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Page created: 18th August 2000
Last updated: 29th June 2012
[The FAME - Flag and Arms of the Modern Era]

The FAME are pages devoted to systematic and scientific study of flags and coats of arms. Such symbols often bear stong political and other messages. Inclusion of those symbols here does not mean that the author support or approve the ideas they may stand for.

The Flags & Arms of the Modern Era

Symbols and Abbreviations

See also:

On symbols and abbreviations on these pages in general

To present the information on flags in the best, shortest and most concise way, on these pages are used many graphical symbols and abbreviations. Many of those symbols are standardised and adopted by the International Federation of Vexillological Associations (FIAV, Federation International de Associations Vexillologique), and those are used as a rule in many specialised publications. Such symbols enable quick and easy identification of various flag aspects (ratio, usage rules and manners, accuracy of images, identification of colours in black/white pictures and so on). Except the FIAV symbols, here are used also some others, again many of those are common among vexillologist on the Internet and their Web pages, and also on the site of the Flag of the World (FOTW) vexillological mailing list.

Flag Identification Symbols FIS

The flags used to indicate nationality may be divided by their usage in six basic groups - by their usage on land or sea, and by whom is hoisting them (private persons, state or military). The flag identification system based on this division was popularized by W. Smith in several of his vexillological books (see bibliography) and this is the system adopted by FIAV. Among the FOTW members this system is often referred to as "six dots in grid" or the FIS - Flag Identification System. The original system by W. Smith consists of a group of dots in grid of two rows and three columns. The upper row indicates the usage on land, and the lower row the use on sea (actually including lakes, rivers etc.). The first column indicates the use by private persons [C for Civil], middle one for use by state/government agencies [S of State], and the rightmost indicates the military use [W from War]. In text-only publications the dots in grid may be efficiently replaced by six letters, three and three with the same meaning (this system introduced the author to FOTW in 1996).

The basic patter is, therefore, National Flag and Ensign,
i.e. in text mode CSW/CSW,

indicating that the flag is used by private persons, state and military on land (i.e. a flag) and sea (i.e. an ensign). If one or more dots are missing (or an asterisk replaces the letter) indicates that this flag is not used for that particular purpose.

Some of the basic combinations are shown here:

Civil FlagC**/*** Civil Flag used by private persons on land
State Flag*S*/*** State Flag used by state institutions on land
War Flag**W/*** War Flag used by military on land (army)
Civil Ensign***/C** Civil Ensign used on private vessels (merchant ensign)
State Ensign***/*S* State Ensign used on state owned vessels
War Ensign***/**W War Ensign used by navy
Civil and State FlagCS*/*** Civil and State Flag used by private persons and state on land
State and War Flag*SW/*** State and War Flag state services and military on land
National FlagCSW/*** National Flag used for all purposes on land
National Ensign***/CSW National Ensign used for all purposes on vessels
National Flag and EnsignCSW/CSW National Flag and Ensign used for all purposes on land and sea

As a further addition to this system (but not adopted by FIAV) is inclusion of an additional row above others, to indicate the air flags (also called ensigns). E.g.:

Air War Ensign**W/***/*** Air War Ensign used by military air force (on planes when on ground and on their installations)

Except the "dots in grid" symbols the FIAV system (FIS) contains some other symbols to indicate some other characteristics of flags:

Normal*: Flag in "normal" use, without special observations. Horizontal hoisting.
Vertical*: Flag used hoisted vertically from a crossbar (as a banner).
Proposal: Flag proposal - design that was never used in practice.
Reconstruction: Image shown according to wage description or other insufficient source.
Variant: One of two or more versions of the same basic design.
Alternate: One of two or more flags that may be used, in general or under certain circumstances, for the same function.
De facto: Flag in use, but without legal provision.
Historical*: Flag used previously, but the official usage is discontinued.
Two-sided: Reverse is not of the same design as pictured.
Reverse: Design of the reverse of two-sided flag.
Sinister hoist: Obverse, or the main flag side, is seen when the hoist is pictured on the viewer's right.
Construction sheet*: showing the relative ratio of the design elements.
Detail*: Picture of an enlarged detail.
Under Construction*: image shown as a sketch for information until replaced with better one

* Additional symbols not adopted by FIAV.

On Flag Ratio

The ratio of the pictured flag is printed in bold font, e.g. 1:2. The approximate ratio is indicated with a wavy dash (a tilde) 2:3~, but it is not always indicated if the approximation is based from some more complex but known ratio, or if it is an approximation based on the reported flags seen in use. In some cases the ratio that is particularly doubtful is marked with a questionmark 3:4 ?.

The first number in the ratio denotes the hoist side - as a rule the side along left edge of the picture, except for the vertically hoisted flags - where the hoist side is the upper one. The second number is the length of the flag, the fly side, i.e. the length from the hoist (or point at which the flag is attached to hoist) to the fly end.

On Approval Dates

Since 1993 the Croatian legislation allows the units of local self-government (counties, cities and communities) to have their coat of arms and flag, however these may be used only after they are approved by a central state authority (depending on the government structure in various times this being the Ministry of Administration, the Central State Office for Administration or the Ministry of Justice, Administration and Local Self-Government). Within this authority, since 1994 a "Heraldic Commission" (the Commission for approval of coats of arms and flags to units of local self-governemnt) was formed, with strict guidelines and rules governing the design style and other related issues. An adopted coat of arms and a flag may be legaly used only after the adoption of such approval. However, a number of units uses their symbols without obtaining such approval or indeed inspite of it being refuzed. If information is available, it is indicated that the design was not approved, but is (or was) used to some degree.

The Heraldic Commission does not provide publicly available lists of approved symbols, their design or the dates of approval. The dates provided here are obtained from the approval documents provided by the units of local self-goverment either though making them publicly available in the local media or providing them to the author upon inquiery. Also some designers occasionally publish their designs that were approved or the fact is mentioned in media without providing explicit dates. Such cases are being indicated as approved with unknown date.

While the approval should in theory follow the adoption of symbols by the relevant bodies of the units of local self-government (county, city or community aseembly), occasionally the units formally adopt the symbols only after obtaining the approval.

The mark (H) after the approval date indicates that the approval act explicitly confirms that the approved coat of arms is a historical one.

With the approval dates, it is indicated is the approvals acknowlegde the historical coat of arms:
(H) - the approval acknowledge existance of the historical coat of arms
[H] - the approval mentions that the coat of arms is a historical one, but issued prior to the Commission establishment, copying the claim from the local regulations, not necesary credible
[N] - the approval issued prior to the Commission establishment, not including the historical claim
[?] - unknown content of the relevant part of the approval
(/H) - the approval aproves the coat of arms "based on the historical coat of arms"
no indicator - the approval mentions not if the coat of arms is a historical one (not necessary meaning that the approved arms are newly designed, as there are cases when the historical arms are clearly known, but the fact is simply not mentioned)

Regulations on local symbols::
- Pravilnik o postupku za utvrđivanje grba i zastave jedinica lokalne samouprave, 11. listopada 1994., Narodne novine, br. 80/1994, 2. studenog 1994.
- Pravilnik o dopuni Pravilnika o postupku za utvrđivanje grba, i zastave jedinice lokalne samouprave, 11. travnja 1995., Narodne novine, br. 26/1995, 20. travnja 1995.
- Pravilnik o postupku davanja odobrenja grba i zastave jedinici lokalne samouprave, 29. lipnja 1998., Narodne novine, br. 94/1998, 10. srpnja 1998.
- Pravilnik o izmjenama Pravilnika o postupku davanja odobrenja grba i zastave jedinici lokalne samouprave, 21. svibnja 2004., Narodne novine, br. 68/2004, 26. svibnja 2004.

On quoted blazons and descriptions

Since recently (2014), I started including on the web site quoted descriptions of coats of arms and flags from the official documents (decisions, statutes, approvals etc.), currently only for the Croatian units of local self-government. The descriptions are quoted in Croatian (and/or other languages found in the original documents) and their literal translations are not provided on the English version of the site, as such translations would, of course, be pontless.

A professional heraldic description of a coat opf arms is called a blazon, while there is no separate vexillological term for the flag description. The blazons and the flag descriptions in the official documents may not be considered professional, as they are not, for the most, made by professionals, but they are product of political and bireaucratic writing, sometimes mixed with technical details of graphical design. Often it is fa too obvious that they were copied and edited (and even "proof-read") by persons who have no undertanding of the text, thus making errors and "typos" sometimes changing the meaning of the described.

In Croatia, the "Heraldic Commission" (see above) approves the official descriptions, that are, for the most, very professionally written and are here considered the only relevant official blazons and descriptions. Other descriptions appearing in the documents, in general, devaite from them, but they also provide some interesting information.

When there are different descriptions in consequtively adopted documents, even if the differences are but minor, they are all quoted, including the differences in word capitalization and interpunction symbols. Only the differences in spacing among interpuncions are ignored, as they differ haphazardly among documents. Just as well, the differences in graphical variations of the sam interpunction symbols (e.g. vaqrous lenght of dashes or various quotation marks) were ignored. The "typos" appearing in the original, except for rare most obvious, are left being. Occasionally these, as well aas some other oddities that may be interpreted as errors in quotation, are makred with the exclamation sic!. In order to avoid repetition of full quotes, when useful, the words ut supra (as above) are used. Parts of the skipped irrelevan text are marked with ellipsis […] Rarely, when only part of the description is known, the omitted part is marked with ellipsis withou brackets … , while the text quoted in the document to be deleted from a previous unknown document is striked.


Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Montenegro (Crna Gora)
Democratic Federal Yugoslavia (Demokratska Federativna Jugoslavija)
Flag and Arms of the Modern Era (these Web pages)
Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Federation International de Associations Vexillologique (International Federation of Vexillological Associations)
Flag Identification Symbols
Federal Peoples' Republic of Yugoslavia (Federativna Narodna Republika Jugoslavija)
Flag of the World (mailling list and Web site)
Croatia (Hrvatska), Republic of Croatia
Croatian History Museum (Hrvatski povjesni muzej), Zagreb
Croatian Republic (Community) of Herzeg-Bosnia (Hrvatska Republika/Zajednica Herceg-Bosna)
International Forces (in B&H)
Independent State of Croatia (Nezavisna Država Hrvatska)
Narodne novine (official gazette in Croatia)
Republic of Croatia (Republika Hrvatska)
Republic of Slovenia (Republika Slovenija); Republic of Serbia (Republika Srbija); Republic of Srpska (Republika Srpska)
Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (Socijalistička Federativna Republika Jugoslavija)
Stabilisation Forces (in B&H)
Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes; State of Slovenes, Croats and Serbs
Slovenia, Republic of Slovenia (Republika Slovenija)
Službeni list (official gazette in Yugoslavia)
Uradni list (official gazette in Slovenia)
Country's Anti-fascist Council of the Peoples' Liberation of Croatia, i.e. of Bosnia and Hezegovina (Zemaljsko anti-fašističko vijeće narodnog oslobođenja Hrvatske/Bosne i Hercegovine)

Mail, reactions, proposals, corrections and additions are welcome at zheimer@public.carnet.hr

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The FAME. Copyright © 1996-2012 by Zeljko Heimer. All rights reserved.