Time to Change Tajikistan's Flag?

Thousands of flags are flown across Tajikistan today as the Central Asian republic celebrates the Flag Day. Meanwhile, some bloggers suggest that it might be time to change the country's flag.

The flag and its meanings

Tajikistan's current flag shows three horizontal stripes of red (top), a wider stripe of white (middle), and green (bottom). A gold crown surmounted by seven gold stars is located in the center of the white stripe. When the flag was first introduced in November 1992, its colors were meant [ru] to stand for “the unbreakable union of the workers, peasants, and intelligentsia”, with red symbolizing the workers, white the peasants, and green the intelligentsia.

The flag of Tajikistan. Image from Wikipedia.

However, over the two decades since the introduction of the flag, many alternative interpretations [ru] of the symbol have been offered. Speaking in 2010, Tajikistan's president announced [tj] that the red stripe stood for “the people's struggle for and dedication to freedom and independence”; the white stripe symbolized “happiness, hope, and dream”; and the green stripe was the symbol of “prosperity, blossom, pride, and eternity”. A very common view also holds that the red on the Tajik flag is a recognition of the country's Soviet past, and the green is a tribute to Islam, the religion followed by most Tajikistanis. Interestingly, Tajikistan's current flag carries the same colors that the country's Soviet-era flag had.

The flag of the Soviet Socialist Republic of Tajikistan between 1953-1991. Image from Wikipedia.

There are also many different interpretations of the crown and the stars located in the middle of Tajikistan's flag. In short, the country's flag means different things to different people.

Waiving the flag

Although Tajikistan's flag was introduced 20 years ago, it was only in 2009 that the country established the Flag Day to celebrate its main symbol. In an attempt to strengthen patriotic sentiment, the government has actively sought to popularize the flag.

With this aim in mind, last year Tajikistan unveiled the world's tallest flagpole, with a massive flag flowing from it. Having landed in the Guinness Book of World Records with the 165-meter flagpole, Tajikistan also tried to set another record by unfurling the world's longest flag, a 2011-meter-long tricolor carried by 3,000 people at the Independence Day parade in Dushanbe.

Getting rid of red?

While the government encourages Tajiks to rally around the flag, some bloggers have suggested that it might be time to redesign the symbol. Shukufa, for example, has criticized [ru] the country's current flag, claiming that it conveys confusing messages, resembles the flags used by several other countries, and is basically a reincarnation of the flag used during the Soviet period. She wrote [ru]:

В общем, сколько ни пытайся привить любовь к этому флагу, сколько не водружай его на самые высокие в мире флагштоки, он до сих пор остается непонятным, не совсем “национальным” и не уникальным.

Overall, however hard you try to make people love this flag, however often you fly it from the world's tallest flagpoles, it still remains unclear, not quite “national,” and not unique.

Shukufa then suggested that Tajikistan needs a new flag, as well as a new coat of arms and new monuments.

Responding to her, blogger Sarbaland defended [ru] the current flag, while agreeing that the red stripe should be removed from it:

…Нужно избавиться от красного цвета. Что означает этот красный цвет? И дураку понятно что в советское время это цвет был добавлен в наш флаг чтобы показать что мы коммунисты… Флаг СССРа был красный и поэтому на всех флагах всех республик тоже был добавлен красный цвет чтобы показать что это всё советские, комунистические и социалистические республики.

Значит красный цвет чужой, он не национальный, не исторический. Его нужно заменить на какой-то другой….

…We need to get rid of red. What does this red color stand for? It's clear [to everyone] that during the Soviet period this color was added to our flag to show that we were communists… The USSR's flag was red, this is why red was also added to the flags of all [Soviet] republics, to show that these were all Soviet, communist, and socialist republics.

Therefore, the red color is alien, it is not national, it is not historic. It should be replaced with a different color…

This 2011-meter long flag was carried by 3,000 people at the Independence Day rally in Dushanbe in September 2011. Image by news agency Asia-PLUS, used with permission.

Leaving the flag as it is

Some bloggers have opposed the idea of changing the flag. Underneath Shukufa's post, blogger Alexey Somin argued [ru] that the red color should stay on the flag:

Красный цвет – это цвет нашего замечательного прошлого… Не нужно забывать, что наша республика была образована именно в советский период. Тогда впервые в истории на карте мира появилось государство с названием Таджикистан. То есть мы обязаны своей государственностью Советскому Союзу! Как может страна, созданная под красным советским знаменем, хотеть избавиться от красного цвета на своем флаге и уйти от своего советского прошлого?

Red is the color of our great past… One shouldn't forget that our republic was created during the Soviet period. Then, for the first time in history, a country named Tajikistan was added to the map of the world. Therefore we owe our statehood to the Soviet Union! How can a country created under the red Soviet flag wish to get rid of the red color on its flag and [forget] its Soviet past?

Yet, another blogger, KHURRSHED, suggested [ru] (also under Shukufa's post) that the red stripe does not necessarily have to do anything with the Soviet flag, and that many countries have red elements on their flags.

Nekbakhti Orzu then weighed in [ru]:

[Позвольте мне] сказать что нельзя менять гос. символы, потому что они уже не гос. символы они уже стали для таджиков нац. символы. По моему мнению, они во все 100 процент соответствуют нац. идею и истории таджикского народа.

I would like to say that our state symbols should not be changed because they are no longer just state symbols, they have become national symbols for Tajiks. In my opinion [these symbols] are [truly] reflective of the national idea and history of the Tajik people.

The blogger then suggested that the red stripe on the flag stands for the “blood of the great Tajiks that fought for their freedom and independence,” while the green one is “the color of Islam”.

Another blogger, Rishdor, wrote [ru]:

Всем кто критикует наш флаг хочу ответить: у нас самый лучший флаг! Трогать его не надо потому что он один из самых красивых флагов в мире и потому что люди все жители Таджикистана к нему уже привыкли. Нужно оставить его таким, какой он есть.

I would like to respond to all those who criticize our flag [by saying that] we have the best flag. It should not be [changed] because it is one of the best-looking flags in the world and because all the people in Tajikistan have become used to it. [The flag] should be left as it is.

Rishdor also suggested that instead of criticizing the flag, Tajik bloggers should help in popularizing it and educating people about its true meanings.

A billboard in the center of Dushanbe reminds its residents that “the flag is a sacred object and our national symbol”. Image by Khayrullo Nodir, used with permission.

Finally, Tojikzamin blog claimed [tj] that it was simply unpatriotic to want to change the flag:

Афсӯс ки баъзе аз шаҳрвандони кишварамон то ҳол эҳтиром  кардани рамзҳои давлатиро, хусусан парчами миллӣ, ёд нагирифтаанд. Парчам ин як чизи муқаддасу тағьирнаёбанда аст. Рангҳое ки мо имрӯз дар парчам мебинем таърихи ҳазорсолаи миллати тоҷикро инъикос менамоянд. Одамоне ки давлату халқу миллаташонро дӯст медоранд ҳеч вақт тарафдорони иваз кардани парчами миллӣ намешаванд!

Unfortunately, some of our country's citizens have not yet learned to respect our state symbols, particularly the national flag. A flag is something sacred and unchangeable. The colors that we see on the flag today reflect thousands of years of history of the Tajik nation. Individuals that love their country, people, and the nation will never support the idea of changing the national flag!

In many respects, the government's feverish flag-waiving and the debates about the meaning of the country's main symbol reflect the uncertainty of Tajikistani nationals about their identity. Global Voices Online has recently highlighted similar debates about monuments, holidays, and the names of towns, villages, and streets taking place in online citizen media in Tajikistan.


  • А я всегда думал, что красный цвет это солнце, белый – хлопок и снежные горы, а зелёный – сельское хозяйство.

  • Новый флаг создавали быстро, поэтому просто переделали советский флаг, оставив все те же цвета. Поэтому чтобы понять значение цветов нашего флага, нужно смотреть на значение цветов советского флага. А все новые объяснения – это уже от лукавого.

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