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Basque Country (Spain)

País Vasco, Euskadi, Comunidad Autónoma del País Vasco, Euskal Autonomia Erkidegoa

Last modified: 2004-12-29 by santiago dotor
Keywords: basque country | pais vasco | euskadi | comunidad autónoma del país vasco | euskal autonomia erkidegoa | ikurriña | cross (white) | cross: saltire (green) | cross: saint andrew | iparralde | euskal herria |
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[Basque Country (Spain)] 14:25
by Jaume Ollé
Flag adopted 19th October 1936, readopted 18 December 1978

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Originally, in a field of 500 cm by 280 cm, the crosses had a width of 20 cm. Since 1936, with the same field, the crosses were enlarged to 43 cm width, to make them more visible, in particular the green one.

Xabier Ormaetxea, 9 July 1995

Last night CBC ran a special documentary on the Basque activities. Lots of scenes of the Ikurriña. In almost every view of it, the dimensions were considerably shorter than that shown above. I would guess it was generally 2:3, not the official nearly 1:2.

Rob Raeside, 7 April 1998

Some corrections to the information about the Decree of October 19th 1936, regarding the flag. This Decree established 0,20 metres as the width of the arms of the crosses. Another Decree of October 24th (published October 28th) corrected the former and established the measures as of 0,43 metres, leaving the other measures untouched.

Antonio Gutiérrez, 10 December 1999

The dimensions of the flag were established by Decree of 19 October 1936 and modified by Decree of 24 October 1936, the proportion was 14:25. This was confirmed by the General Basque Council on 18 December 1978, published 15 January 1979. In the Official Bulletin of the Basque Country of 26 October 1999 was published a regulation on the colours —previously unregulated— and proportions:

  • Red: Pantone 485C;
  • Green Pantone 347C;
  • Proportion: height must be 56% of the length [i.e. 14:25];
  • [width of] cross and saltire must be 8,6% of the length [i.e. 43/500ths].
Source: Flag Report, issue 18.

Jaume Ollé, 5 January 2001

Meaning of the Flag

Historically the flag of Biscay was red. When Sabino Arana created the flag, he wanted to give it the meaning "Biscay, Independence and God", so the red color of the field means Biscay, the green St. Andrew's cross means the independence of the Basque Country, and it is green because it symbolizes the oak tree of Gernika, symbol of Basque freedom, as well. The white cross means God [and it appears on the Biscay arms].

About the green St. Andrew's cross: in 867, there was a battle between the people of Biscay, commanded by Lope Fortún (first lord of Biscay) and Sancho de Estigiz (lord of Durango) and Leonese King Ordoño II (son of Alfonso el Magno) in a place called Padura (or Arrigorriaga). This battle was on St. Andrew's day, and the stones of the place were stained of blood. Since that day, the place has been named Arrigorriaga (place of red stones). It is not clear whether this battle is historical or legendary, but St. Andrew's cross has been used often in Basque flags, like the one of the Consulate of Bilbao, the Naval flag of Biscay, and in some Carlist flags during the Carlist wars (1836-1876).

Xabier Ormaetxea, 9 August 1995 and Ismael Barba, 6 May 1998

History and Origins of the Ikurriña

The Basque flag was created in 1894 by Sabino Arana (founder of Basque nationalism), and the name of the flag is Ikurriña, although the meaning of this word is "flag". Actually, it is used only for the Basque flag: Basque people prefer to use the Spanish word bandera for the other flags when they are speaking in Basque.

The Ikurriña was created only for Bizkaia (Biscay, a region of Euskadi), but it became very popular and the rest of the Basque regions (4 in Spain and 3 in France) accepted it as the flag of the whole Euskadi. In the beginning only the Basque Nationalist Party (founded by Sabino Arana in 31 July 1895) used it, but during the Second Spanish Republic (1931-1939) all democratic parties accepted it. In 1936 the Basque Autonomous Government (whose Lehendakari —president— was José Antonio Agirre) was created, with representation of all the democratic parties, and the Ikurriña was declared by law the Basque flag. After the Spanish war, the dictatorship (1936-1975) declared the Ikurriña to be illegal, and it was totally forbidden and declared a separatist symbol. During the Second World War, there was a Basque brigade in the French free army, and the Ikurriña of the brigade was condecorated (because of the battle of Point de Grave, near Bordeaux). After the dictatorship and with the approval of the Basque Autonomous Community, the Ikurriña was declared again by law as the official Basque flag. In the Basque areas of France it has always been allowed and after the Second World War has been officially used in the town halls together with the French flag.

Xabier Ormaetxea, 9 August 1995

The Ikurriña celebrated its centenary on 14 July 1994. The Ikurriña is the symbol of the Basques of Euskadi (under Spanish rule), Iparralde (under French rule), Navarre (under Spanish-French rule) and foreign residents in America, Europe and Australia (the Ikurriña is in the flag of Saint Pierre and Miquelon). The flag was hoisted for the first time by the Arana Goiri brothers and 56 friends, in the nationalist house named "Euskaldun Batzokija" in Bilbao on 14 July 1894. This was a great event for the Basque people, who had no flag tradition.

Source: Alderdi, no 55 (publication of the Basque Nationalist Party).

I found this page at the Partido Nacionalista Vasco (EAJ/PNV) website, with an image of the original notes and drawings made by the Arana brothers when they designed the Ikurriña (as the flag of the Biscay branch of the Nationalist Basque Party alone), including a long version of the flag intended for hanging (on balconies etc.).

Santiago Dotor, 10 December 1999

The ikurriña was designed by the Biscay brothers Sabino and Luis Arana for the province of Biscay, and it derives from the Biscay coat-of-arms (the red field is from the ancient Biscay flag, the white cross from the argent cross of the coat-of-arms [which shows behind the tree] and the green saltire from the tree).

Antonio Gutiérrez, 14 December 1999

It seems the Basque flag was not designed by Sabino Arana, but by his brother Luis. He designed a different flag for every Basque province, and left for a while the Basque Nationalist Party when they decided to adopt the ikurriña as the single Basque flag, rejecting the other ones. Source: Jon Juaristi, El Bucle Melancólico, about the birth of Basque nationalism.

Ismael Barba, 11 January 2000

Euskadi vs. Euskal Herria

Euskadi is the Basque name used for the Basque Autonomous Community (Comunidad Autónoma Vasca), whereas the whole of the Basque lands in France and Spain are referred to as Euskal Herria (which means 'Basque Country'). The three Basque territories within Spain (Vizcaya, Guipúzcoa and Álava) constitute the Basque Autonomous Community. In Spain there's also Navarre, a region which Basque nationalists want to incorporate into Euskadi, but whose people want to continue being a separate entity. In the Middle Ages the three Basque territories were part of the Kingdom of Navarre; they left Navarre to become part of Castile. So, Navarre is not the fourth land of Euskadi.

José María Sánchez Galera, 24 September 1998

Juanjo González told me that Basques also call the territory of the Basque Autonomous Community Hiruak Bat (three in one: Araba, Bizkaia, Gipuzkoa), when it includes Nafarroa it is called Laurak Bat (four in one) and when all territories are included Zazpiak Bat (seven in one, because this includes also Laburdi, Zuberoa and Upper Nafarroa) or Seirak Bat (six in one, [considering just a single, joint Nafarroa]).

Jaume Ollé, 16 October 1998

May I insist that Euzkadi and Euzkalherria mean different things to different individuals (like for example "Rome" centuries ago), even when those individuals belong to the same political group or party or have the same ethnic/linguistic origin. I suggest taking only the information in the Basque Country Government Official Website as authoritative. By the way, the ~Bat names identify Basque coats-of-arms as well as territories.

Santiago Dotor, 21 October 1998

This table illustrates the current divisions of the Basque lands:
Historical province (herrialde) Spanish Autonomous Community Spanish province
(provincial capital)
Guipúzcoa / Gipuzkoa País Vasco / Euskadi
Provincias Vascongadas (*1)
Guipúzcoa / Gipuzkoa
(San Sebastián / Donostia)
Álava / Araba Álava / Araba
(Vitoria / Gasteiz)
Biscay / Vizcaya / Bizkaia Vizcaya / Bizkaia
(Bilbao / Bilbo)
Navarre / Navarra / Nafarroa (*4) Navarra / Nafarroa Navarra / Nafarroa (*2)
(Pamplona / Iruñea)
Pyrénées-Atlantiques (*3) Bayonne Basse Navarre / Behenafarroa (*4)
(Donibane Garaz / St.Jean-Pied-de-Port)
Labourd / Lapurdi Labourd / Lapurdi
(Bayonne / Baiona)
Soule / Zuberoa (*4) Oloron - St. Marie Soule / Zuberoa (*4)
(Maule / Mauleón-Licharre)
Historical province (herrialde) French department French arrondissement Unofficial subdivisions of the French Basque Country
(subdivisional capital)


  1. Formerly official Spanish name, meaning Basque provinces.
  2. This is one of the Spanish autonomous communities consisting of only one province.
  3. Formerly, Basses Pyrénées, according to Joan-Francés Blanc. Only two of the three arrondissements encompass the French part of Basque country: the other one, Pau, is already in Bearn, Gascony. There is also no border matching between the two arrondissements and the three historical provinces.
  4. The forms "Nafarro", "Behenafarro" and "Zubero" are also frequent, they are just lacking the article (= "the").

António Martins and Santiago Dotor, 21 October 1998

The Basques have names for the "French" and the "Spanish" parts of their country: Iparralde (from Ipar, the North) for the "French" part; Hegoalde (from Hego, the South) for the "Spanish" part.

Joan-Francés Blanc, 8 July 1999

The name Euskadi is also a creation of Sabino Arana. As he did not speak Basque, this name has no clear meaning (it could mean something like forest of "euskos"). This is probably the reason the name Euskal Herria is preferred by some people. Source: Jon Juaristi, El Bucle Melancólico, about the birth of Basque nationalism.

Ismael Barba, 11 January 2000

Unidentified Flag

[Basque Country (Spain), unidentified]
N.B. This is no official flag; the Basque government uses the undefaced Basque flag; the official coat-of-arms has different colours and a plain red fourth quarter.
by Dave Martucci

On a news report a few hours ago about the Basque country (Societe Radio-Canada), there was an interview with the autonomous Basque Country's (Spain) president. Behind him was the Basque flag defaced in the center with a coat of arms. Of course, the flag was around a pole, so I wasn't able to fully see them. I could well distinguish the right part of the shield (the part in the fly), though. The shield was surrounded by green leaves that didn't touch at the top (laurel leaves?). The top of the right part of the shield consisted of a tree in natural colors (brown trunk and green leaves) with some other small details and the lower quarter was the Navarre arms (red with yellow chains crossed in a star-like pattern). Does anybody know if this flag is the presidential standard?

Luc-Vartan Baronian, 9 March 1998

I seem to recall having seen a flag at an Eusko Jaurlaritza / Gobierno Vasco (Basque autonomous government) press conference displaying the coat-of-arms — certainly with the fourth plain red quarter. I ignore whether such use was ever officially sanctioned and if so at what date. I have never seen the Basque coat-of-arms displaying Navarre as the fourth quarter — though it might have been used before the Constitutional Court's ruling on the subject. Unofficial flags used by the Partido Nacionalista Vasco (EAJ/PNV), for instance, show the whole Zazpiak Bat with all six quarters, including of course Navarre.

If Luc Baronian did see the Basque Lehendakari (President) with the flag including the arms of Navarre on television in 1998, it might imply that the Basque Government uses an illegal flag on foreign appearances and offices. It may also happen that the Lehendakari was speaking as an EAJ/PNV leader rather than as the Basque President. Finally, maybe he saw an interview with the PNV president, who is not the same as the Basque President even if they belong to the same party, in which case he might have used whatever unofficial flag he liked.

Santiago Dotor, 9 December 1999

Initially this flag (with the current coat-of-arms) appeared in the SEV website, but it was later removed, leaving only the plain one (i.e. without Arms) following the advice of Juan José González, a Basque vexillologist, who assured me such a flag has no official status. I think the official flag does not display the coat-of-arms. I have never seen such a flag waving in any official building of the Basque Country [Autonomous] Government, and there is no legislation making this flag official.

Antonio Gutiérrez, 10 December 1999

Everytime I watch a Basque Government meeting report in television, I have seen that flag [with coat-of-arms], and always with a plain [red] fourth quarter. As far as I know the shield is added frequently for ceremonial purposes (basically important governmental events) but no law about this has been made. In fact the coat-of-arms is only used in a few score of times in limited occasions.

Jaume Ollé, 15 December 1999