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Last modified: 2008-12-06 by ivan sache
Keywords: georgia | europe | caucasus | commonwealth of independent states | sakartvelo | crosses: 5 (red) | construction sheet | law | book of all knigdoms |
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[Flag of Georgia]

Flag of Georgia - Image by Željko Heimer, 28 January 2004

Flag adopted 14 January 2004, coat of arms adopted on 3 June 2005.
Proportions: 2:3
Description: White flag with a red cross and four smaller crosses in the white quarters.
Use: on land, as the civil and State flag, at sea, as the civil and State ensign.

On this page:

See also:

Official description of the flag

The Parliament of Republic of Georgia has adopted a new national flag on 14 January 2004. The flag is white with five red crosses, and was used as the flag of the National Movement, whose leader was Mikhail Saakashvili, the new President of Georgia.
The new flag was hoisted over the Parliament of Georgia on 14 January at 21:00, local time (17:00 GMT)

Jens Pattke, Mikhail Revnivtsev & Dean McGee 14 January 2004

Flag Act

The Parliament of Georgia has put out on its website, under the section for legislation, a Georgian language version of the new Flag Act (page no longer available).
In that document, there is a link to a PDF file (file no longer available) containing a drawing of the flag - with specifications (different from those in a Bill proposed earlier to the Parliament).

Jan Oskar Engene, 27 January 2004

Here is the unofficial translation of the document attached to the construction sheet of the new Georgian flag.

Decree of the President of Georgia
No. 31, 25 January, 2004, City of Tbilisi
Regarding the Standard dimensions and exact construction of the national flag of Georgia.

1. According to the Constitution's eleventh Article and the second Article, Paragraph two of the Georgian Law "Regarding the Georgian National Flag", this declaration sets out the Georgian national flag's exact construction and standard dimensions.
2. According to the second Article, first Paragraph of the Georgian Law "Regarding the Georgian National Flag", the Georgian national flag is a white rectangle, with in its central portion a large red cross touching all four sides of the flag. In the four corners there are four bolnur-katskhuri crosses of the same color (as the large cross).
3. The Georgian national flag's exact construction and standard dimensions are presented in Supplements No.1 and No. 2 of this Decree.
4. The colors of the flag shall not be changed.

The first page of the attached construction sheets (which outlines the dimensions of the crosses) has the heading Saqartvelos Sakhelmtsipho Drosha (Georgian National Flag).
The second page again features the heading "Georgian National Flag", as well as the first drawing labelled tsina piri (obverse side). A second drawing is labelled ukana piri (reverse side).
The short writing in the lower right-hand corner of both pages says pheri or color: #FF0000.

Greg Svanidze, 4 February 2004

Construction sheet

[Construction sheet]         [Construction sheet]

Construction sheet
Left, after the official document - Image by Željko Heimer, 28 January 2004
Right, after an animated document - Image by Victor Lomantsov, 19 May 2008

The flag based on the official specifications looks like the flags used for the Presidential inauguration. I have come across one problem. The specification for the cross pattee does not match the drawing.

[Cross specification detail]

Construction details for the crosses - Image by Graham Bartram, 28 January 2005

The leftmost image is created numerically from the specification (swapping the two centre offsets which are obviously the wrong way round), the middle image is drawn by fitting the arcs to the actual drawing, and changing the radii as necessary. The rightmost image shows the difference. As you can see the specification makes a cross that is much "straighter" than the actual drawing (and the examples I have seen).

Graham Bartram, 28 January 2004

In technical drawing it is considered as a principle that the written (that is dimension lines) specifications get precedence to the actual drawing, allowing the drawing to be "sketchy" and to exaggerate the features. By that logic one would suppose to follow numbers here.
There is at least one more error, but it may be that this level of precision is ignored intentionally since the difference is minor. Namely, the imaginary red square formed by the "core" of the cross must be a bit bigger than the square of side 0.1 that tangents the four arches of radii 1.04. The size of the somewhat larger square is by my calculation 0.10256. Indeed a minor difference.
An other small inconsistency is regarding the arch forming the concave ends of the crosses. If we assume that the center point of the circle defining the arch is fixed as per the construction sheet to 1.09 from the center of the cross, then the radius that could match the already determined points* cannot be 0.56 as the sheet says, but would be something like 0.5445 based on my calculations.
The image of the flag shown on top of this page and the construction sheet were drawn according to the specification sheet and the reasoning above.

*These points are determined with the square of 0.4 in which the cross is inscribed and the arches with radii 1.04 forming the crossbars.

Željko Heimer, 28 January 2004

Origin of the flag

Recent origin of the flag

The flag with the five crosses outnumbered any other flag - including the previous Georgian national flag - in the street demonstrations that led to the so-called "rose revolution" and the ousting of former President Shevernadze. The revolution started in the beginning of November following elections considered as rigged by the opposition and ended on 22 November with taking over of the Parliament by the opposition and Shevarnadze's resignation. His main opponent, Mikhail Saakashvili, was elected President of Georgia on 4 January 2004.

Ivan Sache, 24 January 2004

The flag with the five crosses has been used for about three years by the opposition coalition led by Mikhail Saakashvili, called National Movement.

Jaume Ollé, 23 November 2003

Disputed historical roots of the flag

[Flag of Sivas]

Flag of "Savasto" - Image by António Martins, 20 November 2007

The "Book of All Kingdoms" [f0fXX], of 1350, tells the voyages of an anonymous Castilian friar and is illustrated with 113 flag images, referred to (though seldom described) in the text.
The 43rd flag mentioned and illustrated in the "Book" is attributed to "Savasto". The 2005 Spanish illustrated transcription of the "Book" [f0f05] shows a white flag with a red cross throughout with a small red cross patty in each quarter; the flag is shown in the ogival default shape of this source.
The anonymous author of the "Book" describes the flag thusly: Ha por señales un pendón blanco con cinco cruzes bermejas atales (Has for device a pendon with five red crosses like this). An identical flag is shown in the "Book" (and is possibly the original flag) for "Surai / Siria / Cananea / Judea / Palestina".

António Martins, 20 November 2007

The modern flag of Georgia is said to have been used by early Georgian feudal states. As said above, a similar flag is shown in the Book of All Kingdoms for Sivas (Sebasteia). A picture of the flag from that source is shown by Georges Pasch in Vexillologia [vxa] #2 (1969). Sebasteia was the capital of the former Byzantine Province of Armenia Prima, and Sivas is today the capital of the Velyat of Sivas, in Cappadocia, Turkey. The new flag of Georgia does not seem to be related with this historical banner. The flag of the National Movement was unknown ten years ago and was called "the Georgian historical national flag" by the opposition leaders only after publications by the Georgian vexillologist I.L. Bichikashvili.

Brendan Koerner, in Slate, gives more details on the supposed origin of the new Georgian flag:

[...] The so-called five-cross flag, which dates back to Georgia's medieval glory days, is the symbol of the main opposition party, Mikhail Saakashvili's National Movement. [...] A majority of Georgians, including the patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, have long favored adopting the five-cross banner as the nation's official flag. But the outgoing president stymied all efforts to make the change. In 1999, the Georgian Parliament voted to change the flag, and all Shevardnadze had to do was issue a supportive Decree. Inexplicably, he refused to do so, instead setting up a powerless Heraldic Commission to study the matter. When Saakashvili founded the National Movement in 2001, therefore, the five-cross flag was the natural choice to illustrate his party's populist bent.

The first mention of the five-cross design dates back to the middle of the XIVth century, when an unknown Franciscan monk wrote that the kingdom's flag was "a white-colored cloth with five red crosses." In prior centuries, Georgian kings had marched into battle brandishing a simpler flag, similar to the "St. George's cross" [...], a single red cross, on a white background. According to a vexillological history written by the Georgian scholar Giorgi Gabeskiria, the four extra crosses were likely added during the reign of Giorgi V (also known as "the Brilliant" or "the Splendid"), who drove out the Mongols. Around that time, Georgians founded several monasteries in the Holy Land and became widely known for their piety. The new design was ostensibly fashioned after the Jerusalem cross, a symbol used by crusaders there and adopted as a testament to Georgia's righteous reputation.

Giorgi Gabeskiria's statements are available online. He wrote:

The XIV century king's flag underwent significant changes. In The World Atlas made by an unknown Franciscan monk (1345-1350), the Georgian flag is presented as "a white-coloured cloth with five red crosses". On the map made by Pizzigani brothers - Francisco and Domenico from Venice - the city of Tbilisi is shown as a three-towered fortress and above it a white flag with five red crosses" (D. Kldiashvili, History of the Georgian heraldry, Parlamentis utskebani, 1997; pp. 30-31). What was the reason of adding four red crosses to the existing one on the white St. George flag? The question is put and answered by D. Kldiashvili, who explains that after King of Georgia Giorgi the Brilliant succeeded in returning to Christiandom the city of Jerusalem and the burial-ground of Christ, and won the esteemed statute of the Guard of the Lord's grave, the state flag was enriched with four small red crosses in the corners, as a replica to the heraldic composition of the "Jerusalem cross" (Ibidem, p. 35).

However, in The World Atlas, which is indeed the Book of All Kingdoms mentioned above, there are only three pictures for Sivas but nothing on banners of any Georgian state or city.

Mikhail Revnivtsev, 25 November 2003

About Sivas, the Illustrated Encyclopedia of Medieval Civilization, by Aryeh Grabois (1980), says:

Sivas - city in Anatolia. Conquered by the Seljuk Turks in 1071, it became a provincial capital of the Seljuk sultanate of Konya. In the middle of the XIIIth century it was conquered by a Turkoman tribe and became the capital of an independent principality, which was destroyed by the Ottoman Turks under Bayazid in 1392.

Jarig Bakker, 28 November 2003

The 1917 Flag issue of National Geographic magazine [gmc17] has excerpts and illustrations from the Book of All Kingdoms manuscript. It shows the five red crosses for "Sauasto ... anciently Sauasco", although the center cross is couped, not extending all the way to the edges. The editors identified Sauasto as Sivas/Sebastia.
It also shows either arms or a flag for "Lesser Armenia". I am not sure if it was intended to be a descate-shaped flag or arms with the shield rotated 90 degrees. If a flag, it is the five red cross on white design over gold fleurs-de-lis on blue; if a shield the two designs per pale (note the excerpts do not include text on the Lesser Armenian symbol; they do mention those of "Cyprus", with a similar combination, and again the illustration shows the fleur-de-lis on blue but the text says purpure).
There was one item I noticed in the excerpts which may partially explain why a Georgian nationalist might conclude the flag was really Georgian and not Armenian. The manuscript says "you must know that anciently this Armenia was called the island of Colcos ... and here was the temple to the enchanted golden sheep which bewitched Jason the Greek." According to legend the golden fleece was in Colchis, now a part of Georgia. Perhaps this confused reference led somebody to conclude the manuscript author was also confused about the flags?

Ned Smith, 27 November 2003

[Flag of Corincho]

Flag of "Corincho", as shown in the 2005 Spanish transcription of the "Book of All Kingdoms" - Image by António Martins, 19 November 2007

In Vexillologia #2 (1969), op. cit., George Pasch shows a flag with the following description: "Colcos [Gorgos] (Corincho). Noir, portant une croix et quatre croisettes en blanc, that is black with five white crosslets.
Mary Kochar, in Armenian-Turkish public-political relation and the Armenian question, Erevan, 1988 (in Russian language), says on p. 33, that in May 1895, the Turkish Western Armenia included the vilayates of Erzerum, Van, Bitlis, Diarbekir, Kharbird and Sebastia.

Mikhail Revnivtsev, 29 November 2003

Sivas was known during the Crusades as Sebasteia. Strabo uses Sebastes, or Cabeira in Cappadocia Pontica, with the palace of Mithridates of Pontus, named Diospolis by Pompey.
It would be more convincing if the flag was associated with a person, or persons. Is any reason given for that identification of "Sauasto ... anciently Sauasco" with Sivas? I found a village Sebasteia in the province of Nabulus, ancient Samaria, renamed Sebastes (Augusta), and Sebastopol twice - one on the Crimea and one (now drowned) on the north-eastern shore of the Black Sea, and of course Sebastopol in Sonoma County,California.
In The Seljuks (1961), Tamara Talbot Rice writes (p. 35):

In 1022 the king of Vaspurakan (Armenia) agreed to relinquish his kingdom [to the Byzantine Empire] in exchange for a fief situated in the Taurus, which was to have Sebaste (Sivas) as its capital.[...] in 1067 [Alp Arslan] ... defeated the Byzantine armies at Levitane and Sebaste.

In The Armenians (1970), David Marshall Lang writes:

in 1206 Georgian Queen Tamar captures Kars (p. 15)
Later, in the XIIth and XIIIth centuries, the warlike Armenian house of the Zachariads or Mkhargrdzeli ("Long-armed") rules in northern Armenia at Ani, Lori, Kars and Dvin under the aegis of such Georgian sovereigns as Queen Tamar (1184-1213). (p.198)

In The Georgians (1966), David Marshall Lang writes:

Around 1225 Patriarch Jacques de Vitry of Jerusalem wrote: "[...] These men are called Georgians, because they especially revere and worship St. George, whom they make their patron and standard-bearer in their fight with the infidels, and they honour him above all saints. Whenever they come on pilgrimage to the Lord's Sepulchre, they march into the Holy City with banners displayed [...]" (p. 112)
It is not true that the name "Georgians" derives from St. George; it is connected with the Arabic and Persian ethnic name Kurj or Gurj. The Georgians were commonly known as "Christians of the Girdle", supposedly because their patron saint used his girdle to bind up the dragon's body after he had killed it with his lance. (p. 113)
Among the many political and military triumphs of Tamar's glorious reign, special interest attaches to the foundation of the Empire of Trebizond in 1204. [...] Tamar and her Georgians occupied Trebizond and areas of the Black Sea coast still further westward. A scion of the imperial family of the Komneni, Alexius, who had been educated in Georgia, was placed at the head of the new and independent empire of Trebizond, which continued its existence right up to the year 1461 [...] (p. 114)

These fragments do not prove anything, but with a bit of imagination one can read in it that the (assumed) flag of Sivas was conquered by the Georgians, who paraded with it in Jerusalem.

Jarig Bakker, 28 November 2003

Now that opens up another possibility. Although the author places Sauasto in "Turquia, which was called in ancient times Asia Minor" he also writes the city of Sauasto was ancient Samaria. (He uses Sauasto for both the city and its surrounding province). At first I didn't connect that with the Samaria in the Holy Land, but now suspect he may have mixed together facts about Sebasteia in Asia Minor and Sebasteia in the Holy Land. If so, to which one did the flag really belong? Also, I wonder about the reliability in general of the manuscript. It is difficult to determine what was based on first hand knowledge, what was really repeating of second hand knowledge disguised as personal experience, and what was pure invention.

Ned Smith, 28 November 2003

The Georgian flag as a flag of convenience

The International Transport Workers' Federation lists Georgia among the 32 states involved in the dubious business known as "flag of convenience". It seems that the source of this business was the former rule of Asian Abashidze in Ajaria; at that time, a fee of 70 USD was enough to purchase the right to fly the national flag of Georgia.
The government of Georgia is not happy with this business. According to Deputy Chairman of Georgian State Border Guard Department David Gulua, 730 ships that were sailing under Georgian flag were stopped for spot inspections by the Georgian Coast Guard last year.
"Plenty of ships sailing under Georgian flags have been detained. If Georgia's flag-bestowing process is not reformed and made more stringent then it's quite possible that, sometime in the near future, a ship flying under the Georgian flag could be used to transport an atomic bomb," Gulua warned in an interview with the newspaper Rezonansi.
The State Border Guard Department has prepared a special document for President Saakashvili, recommending that certain changes be made when it comes to handing out Georgian flags.

After M. Alkhazashvili - Georgia's flag convenient for some ships but not for Georgia itself, official warns. The Messager, 1 March 2006

Ivan Sache, 3 March 2006