Red and yellow

I recently read "Siniristilippumme" ("Our Blue Cross Flag") by Caius Kajanti, a rather thorough account of the history of the flag of Finland. Contemporary newspaper articles arguing about what the flag should look like and what the national colors ought to be are pretty funny from a modern perspective.

The alternatives were red and yellow on one hand and blue and white on the other. Red and yellow came from Finland's coat of arms, which features a golden lion on a red background. Blue and white came from the nature: blue water and white snow.

The book has lots of pictures of different proposals. From a purely aesthetic perspective, my favorite was Akseli Gallen-Kallela's proposal that looked something like this:

You have to admit that it would have made for fine-looking ice hockey uniforms.

Like everything else in Finnish pre-independence politics, even the issue of national colors developed a language component to it. Red and yellow was supported by many Swedish-speakers, perhaps because they went back to the days of Swedish rule, whereas blue and white were supported by the Finnish-speaking right. The latter won, of course, but only after the Civil War had made the color red unpopular.

Incidentally, it's fairly commonly believed that the current flag's white cross on a blue background came from the Uusimaa Jacht Club (Nylandska Jaktklubben), which in turn got the design from the St. Petersburg Yacht Club. According to this book the issue isn't that simple. The Nordic cross form and the blue and white colors were picked independently of each other.


Jan Sand said...

Since Blue Cross is a health insurance organization in the USA and the Finnish health system is superior to that in the States I thought the flag particularly appropriate.

Ari said...

It worked out okay in the end. Even Gallen-Kallela - a staunch supporter of the good old crimson and gold who refused to design the flag if the colors are blue and white - agreed that considering the circumstances, the result was acceptable.