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Poland - Historical XX century flags

Last modified: 2004-11-27 by thorsten
Keywords: eagle | crown | ensign | war flag | state flag |
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History of XX century polish flags

To my knowledge, during the Communist era there were three variant flags of Poland: a plain bicolor (used on land), a bicolor with a shield (without a crown, used as a civil and state ensign), and a swallow-tailed bicolor with a shield (again with no crown, used as a naval ensign). In 1990 (or 1991?), the crowns have been added to both ensigns, and the bicolor with the shield has extended its usage also to land, as a state (and probably also war) flag. Jan Zrzavy, 14 August 1997

Since World War 1, Poland has had 3 main flag types (as well as a many specialized flags): the national flag (a plain white-red bicolor - the shade changed in 1928 and 1980), the civil ensign (with shield and eagle), the war flag (ditto, but swallow-tailed). Before and early in World War 2, the eagles were crowned (a redesign of the crown occurred in 1928). When the Russians installed the communist regime, the crowns were removed from all the eagles (arms, flags, military badges, etc.). The exile government in London continued using the crowns until 1990. After the collapse of communism, the crowns were restored, but not all at once: the arms in 1989, the civil ensign in 1990, but he war flag only in 1993. A very thorough treatment of all this (including all the history from medieval times) is in [zna95] (in Polish but with summary and captions in English).
Norman Martin, 16 August 1997

II Republic flag

[II Republic flag] by Dov Gutterman.

Flag of Poland constituted by Polish parliament August 1st, 1919. Flag and ratio (5 : 8) existing today. Since 1921 red colour was claimed as crimson.
Adam Kromer, translated by Peter 'Mikolaj' Mikolajski, 22 Sept 2000

II Republic Ensign (1918-1920)

[II Republic Ensign (1918-1920)] by Adam Kromer, from his website.

This banner has strong influence of Russian banners. It's almost identical to flag of Kingdom of Poland 1815-1930 except St. Andrew's cross which is red, not blue. I think that this flag was used in 1918-1920 only.
Adam Kromer, translated by Peter Mikolajski, 22 Sep 2000

Poland state flag 1920-1927

[Poland state flag 1920-1927] by Adam Kromer, from his website.

Flag of Poland constituted by Polish parliament August 1st, 1919. On land this flag was used as diplomatic flag used abroad. On sea this flag was used as merchant banner. Used to 1930.
Adam Kromer, translated by Peter Mikolajski, 22 Sep 2000

Polish War flag 1920-1927

[Polish War flag 1920-1927] by Adam Kromer, from his website.

Polish State flag 1927-1939

[Polish State flag 1927-1939] by Adam Kromer, from his website.

Polish War flag 1927-1939

[Polish War flag 1927-1939] by Adam Kromer, from his website.

People's Republic of Poland flag

[People's Republic of Poland flag] by Dov Gutterman.

National Flag of Poland. Red shade (cynober) was slightly changed in 1980.
Adam Kromer, translated by Peter Mikolajski, 22 Sep 2000

State flag of Poland (1956-1990)

[State Flag of Poland - 1956-1990] by Adam Kromer, from his website.

I received the following piece of information on the polish flag from Wojtek Grabski. Is this as he says, or is it a politically biased legend?
The polish crown is once again present on the coat of arms to symbolise the re-emergence of polish self-rule... The crown was not used during times when Poland was under occupation or imposed rule.
Jorge Candeias, 14 April 1998

It is mostly legend. Some very early Polish arms and hence banners had the eagle without the crown. In 1295 or slightly earlier, the eagle got a crown, first an open and later a conventional royal crown. This was kept, even during the period when the Russian emperor was "King of Poland" and the Prussian king was "Grand Duke of Posen" (1815-1917). During the republic, there were minor changes in the form of the crown. The government imposed by the Russians chose to eliminate the crown, using the early arms referred to above as the excuse, while the Polish government in exile (and its troops in World War II) continued to use the crown. It indeed continued to do so until Walesa was elected president and the government in exile returned the national insignia since it regarded the Walesa government as legitimate. The new government immediately restored the crown. Practically speaking, the Polish eagle without the crown was an invention of the communist regime.
Norman Martin, 14 April 1998

Norman's reply on this topic is the most correct I have seen. The crown returned to the eagle soon after Walesa's election. I remember following discussion of this in the Polish press. It was one of the first issues considered by the new government.
Robert Czernkowski, 16 April 1998

Polish War flag 1956-1990

[Polish War flag 1956-1990]by Adam Kromer, from his website.