Historical Flags of Armenia

Armenian historians have reconstructed the coat of arms of the Mamikonyan dynasty to look like this: a double-headed eagle holding an animal in its claws. The coat of arms was reconstructed relying on sculptures in ancient churches. The oldest picture is known to be the one on the façade of the church if the village of Dsegh (VII century). The flag of the Mamikonyans is mentioned in the “History of Armenia” by Pavstos Byuzand (V century).

Old Armenian is hard to be translated and it is considered that the “History…” describes a flag depicting an eagle holding a bow. The color was reconstructed to be red (the same “History…” describes that the Shah of Iran sent the heir to the throne a red marquee). The pictures in the church of Dsegh and others may just as well be of decorative nature.

Undoubtedly, the medieval state of Cilicia also had its flags. They are usually reconstructed as purple color cloth bearing crosses. The reconstruction is probable but not trustworthy. Actually, Armenia has made Christianity its national religion since 301 but no pictures of these flags have been preserved.

Descriptions of the royal flag of the Luzinyan dynasty (XIV) century: white-red-blue-yellow. Some Armenian historians are inclined to believe that the white is the color of the dynasty itself, and the remaining three are national colors of Armenia.

Materials from articles by V. Saprykov in the journal “Science and Life”.

In the late 19th century Armenian emigrants created several versions of national flag in France. The red-green-white flag (or according to W. Crampton the red-green-blue one) was used by the Armenian community during Victor Hugo’s funeral in 1885. In the version of the creator of that flag – father Leon Alishan –  the colors of the flag symbolize the rainbow witnessed by Noah on top of Ararat. He also claims an interesting fact that in the Armenian religious calendar first Easter Sunday is referred to as “red”, the second as “green” and the white stripe on the flag symbolized unification of all colors of the specter.

The yellow-red-green and the blue-red-green flags also ascend to Leon Alishan (the latter was obviously inspired by the French tricolor).

Armenia within Russia

After the war of 1826-1828 the Khanate of Erivan went from Persia to Russia, and in 1828, according to the Turkmanchy Agreement, Armenian Region was formed in Russia. On February 27 1833 its coat of arms was adopted (ПСЗ-2. т.8, №6064).

No specific flags existed in the Russian Empire for Armenia.

In Karl Halyard’s famous book “New Dutch Shipbuilding” (1707) one may find the flag of the “Vice King of Moscow” – a cloth consisting of red, blue and yellow stripes, bearing two crossed sabers of Oriental shape and accompanied by 11 white eight-point stars. Russian sources do not mention such a flag, neither the post of a “Vice King” is known. A. Usachev supposes that this referred to the flag of the Armenian tsarevitch (prince) Issrael Orí (1658-1711), the leader of the Armenian national liberation movement.

In 1706 Issrael Orí was sent to Amsterdam as a colonel of the Russian army to recruit military specialists, to get arms, ammunition and equipment. Issrael Orí stayed in Amsterdam several months and, as A.A. Usachev believes, this is when he could have met Karl Halyard and told him about his Armenian flag. As A.A. Usachev writes in this article, a tricolor flag with red-blue-yellow stripes seems to have existed back in the Cilician Kingdom (1080-1393) during the reign of the Ribenids and its stripes symbolized King Levon VI and his two brothers – the Patriarch and the commander-in-chief of the army. The two crossed sabers stood for the armed struggle against Turkey and Persia. The eleven eight-point stars embodied the number of Armenian lords who had gathered for a secret meeting in Angeghakot (Karabakh) in 1699 to prepare the upheaval.

The materials are taken from A.A. Usachev’s article in the Czech “VEXICOLOGIE 24”.

Flags of the Armenian Republic of 1918

After the collapse of the Caucasian Seim (1918), the Armenian Republic was formed in Armenia and “Dashnaktsutiun” (Federation) came to power. After the Turkish aggression only the districts of Erivan and Echmiadzin remained under the control of the AR Government.

The rest of the territory was under the control of Turkish troops, which were withdrawn only after the Mudross truce; these were replaced by the troops of the Entente. Kars, Alexandrapol and a number of other districts were occupied. After the Turkish army retreated, on the territory of Kars and Ardaghan districts the pro-Turkish South-Western Caucasian Democratic Republic (SWCDR) was formed. Quite soon, however, the SWCDR was liquidated and the territory was annexed to Armenia.

The National Council of Armenia considered the issue of the national flag. After Stepan Malkhaassyan’s (a future academician of the Academy of Science of the Armenian SSR) speech in June 1919 the red-blue-orange flag was adopted. Final appreciation of the flag was scheduled for the Constituent Assembly, which never took place.

It is of special interest that among other Russian flags described in Karl Halyard’s book on flags (published in the 1690s), there is a flag of “the Moscow Vice-King” – a red-blue-yellow horizontal tricolor with two sabers, stars, etc. This must have been Armenian Lord Issrael Orí’s personal flag, to whom Peter I had promised assistance in struggle against Turkey. Orí served in the Russian army, had the rank of a colonel and recruited volunteers for Russian service in Amsterdam (where his flag must have been noticed by Halyard). (information by A. Basov)

Soviet Armenia

On November 29 1920 the Revolutionary Committee (revcom) was formed and then Soviet rule was established in Armenia. Next day the Socialist Soviet Republic of Armenia (SSRA) was declared. The Constitution, adopted by the First Session of the Council of Armenia on February 1922, approved the description of the flag.

The flag of Armenia was a “purple-red” cloth with golden letters “SSRA” or the full name of the country “Socialist Soviet Republic of Armenia”. Perhaps the embroideries were supposed to be made in the Armenian language (however, only versions with abbreviations in Armenian are available).

The picture of the Armenian SSR of 1922 available in K.A. Ivanov’s book “Flags of World States” (Moscow, 1971) is a wrong reconstruction according to the Russian text of the Constitution of the Armenian SSR of 1922.

Already on March 12 1922 Armenian entered the Federal Union of Socialist Soviet Republics of Caucasus (FUSSRC), which transformed into the Transcaucasian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic (SSFSR) on December 13 1922, and later on December 30 1922 it joined the RSFSR, Ukrainian SSR and Byelorussian SSR in the Union of Socialist Soviet Republics (SSSR).

The 1927 Constitution defined the flag to be:

Article 106. The state flag of the Socialist Soviet Republic of Armenia consists of a red (purple) cloth with the golden letters “SSRA” displaced in the left corner near the flagstaff

On 23 March 1937 the extraordinary IX Congress of the Council of Armenia adopted a new Constitution according to which the Socialist Soviet Republic of Armenia was renamed into the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. It seceded the Transcaucasian Socialist Federal Soviet Republic and was directly included into the USSR. Thus, according to the 1937 Constitution (Article 121), the flag of the Armenian SSR now was a red cloth with a golden hammer and sickle and the abbreviation of the republic’s name in Armenian. The sequence of the words “socialist” and “soviet” was changed on the flag, resulting in change of the abbreviation. The proportion of the flag was established to be 1:2.

In the 1940s the orthography of the abbreviations changed. The government was considering which word in the Armenian language corresponds the term “republic” better. By the decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Armenian SSR of September 6 1940, orthography of the concepts “soviet” and “republic” was “internationalized” (the title of the Armenian SSR sounded like this: “ Haykakan Sovetakan Sotsialistakan Respublica”). This title was reflected in the flag and the coat of arms of the Armenian SSR.

On December 17 1952 the new flag of Armenia was established by the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Council of the Armenian SSR. Now it was a red cloth with a blue stripe (its width equaled to the ¼ of the flag) in the middle – full length, in the left corner, near the flagstaff a hammer and sickle and a red five-point star encircled in a golden line. The proportion of the width and length of the flag was 1:2.

The blue color was explained (non-officially) as the color of Lake Sevan and Armenia’s rivers.

The Decree of the PSC was ratified by Supreme Council on September 1 1953 and immediately corresponding amendments were made in the Constitution. The Regulations were approved by the Supreme Council on September 30 1967.

The new Constitution of Armenia (1978) the state flag was described as:

“Article 167. the state flag of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic is a red rectangle with a full-length blue stripe in the middle. On the upper red part of the cloth, near the flagstaff, a golden hammer and sickle is depicted with a red five-point star encircled in a golden line. The proportion of the width and length of the flag was 1:2.

Military flags of the Armenian SSR

The 76th Armenian mountain infantry division after Voroshilov, recruited in the Transcaucasus, became “of the Guards” and was renamed into the “51st Red Guard Infantry Division after K.M. Voroshilov”. The division received the honorary title of “Vitebsk” after it had destroyed a major fascist group near Vitebsk in 1944.

The Division had a traditional guards’ flag characteristic of the Soviet army regiments.

The Republic of Armenia

On 24 August 1990 by the Law on the State Flag of the Republic of Armenia (№ С-0076-1) the state flag was approved. This was the reconstructed flag of 1919: The flag is tricolor with three horizontal and equal alternating stripes of red, blue and orange. The proportion of the length and width of the flag is 2:1.

Religious flags

The flag of the Catholicos of the Armenian autocephalous church is red with a symbolic picture.

Athletic flags of Armenia

The flag of Pan-Armenian Games

The first Pan-Armenian Games took place in Yerevan in 1999. these sport competitions are organized by the World Committee of Pan-Armenian Games (WCPAG).

The games are attended by teams from Armenia, Karabakh, as well as by teams of Armenian Diaspora from different countries. The flag of the Pan-Armenian Games is a navy-blue cloth with the emblem of the Games in the center. The length of the flag is twice as much as its width.

The emblem of the Pan-Armenian Games was approved by the World Constitutive Conference of Armenian athletic organizations of the world on 30 April 1997. The emblem depicts six multicolored intertwines rings. The five rings repeat the colors of the Olympic ones, and the sixth is of apricot color symbolizing Armenia. The rings are grouped in a pyramid (which visually reminds of a mountain – symbolizing the Caucasus and Ararat). The rings are beneath a fire whose flames repeat the colors of the national flag of Armenia.

The materials used are from the site: http://www.arminco.com/homepages/armgames/rusvers/statementr.html
the picture is a reconstruction by W. Lomantsov according to a description

Drafts flags of Armenia

In 1999, on his web site Raffi Kojayan offered to make the flag of Armenia less similar to other tricolors, and also more impressive.

His offer was to add narrow white stripes to the flag to divide the three wider ones. The white color would symbolize snowy tops of Ararat. However, there was only talk, and no action.

There is a draft of the flag of Armenia designed by artist Mikhail Asatur Kanayan on the website http://www.noev-kovcheg.ru. to the traditional Armenian tricolor he has added a Christian cross in the middle of which he has depicted the mountains of Ararat, Noah’s Ark, the rainbow, a heart. This is how the author himself explains the symbols:

“I have written on the topic in the forum miacum.ru. But some new information has been available since then. I must note that the main colors of Armenian flags have always been, and still are, blue, yellow and  red; the main subjects on coats of arms have been the lion and the eagle (artsiv) – basic Indo-European totems.

During the reign of Tigran the Great (95-56 BC), the dragon with seven was the coat of arms of Armenia.

During the reign of the Arshakuni Dynasty (62-428 AD)a new coat of arms was adopted: a single-headed eagle holding a snake in the beak. I wasn’t able to find a picture. This is what I can offer as an illustration.
The flag of the Artashessyan Dynasty (2-1 BC)

This is to commemorate Soghomon Tehleryan in Canada; during my last visit I happened to see an identical monument on the way from Yerevan to Hrazdan.

Site  Armenian Heritage has its own version:

Armenian Heritage

It was the end of the fourth and beginning of the seventh when Armenia was mainly under the Persian control, and its minor part under the Byzantine Empire. The Persian part was referred to as Perso-Armenia. Then the Persians were trying to establish pyrolatry in already Christian Armenia. Several religious wars and battles occurred. The most famous of them was that of the Vardanank – the battle of Armenians and Christians of the Caucasus (Iberians and Albanians) under the flag of the Mamikonyans against Persia. This is when the Christian cross became a major form of identification and confrontation to the occupant.

Flags of the Mamikonyan Dynasty (4-9 centuries) that was one of the most famous princes of Armenia, in the Middle Ages perhaps became the most significant one.

A two-headed eagle holding an animal in the claws. In another version the eagle holds an arrow.

In the 9th century, when Armenia regained its independence, the Bagratunis became dominant. The flag of the Bagratunis remained the flag of Armenia until the 11th century.