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National Liberation Movement (Yugoslavia, Second World War)

Last modified: 2018-07-25 by ivan sache
Keywords: partisan |
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Partisans' first flag and ensign


First partisans' flag - Image by Željko Heimer, 12 October 2003

The Communist Party lead by Tito organized the struggle against the occupying forces, consolidating all the forces that opposed the Axis and forming the National Liberation Movement. The symbol of the struggle was a five-pointed red star. Since the very beginning, the symbol was also used on the national tricolour flags carried by the partisan units. The red five-pointed star was initially used by the partisan fighters as the symbol of the liberation movement and the Communist revolution. The first official adoption of the symbol on the flags was in the Stolice meeting on 26 September 1941 where it was decided that the partisan units shall carry their national tricolour according to the ethnic composition of the units, with a five-pointed red star in the middle. The shape, size and the exact placement of the star were not specified in more detail until the end of the war, and there where numerous variations. The "fat" star was one of the most commonly used variations.
At the same time, it was decided that the general staff had to use a red flag with a red five-pointed star with a yellow border, placed near the hoist.


Partisans' war ensign - Image by Željko Heimer, 12 October 2003

The use of flags at sea started in early 1942. The first ensigns hoisted on the partisan boats and ships in 1942 consisted of the Yugoslav tricolour flag in the first two thirds of the flag length while the remaining third consisted of the three national tricolours of Serbia/Montenegro, Croatia and Slovenia (photo). The Yugoslav tricolour flag was defaced with a red five-pointed star and a white anchor. Several flags of this type were preserved in the museum in Split. Until the 1990s the museum was named Pomorski muzej JAZU, the acronym being for the Academy of Arts and Sciences in Zagreb. I am not aware of the fate of the museum since then. Those flags were gradually replaced with other prescribed flags.

Željko Heimer, 12 October 2003

A photo shows the ensign with a "fat" star, smaller than on the above image, and no anchor.

Tomislav Todorović, 27 April 2018

Polish units in the partisan Yugoslav army

There were some Polish units in the Yugoslav Partisan Army. The most known was a battalion formed by the Polish ethnic minority inBosnia. This unit was created on 7 May 1944 in the village of Martince, Prnjavor County, as the 5th Battalion of the 14th Middle-Bosnian Shock Brigade of NOVJ. In September 1944, it was renamed the 3rd Battalion. The unit fought in Bosnia and was disbanded in August 1945.
The unit used a white-red bicolor flag, in proportion 1:2, with a dark red irregular star.

Source: S. Komornicki, Z. Bielecki, W. Bigoszewska, A. Jońca. Wojsko Polskie 1939-1945 (1984)

It seems that the flag was vertical, although it is displayed horizontally in the book. The red stripe seems to be standard red, whereas the star is dark red.

Grzegorz Skrukwa, 8 April 2002

This hand-made flag of the wartime was similar to other national flags used by Tito's Partisans during the war. They were basis for the flags granted to national minorities in post-war Yugoslavia.

Željko Heimer, 9 April 2002

Flag events, 1943

A photo from the German Federal Archives shows the lowering of the Yugoslav partisan flag by German forces in 1943 in Split, and also the mounting of this flag as a trophy on the hood of a German tank.
After the fall of Italy in the Second World War, the People's Liberation Committee of Split took the power on 9 September 1943 and the Partisan forces entered the town on the next day, led by Ivo Lola Ribar as the delegate of the General Staff and by Vicko Krstulović as the commander of the 4th Operational Zone of Croatia. Soon more forces as well as the representatives of the Allies (William Deakin) also entered the town. The German forces soon pushed towards this important town, followed by representatives of the Independant State of Croatia. The partisan forces decided that defending the town would be impossible and evacuate it with numerous regrutes, civilians and captured Italian equipment and provisions, so the German and Ustasha forces enter the emptied town on 27 September (7th SS Division, 92 Motorized Regiment and 114 Jaeger division), performing atrocities towards the civilians. (see the story at
Obviously, the Yugoslav flags were left defiantly; the photo must show the lowering of the flag from Mount Marijan overlooking the town.

Another flag-related story from Split from the same period is related by Sibe Kvesić in his memoirs Dalmacija u Narodno-oslobodilačkoj borbi (Dalmatia in the National Liberation (my translation):

Responding to the call of the town's National Liberation Committee, somewhat before 7pm [on 9 September 1943], a mass of people gathered on the Split waterside. At that time the Italias were - as they were doing already the third year every evening - lowering their flag on the small quay. While the flag was being lowered, thousands of voices roared the anthem Hej Slaveni. It was a symbolic and moving image. It was the last time that the flag of a defeated nation was being lowered in the usual ceremony, while the coast was pealed by the anthem of the victorious people.

The event is shown in several later Yugoslav movies, for instance the TV series Velo Misto.

Željko Heimer, 23 January 2009

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