Even for a seasoned vexillologist, the flags of Romania (a country in Central / Southeastern Europe) and Chad (a landlocked country in Central Africa) can prove to be a particularly irksome pair to distinguish. So, let’s examine these extremely similar flags and delve into their subtle differences while also bringing to light some really intriguing facts which contributed to their practically identical looks.
Telling them apart
Both flags fit into the tricolor subdivision and feature the same colors, with the bands being arranged vertically: blue for the hoist side, yellow in the middle and red in the fly side. The 2:3 ratio they share further complicates things, rendering the riddle almost impossible to solve. However, close examination unveils slight variations in shading, the most noticeable of which lies in the blue stripe: Romania’s blue is lighter (or, more specifically, “cobalt blue”, as per the Romanian law) while Chad’s blue stripe shade falls within the definition of “indigo” blue. Other than these hazy differences, there’s not much one can do to safely tell them apart!
Looking into the symbols
In the case of Romania, the blue band is claimed to exemplify freedom, the yellow band is said to stand for justice and the red band is believed to epitomize fraternity. As for the central African state, the three bands are said to represent the sky and hope (blue), the sun and the desert (yellow) and the blood shed for the nation’s independence as well as the nation’s efforts towards a brighter future (red).
Which one debuted first?
Well, the story behind those flags’ designs ending up looking almost identical is actually pretty compelling (for more details, see the Fun Facts section). However, when it comes to which came out first, the undisputed winner is the Romanian emblem, which goes all the way back to 1861. In fact, an earlier banner featuring horizontal stripes with the same colors, when Wallachia (the name refers to the historical region of southeast Romania extending between the Transylvanian Alps and the Danube River) revolted against the Ottoman Empire in 1848. On the other hand, Chad (a French colony until 1960) officially unveiled its flag one year prior to gaining its independence, in 1959.
- Following the above mentioned, it comes as no surprise that the marginal differences between the two flags have brought about more than perplexing brain-teasers to flag aficionados. Serious controversy ensued in 2004, when the authorities of Chad complained about the two designs converging after 1989: that year, Nicolae Ceaușescu, the then head of state, was forced to step down (only to be executed a few days later), resulting in Romania dispensing with the communist insignia that occupied the center of the yellow band. For their part, Romanian authorities pointed out that the basic design of their flag (the tricolor configuration along with the selection of colors) boasts a much longer legacy compared to Chad’s flag, stating that they had no intention of coming up with any alterations.
- The flag of Romania underwent numerous (albeit not drastically distinct variations) over the years. During the communist era (1947-1989), the communist emblem took up the middle of the yellow stripe while the flag was modified four more times until 1989, when the regime collapsed. In fact, during the upheaval that shook Timișoara (a city in western Romania) at that time, the protesters started waving Romanian flags with a white hole where the communist coat of arms used to be, thus signaling their disapproval to the Ceaușescu regime!
- In Romania, June 26 has been established as the “Flag Day”, during which cultural and educational events (associated with Romanian history and culture) as well as military parades are held.
- As is the case with the majority of African nations, the flag of Chad (a former French colony) is based on the French tricolor. Initially, however, the authorities aimed at devising a flag that would combine the tricolor configuration with the colors of the Pan-African movement (red, black, green). Therefore, they decided to adopt the colors used in the flag of Ethiopia, a country which personified the values of pride and concord among the African nations at the time. Ultimately, though, Chad’s authorities swapped the green stripe with a blue one, as the flag would otherwise look identical to the flag of Mali (adopted in 1961). That decision seemed somewhat rational, since it would be preferable for Chad’s flag to be occasionally mixed up with that of a European country than that of a neighboring one!
- Despite turmoil occurring at times in this particular central African state, no alteration has been attempted on the flag’s layout. A major reason behind that is probably the fact that, despite the adversities and the social unrest, the flag is an established symbol rooted deep in the hearts of its citizens and leaders, denoting their respect for their country and the hopes for a brighter future.