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Republic of Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina)

Republika Srpska, Republic of Serbska, Serb Republic

Last modified: 2006-01-14 by dov gutterman
Keywords: srpska | republika srpska | serb republic | bosnia and herzegovina | serbia | cross | firestalker | krajina | romanija | west herzegovina | sarajevo | ocila | yugoslavia | serbia | serbian cross | eagle | crown | serbska |
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image by Željko Heimer, 6 September 2000

See also:


See also:

Official flag

The official flag of the Republika Srpska is the red-blue-white flag in horizontal stripes of equal width. Ratio 1:2. 
Pascal Vagnat, 20 September 1999

The official flag of RS is plain Serb tricolour The status of RS is like this - it is one of the two entities fromtin the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. RS is unitary state (subdivided in municipalities - obstine), presidential parlamentary democracy. Regarding flags, the flag of B&H is used officially, together with the flag of RS, and according to my observations (which might be wrong) often together with one of the unofficial variations (cross, eagle...). Municipalities have (right to) flags, of which I believe we have see only the flag of Srpsko Sarajevo and Bileca, and which follow the Serbian vexillologic practice (square banners of arms).
Željko Heimer, 21 September 1999

Another variation of the flag of the Republic of Srpska is presented at <>.
Gvido Petersons, 17 March 2000

The flag is tricolour of red over blue over white. Ratio 1:2. When hoisted vertical the red stripe should be on observer's left (as it is usual).
This is the only official national flag of RS. All other variants reported in vex-literature have no official status, though indeed they have been reported used in official purposes more then once. It seems that such variations are tollerated, but sometimes also hoisted side by side with the pure flag, and with several variations together.
The source for the image is a document named (translated): "Original (ethalon) of the coat of arms and the flag of the Republic of Srpska with graphical standards for use, illustrated inset" issued by the official gazette and is not dated. Original title: "Izvornik (etalon) grba i zastave Republike Srpske sa grafie'kim standardima za primenu, ilustrovani prilog", Sluzbeni glasnik Republike Srpske. I have to thank to Pascal Vagnat for this document.
Željko Heimer, 6 September 2000

Znamierowsky 99 [zna99] show wrong flag - Page 155: Serbian Republic - The unofficial flag with its traditional Serbian arms is shown and described, rather than the plain tricolour (it is, however, possible that official information on this was not available prior to publication), and the flag is illustrated at 3:5 whereas the correct proportions of 1:2 are given in the text.
Christopher Southworth, 19 September 2004

The pure undefacted serb tricolour was adopted in 1992, and was not changed since. Ratio 1:2. The defaced flag is nothing but fancy (though many such fancyful flags were used unofficially).
Regarding the exact date - unfortunately the indeed excelent "etalon" issued in the official gazette in 1992 do not bear any date except in the title of the gazette it stands that it is a number that and that of 1992. I believe that the decision (law or whatever) was made earlier, and the etalon was published possibly some time afterwards, and he legislator felt that the exact date was unnecesserily. In any case, January 1992 surely seems as a reasonable date (quite possible it may be that itis the date of the adoption of the Constitution of RS).
Željko Heimer, 19 September 2004

Znamierowsky gives 9 January 1992, and William Crampton "January 1992" (although William also shows the cross with its four C's).
Unfortunately I have the relevant text of the Constitution but no date (only the year 1992).  This reads:  "Article 8: The Republic shall have the flag, the coat of arms and the anthem. The flag, the coat of arms and the wording of the national anthem shall be determined by constitutional law".
Christopher Southworth, 19 September 2004

"Serbian Cross" flag

[Flag of Bosnian Serbs]
image by Željko Heimer

The flag with the Serbian (St. Sava) cross (by the way, the cross has nothing to do with St. Sava, it was so named after the saint patron of Serbia by heraldrists and vexillologists, for convenience in similarity with British crosses) is unofficial, but in early 1990's very often used. The official flag is the simple tricolour.
Željko Heimer, 27 November 1995

The flag with "St. Sava cross" *) is often used, but unofficially. However, according to some sources the flag with cross is officially adopted by the Serb Orthodox Church as the flag representing the Church.

*) note that this name is fabrication of the mailing list (or vex community), although usefull, it is rarely called so by Serbs.
Željko Heimer
, 24 September 1999

Shouldn't we better replace this with "Serbian cross" (or perhaps even "Byzantine cross") before we create the myth of a "St. Sava's cross"?
Santiago Dotor, 27 September 1999

I think that the most common term that is used does not even mention cross - the Serbs call it "ocila" (c is read as "ts"), which is term that describe the four curious shapes (cyrillic S's). Another word in Serbian for the same thing is "ognjila", but I do not think that this is ever used for those devices in this sence. "Ocilo" is called in english a fire- iron, a cup or plate used for holding the "live coal" in religious service (or most usually under icons), providing the fragnan smoke. Similar device is also known in "western" heraldry, then most usualy with opening above, often with fire bursting from it.
The devices and cross originate from Byzantine "heraldry", where this was interpreted as four B's, So, it would be in Serb "ocila" or "krst s ocilima" (cross with fire-rons). Regarding the use of "Serbian cross" (or "Serb cross") would do.
Željko Heimer, 28 September 1999

I have read something about the flag with the Serbian cross of the Republika Srpska. According to it the four cyrillic "S" are taken from the motto  "Solamente los Serbios Salvaran Serbia" (only the Serbian people will save Serbia). I obtain this information from the italian magazine "Rivista Militare" (issue 5/2001).
Santiago Tazon, 27 October 2001

"Samo Sloga Srbe Spasava (Only Unity can save the Serbs)" is the correct interpretation of the four Cyrillic S's. The C's more usually face outwards, that is, the C's on the left-hand side are mirror-image, but I have seen them face inward as well on occasion.
John C. Evosevic, 27 October 2001

I don`t think that four cyrillic "S" (looks like latin C) are taken from the motto. More probably that different patriotic mottos were taken from ancient CoA with four "S". I know about two variants of motto:
Samo sloga Srbe Spasava (Only the Unity can save the Serbia), and Svety Sava Srpska Slava (St.Sava - the glory of Serbia)
(note: I can make mistakes in latinized serbian texts because I saw it in cyrillic alphabet only)
Victor Lomantsov, 27 October 2001

This is the most often quoted motto for this interpretation, but the other one quoted by Victor (correctly latinized would be "Sveti Sava - Srpska slava", note the capitalization) is also sometimes find - in what might be called more "clerical" sources.
In any case, both mottoes, and some other variations are rather new, from 18th centruy (or some few hundered years earlier, occasionally, in some arorial collections, I don't have any reference by hand), while the cross with S's stems from much earlier time of Bizantine Empire, where the elements surrounding the cross were interpreted as B's (greek letter 'beta') reffering to a motto if not similar in interpretation ("Basileus Basileon Basileuon Basileusin" - "King of
kings, ruling over kings", the motto of Paleologus dinasty), then certainly similar in idea of providing a motto to initials.
Heraldically speaking, the charges are nither B's nor S's, but firestalks, fireirons - things that are hanged uner the orthodox icons in which fragnant materials are incinerated.
Source: [mrd87]
Željko Heimer, 28 October 2001

This is indeed the most frequent interpretation. However, as Victor Lomantsov and Željko Heimer already said, what actually happens is that several mottoes were created 'post facto' from the cross, not the other way round.
The four firesteel-like elements surrounding a cross already appeared in the 14th century flag of the Byzantine Paleologues dinasty.
Santiago Dotor, 29 October 2001

Ron Lahav reported this flag as appear at Air Srpska wensite. This is not the company flag but an icon for the Serbian version of this website. The RS flag is an undefaced Serb blue-red-white tricolor. The "cross of St. Sava" flag has - or had, as of the early 90's, a kind of informal status as the flag of the Serb nation, irrespective of geopolitical boundaries. This includes the Serbs of Macedonia, the Bosnian RS, presumably what's left of the Serb minorities of Croatia and Kosovo and in Serbia and Montenegro, of course. That flag has not territorial meaning, it was/is used as a civil flag sometimes (weddings, sport matches etc), but never been official.
Eugene Ipavec and Ivan Sarajcic, 25 November 2005

See also: Serbian Orthodox Church

War Flag

According to the chart: "Flags of Aspirant Peoples" , "Srpska Bosna Hercegovina (Serbian state of Bosnia-Herzegovina) - War flag" is a Serbian tricolor, charged with a white eagle.
This design is listed under number 40 at the chart "Flags of Aspirant Peoples" [eba94].
Ivan Sache, 16 September 1999

Coat of Arms

image by Željko Heimer, 6 September 2000

Coat of arms of RS - Gules, a Two-headed Eagle Argent displayed, langued, beaked and membered Or, topped with a Crown of the same bearing an escutcheon Gules, between a Cross Argent four Fire Irons of the same adorsed (Serbia modern).
This Coat of Arms is virtually the same as the lesser Coat of Arms of pre-WWI kingdom of Serbia. A construction detail, the Coat of Arms apears to be in ratio 5:7, but is divided for construction purposes in 8x9 sectors
Željko Heimer, 6 September 2000

When it comes to Srpska, it is using a royal crown in spite of the fact that it is not a monarchy.
Elias Granqvist, 16 September 2000

The anwser would be, I guess, that RS adopted the coat of arms of the Kingdom of Serbia of before the first World War. Actually, there were, I believe several consequtive versions of Serbian Coat of Arms before 1914, some including fleurs-de-lis, and I am not sure if it was the latest version that was (re)adopted by RS. The version with f-d-l's was not suitable, I guess as today those have other conotations (Bosniaks).
In any case, the crown in the Coat of Arms is anachronic, but it may be, and probably is, explained as a symbol of souvereignity, just as are crowns in some other European republics. This crown, even in being royal, is now here to represent the sovereignity weather in reference to previous rolayity or not.
Željko Heimer, 17 September 2000

Other Reported Flags

Last night I was watching the news on TV when they carried an article on a rally of Bosnian Serbs in Sarajevo, and as you would expect it was a veritable vex-fest with much flag-waving going on.

However, I noticed that a number of the usual Serb tricolours were adorned with an emblem I have not seen discussed here. It was a small equi-dimensional cross in the centre extending slightly more than the width of the central stripe, and in each angle was a circle.
C. Veale, 30 November 1995

The other day on the news I saw some suburban Sarajevo Serbs protesting that a unified Sarajevo will be granted to the Muslim-Croat federation under the Dayton peace accords.

They were waving what I assumed to be a Serb flag: white stripe on top, blue in the middle, red on the bottom. There was no arms on the flag, as we have previously seen. How is this flag different from the Russian Federation?
Josh Fruhlinger, 26 November 1995

In my humble opinion, what you saw was the red blue white flag turned upside down. From my experience, some people in ex-Yugoslavia don't give much attention to how the flags are flown.

The cross and circles device must be the cross and 4 C's (fire stalkers). More on this see on Republic of Serb Krajina and Serbia pages.
Željko Heimer, 1 December 1995

Former Serb Republics or Regions in Bosnia-Herzegovina

I read that at first three serb republics existed in Bosnia :

  • a) Republic of Krajina, capital Banja Luka, proclaimed at 16 September 1991. Flag: serbian tricolour with the cross and four Cs in the centre.
    b) Republic of Romanija, capital Pale, proclaimed at 12 September 1991. Flag: serbian tricolour with crowned double-headed eagle.
    c) Republic of West Herzegovina, capital Trebinje, proclaimed at 12 September 1991. Flag: serbian tricolour with cross and four C only in the central band.

The three republics where merged after 12 September 1993 after the Banja Luka agreement. Is this correct?
Jaume Ollé, 13 November 1996

I am not sure any more of the exact names of these 'Republics'. In fact, I think they were not proclaimed as republics but as authonomous regions, or something like that. I am especially suspicious of the first name. In any case, I don't think they used any official flags as states and even if they did, they would probably have the same definition of the state flag as did the Republic of Serbian Krajina in Croatia that defined it's flag to be a tricolour of red over blue over white, and nothing else.

All the designs you mention where in use, but they where not territorially closed and where used as unofficial and official (with that I mean in official purposes like parlamentary sessions) flags in all areas where Serbs lived - Krajina, Western and Eastern Slavonia, Bosnia, Serbia, Montenegro and Macedonia.
Željko Heimer, 16 November 1966


I received info on the communities in the Republic of Srpska in B&H. This is thanks to a visitor to my web site who goes by as Goran from Srpsko Sarajevo.
The RS is divided currently into 62 communities. There are also two cities: Banja Luka which coincides teritorially with the community of Banja Luka, and Srpsko Sarajevo that encompases seven communities: Pale, Rogatica, Sokolac, Srpska Ilidza, Srpski Stari Grad, Srpsko Novo Sarajevo and Trnovo. (Therefore, writes Goran, e.g. that the building of the community of Srpsko Novo Sarajevo since recently flyes four flags - B&H, RS, Srpsko Sarajevo and Srpsko Novo Sarajevo. I hope to get some more info on the last one soon.)
The government of the RS lists the communities at <>. I prvide the list here, adding the "ASCII" version of the name where diacritics are used, and I add some additional comments:

  • Banja Luka
  • Berkovici - Berkovic/i, formerly part of Stolac
  • Bijeljina
  • Bilec'a
  • Bratunac
  • Distrikt Brcko (District of Brcko - this is not part of RS, but they had it in the list so I show it here)
  • Cajnice - C<ajnic<e
  • Celinac - C<elinac
  • Derventa (see: Coat of Arms of Derventa)
  • Doboj
  • Gacko
  • Gradiška - Gradis<ka, formerly named Bosanska Gradiška
  • Han Pijesak
  • Jezero - formerly part of Jajce
  • Kalinovik
  • Kneževo - Knez<evo, formerly named Skender Vakuf
  • Kotor Varoš - Kotor Varos<
  • Kozarska Dubica - formerly named Bosanska Dubica
  • Krupa - formerly named Bosanksa Krupa
  • Srpski Kupres - formerly part of Kupres
  • Laktaši - Laktas<i
  • Lopare
  • Ljubinje
  • Milici - Milic/i
  • Modrica - Modric<a
  • Mrkonjic Grad - Mrkonjic/ Grad
  • Nevesinje
  • Novi Grad - formerly named Bosanski Novi
  • Osmaci - formerly part of Kalesija
  • Pale
  • Pelagicevo - Pelagic/evo
  • Petrovac - foremrly named Bosanski Petrovac
  • Petrovo - formerly part of Gracanica
  • Prijedor
  • Prnjavor
  • Ribnik - formerly part of Sanski Most
  • Rogatica
  • Rudo
  • Skelani - now nonexistent - reincorporated to Srebrenica
  • Sokolac
  • Srbac
  • Srbinje - formerly named Foc<a
  • Srebrenica
  • Srpska Ilidža - Srpska Ilidz<a
  • Srpska Kostajnica - formerly named Bosanska Kostajnica
  • Srpski Brod - formerly named Bosanski Brod
  • Srpski Drvar - formerly part of Drvar
  • Srpski Mostar - formerly part of Mostar
  • Srpski Sanski Most - formerly part of Sanski Most
  • Srpski Stari Grad - formerly part of Stari Grad
  • Srpsko Goražde - Srpsko Goraz<de - formerly part of Goražde
  • Srpsko Novo Sarajevo - formerly part of Novo Sarajevo
  • Srpsko Orašje - Srpsko Oras<je - formerly part of Orašje
  • Šamac - S<amac - formerly named Bosanski Šamac
  • Šekovici - S<ekovici
  • Šipovo - S<ipovo
  • Teslic - Teslic/
  • Trebinje
  • Trnovo
  • Ugljevik
  • Višegrad - Vis<egrad
  • Vlasenica
  • Vukosavlje - formerly part of Odžak
  • Zvornik

As you can see, some of the communities are renamed for "ideological" reasons, tyipically replacing the attribute Bosanski with Srpski (and this is typically with those cities that are on rivers, where on the other bank is Croatian city of the same name attributed Hrvatski or Slavonski). With the division of the country with Dayton agreement, the so called Inter-Entity Boundary line did not match the of former communities' boundaries, so parts of some communities were left "on the other side" - new communities are formed by the "leftovers" that are much smaller then the "normal" communities and shall surely in future be disbanded. Anyway, these are idneicated as "formerly part of" community from the Federation.
Anyway, I hope we shall get some flag info on at least some of those. Many of them do have Coat of Arms, that may be found around the Web, ut they are typically very complicated. A number of the communities got themselves the Coat of Arms of type promoted by the Serb Heraldic Society, the flags of which are square banners of arms (or similar).
Željko Heimer, 5 January 2003

On 26 March 2004, the Consitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina ordered the National Assembly of the Republika Srpska to supress the prefix Srpski from the name of 13 communities. Marco Tadic, President of the Court, said to the media: "Since the Constitution of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina acknowledges the equal rights of all ethnical groups, the Court has estimated that those names were discriminatory againts the non-Serbian people." The National Assembly must adopt new names or restore the former names of the communities within three months. The initiative for the modification of the names of the 13 communities was launched by Sejfudin Tokic, former President of the Parliament of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Tokic found that the return rate [of non-Serbian people] to those communities was extremely low.
The 13 municipalities whose name must be changed are:
Srpsko Sarajevo
Srpska Derventa
Srpski Mostar
Srpski Sanski Most
Srpsko Gorazde
Srpski Kljuc
Srpska Kostajnica
Srpski Brod
Srpska Ilidza
Srpsko Novo Sarajevo
Srpski Star Grad
Srpsko Orasje
Source: Courrier des Balkans <>
Ivan Sache, 17 April 2004