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The colors of the flags

When you think of national flags, among the things that first jump to mind are definitely colors. These are the elements that immediately distinguish one flag from another, what characterizes and gives identity to a country.

The colors of the flags have become so iconic, throughout history, to the point of being associated almost unconsciously with the country to which they belong, without wondering what the true  meaning  behind the choice of a particular color is.

However, the colors of the flags are rarely random. On the contrary, these are the result of years, centuries of history and are imprinted on the national flag to express the culture or values of a particular country.

The colors that distinguish the flags often have extremely interesting stories behind them and have a strong symbolic value. There are meanings commonly associated with a particular color in a flag and these meanings are part of a shared collective imagination that has led, throughout history, to the prevalence of some colors in flags, to the detriment of others.

The meanings commonly associated with the colors of flags

In the collective imagination, therefore, each color of a flag can be associated with a specific value or meaning, and even if each country and each flag has its own history, we can say that some recurring colors are such precisely because they are associated with a particular symbolic value.

In this sense, white, present in a very high number of flags,is the color that represents peace, honesty and loyalty;  red  is generally linked to concepts such as courage, strength, determination or endurance; while  green,to remain among the colors of our flag,is often associated with hope, but also with love or happiness and in some cultures is associated with faith.

Another very recurrent color is blue  which represents loyalty, justice or even perseverance,  black often indicates determination,  yellow  generosity.

Obviously, as mentioned, not always the colors of a flag indicate exactly these values, because they can incorporate within them important “pieces” of history, culture and civilization of a particular people, thus varying their deep meaning. However, the meanings commonly associated with these  recurring colors in flags remain valid.

The recurring colors in flags

Speaking of recurring colors, it is certainly no coincidence that some colors  are much more frequent in the flags of the world, compared to others, but this does not only have to do with the meanings commonly associated with certain colors.

Very often we can see recurring colors in the flags of countries with a similar culture, a similar origin or that are united by some important historical events.

This is because, as we also said in the article dedicated to the meaning of the flags of theworld, the flag contains the true identity of a country, its history, its culture and can tell a lot about a people.

Thus, it can happen to meet recurring color combinations, real “patterns” or color patterns that are repeated in numerous flags  and that, very often, are not just a coincidence.

A concrete example and very close to us is precisely the tricolor. Italy is certainly not the only nation to use a tricolor with vertical bands for its flag and its origins can be found directly in the tricolor French, with which our flag has a particular bond (as we saw in the article on the history of the Italian Tricolor) and which has inspired many other tricolor flags in the rest of the world.

However, it is not only the use of the tricolor that is recurrent among the flags. Some colors, specifically, have become a symbol of some geographical areas and a vehicle of a common history among several nations.

Colors that are always used together in different flags identify common roots and a very precise cultural identity. Among these color “patterns” we find  pan-Slavic colors, Pan-African colors and  pan-Arab colors.

The colors of the Pan-Slavic flags

A particularly recurrent trio of colors is that composed of blue, white and red, usually arranged on horizontal bands. These colors are called Pan-Slavic because they are adopted mainly, but not only, by Slavic countries that share a common history or culture.

As we have said, the colors of the flags always tell something about a particular country and in fact the Pan-Slavic colors originally derive from the flag of Russia, a country that throughout history has significantly influenced the culture of numerous Slavic countries.

Among the main flags that use pan-Slavic colors today we find, in addition to Russia, Serbia, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Slovenia.

The colors of the Pan-African flags

Like the Pan-Slavic colors, there are also recurring colors in the flags of African countries, the so-called  pan-African colors that are divided into two “triads” of color.

The first pan-African color scheme is the one that originates from the flag of Ethiopia, in African history a symbol of  freedom and independence, and is composed of the colors green, yellow and  red.

Among the many flags that use this trio of Pan-African colors,the most famous are those of Cameroon, Ghana, Senegal, Mali, Benin, Republic of Congo, Guinea, Togo, Zimbabwe and of course Ethiopia.

However, there is also a second set of pan-African colors, moreover proclaimed official colors of the African Race by UNIA in the New York Convention of 1920.

Among these colors we find red, black and green, present in the flags of numerous states suchas Kenya, Malawi, Libya, South Africa, South Sudan.

The colors of the pan-Arab flags

In addition, even in the flags of many Arab countries you can recognize some recurring colors such as  black, red and white which, as a whole, represent the pan-Arab colors. Their origin is linked to the flag of the Hegiaz Arab Revolt of 1916, consisting of three horizontal bands with the three colors and a green triangle that is still a recurring element in many Arab flags today.

Among the main flags that use pan-Arab colors we find that of Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Sudan, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait.

Other recurring colors in flags

Finally, there are some small groups of flags united by the prevalence of a single color that is anything but random.

This can be seen with the so-called red flags that unite many countries strongly linked, by culture or history, to socialism, of which the color red has always been the symbol. In addition to the famous flag of the former USSR, we find the flags of China, Vietnam and Angola.

There are also some flags that use blue as the primary color, as they are  inspired by the flag of the European Union. This is the case with the flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Kosovo. 

While still other flags, such as that of Somalia and that of the Federated States of Micronesia, useblue as the predominant color, as they are even inspired by the flag of the United Nations Organization (UN).