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Türkiye - Republic of Turkey, Türkiye Cumhuriyeti

Last modified: 2024-06-15 by ian macdonald
Keywords: turkey |
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Flag of Turkey - Image by António Martins, 9 December 2007

Flag in use since 1844 and officially adopted 29 May 1936, coat of arms adopted in 1927.
Proportions: 2:3.
Description: Red flag with a white crescent and star.
Use: on land as the national, civil and war flag, on sea as the national, civil and war ensign, and as the naval jack.

Colour approximate specifications (Album des Pavillons [pay00]) :

       Pantone	   CMYK
Red      186c   0-90-80-5

Possible confusion with: Tunisia.

On this page:

See also:

Adoption of the Turkish flag

The Turkish flag was originally prescribed by Law No. 2,995, enacted on 29 May 1936 and published on 5 June 1936 in the Turkish official gazette, which was superseded by Law No. 2,893 enacted on 22 September 1983. The Law adopted the 1844 Ottoman Empire flag design without alteration.

Ralph Kelly, 23 November 2017

Meaning of the Turkish flag

Meaning of flags is a difficult topic, especially when flags are very ancient. There is usually sparse historical evidence and a lot of legends. Moreover, individuals may have their own interpretation of their national flag. Concerning Turkey, the following interpretations are given in the books by W. Smith ([smi75c] & [smi80]):

Historical facts.
Red has been prominent in Turkish flags for 700 years. The star and crescent * are Muslim symbols, but also have a long pre-Islamic past in Asia Minor. The basic form of the national flag was apparently established in 1793 under Sultan Selim III (1789-1807), when the green flags used by the navy were changed to red and a white crescent and multipointed star were added. The five-pointed star dates from approximately 1844. Except for the issuance of design specifications, no change was made when the Ottoman Empire became the Republic of Turkey and the Caliphate (religious authority) was terminated.
Many traditions explain the star and crescent symbol. It is known that Diana was the patron goddess of Byzantium and that her symbol was a moon. In 330, Emperor Constantine rededicated the city - which he called Constantinople - to the Virgin Mary, whose star symbol was superimposed over the crescent. In 1453 Constantinople was captured by the Ottoman Turks and renamed İstanbul, but its new rulers may have adopted the existing emblem for their own use.

A reflection of the moon occulting a star, appearing in pools of blood after the battle of Kosovo in 1448 **, led to the adoption of the Turkish flag by Sultan Murad II (1421-1451) according to one legend. Others refer to a dream of the first Ottoman Emperor in which a crescent and star appeared from his chest and expanded, presaging the dynasty's seizure of Constantinople. At least three other legends explain the flag.

Ivan Sache, 20 January 1999

* In the ancient times the crescent symbolised Artemis and the star was not a star but actually it was the sun, symbol of Apollo. You can find some Roman coins with this composition.      Turhan Turgut, 6 June 2008
** There was a "Second Kosovo War", which is as popular as the first one from the perspective of Ottoman history, and the year 1448 refers to this war. This war continued for only two days (17-19 October 1448) and it was in the time of Sultan Murad II, unlike the first war (which was during the rule of Sultan Murad I, 1352-1369). The resources refer the second war as a bloody war, which supports the legend of the origin of Turkish flag.      Onur Özgün, 2 April 2005

Nicknames of the flag

Turkish people call their national flag ay yildiz (moon star).

Resat Erel, 20 June 1999

Another nickname for the flag is al sancak, which translates into "red banner". Besides, sancak has its unique meaning in Turkish and cannot be directly translated into English, but the nearest to that is the "banner".

Cem Kenan Magripli, 28 January 2004

I think "red banner" is a good translation for al sancak. I think this nickname for the Turkish flag comes from the words of the Turkish national anthem, the Independence March. The poet of national anthem, Mehmet Akif Ersoy, used this metaphor for the flag.
Coming to the translation, sancak is defined as "banner", "flag" or "standard" in Turkish-English dictionaries that I have looked up. The Turkish definition of sancak is "flag carried by military unit, usually having writings, fringe and pole". Today, I think it corresponds to "banner", however its meaning when it was first used could be different and can mean any flag.
The very same word was used in Ottoman times for an administrative unit (see also Sandžak in Serbia). but is does not correspond to any administrative division in Turkey any more.

Onur Özgün, 28 January 2004

As I understood, the administrative unit was named sancak after it being ruled by a ruler who had right and duty to maintain a military unit that carried his flag, that is a (territorial) sancak would provide one unit with a flag.

Željko Heimer, 29 July 2004

Construction sheet for the Turkish flag

Construction sheet

Construction sheet for the flag of Turkey - Image by Željko Heimer, 2 March 1999

The construction sheet is given in Flaggenbuch (1939-1941) [neu92], by Fevzi Kurtoğlu [kur92], and in a book on Turkish flags [vht94] issued by theVDCN (March 1994).
The base unit is the flag width and other dimensions are expressed through it. The center of the circle forming the crescent is half flag width from the hoist, with diameter of the same (i.e. radius 1/4 as indicated on the image). The inner circle forming the crescent has a radius of 1/5 and is offset towards the fly 0.0625 (1/16) [the book actually give number 0.625 here, but that must be printing error as it would make no sense!]. The two circles intersect, forming the "indentation" of the crescent to be 1/3. The five-pointed star is inscribed in a circle with diameter 1/4, tangential to the line connecting the intersections of the two circles. The construction sheet also gives the width of the white heading on hoist (not shown on the image) as 1/30 of the flag width.

Željko Heimer, Mark Sensen, &

Ivan Sache, 1 October 1999

The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics (Flags and Anthems Manual London 2012 [loc12]) provides recommendations for national flag designs. Each NOC was sent an image of the flag, including the PMS shades, for their approval by LOCOG. Once this was obtained, LOCOG produced a 60 x 90 cm version of the flag for further approval. So, while these specs may not be the official, government, version of each flag, they are certainly what the NOC believed the flag to be.
For Turkey, PMS 186 red. The vertical flag is simply the horizontal version turned 90 degrees clockwise.

Ian Sumner, 10 October 2012

The flag in the Turkish national anthem

The Turkish national anthem, the Independence March (İstiklâl Marşı) was adopted on 12 March 1921. Following a competition and the submission of 724 proposals, the Grand National Assembly unanimuously adopted the Independence March written by Mehmet Akif Ersoy (1863-1936). Until 1930, the anthem was performed with the music written by Ali Rşfat Çağatay in 1924. Since then, the anthem is performed with the music written by Osman Zeki Üngör, and only the two first stanzas (which mentions the flag), out of ten, are sung.

Never fear! For the crimson flag that proudly waves in these dawns, shall never fade,
Before the last fiery hearth that is ablaze within my nation burns out.
For it is the star of my nation, and it will forever shine;
It is mine; and solely belongs to my valiant nation.

Frown not, I beseech you, oh thou coy crescent,
But smile upon my heroic race! Why the anger, why the rage?*
Our blood which we shed for you will not be worthy otherwise;
For freedom is the absolute right of my God-worshipping nation

*There is a literary element being employed here that may not be immediately noticeable. The Turkish flag is comprised of a white crescent and star superimposed on a crimson background. The poet is creating an imagery of a crescent and comparing it to the frowning eyebrows of a sulky face. To be specific, the flag (under threat from invading nations against whom victory seems initially impossibly difficult to achieve, hence "coy") is being treated as a coy maiden with a sulky face (resentment of the invasion) who is playing hard-to-get.

Ivan Sache, 27 September 2006

Vertical hoisting of the Turkish flag

[Vertical flag of Turkey]         [Vertical flag of Turkey]

Vertical hoisting of the Turkish flag - Images by António Martins & Ivan Sache, 15 August 2010
Left, usual hoisting, Turkey;
Right, unusual hoisting, Barcelona, 2010

Most images from Turkey, if not all, of the national flag hoisted vertically show the flag with the crescent and star rotated, that is, pointing down.
This use, official or not, does not seem to have been known by the officials of the European Athletics Championships, held from 27 July to 1 August 2010 in Barcelona. During the medal ceremonies, the Turkish flag in use had the crescent and star not rotated, that is pointing to the fly of the flag.

Ivan Sache, 15 August 2010

Black national flag

[Vertical flag of Turkey] image by Tomislav Todorovic, 16 May 2024
image based on photo

A black-field variant of the usual red-field national flag of Turkey, as seen Jan. 1, 2024 in Istanbul; credit: (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel). The article using the photo of this flag did not report on the meaning of this flag. As it was paraded during a protest against the Israeli military incursion into Gaza in late 2023, maybe this black flag is just a generic national mourning and/or protest flag. Some Islamic-jihadist groups use black-field flags.