The flags of Indonesia and Poland are often confused with one another because they are extremely similar. The differences between them are quite minor, so those who don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of national flags can mix them up without realizing it. Today, we’ll talk about their differences, and why they are similar.
Differences Between the Two Flags
As you probably already know, both of these flags are designed with a split that divides the horizontally into two bands. These bands are white and red. The shades of red are not exactly identical, but they are close enough that it is difficult for most people to tell the difference. This greatly contributes to the general confusion when identifying the flags.
There are only two primary differences between these two flags, with the first being the position of the red band. The Polish flag has its horizontal red band on the bottom, while the Indonesian flag has its red band on the top. Aside from this, the flags are different sizes: the Polish flag has an aspect ratio of 5:8 while the Indonesian flag has an aspect ratio of 2:3.
And that’s it for their differences. The position of the red band and the size of the flag itself. There is nothing else. But why is that? Surely, such a striking similarity cannot be a coincidence, right? Well, actually it can.
The History That Led to the Coincidental Similarity
Believe it or not, plenty of flags are remarkably similar to one another, and it’s almost always a coincidence. Needless to say, neither Poland nor Indonesia was trying to rip each other off when they were designing their flags. In fact, they both borrowed their current flag design from an earlier design in their own history.
The banner of Poland from 1320 was red with a white eagle on it. Later, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth combined the coat of arms of both sovereign states on a Royal Banner, which rested on a three-striped background of red and white. However, later in the 18th and 19th century, they needed to simplify things.
That was because armies in Europe had started using cockades, which were symbols worn by soldiers and officers to easily distinguish the nationality of armies. Poland needed an easily distinguishable standard, so they simplified the old Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Royal Banner to a flag that was just a red and white stripe.
Obviously, this has nothing to do with Indonesia at all. As for Indonesia’s flag, it is based on the Majapahit thalassocracy of 1293-1527, which is seen as an Indonesian precursor state. This flag consisted of many red and white horizontal stripes, so the Indonesians simplified it to the one white and one red stripe their flag bears today.
As you can see, both country’s got to the flag they have today by looking back at their own history, not each other. It’s a coincidence that the end result ended up being similar to one another.