Last modified: 2013-12-02 by alex danes
Keywords: moldova | ox | eagle | auroch | bison |
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images by Alex Danes, 20 December 2010
This region, historically known as Bessarabia, has changed hands many times. After being Turkish (Ottoman) for many years it became Russian in 1810. In 1917 it proclaimed independence before joining Romania in 1918. In 1940, under the terms of the Molotov-Ribbentrop pact, it once more became Soviet. The territory was joined to the pre-existing Moldavian ASSR, a Soviet fiction carved out of Ukraine which in fact had very few Moldavians living there (this is the origin of the dispute between the modern Republic of Moldova and the self-styled Dniestr Republic, the largely Slavic-populated eastern region) and became the Moldavian SSR on 2 August 1940. From 1941 until 1944 Romania, allied to the Axis powers, once again ruled Bessarabia.
Post war, the Soviets created a Moldavian language (largely accomplished by transcribing Romanian from the Latin alphabet into Cyrillic) and sought to encourage the creation of a separate Moldavian nation. This could not disguise the fact that the Moldavians are essentially Romanian, and although Moldova's initially expressed aspiration of union with Romania is now much more muted, the Moldovan flag is basically that of Romania with the addition of the national coat of arms on the yellow stripe.
Stuart Notholt, 5 October 1995
Romania/Moldova adopted a flag in the three colours during the revolutions of 1848
which drew inspiration (and vexillology) from the French revolution.
Stuart Notholt, 10 October 1995
Just to give a brief history. Bessarabia has long been a part of Principality of Moldova located between Carpathian mountains and the Dniestr. After the Ottoman invasion, Moldova lost its independence and became a sort of self-ruled province and its rulers (Gospodars) were appointed by Ottomans. Bessarabia became part of Russia according to the terms of peace treaty signed by Russia and Turkey in 1812. Autonomy was granted to Valakhia (Wallachia) and the rest of Moldova according to the Adrianopol Russian-Turkish treaty signed in 1829. In 1859 Valakhia and Moldova united as Principality of Romania which got formal independence in 1878 after another Russian-Turkish war when Romanians were Russian allies.
Bessarabia went back to Romania in 1918, when Romania signed a separate treaty with Austro-Germans (in fact, there was no other choice for Romania). Soviet Russia and later USSR did not recognise this transition. In 1924 Moldovan autonomy within the Ukrainian SSR was proclaimed (now Transdniestr). Probably the Soviet authorities wished to use it as a core for a future "Soviet Romania". In 1940, USSR forced Romania to withdraw from Bessarabia which became Moldavian SSR. But some territories where Romanians (or Moldavians, actually it is a matter of self-determination of people of Moldova) had been minority were passed to Ukraine (South Bessarabia and Khotin). Simultaneously the largest part of Moldavian autonomy was transmitted to Moldavian SSR.
In 1941, after the Nazi invasion, Romania took back Bessarabia, annexed Trandniestr and all Ukrainian territories between the Dniestr and the Bug (including Odessa). After the war, the borders of 1940 were restored.
The current flag of Moldova was established in 1990 and symbolised both the Romanian
origin and a wish for reunification (at the time most of non-communist Moldovan
politicians wanted to reunite). But it is turned out that most part of Moldovan
population do not support these aspirations. Now Moldova is a fully independent state
and has no intentions to become part of Romania.
Alexei Arkhipov, 20 March 1999
The old medieval principality of Moldavia had a red military flag with a bison's (not ox's, as you think) head in the center. The bison is a symbol of Moldova and as old chronicles said means "power, independence and pride". This head you can see on our coat of arms. The three colors of Romanian and Moldavian flags were proposed in 1848 and represented three part of Romania:
The link below has some info and a smaller-than-thumbnail-sized flag but no
sources for a Moldavian flag from the period 1917-1918:
http://www.batsweb.org/Cultura/Geografia/Geopolitica/eurasia.htm. The flag is a dark blue over red bicolour.
Michael K. Renalds, 20 January 2004
The regulation on flag of Moldova was adopted on 27 April, 1990. This date is
official birthday of the state flag.
Victor Lomantsov, 21 December 2001
Znamierowski (1999) states that the flag is 2:3 and the image is 2:3 [Note: This is incorrect, see Bibliography: Corrections and comments on [zna99].]
Marcus Schmöger, 21 August 2001, 8 September 2001
I was able to track down the Romanian version of the Constitution at the
Moldovan President's website ("Simbolurile statului") and at the Moldovan Parliament's website and both say
nothing about proportions. I did a little more digging and found the President's
website has a page on the "State Flag of the Republic of Moldova" confirming the
proportions at 1:2 complete with schematics. There's also a page on the
"State Coat of Arms".
Brian Ellis, 31 January 2008
According to the
Romanian president's web site and
reverse of the Moldovan flag does not have the arms.
James Dignan and Alex Danes, 13 August 2008
I have ferreted on the internet for photographs of the reverse of the
Moldovan flag and found the following: www.moldova-suverana.md (1),
(3). All of them (including a few in
quite official context) show the arms on both sides. So I'd rather conclude
it is one of the (not infrequent) mistakes in flag legislation, rather than a
question of correct/incorrect flag...
Marcus E.V. Schmöger, 23 August 2008
...or one of those occasions (also - regrettably - not infrequent) where a
Government body ignores its own legislation?
Christopher Southworth, 23 August 2008
Album des Pavillons (2000) reports this
flag as the national flag on land and civil ensign. No mention is made of the
state or war ensign usage. It is shown there as 2:3 ratio.
Željko Heimer, 20 June 2002
According to "Flottes de Combat 2002", there is no Moldovan Navy.
Armand Noel du Payrat, 21 June 2002
image by Alex Danes
A larger version of this black and white construction sheet can be found here. The arms are placed on both sides on the flag (mirrored on the backside)
and the construction sheet is very detailed, enough to precisely place the coat
of arms on the flag. Also the colours are defined in various systems, including
Antonio Gutiérrez, 19 December 2010
|Dye/Pigment||Berlin blue||chrome yellow||vermillon red|
image by Victor Lomantsov
M. Lupant, in his travel notes published in Vexillacta #10 (December 2000), reported two Moldavian flags he saw in the National History Museum of Chisinau.
The first is a Romanian flag charged with a black aurochs head, which was used during the nationalist demonstrations of 1989/1990.
The second is the Moldavian national flag which bears the signatures of the personalities who took part to the proclamation of the Republic (27 August 1991). Note that the flag is a 2:3 Romanian flag on which a yellow rectangle bearing the Moldavian arms was applied. The yellow rectangle of the arms is significantly darker than the yellow stripe of the flag.
Ivan Sache, 27 July 2001
In the late 1980s (about 1989) nationalists in Moldova used many types of
hand-made blue-yellow-red flags. Usually they had some kind of Moldavian coat of
arms items in the centre. I saw flags with the ox head, a rose, crescent and
star. The star was eight- or five-pointed. All figures were black or dark-brown.
Victor Lomantsov, 22 December 2001
image by Denis Topal
Hello, I have found at www.vexillographia.ru one new proposal
for Moldova Republic flag. Current blue-yellow-red tricolore is very
similar to Romanian flag which is not very good for distinctivity and
also at political respect (many people in Moldova do not want to be
identified with Romania). Artist Denis Topal designed flag which is
unique and it reminds medieval Moldavian Principality: it is
horizontally red and blue divided with Coat of Arms at center: yellow
bison's head surrounded with star, flower and crescent. At second
picture you could see people holding this flag - so it is rather
Jakub Grombíř , 27 March 2011
image by António Martins
From what I have read (an Encyclopedia Americana flag article written by Whitney
Smith) the coat of arms is an eagle holding a cross in its beak and an olive branch and
sceptre in its claws. On top of the eagle is a shield "per fess" (split in half
horizontally) red on top and blue below, with a stylized ox head over all between a rose
and a crescent. The eagle is from the old Romanian coat of arms and ultimately from
Byzantium; the ox head represents the old province of Bessarabia; the cross is obviously
Christian; the sceptre and olive branch are probably for sovereignty and peace; as for the
flower and crescent, I have no idea.
Near the bison's head are situated, not a rose and a crescent.
Why such strange design? Because, as I know, this is an astral symbol of the sun and
the moon taken from Dacian coins (Daci were ancestors of the Moldovans and Romanians in
ancient times). Also, the octagonal star above the bison's head is the Dacian symbol of
wisdom. The three parts of the eagle's tail represent three part of the Republic of
Moldova: Gagauzia (or Gagauz Eri as it calls itself) in the south, the central
region as the biggest part, and the breakaway Dniestr region (Transnistria in
Romanian or Pridnestrov'e in Russian). And if you compare our coat of arms and
the Romanian coat of arms you can see that the Romanian eagle has a
sword but our eagle has an olive branch (it's also a difference between the two nations).
I have been led to believe that the bull-like emblem is actually that of an aurochs, a
large beast of pre-historic descent that survived in the remoter regions of eastern Europe
until the eighteenth century, before it was hunted to extinction. The story attributes the use of the aurochs head to the fact that the founding price of Moldavia (who I think was a noble possibly of Hungarian descent) encountered one of these beasts on his travels from the Mountains of northern Romania (either the Marmourous
region or Bucovina) and that the animal attacked, killing the noble's wife who was thrown into the river Moldova, which subsequently became the Romanian name for the territory east of the Carpathian mountains. I am not sure if this legend is true, but the same scene is displayed in statue form in Sucevita in northern Romania.
Rob Courtney, 26 October 1999
The law says: "The State Arms of the Moldavian Soviet Socialist Republic
represents a horizontally cut shield, in the superior side has red chromatic,
and in the inferior side – blue chromatic, a head of a ureox [aurochs] who has
between the horns a star with eight rays. The head of the ureox is flanked in
the right side by a rose with five petals, and in the left side by a contoured
half-moon [crescent]. All elements represented in the shield are of gold
(yellow). The shield is placed on the chest of a natural eagle
carrying in the beak a gold cross (the eagle crusader [improper translation of "acvila
cruciata", which means "crossed aquila", "aquila holding a cross") and holding
in the right claw a green branch of olive, in the left a gold sceptre."
I will give you a short fragment regarding this problem, published by Moldavian heraldist Silviu Andries-Tabac in his book, "Heraldica teritoriala a Basarabiei si Transnistriei" (Land heraldry of Bessarabia and Transnistria), Chisinau, 1998, p. 151:
The color of the aquila is unacceptable. It was meant to be a Roman aquila [...], so we should have had a golden one. It is the traditional color of the Roman aquila in Romanian heraldry. With certain reserves, a black (sable) aquila - the imperial symbol in Europe - would have been unacceptable too. This poor aquila cannot be natural, or brownish, as we have it, because this type of tincture has a special meaning. J.N. Manescu [Romanian heraldist] believes brown was adopted as follows: during the discussion regarding Vrabie's [Gheorghe Vrabie, author] and Mudrea's [Andrei Mudrea, author of another proposal] projects [of coat of arms] in the National Commission of Heraldry, Genealogy and Sigiliography of Romania, the problem of confounding colors of the aquila and yellow stripe of the flag arose. At this point, J.N. Manescu proposed a browner shade of gold for the aquila, distinguishable of the yellow stripe of the flag. The painter [Vrabie] most likely misunderstood the phrase and painted a dark brown aquila. Not only this didn't serve the purpose of having a Roman aquila, but natural colors are usually used for chanting arms - which would mean, for example, this could be the coat of arms of Aquila City - or for supporters, who have an auxiliary purpose. Thus, our aquila is a second-degree charge and therefore it can be replaced anytime with a different one. This is the worst heraldic mistake regarding the state coat of arms of Republic of Moldova, and it must be amended.Alex Danes, 22 December 2010