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Croatia: Local flags

Last modified: 2023-03-18 by rob raeside
Keywords: croatia |
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Regulations on the local symbols

The Republic of Croatia is divided since 1 January 1997 in 20 Counties (županija) and the the Town of Zagreb (not part of Zagreb County). Counties are divided into Towns (grad) and Municipalities (općina). In 2006, there were 127 towns and 429 municipalities in Croatia.

The local symbols are prescribed by Article 9 of the Law on local Self-government and Administration, adopted on 29 December 1992, as follows.

The municipalities, towns and counties can have a coat of arms and a flag, to be approved by the central state administrative body that is competent for local self-governement matters.
The coat-of-arms should be described in accordance with the rules of heraldry and displayed in a special document of which one copy shall be kept in the National Archives.
The representative body of the local self-government unit can approve the usage of the coat of arms by natural persons and legal entities, if it decides that this is in the interest of the municipality, town or county.
The central state administrative body competent for local self-government matters can withhold the approval as per Paragraph 1 of this Article only if the contents of the coat of arms do not match the historical or real state of affairs or if the coat of arms insufficiently differs from the coat of arms of another local self-government unit, while a flag can be rejected only for reasons of public consideration with regard to its contents or its colour symbol.

The symbols are prescribed in more detail in Pravilnik o postupku davanja odobrenja grba i zastave jedinici lokalne samouprave (text) - Regulation on the Procedure for Confirmation of the Coat of Arms and the Flag of a local Self-government Unit -, issued by the Ministry of Administration and published on 10 July 1998 in the Croatian official gazette, No. 94.

Article 2.
The coat of arms of a unit of local self-government [county, town or municipality] should be designed according to the rules of heraldry. A coat of arms consists of a shield and its contents. The coat of arms of a unit of local self-government should not contain the State coat of arms or a part of it. A unit of local self-government, as a rule, takes its historical coat of arms with the shield and its contents.

Article 3.
The heraldic colours should be used when designing a flag: White, blue, yellow, red and green*. A county shall use for the design of its flag, as a rule, two colours, and a town and a maunicipality shall use, as a rule, one colour. On the flag of a county there should be the coat of arms of the county, on the flag of a town there should be the coat of arms of the town, and on the flag of a municipality there should be the coat of arms of the municipality. The coat of arms shall be placed in the middle of the flag or in hoist position. The proportions of the flag should be 1:2.

Article 4.
A unit of local self-government should apply for confirmation of its coat of arms and flag at the Ministry of Administration.

* Black is not listed among the accepted colors. An obvious reason for this might be the association of the black color with mourning. There might be other reasons, though: black flags are associated with anarchism, or they are locally connected with extreme-right movements from the Second World War (for instance, Četniks; Ustaša often used black, too, although not on flags). There might be other theories, also, but a fact remains: black is banned from the local Croatian flags.

Several counties, towns and municipalities changed their flag, soon after their local adoption by, after they had not been confirmed by the Ministry of Administration. After minor changes, new, improved flags were adopted.

Željko Heimer & Pascal Vagnat, 4 June 2000

Adoption process of the local symbols

In a lecture (report) organized by HGZD (Croatian Heraldic and Vexillologic Association), Pr. Josip Kolanović presented the coat of arms and flags of the units of local self-government (counties, towns and municipalities; hereafter referret to as ULS) in Croatia. Pr. Kolanović has been the Head of the Croatian State Archives since 1991 and a member of the Government Commission for approval of coat of arms and flags of ULS in the Ministry of Administration since its establishment, on his initiative, in 1994, until his retirement in 2003.
Until the end of September 2007 the Commission (today within the Central State Office for Administration) approved the coat of arms and flags of all the twenty counties, of 93 towns (out of 127) and of 262 municipalities (out of 429). Accordingly, 375 out of 576 ULS (c. 65%) have had their symbols approved.
There are more flags in use than those approved, and there are yet a dozen flags that we know are in use, but their design could hardly fit the approval criteria.

Željko Heimer, 23 May 2008

Designers of local symbols

We know from various sources that the heraldic company from Rijeka Heraldic Art d.o.o. and its director Mladen Stojić are the designer of the majority of the modern Croatian local coat of arms and flags, with over 200 designs approved.
Four posters made in 2006 by Mladen Stojić (Official coat of arms designs approved by the Ministry of Administration based on a positive evaluation from the Commission for approval of coats of arms and flags - Likovna rješenja službenih grbova odobrena od Ministarstva uprave a na temelju pozitivne ocjene od Povjerenstva za odobrenje grba i zastave) include together 160 coat of arms, most probably the majority of Stojić's approved designs at the time. It is fairly obvious that he is the desginer of at least 50% of the approved coat of arms and flag designs.
In several cases the drawing included on the posters is not the finally adopted design, being a proposal that got far into the adoption process. There are also a few cases where I suspect that Stojić's design was adopted and approved, but eventually the unit decided to appoint another artist for a slight redesign - usually heraldically insignificant - and this being now used - probably without Stojić's knowledge.
Most coat of arms were presented by Mladen Stojić during the 1st European Conference on Heraldry and Vexillology, held in Cieszyn (Poland), 27-29 September 2012, in a lecture entitled "The official coats of arms of countys, towns and communes in Republic of Croatia". This is the source of most images shown in this website.

The second most prolific designer of local symbols is Antonio Grgić, owner of the Pikant marketing company in Koprivnica. The count of his designs comes to nine (ten if counting the short-lived, unapproved symbols of Koprivnica-Križevci County, which was after two years replaced with his newer, approved design. These nine are Koprivnica-Križevci County, Drnje, Đelekovec, Legrad, Koprivnički Ivanec, all in that County; Brckovljani in Zagreb County; Jesenje in Krapina-Zagorije County; Saborsko in Karlovac County; and Stari Mikanovci in Vukovar-Srijem County.

The list continues with two designers Danijel Hampamer (Mala Subotica, Podturen, Pribislavec and Selnica, all in Međimurje County) and Draženka Jalšić Ernečić (Koprivnički Bregi, Novigrad Podravski, Koprivnica and Kloštar Podravski, all in Koprivnica-Križevci County).
Then we have three names providing two designs: Francesca Danese-Katić (Dubrovnik-Neretva County and Korčula in that County), Vanja Garaj (Molve and Novo Virje in Koprivnica Križevci County); and Dubravko Mataković (Vukovar-Srijem County and Vinkovci in that County).
Finally, there are about 40 designers or teams of designers who did a single design of local symbols.

In some cases, the designer only provided modern drawing of the historical design, in some cases simply vectorizing some existent drawing of a historical coat of arms, in other cases making more or less graphical adaptations in artwork, retaining the same heraldic contents. This makes difficult to designate such an artist as the author of the design.
This list is far from correct because for many of the designs used, adopted and/or approved (for about 230 of them, being almost half of all having any data) I do not have data on the designer's name The names of the authors of the designs are never mentioned in public official documents, neither Decisions adopting the symbols published in various official gazettes, nor Decisions of the central authorities (Ministry of Administration) approving the design to be used (which are not published anywhere systematically, anyway).
Therefore the designer's name should be obtained indirectly. Sometimes the local entitites issue the name in publications (local magazines, websites and similar) usually reporting the symbols adoption; occasionaly it is mentioned in other news reports by regional or national newspapers or similar; in few cases, the names are given in exhibition catalogues, scientific papers or personal websites of these artists.

Željko Heimer, 10 September 2013

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