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Greenland (Denmark)

Kalaallit Nunaat, Grønland

Last modified: 2006-01-28 by dov gutterman
Keywords: greenland | denmark | inuit | erfalasorput | aappalaaroq | circle | polar bear | ice | fjord | ocean | sun | bear | nuuk | thule | qaanaaq | narwhale | eirik raudes land | raudes | new sunnmore |
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[Flag of Greenland]
image by Antonio Martins, 12 July 2004

Official Name: Greenland (Kalaallit Nunaat)
Capital: Nuuk (Godthab)
Location: Northern North America. Island between the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean
Government Type: Self-governing overseas administrative division of the Kingdom of Denmark
Flag adopted: 21 June 1985
Designer: Thue Christiansen
Coat of arms adopted: 1 May 1989
ISO Code: GL

See also:

Meaning of the Flag

The flag of Greenland, or Kalaallit Nunaat, celebrated its 10 anniversary in June 10, 1995. For this occasion, the Greenland Post Office, issued some stamps and a brochure explaining the flag. The text in the brochure is written by Thue Christiansen, the flag's designer. Christiansen makes some remarks about the natural features of Greenland, and then goes on to account for the symbolism of the flag:

"the large white part in the flag symbolises the ice cap and our fjords are represented by the red part in the circle. The white part of the circle symbolises the ice bergs and the pack ice, and the large red part in the flag represents the ocean."

In other interpretations the circle is seen as representing the rising and setting sun.
Jan Oskar Engene, 18 October 1995

Description of the Flag

As for the design, the following specifications are given in the brochure (mentioned above):

"The flag is 12 parts by 18, the white and red stripe are both 6 parts. The centre of the circle is set 7 parts from the hoist along the dividing line between the white and red, the radius being 4 parts. The upper part of the circle is red, the lower white."

Jan Oskar Engene, 18 October 1995

Name of the Flag

The flag is called Erfalasorput (meaning 'our flag'), but is also called Aappalaaroq - 'the red'. This term also used to be applied to the Danish flag. In Thue Christiansen's words:

"The colours are the same as 'Dannebrog' (the Danish national flag) and thus we can also continue to call our flag Aappalaartoq, 'the red'."

This was probably the reason why the design won over the proposed green and white Scandinavian cross design.
Jan Oskar Engene, 18 October 1995

How The Flag Was Adopted

The first serious proposal for a Greenland flag came in 1973 when five people suggested that green-white-blue flag might be appropriate.
This inspired other people to put forward their own designs, and in 1974 a Greenland paper published 11 proposals. All except one was a Scandinavian cross design. However, in a vote organized by the paper, Dannebrog was still the most favoured flag.
The Home Rule government organized a design contest in 1980. 555 proposals were sent in, 293 of them from Greenland. The Government was unable to agree on a design, and later invited artists to submit more designs. In the final decision, the red and white flag with the circle won over the green and white flag proposed by Achen (by 14 votes to 11).
Several people were dissatisfied with the decision not to adopt a Scandinavian cross flag. However, the flag now seems to have been accepted and appreciated.
Jan Oskar Engene, 10 March 1996

Arms of Greenland

[Arms of Greenland]
image by António Martins, 10 January 2006

The coat of arms of Greenland - in the Greenlandic version. The version in the royal arms and flag follows the heraldic tradition in raising the right forepaw, while the Greenlandic version raises the left forepaw, because real polar bears are left-handed. The blazon does not specify which forepaw is raised, so there is no conflict between the two versions.
Ole Andersen, 8 January 2001

Blazon of the Greenland Coat of Arms:  Azure a polar bear sejant erect proper.
Joe McMillan, 26 November 2001

Image based on the image from [ach82]. I used medium blue, instead of the pale shade used in the (known) flags with Coat of Arms.
António Martins, 15 October 2005

Read More About It

If you want to read a detailed account of the flag of Greenland, this is the article to look for:
Inge Kleivan: 'The creation of Greenland's new national symbol: the flag', in: Folk: Journal of the Danish Ethnographic Society, Vol. 30, 1988, pp. 32-56 (published annually in Copenhagen) [kle88].
Jan Oskar Engene, 18 October 1995

Why "Greenland" ?

There ia a story about the origin of Greenland's name. The first settler in Greenland, Erik the Red, is reported in old Icelandic sagas to have named the new country Greenland to attract other settlers there. Some historians, anyway, have claimed that due to climatical changes, weather in Greenland in the Middle Ages might have been much warmer than nowadays.
Ivan Sache, 3 September 2001

"Eirik Raudes Land"

When Norwegian whalers settled on the east coast of Greenland 80-100 years ago, didn't they first call it New Sunnmore and adopted a flag inspired by the Norwegian flag?
from the message board, 30 January 2000

"Eirik Raudes land," was the name given to Norwegian occupied East Greenland (occupation was made formal by the Norwegian government in 1931 shortly after the land was taken in possession for Norway by private persons). No flag was adopted. The case was brought to the International Court of Justice which ruled in favour of Denmark. The Norwegian government accepted this decision and the governor went home.
Jan Oskar Engene, 31 January 2000

Independent Greenland ?

From BBC News:
A government vowing to press for greater independence from Denmark has been formed in Greenland, following elections last week.
The two governing parties are the left-leaning Siumut party and Inuit Atagatigiit (Inuit Brotherhood) who between them hold 18 out of 31 seats in the parliament.
Greenland has been semi-autonomous since 1979, but Denmark remains in charge of foreign and defence policy for the 56,000 islanders.
The new government has adopted a 26-point programme, which pledges to push for greater autonomy in foreign affairs, and to hold a referendum on full independence in 2005.
Jan Zrzavy, 9 December 2002