle der Konstituierenden Nationalversammlung 1919/20, p. 305; in Gall, 1968)
Similar to the German Flaggenstreit the symbolism of the coat-of-arms (hammer and sickle) evoked a fierce debate. The (Christian-Social) Chancellor Seipl opposed (in 1924) the inclusion of the full coat-of-arms into the newly designed Medal of the Republic. The objection against the "communist" symbols finally led to the introduction of the coat-of-arms of 1934.
The flag with the coat of arms in the midle was mentioned as a possibility in the 1919 flag law, but it was prescribed that it shall be determined who would have right to use it with further regulations. Such regulations for use on land in Austria were never published, so it is unclear who would have right to use this flag and how much it was actually used.
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The only military unit on Danube after the end of the World War was the Motor Boat Company of the People’s Defence in Vienna-Nußdorf (Volkswehr-Motorbootsabteilung Wien-Nußdorf). Since November 1918 they have been using simple tribands as ensigns, as is documented on photographs and testimonies, though no official document regulating the practice was found (cf. photos in Steinböck, 1980. pp. 12, 84). It was only with the 1 April 1926 regulations determined that the military boats should fly the ensign with the coat of arms in it. The regulations determined two sizes of the ensign, the one for use on the motor boats as 60×120 cm, and the one for the patrol boats 100×180 cm. The patrol boats were also to be equipped with a jack of the same design in size 60×120 cm. However, there is no official document determining the design of these flags any further and therefore it were noted some variations in the layouts used. It seems that the white disk set in the middle of the flag reaching into the red stripes was common to all, but differed in the size from only a slightly bigger then the white stripe to the as big as two thirds of the hoist. The coat of arms in it matched the size of the disk, of course. The design with the disk with diameter as half the hoist size seems to be the most frequent.
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The 1926 regulations introduced a single pennat to indicate presence of the high state and military functionaries aboard the boats. The size was prescribed 30×120 cm for the motor boats, and 30×300 cm for the patrol boats.
The 1929 regulations established an ensign to be used on the state owned non-military ships and boats on Danube. This was red-white-red triband defaced in the canton with a white pointed shield containing the coat of arms. The coat of arms artwork shown in the regulations is a variation of the state coat of arms. Above are shown both the flag with the standard coat of arms and the variation according to the regulations. It is not clear what service's vessels actually carried this ensign, nor have there been located photographs of it use. The same regulation prescribe the simple triband as ensign to be used on rivers except for the above and the military use. The regulations also mentions the “customs flag” that was to be hoisted below the Austrian ensign, but it is not clear what it would be.
The 1931 regulation prescribed that the coat of arms could be used in the middle of the white field of the flags and pennants used by the Austrian diplomatic and consular offices abroad, in accordance with the 1919 law that stated that there shall be issued regulations which flags could use the coat of arms on the triband. The exact design of these flag, or weather there were many variations according to the feeling of the diplomatic-consular staff, is not known.