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Flag of Vojvodina - Image by Željko Heimer, 29 June 2004
Vojvodina (21,506 sq. km; 2,031,992 inhabitants in 2002; capital, Novi Sad) is a region in northern Serbia with the status of Autonomous province. Vojvodina is situated in the southern part of the Central Danube Plain and includes some of the richest agricultural land in former Yugoslavia.
The Slavic peoples have settled in Vojvodina during the 6th century. In the late 9th century, Magyar Hungarians settled in Vojvodina and the area became part of the Kingdom of Hungary. The area was conquered by the Ottoman Empire in the mid-15th century together with most of Hungarian territory, to be partly liberated by Austria (which has already ruled the rest of Hungary) in 1683-1699 and completely in 1716-1718.
The Serb population was much increased by emigrants from Balkans during the Ottoman conquering and also by immigration during the Ottoman rule over the area. In 1690, numerous Serbs migrated into the area from territories to the south occupied by the Ottoman Empire and were granted a large personal autonomy in exchange for obligation of serving in the Habsburg army. When the Ottoman Empire ceased to be the threat to the Habsburg lands, Serbs faced growing pressure to be deprived of their status and turned into serfs, along with the pressures for their conversion to Catholicism and for Hungarization. They opposed this by demanding a self-governing crown land, which they founded during the revolution in 1848 - Serbian Voivodeship (Serbian, Srpska Vojvodina; German, Serbische Wojwodschaft). In 1863, the Serbian Voivodeship was abolished by the Emperor (who was its Grand Voivode) and previous boundaries between Hungary (Bačka and Banat) and Croatia (Srem) were reestablished. In 1918, Vojvodinian regions declared unification with Serbia (Srem - on 24 November 1918, Bačka and Banat - on 25 November 1918) and subsequently became part of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later Yugoslavia.
During the Second World War, Bačka was assigned to Hungary, Srem to the Axis puppet Independent State of Croatia, and Banat was nominally governed by the Axis puppet government of Serbia, the real power being in the hands of the local German minority leaders, who made it a separate territory in most regards and planned to make it the core of a separate German state. After liberation in 1945, Vojvodina was proclaimed an autonomous province within Serbia. Since then, its autonomy was enlarged several times until 1974, when it was made an almost separate territory. In 1989, most of statehood-like features of the autonomy were abolished. The autonomy was more narrowed in 1990 by the then adopted Constitution of Serbia, which also contained backdoors that enabled reduction of the autonomy to a formality in the following years. While the reductions of autonomy in 1989 passsed with large support of the citizens (due to their dissatisfaction with provincial Communist government, which they had previously forced to resign in 1988) and those in 1990 without much opposing, later reductions caused growing pressure for restoration of a real autonomy. After the regime change in 2000, the autonomy was returned to its nominal constitutional level by the so-called "omnibus-law" in 2001. The status of Vojvodina will eventually be determined by the new Constitution of Serbia, whose preparing is currently under way.
The present population of Vojvodina is very mixed, mostly as the result of planned immigrations in the 18th century and after both World Wars. The land is populated with Serbs, Hungarians, Croats, Slovaks, Romanians, Ruthenians, Montenegrins, Macedonians, Germans, Ukrainians, Czechs and many others, the total number of nationalities being more than twenty. It shall also be noted that many people never declare belonging to any nationality during the census, being of mixed origin or simply not caring for national affiliation.
Tomislav Todorović*, Željko Heimer & Uros Žižmund, 25 April 2005
*I found no sources for the history of Vojvodina after 1980, but wrote it all by myself as the witness of those events. I did my best to be politically neutral and stick to the facts which can be confirmed, although it is rather difficult to achieve this in present-day Serbia.
Tomislav Todorović, 25 April 2005
Decision on the flag
The flag of Vojvodina is prescribed by Decision Odluka o zastavi Autonomne Pokrajine Vojvodine, adopted on 27 February 2004, published in Službeni list Autonomne Pokrajine Vojvodine 2/04 in Novi Sad on 2 March 2004, and valid on 10 March 2004.
The following translation of the official document was made by Željko Heimer and reviewed by Christopher Southworth. The original document was kindly provided by Jos Poels.
Based on the Article 21(2) of the Statutes of the Autonomous Region of Vojvodina (SL APV 17/91) and Article 1 in the Recommendations of the Commission for the preparation of a Decision on the symbols of the Autonomous Region of Vojvodina (SL APV 15/2003),
The Assembly of the Autonomous Region of Vojvodina, in its session held on 27 February 2004, (hereby) adopts the
Decision on the Flag of the Autonomous Region of Vojvodina
Article 1. This Decision determines the flag of the Autonomous Region of Vojvodina and prescribes the protocol on use of the flag.
Article 2. The flag of the Autonomous Region of Vojvodina, the territorial autonomy in the Republic of Serbia, the modern European region and a member of the Assembly of European Regions consists of three colours, red, blue and white arranged horizontally in proportions of 1:8:1. In the middle of the blue field there are three yellow stars set in a circle. The ratio of the width to the length of the flag is 1:2. The flag is double-sided bearing the same design on the both sides.
Article 3. The flag of the Autonomous Region of Vojvodina is displayed in the shape determined by this Decision, according to this Decision, other regulations and the customary protocols, in a way that does not degrade the reputation and the dignity of the Autonomous Region of Vojvodina.
Article 4. The flag of the AR Vojvodina is displayed together with the flag of the Republic of Serbia when it is so determined by the Law or other regulations that prescribe the display of the flag of the republic of Serbia.
The flag of the AR Vojvodina shall not be used if it is damaged or if its appearance is unsuitable for use.
Article 5. During the sessions of the Assembly of the AR Vojvodina, the flag of the AR Vojvodina is displayed alone on the buildings in which the sessions of the Assembly of the AR Vojvodina and of the Executive Council of the AR Vojvodina are held, and in the halls in which the sessions of the Assembly of the AR Vojvodina and the sessions of the Executive Council of AR Vojvodina are held.
On the territory of the AR Vojvodina the flag of the AR Vojvodina may be displayed alone, (and may) be displayed in public meetings, assemblies, ceremonies and other public gatherings at which the AR Vojvodina is represented.
The flag of the AR Vojvodina shall be displayed in those official halls used by the Chairman of the Assembly of the AR Vojvodina and (of) the chairman of the Executive council of the AR Vojvodina, and may be displayed also in other official halls of the Assembly of the AR Vojvodina and (of) the Executive Council of the AR Vojvodina.
Article 6. The etalon (original) of the flag of the AR Vojvodina is preserved in the Assembly of the AR Vojvodina, and flags manufactured and in use must be made according to it.
Article 7. The flag of the AR Vojvodina shall not be permitted to touch the ground; it shall not be used as base, support, table covering, curtain or similar.
The flag shall not be used to cover vehicles or other objects, and shall not be used to decorate conference tables or rostrums except in the form of a table flag.
If the flag is displayed on a rostrum it shall be set on a staff on the speaker's right side or on the wall behind the speaker so that the speaker does not shield it.
Article 8. This Decision will become valid upon the eighth day following publication in the Službeni list Autonomne Pokrajine Vojvodine.
Assembly of the Autonomous Region of Vojvodina
01 nr. 010-2
Novi Sad, 27 February 2004-06-15
Chairman of the Assembly of the AR Vojvodina
Nenad Čanak, m. p.
Željko Heimer, 28 June 2004
Construction sheet of the flag
Construction sheet of the flag of Vojvodina - Image by Željko Heimer, 28 June 2004
The drawing attached to the aforementioned Decision indicates the following construction details:
Width 100, length 200, top stripe width 10, bottom stripe width 10, imaginary circle in the middle of the flag - diameter 37, circle circumscribing each star - diameter 30, (beginning) at 12 o'clock three five-pointed at 120 degrees (intervals), with one point (facing) outwards.
Željko Heimer, 28 June 2004
Adoption process of the flag
According to Dnevnik, the flag of Vojvodina was adopted on 27 February 2004 with 79 votes for, 13 against (representatives of DSS) and 5 abstentions (Liberali Srbije and former Social-Democrats).
The adoption process of the flag of Vojvodina is described in Dnevnik (article by B.D. Savić).
The Regional Parliament received the design proposals for the flag and the anthem of Vojvodina "Ode of Joy" and the Serb tricolour with three stars - in the middle of the blue field there shall be three stars symbolizing the three parts of Vojvodina: Bačka, Banat and Srem.
The Statutory Commission of the Vojvodina Parliament adopted the design proposals for the flag and the anthem of Vojvodina and forwarded them for adoption in the Regional Parliament. A member of the Commission, Aleksandar Kravić said in an interview that the proposals had been adopted unanimously with only one abstention of the representative of Democratic Party of Serbia, while all others were in favor.
According to him, the flag of Vojvodina shall be the tricolour, based on the Serb flag (red-blue-white), with the middle blue field being enlarged and containing in its center three yellow stars symbolizing the three parts of Vojvodina, Srem, Banat and Bačka. The parliamentaries shall also receive the proposal of the anthem, the "Ode of Joy" by Beethoven, that is already the European anthem.
"The three Serb colours symbolize the connection of Vojvodina with Serbia, while the three stars symbolize the connection with the European Union and the European orientation of Vojvodina" explained Kravić.
The designs of the flag and the anthem of Vojvodina were made my the Regional Commission, composed of a Chairman and Vice Chairmen of the Vojvodina Parliament. On the proposals shall be decided on the parliamentary session on 27 February, and it may be assumed that they shall gain the majority support, if the Representatives of the three leading parties in Vojvodina government - Democratic Party, League of Socialdemocrats and the Union of Vojvodina Hungarians - shall vote as their Representatives in the Statutory Commission.
The adoption of the anthem and the flag should finalize the symbols of Vojvodina, after the previous adoption of the coat of arms on 27 June 2002. This decision was then voted for by 68 of 120 Representatives, the votes against were from the DSS, with abstentees from the New Democracy (now the Liberals of Serbia) and the Vojvodina Coalition. The regional coat of arms was voted for after the initiative by the Chairman of the Regional Parliament, Nenad Čanak.
Since the adoption, the coat of arms of Vojvodina is in prerogative use within the seals of all the regional bodies, on the official inscriptions on the buildings of the regional bodies and the bodies of the local administration, and on the charters and other public acknowlegments of the Region.
Željko Heimer, 18 February 2004
Perception of the flag
According to an article in Vjesnik (Zagreb, Croatia) dated 6 March 2004, the newly adopted flag of Vojvodina and the slightly older coat of arms might be expecting a short life.
Namely, it is said in the article that the emblems were adopted by the current Parliament of Vojvodina that is soon due to reelection. It is considered by many that the current Parliament has no longer popular support, and that the newly elected Parliament would be more "pro-Serbian" and much less "pro-regional", and might easily revoke the adopted symbols. The recently elected right-winged government of Serbia has a poor opinion of the current Parliament, and expects to gain support in the new elections in Vojvodina, too. The current Vojvodina Parliament is therefore said to have adopted the symbols in a desperate move to retain even a symbolic autonomy, that might be suppressed after the elections.
Anyway, it seems that the new symbols were not favorably perceived in Belgrade. The article quotes the two pejorative nicknames given to the coat of arms and the flag. The flag is called salveta (a tissue, a napkin), while the coat of arms is called kod dva piva (at two beers'). This last is supposedly to sound like a name of a pub or similar, and the reference is to the lion and the deer. I suppose that the two charges recall two popular beer brands. I would take care regarding these nicknames - it may well be that they are kind of invented by journalists for the sake of making the story more juicy.
Željko Heimer, 6 March 2004
When the new flag was hoisted in front of the Vojvodina Parliament in Novi Sad, angry people burned it in riots on streets, saying that the only legitimate flag in Vojvodina was the Serbian flag.
Miloš Djurić, 22 March 2004
"Traditional flag" of Vojvodina - Image by Željko Heimer, 28 December 2010
The Provincial Assembly adopted on 15 Septembaer 2016 a "traditional" flag and seal (and a traditional flag with the seal on it) (official website), as follows:
The flag of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina is a traditional tricolour with horizontal fields of the same height, containing red, blue and white colour, from top downwards. The proportions of the flag are 3:2 (length:height).
The coat of arms of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina is the traditional coat of arms from 1848, comprising a red escutcheon with a silver cross placed between the golden “B“ (Cyrillic “Ve“) arranged in the quarters around it and edges turned to the pillar of the cross. The escutcheon is enclosed by an open wreath comprising a branch of acorn on the left and brach of olive on the right side, in natural colours, tied at the bottom by a blue ribbon. The escutcheon lies on a voivod’s robe with three creases, hanging underneath the voivod’s closed crown, divided into two parts, covering the crease in the middle of the robe.
The "traditional flag and arms" of Vojvodina are meant to be the symbols of the Serbian Voivodeship, originally adopted when the formation of that crownland was declared in May 1848. Those were the same as the then symbols of the Principality of Serbia, minus the stars in flag canton. The adoption of (nearly) identical symbols was explained at the time as having them considered the symbols of the whole Serbian nation, regardless of their actual whereabouts. After the crownland was officially recognized in 1849 as the Voivodeship of Serbia and Banate of Temesvar, only the shield of arms remained in use, but was placed on the breast of imperial eagle, while the flag was discontinued, as were those of all other crownlands. In 1863, the crownland was abolished and partitioned between Hungary and Croatia, so the arms, as well as the flag, remained in unofficial use only, as the symbols of Serbs in Austria-Hungary.
The adoption of these "traditional symbols" followed the change of
provincial government after the 2016 elections, which were won by the
parties opposing the 2002 arms and 2004 flag, seeing them as a means
of separation of Vojvodina from Serbia. The parties of previous
government opposed the new symbols, seeing them as a means of
marginalization of original symbols, which would lead to their
eventual abolition, possibly followed by the abolition of autonomy
itself. Still many of those who do agree that the provincial symbols
should be based on those of Serbian Voivodeship, also opposed the
adopted designs, arguing that the arms' design is not traditional at
- the shield and its charges were all given gold fimbriations which had never existed;
- the wreath has never had the shape as adopted;
- the official description is not a proper heraldic blazon, and erroneous in many regards: princely coronet described as that of a voivode (the title not associated with any particular insignia), firesteels described as the letters, etc.
Another serious objection by many is that the process of creation was done in a completely non-transparent manner, as had been done in 2002 and 2004 as well. In neither of those processes, experts in heraldry and vexillology were not included. The result is the unprecedented use of dual flags and arms, a would-be compromise which would only turn to be more divisive than the single use of either set of symbols and aggravate future creation of a final set, a final compromise which, according to many experts, should best be achieved by combining the elements of both sets.
A good summary of all the above objections was written by Nemanja Todorović Štiplija, the co-author of the current municipal symbols of Vranje, published on 1 April 2015 in Danas, shortly after the proposal of "traditional symbol" had been publicly announced.
Ben Cahoon & Tomislav Todorović, 25 April 2005
On 23 June 2002, the newspaper Dnevnik presented the flag granted in 1848 by the Austro-Hungarian Empire to the Serbian Duke Šupljikac.
The replica of the 1848 flag, made after an exhibition in the Museum of Vojvodina where the original is kept, was used "for the last two months", and presumably, some time afterwards the article was written, as a "decorative element" (say some) in the Assembly Hall of the Vojvodina Parliament, beside the flags of Serbia and Yugoslavia of the period.
Milan Jovanović & Željko Heimer, 18 May 2007
Two flags with this design were accidentally found in 1975 in the bell tower of an Orthodox church in the city of Pančevo and purchased by the city museum. One of these is presented at the museum website. There is no information about the other flag; it is stated above that it is now in the Museum of Vojvodina, Novi Sad, which might be true, since that museum would have certainly wanted to include it into its collections, and since there were two of these, it would have made acquiring one of them easier, the other having remained at the place of discovery.
The flag has the sinister hoist. The obverse is yellow, with the "wolf teeth" border in black and yellow all around except along the hoist edge; in center, on a pale blue oval, there is the Habsburg black double-headed eagle with its complete regalia, bearing on its breast the complete arms of the Serbian Voivodeship; beneath the arms, along the oval edge, there is a ribbon with inscription "Zastava C. K. Vojvodstva Serbskog 1848.", which translates as "Flag of I[mperial and] R[oyal] Serbian Voivodeship 1848", which provides the flag dating. The reverse is blue, with the similar border composed of red, blue and white triangles (Serbian national colors), and the depiction of St George standing in a landscape, with a white inscription in Church Slavonic which translates as "St Grand Martyr George".
The arms of Serbian Voivodeship are actually those of the Principality of Serbia, as those were adopted in 1848, having been considered the symbol of entire Serbian nation, not just the state of Serbia. Here, they are depicted as the complete achievement, draped in the mantle issuant
from the princely coronet, which is technically incorrect, since the
whole device is additionally placed on the breast of Habsburg eagle -
the shield should have been placed directly on the eagle's breast,
then they should be placed together within the mantle. Another error
is the additional coronet atop the shield which, however, reveals that
the erroneous depictions of the contemporary flag of Serbia
which repeat the same error, might actually be correct in this regard,
inasmuch as the arms they carry might have repeated this detail from
some real-life examples, whether those were correct or not themselves.
An additional detail, still unexplained, is a red cross beneath the shield, hung on a red ribbon, which looks like the badge of an order (Order of Leopold is the one whose badge and ribbon resemble the most). The devices on both sides of the flag were said to look like the works of an amateur painter [szd83]. As shown above, their author was certainly not a heraldic expert either.
The attribution of the flags to Voivode (not Duke) Stevan Šupljikac is probably correct, since his headquarters was in Pančevo. The unlikely place where the flags were found suggests that they were hidden there after the end of the revolution, out of fear that they might be carried away and/or destroyed, for although the Serbian Voivodeship was recognized in 1849 as the Voivodeship of Serbia and Banate of Temesvar, the post-revolutionary crownlands were not allowed to have their own flags. Another possible time of hiding is 1860, when the Voivodeship was abolished and the flags would have been in even greater danger than in 1849.Tomislav Todorović, 1 January 2018