The collapse of the Habsburg Monarchy in November 1918 heralded the creation of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, later to be known as Yugoslavia. Thus was the long-nurtured ambition of Serbia satisfied: the establishment of a unified South Slav kingdom under the Serbian royal house. But Yugoslavia's history was to be turbulent and in the end the vision of South Slav unity proved to be a mirage. In what could well be considered the Great War's final act, Yugoslavia dissolved into civil war and from the chaos there emerged six independent republics that now divide the lands that were once the Balkan provinces of the defunct Habsburg and Ottoman empires.


KINGDOM OF SERBIA    NATIONAL FLAG    1882-1918 & Since 2004




Provisional National Flag    1918-19


National Flag & Civil Ensign   1919-41


Financial Control Ensign


Harbor Police Ensign





The new Balkan state was officially titled the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. From the start, however, it was informally called Yugoslavia and this name was made official by royal decree in 1929. Blue, white and red had long been regarded as the Pan-Slav colors and various unofficial flags of the movement incorporated them. The ensign hoisted aboard warships of the defunct Austro-Hungarian Navy that had been taken over by Yugoslavia had stripes of red, white, blue and red; it may possibly have served briefly as the national flag. In 1919, however, Yugoslavia adopted a horizontal blue-white-red tricolor, which was formally confirmed as the national flag by a law passed in 1922. This law specified a number of additional flags for the armed forces, government authorities and high officials. The design of the royal standard was left to the King's discretion; he chose a design somewhat reminiscent of the old Habsburg imperial standard, with a border of triangles and a field in the national colors with the royal arms. A law of 1937 modified the design of various flags (though the national flag remained unchanged), including the royal standard. The German/Italian invasion and subsequent occupation of Yugoslavia resulted in the suppression of all these flags, though some continued to be used by the royal government in exile.



National Flags

National Flag   1941-46


National Flag    1946-92


Civil & State Ensign   1950-92


President of the Republic   


Member of the Presidium    President of a Constituent Republic


League of Communists of Yugoslavia


Flags of the Constituent Republics & National Minorities


Socialist Republic of Serbia    Socialist Republic of Montenegro


Socialist Republic of Croatia


Socialist Republic of Slovenia


Socialist Republic of Bosnia & Herzegovina


Socialist Republic of Macedonia


Albanian Minority in Serbia


Hungarian Minority in Croatia

The principal resistance to the German/Italian occupation of Yugoslavia was put up by the Partisan organization under Josip Broz Tito, a veteran revolutionary of Croat origin. The Partisans constituted the military arm of the Communist-dominated Unitary National Liberation Front. After national liberation the UNLF looked toward the establishment of a federal republic, communist in ideology, in place of the monarchy. By 1944 the Partisans had grown into a regular army of more than 60 divisions and were fighting a conventional war against the Germans. Thus Yugoslavia was the sole occupied country able to claim that it had largely liberated itself, albeit with considerable British contributions of weapons, munitions and other supplies. The war's end soon saw the establishment of the desired communist state, with Tito at its head.

During the war the Partisans used several different versions of the flag first adopted in 1941 when the movement was formed: the Yugoslavian tricolor with a red "Partisan Star" on the white stripe. The Partisan Star was also applied to the flags of Serbia and Croatia. In 1946 Yugoslavia adopted a new national flag with a larger star, red, bordered yellow, on the tricolor, this to both commemorate the Partisans and to symbolize the state's socialist character. For use on land its proportions were 1:2; a version proportioned 2:3 was adopted as the civil and state ensign. The presidential flag was the same as the old royal standard, with the communist style state coat of arms replacing the royal arms. A square version of the national flag with a golden yellow wreath added behind the star, was adopted for the used of high government officials. The ruling party, styled the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, had a red flag with the motto PROLETARIANS OF ALL LANDS UNITE! in the upper part over the party emblem and initials. There were six variants of this flag with the inscriptions in the various languages of Yugoslavia; that shown above is the Croat version (Serbo-Croatian language rendered in the Roman alphabet). Each of the six constituent republics had a flag, and there were also flags for various national minorities within the constituent republics. Two of the latter are shown above.


Federal Republic of Yugoslavia  1992-2003    Serbia & Montenegro 2003-06


Republic of Croatia    National Flag Since 1990


Republic of Slovenia  National Flag Since 1991


Republic of Macedonia  National Flag Since 1995


Bosnia and Herzegovina  National Flag Since 1998


Republic of Serbia    State Flag Since 2004


Republic of Montenegro  National Flag Since 2004

The death of Tito (1982) removed his strong authoritarian hand from the direction of Yugoslavian affairs and gradually the nationalist sentiments of the state's various peoples began to reassert themselves. Tensions steadily escalated and by 1990 Yugoslavia had fallen apart. Some of the constituent republics gained independence with a minimum of violence, but in Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina there was bloody fighting. In 1992 only Serbia and Montenegro remained within the Yugoslavian federation, now styled the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. In 2003 the state's name was changed to Serbia and Montenegro and in 2006, after a plebiscite, Montenegro broke away from Serbia. Yugoslavia was no more.

The successor states mostly adopted national flags based on historical models. The national and state flags of Serbia, for example, were identical to that of the pre-Great War kingdom. In Macedonia and Bosnia-Herzegovina, however, the flag question was a contentious one. Greece, which includes part of historical Macedonia, objected to that state's first national flag: the so-called Sun of Vergina on a red field. The Greek government claimed that this was a Greek symbol, associated with Alexander the Great. (Greece even objected to the new state being called Macedonia.) Eventually Macedonia agreed to change its flag, opting for a stylized sun, golden yellow, on a dark red field. In Bosnia-Herzegovina the various ethnic groups squabbled constantly over the choice of a national flag. The design eventually adopted in 1998 actually failed to attract majority support in the legislature, but since it received more votes than any other proposal the High Representative selected it. (The Office of the High Representative was a European agency created to oversee the implementation of the Dayton Peace Accords, which brought the civil war in Bosnia-Herzegovina to an end.) The triangle represents the country's three major ethnic groups, colored the yellow of the sun to denote hope for the future. The blue field and diagonal line of stars symbolize Bosnia's identity as a European nation.