White-red-white flag

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White-red-white flag
Historical flag of Belarus
Flag of the Belarusian democratic opposition
UseCivil and state flag, civil and state ensign
Adopted1918; 106 years ago (1918)
DesignA horizontal triband of white (top and bottom) and red.
Designed byKlawdziy Duzh-Dushewski

The white-red-white flag (Belarusian: Бел-чырвона-белы сьцяг, romanizedByel-chyrvona-byely stsyah) is a historical flag used by the Belarusian Democratic Republic in 1918 before Western Belarus was occupied by the Second Polish Republic and Eastern Belarus was occupied by Soviet Union (two years later becoming the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic). The flag was then used by the Belarusian national movement in Western Belarus followed by widespread unofficial use during the German occupation of Belarus between 1941 and 1944, and again after it regained its independence in 1991 until the 1995 referendum.

Opposition groups have continued to use this flag, though its display in Belarus has been restricted by the government of Belarus under Alexander Lukashenko, which claims it is linked with Nazi collaboration due to its use by Belarusian collaborators during World War II. The white-red-white flag has been used in protests against the government, most recently the 2020–2021 Belarusian protests, and by the Belarusian diaspora.

Color scheme[edit]

Color model White Red
CMYK 0–0–0–0 0–100–100–20
RGB 255–255–255 204–0–0
Hex #FFFFFF #CC0000



The design of the flag used between 19 September 1991 and 5 June 1995 had originally been devised by the Belarusian Democratic Republic (March to December 1918).[1] The original person behind the design of the flag is believed to have been Klawdziy Duzh-Dushewski before 1917 and this design is known in Belarusian as the byel-chyrvona-byely s'tsyah (Бел-чырвона-белы сьцяг; literally "white-red-white flag").[2] Red and white have traditionally been used in the coat of arms of Lithuania (Belarusian: Пагоня, romanizedPahonia), the state heraldry of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and also the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, both of which included lands that are now Belarus.[3] There are several other theories explaining the flag's origin. One theory speaks of an allusion to the name of the country, White Ruthenia.[4][5]

Interwar period[edit]

In 1918, the Belarusian People's Republic (BNR) was proclaimed, the symbols of which became the coat of arms ("Pahonia") and the white-red-white flag. On 11 August, the newspaper Svobodnaya Belarus published the first official description of the flag and coat of arms. From 1919 to 1920, the white-red-white flag was used by Belarusian military formations as part of the Polish and Lithuanian armies. In 1920, the flag was used by participants in the Slutsk uprising.[4]

Between 1921 and 1939 the white-red-white flag was used by the Belarusian national movement in Western Belorussia (part of the Second Polish Republic), both by political organisations like the Belarusian Peasants' and Workers' Union or the Belarusian Christian Democracy, and non-political organisations like the Belarusian Schools Society.[6] The flag was also used by the Belarusian Special Battalion in the Lithuanian army. After the Soviet invasion of Poland and the annexation of modern-day West Belarus in 1939, the flag was forbidden by the Soviet administration in the newly acquired territories as well.[4][5]

Second World War[edit]

A Pro-Nazi rally in Minsk. The supporters are holding the white-red-white flags and a portrait of Adolf Hitler 1943

During World War II the flag was used during Byelorussian collaboration with Nazi Germany, being used by the Belarusian Central Council and appearing on arm patches and other insignia worn by the Belarusian Auxiliary Police, Belarusian Home Defence, and later the Belarusian division of the Waffen-SS. However, Duzh-Dushewski, the creator of the flag, refused to cooperate with the Nazi occupation forces and hid a Jewish family in his house, for which he was sent to the Pravieniškės labor camp.[4][8][9]

Soviet era[edit]

After World War II, the flag was used by the Belarusian diaspora in the West and by a few groups opposing the Soviet government in Belarus itself. In the late 1980s, amid Mikhail Gorbachev's perestroika and glasnost program, the flag began to be used as a symbol of national revival and democratic changes in the Byelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic, which led to the end of the Soviet Union. This concerned the Baltic republics and Western Belarus, one of the last remaining territories occupied by the Soviet Union, leading to Lithuania re-establishing its national symbols in 1988, with Latvia and Estonia following suit as well as nearby Ukraine in 1990.

Independence and opposition era[edit]

After the Belarusian Popular Front's proposal, the flag became the new flag of Belarus when it became an independent country in 1991.[5] Following the 1995 Belarusian referendum, the white-red-white flag was abolished as a state flag, replaced by one similar to that used in the Soviet era, and Alexander Lukashenko's supporters tore it to pieces on the roof of the Presidential Administration of Belarus.[10]

The former flag of Belarus has been used widely during the 2020–2021 Belarusian protests.

After 1995 the white-red-white flag has been used as a symbol of the opposition to the regime of Lukashenko, most notably during protests after the 2006, 2010, 2015, and the 2020 presidential elections and at mass rallies on Freedom Day celebrations as well as Dziady memorial marches. The flag is not officially banned from public usage, but is treated by the authorities as an unregistered symbol which means that demonstration of it by political activists or sports fans can lead to arrests and confiscation of the flags.[11][12] In early 2010, political activist Siarhei Kavalenka was arrested for placing a white-red-white flag atop a Christmas tree on the central square of Vitebsk. The court gave Kavalenka three years of suspended sentence which was followed by a second arrest and Kavalenka's several weeks long hunger strike. The hunger strike was interrupted by force-feeding on 16 January 2012.[13] According to Vadzim Smok in his research paper of 2013, only 8% of Belarusians considered the white-red-white flag as Belarus' true flag.[14]

The flag has been widely used by opposition supporters during the 2020–2021 Belarusian protests in rallies in support of presidential candidate Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya, and later after the disputed elections, in which, according to the official statement of the Central Election Commission, the current president of the country, Alexander Lukashenko, won the majority of votes. A popular variant used by protesters is the white-red-white flag with the historic Pahonia coat of arms. Initially though, there are reports that some opposition supporters have also used the current flag.[15][16] As of 7 December 2020, Belarusian authorities are drafting a law that could ban the white-red-white flag.[17]

Relationship to other flags[edit]

The white-red-white flag is almost identical to the flag of Wyszków in Poland, the flag of Berlare in Belgium, flags of Brielle and Enschede in the Netherlands, and the flag of the Atlántico Department in Colombia. The unrelated flag of Austria has the colours reversed.

Creators of the so-called "Russian anti-war flag" used in the 2022 anti-war protests in Russia list the similarity to the white-red-white flag as among its advantages.[18][19][20][21]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Ioffe, Grigoriĭ Viktorovich; Ioffe, Grigorij V. (2008). Understanding Belarus and How Western Foreign Policy Misses the Mark. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 978-0-7425-5558-7. Retrieved 26 August 2012. (Backcover)
  2. ^ Khorevsky, Sergey. Клаўдзi Дуж-Душэўскi. Сьцяг [Claudius Duzh-Duszewski. Flag]. Наша Ніва (in Belarusian). Archived from the original on 26 February 2012. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  3. ^ Wilson, Andrew (2011). Belarus: The Last European Dictatorship. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. p. 174. ISBN 978-0-300-13435-3.
  4. ^ a b c d Kotljarchuk, Andrej (14 September 2020). "The Flag Revolution. Understanding the political symbols of Belarus". balticworlds.com. Centre for Baltic and East European Studies (CBEES), Södertörn University. Archived from the original on 25 December 2020. Retrieved 7 December 2020.
  5. ^ a b c Lyalkov, Igor. Пытаньне дзяржаўнай сымболікі ў Беларусі: гісторыя і сучасны стан [The issue of state symbols in Belarus: history and current state]. Pahonia-plakat.narod.ru (in Belarusian). Malyavanych. Archived from the original on 10 November 2013. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  6. ^ Vashkevich, Andrei (2007). Нашы сцягі над Заходняй [Our flags over the West]. Arche (in Belarusian). Vol. 4, no. 55. Archived from the original on 21 November 2008. Retrieved 10 November 2008.
  7. ^ "Independence Of Belarus Became Law On August 25". Charter97. Charter 97. Retrieved 7 October 2023.
  8. ^ Клавдий–строитель [Claudius the Builder]. Sovetskaya Belorussiya – Belarus' Segodnya (in Russian). 10 February 2011. Archived from the original on 25 December 2020. Retrieved 25 December 2020.
  9. ^ Wilson, Andrew (2011). Belarus: The Last European Dictatorship. New Haven, Connecticut: Yale University Press. p. 110. ISBN 978-0-300-13435-3.
  10. ^ "Як у беларусаў забралі нацыянальны сцяг і герб. Сёння – гадавіна рэферэндуму". Naviny.belsat.eu (in Belarusian). Belsat TV. 14 May 2018.
  11. ^ Gurnevich, Dmitry (7 March 2006). Затрыманьні на рыцарскім фэсьце [Detentions at a knight's festival]. Polskie Radio (in Belarusian). Archived from the original on 5 March 2016. Retrieved 28 June 2012.
  12. ^ Congressional Record. Washington D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office. 1949. p. 2773. ISBN 978-0-7425-5558-7. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  13. ^ Human Rights Watch (2011). World Report 2011: Events of 2010. New York, New York: Seven Stories Press. p. 407. ISBN 978-1-60980-151-9. Retrieved 26 August 2012.
  14. ^ Smok, Vadzim (9 December 2013). Belarusian Identity: the Impact of Lukashenka's Rule (PDF). Minsk-London: Ostrogorski Centre. p. 17.
  15. ^ Roth, Andrew (31 July 2020). "Huge crowds rally for Belarus opposition leader in run-up to presidential election". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 12 October 2020. Retrieved 25 December 2020.
  16. ^ "Tens of thousands rally in Belarus despite pre-election crackdown". Al Jazeera English. 31 July 2020. Archived from the original on 25 December 2020. Retrieved 25 December 2020.
  17. ^ "MP: law against glorification of Nazism may appear "in near future"". European Radio for Belarus. 12 July 2020. Archived from the original on 25 December 2020. Retrieved 12 July 2020.
  18. ^
  19. ^ mg (2022-03-22). "Ukraine-Krieg: Neue russische Flagge aufgetaucht – das steckt dahinter" [Ukrainian war: New Russian flag appearing – the background]. Der Westen (in German). Berlin, Germany: FUNKE Digital GmbH / Funke Mediengruppe. Archived from the original on 2022-03-25. Retrieved 2022-03-25. Die Vorteile einer neuen weiß-blau-weißen Flagge seien zum einen die Ähnlichkeit mit der ehemaligen Flagge von Weliki Nowgorod, einer Stadt, die als Wiege der russischen Demokratie gelte. Außerdem würde sie an die belarussische weiß-rot-weiße Protestfalle erinnern. [Among the advantages of a new white-blue-white flag were its resemblance of the former flag of Veliky Novgorod, a city considered to be the cradle of Russian democracy. Also, it would remind of the Belarusian white-red-white protest flag.]
  20. ^ Tiesbohnenkamp, Werner, ed. (March 2022). "Die Flagge des schönen Russlands der Zukunft" [The flag of the beautiful Russia of the future]. Lexas Laenderservice (in German). Gütersloh, Germany: Informationsvermittlung Dr. Werner Tiesbohnenkamp. Archived from the original on 2022-03-25. Retrieved 2022-03-25. Die weiß-blau-weiße Flagge ähnelt auch der Flagge des freien Belarus — Weiß-Rot-Weiß. [The white-blue-white flag is similar to the flag of the free Belarus - white-red-white.]
  21. ^ Krökel, Ulrich (2022-03-30). "Putin-Gegner: Unter einer neuen weiß-blau-weißen Flagge formiert sich Widerstand" [Putin opponents: Resistance is forming under a new white-blue-white flag]. Ausland (Foreign countries). Badische Zeitung (in German). Freiburg, Germany: Badischer Verlag GmbH & Co. KG. Archived from the original on 2022-03-30. Retrieved 2022-03-30. Die Exil-Oppositionellen verweisen auf Belarus. Dort versammelten sich im Sommer 2020 bei Massenprotesten gegen Machthaber Alexander Lukaschenko Zehntausende im Zeichen der alten weiß-rot-weißen Flagge. Es gibt weitere Vorbilder [...] [The exile oppositionists refer to Belarus. Under the sign of the old white-red-white flag tens of thousands gathered there in mass protests against the leader Alexander Lukashenko in the summer of 2020. There are other inspiring examples [...]]

External links[edit]