Slovenian flag at Ukraine embassy removed for being too similar to Russia's

It is true that both flags have similarities, with both being dominated by white-blue-red horizontal stripes. But these are superficial beyond ideas of pan-Slavic colors.

 Flag of Slovenia (illustrative). (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)
Flag of Slovenia (illustrative).
(photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Ukraine asked Slovenia's Embassy in Kyiv to take down its flag because the horizontal white-blue-red pattern bears too much of a similarity to a certain other flag: That of Russia.

No, this is not an April Fool's Day joke.

This anecdote was first shared by Slovenian Charge d'Affaires in Ukraine Boštjan Lesjak on Wednesday when speaking to TV Slovenia. 

The Balkan state had just sent its diplomats back to the Ukrainian capital and reopened its embassy there after having been forced to close it when Russia invaded Ukraine — a move made by most nations, including Israel, in the wake of the conflict's inception. 

As such, the return of diplomats was very much anticipated, and Ljubljana had been urging other European nations to follow suit, as reported by Balkan Insight.

 Pro-Russian activists react on a street as fireworks explode in the sky, after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree recognising two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent entities, in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine February 21, 2022.  (credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO) Pro-Russian activists react on a street as fireworks explode in the sky, after Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree recognising two Russian-backed breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine as independent entities, in the separatist-controlled city of Donetsk, Ukraine February 21, 2022. (credit: REUTERS/ALEXANDER ERMOCHENKO)

However, the sight of the Slovenian flag waving in the breeze by the embassy evidently conjured up negative sentiments toward Russia.

"When we arrived in Kyiv it was quite windy and when we proudly hoisted back the Slovenian and European flag, they fluttered nicely in the wind," Lesjak told TV Slovenia, according to Slovenian state news agency STA.

But as soon as the wind stopped, the police and National Guard asked that Slovenia's flag be removed because of its similarities to Russia's.

It is true that both the Russian flag and Slovenian flag have similarities, with both being dominated by white-blue-red horizontal stripes. There are differences, however; most notably, Slovenia's flag contains the country's coat of arms in the top left corner. However, the original Slovenian flag first raised in 1848 did not have the coat of arms and was simply a tricolor, like Russia's.

While the colors themselves are thought to be pan-Slavic, that isn't where Slovenia's flag gets it from. Rather, as noted by the Slovenian government, they are derived from the flag of the Duchy of Carniola, an imperial estate in the Holy Roman Empire centered around the capital of what is now Slovenia. This flag, in turn, was linked to the duchy's coat of arms, which dates back to the Middle Ages.

By contrast, the Russian flag as we know it today was first flown in the late 1600s for merchant ships and later became the official flag in the late 1800s. According to some accounts, it was derived from the flag of the Netherlands.

One account shared by H.D.S. Greenway in his book Foreign Correspondent: A Memoir details how Tsar Peter the Great saw the flag on ships he ordered from the Dutch. In order to emulate them by having a flag, as Russia didn't have one at the time, the czar had the red stripe from the Dutch flag "cut off the top and [sewn] on the bottom. Thus was born the flag the Russian Federation uses today."

As such, though the similarities are there, they do not represent the same things and the only connection is superficial similarities and the idea of pan-Slavic colors.

Indeed, Slovakia's flag also bears the same similarities to the Russian flag that the Slovenian flag does. However, there have been no current controversies in Ukraine surrounding it at the time of writing.