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Bosnia and Herzegovina - Flag of 1992

Last modified: 2005-08-06 by dov gutterman
Keywords: bosnia and herzegovina | fleur-de-lys | crescent |
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[Previous Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina]
by Željko Heimer, 29 January 2005

See also:

Bosnian Flag 1992-1998

Reuters has an article about the new Bosnia and Herzegovina flag. This article reads that Bosnian Moslem leader Alija Izetbegovic, the chairman of the country's collective presidency, has proposed declaring the old flag with the fleur de lis to be the banner of the Bosnian Moslem people.
Mark Sensen, 5 February 1998

Official Bosnia-Herzegovina flag, adopted 6th of April 1992 temporarly, and 20th of May permanently. Was the first flag to be waved by Bosnia on East River, Barcelona Olympics, etc. Lasted till Westendorp's new corn-flake-flag.
Velid-aga Jerlagic, 13 April 1998

Communique of the Mission of the Republic of B&H to Commandant Du Payrat 14 April 1997 include a (not extremely useful) construction sheet of the Coat of Arms and a drawing of the flag. The flag does not have a construction sheet but the caption says "manufactured measures to be proportional to those in the layout". The shown flag is a vertical flag, and as far as I am aware all the official documentation consider the flag to be vertical, even if it was used as horizontal flag (i.e. with the Coat of Arms rotated "normally") whenever needed. The flag shown in the drawing is (approximately, but the discrepancy may be due to the faxing and copying of the printed material) 1:2 with the coat of arms set in the middle. The width of the Coat of Arms is 56% of the width of the flag, as I measured it.
Željko Heimer, 29 January 2005

Velid-aga claims that the previous flag of BA was adopted on 6 april 1992 as a temporary flag and on 20 May as permanent one. However, I received recently from Adi Mirojevic the text of the decision that intoduced the 1992 flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The decision was issued in the official gazette on 27 March 1992 and became valid on the same day.
Anyway, here is my translation:
"Decree with Statutory Power on the Establishemnt of the Temporary Coat of arms and the Flag of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Art. 1. The coat of arms of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina is of a shield shape coloured blue divided into two fields by a diagonal bend coloured white and with three stylized fleurs-de-lis coloured golden- yellow in each of the fields.
Art. 2. The flag of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina is rectangular with the coat of arms of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina in the middle on a white field. The ratio of the width and the length of the flag is one to two.
Art. 3. This Decree is valid imidiately, and shall be published in the "Službeni list R BiH".
Art. 4. This Law (sic!) is valid on the day of issue in the "Službeni list R BiH"."
("Službeni list RBiH", 7/92, 27 March 1992)
Željko Heimer, 10 June and 9 July 2005

Vertical Flag

[Previous Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina]
by Željko Heimer, 29 January 2005

An Unofficial Variation

[Unofficial variation of the previous Flag of Bosnia and Herzegovina]
by Željko Heimer, 29 January 2005

This is an unofficial variant of 1992 Bosnian flag with fleur-de-lys, but with white, instead of yellow border of the shield.
Velid-aga Jerlagic, 13 April 1998

Heraldry and the Origin of the Bosnian Fleur-de-lis

[1992 arms of Bosnia and Herzegovina]
by Željko Heimer, 29 January 2005

Azure, a bend argent between 6 fleur-de-lys or. The origin of these arms, which are now on the flag of the republic of Bosnia-Hercegovina, has long puzzled me, but they are in fact the arms of the Kotromanic family, which ruled Bosnia in the 14th and 15th centuries. Other arms have also been attributed to Bosnia in the 19th century.

I finally thought of a way to get at this question of the origin of the current Bosnian flag: numismatics, of course. I found a book by one Ivan Rengjeo, Corpus der mittel-alterlichen Münzen von Kroatien, Slavonien, Dalmatien und Bosnien, Graz, 1959, which is as exhaustive as you can get on the topic (coins from those regions, that is). I have also consulted an article by Pavao Andelic on Medieval Seals of Bosnia-Hercegovina, in the monograph series of the Academy of Sciences and Arts of Bosnia-Hercegovina (Sarajevo, 1970), but it is in Serbo-Croat, so I can only look at the (numerous) illustrations. What follows is a historical/heraldic account, pieced together from these sources, and a few encyclopedias.

Bosnia was dominated alternatively by Serbia and, from the 12th century onward, by Croatia (in personal union with Hungary) until the early 14th century. Typically, the king of Hungary and Croatia appointed bans, or local governors, and, in typical medieval fashion, these bans took advantage of any weakness of the central monarchy to carve out territories for themselves.

In the early 14th century, the ban of Croatia was Pavao (Paul) Subic of Brebir or Breberio (a town in Dalmatia which was given to the family in 1222): his father and grandfather were counts or Trau or Trogir, his cousins were counts of Spalato or Split. This powerful man titles himself ban of Croatia and dominus Bosniae, and appoints his brother Mladen I Subic (1302-04) and later his eldest son Mladen II (1312-14) as ban of Bosnia. His second son Georg was count of Trau and Split, his third son Pavao was count of Trau. By the third generation, however, the family had lost its power. This first dynasty of bans issued byzantine-style coins, with no heraldry. Their seals, however, show the Subic arms: an eagle wing displayed, and 5 flowers with stems as crest (misread by Siebmacher as ostrich-feathers). The style of the arms is very German, with the shield tilted to the left, a German helm, lambrequins, and a crest. There are no tinctures, but a junior branch issued from Pavao count of Trau, the Subic de Zrin, bore Gules, two wings sable (an interesting violation of the so-called tincture rule).

Pavao Subic was forced to cede control of Southern Bosnia to Stjepan Kotromanic (died 1353), and, in 1314, Mladen II ceded the banate of Bosnia to him. This established the Kotromanic dynasty in Bosnia. Stjepan styles himself dei gratia Bosniae banus, which asserts a fair measure of independence. Stjepan's brother married Helena, daughter of Mladen II Subic, and his son Stjepan Tvrtko (1353-91) succeeded Stjepan. In 1377, Tvrtko assumed the title of King of Racia and Bosnia. His seals show the following arms: a bend between six fleurs-de-lys, the helm is a hop-flower on a long stem issuant from an open crown of fleurs-de-lys. The Kotromanic were close to the Hungarian kings, and Stjepan's daughter Elisabeth married Louis I of Hungary (reigned 1342-82).

Trvtko I was succeeded by Stjepan Dabisa (1391-98) and Stjepan Ostoja (1398-1404, 1409-18). The latter's seal shoes different arms, namely an open crown of fleurs-de-lys and the same helm and crest as before. Tvrtko's son Tvrtko II (1404-09, 1421-43) used a seal similar to his father's, with the arms of the Kotromanic family itself, which are the bend between 6 fleur-de-lys, a crowned helm with the same crest.

New coins are issued starting in 1436, markedly Western in style, which display a full-blown achievement: an escutcheon bearing the letter T, crowned with an open crown of fleur-de-lys. The helm is crowned and the crest is a hop-flower on a long stem. The letter T seems to stand for the name of the king. Later, around 1450, impressive new gold coins show the Kotromanic arms.

The last kings are Stjepan Tomas Kotromanic (1444-61) and Stjepan Tomasevic Kotrmomanic (1461-63). The kingdom disappears in 1463 when he is killed by the Turks. In the southern region called Hum or Chelm, a local ban called Stjepan Vukcic Kosaca (died 1466) had proclaimed himself duke or herceg in 1448, and is recognized by the Holy Roman Empire as duke of Saint-Abbas or Saint-Sava in some texts (whence the name Hercegovina for that area). Siebmacher says that the family was descended from the Byzantine Comneno.

The Vukcic family arms appear on the seal of Stjepan Vukcic, and his successors Vladislav Hercegovic (died 1489), Vlatko Hercegovic (died 1489) and Stjepan Hercegovic (died 1517). namely Gules, three bends argent, crest: a lion issuant holding in its two paws a banner gules with a double cross argent (the Hungarian state banne, according to Siebmacher). The same arms appear on coins issued by a self-proclaimed duke of Split in the early 15th century, namely on a bend between two crosses, three fleur-de-lys bendwise.

The remaining question is: where did the fleur-de-lys in the Kotromanic (and the Vukcic) arms come from? One distinct possibility is Byzantium, whose style the first Bosnian coins imitate closely. Byzantine emperors started using the fleur-de-lys on their coinage soon after the creation of the empire of Nicaea, after the fall of Constantinople in 1204.

But more realistically, the connection would be with the Hungarian dynastic struggle which broke out in 1302 with the end of the Arpad dynasty. The kings of Naples claimed the throne, and it was during the struggle that, by pledging alliegance to one side and to the other, the Bosnian bans managed to carve out their independent fief. The Bosnian dynasty became quite close to the Angevins, and the daughter of Stjepan, king of Bosnia, married Louis I, king of Hungary. The kings of Naples were the Anjou family, a junior branch of the French royal family, and bore France differenced with a label gules. I can well imagine the Kotromanic adopting, or being granted, fleur-de-lys on their coat of arms as reward for taking the Angevin side. For the moment, Bosnian history books are hard to come by, so I can't easily confirm my hunch.

For some reason, these arms were forgotten after the 16th century. A 18th century French genealogy of the Angevin kings of Hungary blazons the arms of Louis' wife as: Or, issuing from the sinister flank an arm embowed proper, vested Gules, holding a sabre Argent (see: Bosnia in the Austo-Hungarian Empire). These are also the arms attributed by the Austrians to Bosnia-Hercegovina after it was annexed from Turkey in 1908. However, a number of 19th century encyclopedias give yet another coat of arms (for example, the French Larousse), namely: Gules, a crescent Argent beneath an 8-pointed star of the same. The crown over the shield is an Eastern crown, i.e. with "spikes". These arms recall the old symbol of Croatia on its early coinage. They are also the arms attributed to the old kingdoms of Illyria and Bosnia in Siebmacher. There is some evidence for a medieval use of the shield with the arm holding a saber. William Miller, in Essays on the Latin Orient (Cambridge, 1921, p. 510) describes the arms displayed in Rome on the tomb of Catherine (died 1478), daughter of Stjepan Vukcic duke of Saint-Abbas, and married in 1446 to Stjepan Tomas Kotromanic, last king of Bosnia (died 1461): his description is unfortunately imprecise, but he mentions two horsemen (which he says is the Kotromanic emblem) and a "mailed arm with a sword in the center" (which he says represents Primorje, or the Coastland).
Francois Velde, 30 June 1995

The official Coat of Arms of Bosnia and Herzegovina was adopted in the same time as the flag, but unofficially used before that date, most often by the Bosniaques.
Velid-aga Jerlagic, 13 April 1998

As i read through Francois Velde text, I felt that there was not a sufficient clarity upon certain points.  namely, it is easy to come to the wrong assumption that the "dynasties" with names of Kotromanic and later Herzegovic - virtually the only independent Bosnian monarchs - were more closely affiliated with the Croatian and German loyalties than they were to those of Serbian, who in that time, or around it (14th century) reached the peak of their influence on the Balkans.
I am quite sure that these two loyal families were politically Christian Orthodox ones, while Croatians (and needless to say Germans) were Catholics (of course, at the time, it was hard for anyone to distinguish people in Bosnia between Serbs and Croats, as well as between Catholics and the Orthodox).
The most apparent suggestion to this that I found in your text is that, as you see, the names of the Kotromanic rulers start with the prefixed common name Stjepan, a name exclusive to Serbian rulers. in Serbian royal dynasty of Nemanjic all rulers names started with this Stjepan, after the initiator of the dynasty, Stjepan Nemanja.  The first of Kotromanjic, as best as I can recall, was in blood relation with the Nemanjic, and adopting Stjepan from them was probably a clever move that increased his power in the eyes of the people (Nemanjic were very powerful and revered - many of them were cannonized by church).
Also, these Kotromanjic and Hercegovic, in their  full titles pronounced themselves as Serbian rulers. (The formal title of one of the Kotromanjic is a ridiculously long one and starts something like "The Serbain king of all Bosnia, Herzegovina, Zahumlje..")
There's also mention that Stjepan Vukcic Kosaca was known to Holy Roman Empire as St. Sava.  These two are certainly two separate identities, St. Sava is quite decidedly the most famous Serbian medieval personage, and is the son of the above mentioned Stjepan Nemanja.
Sretko Becarevic, 18 Febuary 2003

While I guess that Sretko might well be close to the truth explaining that the loyalities and alliances in the region are very hard to track and were very frequently changed according to the political climate, however, the main argument regarding the name is flawed. Stephen was a very popular royal name in larger region - just to name one, the king founder of the Hungarian state is also known as Stephen (St. Istvan in magyar and indeed Sv. Stjepan in Croatian). Serbian version of the name is rather Stevan. I believe that Serbs refer to their historical men in the text with that name (e.g. Stevan Nemanja). Blood relations are also of little significance, as it is no wander that royalities in a region are all related, it was all-European fenomenon. Indeed the modern (and not so modern) historians tend to "appropriate" dynasties for many resons, so Croats consider many Bosnian feudal families as their own, Serbs see them as Serbs, and Bosniaks are ready to explain that they are none. I see no hope that we should resolve the issue here, we can only report various theories (or legends, as you wish).
One may consider this otherwise. The heraldry and CoAs are inherently "Western" concept. Whenever these appear, they would indicate "inclination" of the bearers to the West. That, of course, does not prove anything, as the cultural influence could have remained after the "inclination" changed once again...
Željko Heimer, 18 Febuary 2003