Flag of Finland

Finland Flag

Finland Flag

Finland’s Blue Cross Flag Takes Shape from a Lion and a Song

The Siniristilippu, or Blue Cross flag, is the national flag of Finland. The flag features the Nordic cross design (a sideways cross with the vertical bar on the side near the flagpole) and is similar in design to that of Sweden and Denmark. It has a blue cross on a white background in an 11-to-18 length-to-width proportion. With only minor changes, it has been Finland’s flag design since Finland won independence from Russia in 1918.

Prior to 1809, Finland was a grand duchy as part of Sweden. Finland shared Sweden’s flag but had its own coat of arms. The coat of arms dates to at least the 1580s, where the earliest version has been found on the burial monument of Gustav Vasa in the Uppsala Cathedral. The coat of arms features a golden lion with an armored human arm upholding a sword. The lion is standing on a saber and is surrounded by nine rosettes. The colors are silver and gold against a red background.

In the 1809 Treaty of Hamina, Finland was transferred to Russian rule after the War of Finland. In 1846, national poet J.L. Runeberg published “Tales of Ensign Stål,” a collection of patriotic poems about the war. The prologue to the collection, a poem titled “Our Land,” became the national song of Finland in 1848. When it was performed for the first time, the coat of arms on a white flag was designed for the occasion. In the years after the performance, interest in an official national flag began to grow but was not yet formalized. However, homes and yacht clubs started displaying homemade blue-and-white flags echoing the words of the song, which spoke of the land’s many lakes, open skies and winter snow.

In December 1917, Finland declared independence from Russia. A red flag featuring the coat of arms was immediately raised, but in May 1918 parliament declared a competition for a new symbol on an official flag. At that time, the Blue Cross by Eero Snellman and Bruno Tuukkanen was selected and formalized as Finland’s flag by law on May 29.

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The civil flag features only the Blue Cross, but there are also variations of the flag currently in use. The state flag, which is used by government offices, includes the coat-of-arms design at the intersection of the cross. The coat-of-arms field has changed shape over time, from a crown-and-shield shape adopted in 1918, to a shield-only version adopted in 1920, to a rectangle adopted in 1978. There are also two variations of the flag with a swallow-tail shape – one for the military and one for the president. The president’s flag also includes a Cross of Freedom in the upper hoist-side field.

Since 1942, Finland has celebrated Flag Day on June 4, the birthday of military leader, marshal and president Baron Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim.

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