While there are several countries that could fit the loose description, there are only two countries that have what you would consider a majority red color with a white stripe bisecting the red down the middle.
Austria and Latvia both have red flags, horizontal, with a white stripe running through the center. However, Austria’s flag is what most people would recognize as a traditional red color. Latvia’s is more of a crimson or deep red.
The Republic of Austria is located in Central Europe, to the North and East of Italy. It comprises nine states that constitute their federation. Once a duchy of the Holy Roman Empire, Austria is now a parliamentary representative democracy.
History of the Austrian Flag
The red flag with a white stripe has not always been the flag of representation for the country of Austria. There have been a few before it and also an alternative one today. The official Austrian flag became that way in 1945, while the alternate was born out of the Babenberg Dynasty.
The alternate flag is just like the official Austrian flag, with the exception of the alternate maintaining a spread eagle in the foreground of the red and white flag. It’s basically a respectful iteration of a long-ago dynasty in Austria’s past.
Blood and Violence
The history of the Austrian flag is said to be that of blood and violence, specifically Duke Leopold V in the 1260 Siege of Acre. Apparently, he was wounded to such a degree that his shirt was soaked in blood from top to bottom.
But the blood didn’t extend to his belt, which was wrapped around the long shirt. Upon taking it off, a clean white stripe was visible across his blood-soaked shirt. Hence, the inception of the Austrian flag, at least as an idea.
We know it was only an idea because it never became the official flag of Austria in his lifetime and not in the lifetime of his progeny. Nor their progeny. In 1918, the flag that represents the clean, white band across Leopold’s bloody torso became official.
After World War 2, Austria remained occupied by allied powers for roughly 10 years. Austria was seen more as a liberated country, rather than a fallen, Axis power. The Austrian State Treaty changed all of that in 1955.
Once the treaty was signed, Austria became an officially neutral country (at least politically) and also an independent one with nine states. The Republic of Austria made the red and white flag their own, officially, with a separate (alternative) to include the spread eagle.
It was actually the Republic of German-Austria that adopted the flag we know today, in 1918. It was originally the flag of the Austrian Crown Lands, having made its way down the generations, heralding the story of Duke Leopold.
Nine Austrian States
Like any state that exists within a country, each one has its own flag. In 1945, Austria adopted all nine flags to represent each of its nine states. Of course, all of them look drastically different from the others.
Some retained the red and white look of the national flag while adding their own flair or design to each one. Five of the nine flags contain the overall aesthetic of the national flag, with red and white designs.
However, as state flags, they each have a central symbol. Lower Austria and Styria are the only two flags that look way different than the other states and the national flag.
- Burgenland: Top half red, the bottom half yellow, and a central red, yellow, and black coat of arms
- Carinthia: Three, horizontal bars of yellow, red, and white (top to bottom) with a central coat of arms
- Lower Austria: Top half is navy blue while the bottom half is yellow. Contains a central coat of arms
- Salzburg: Top half is red while the bottom half is white. Contains a central coat of arms
- Styria: Top half is white while the bottom half is green. Includes a central coat of arms
- Tyrol: Top half is white while the bottom half is red. Includes a central coat of arms
- Upper Austria: Top half is red and the bottom half is white. Contains a gold, black, white, and red central coat of arms
- Vienna: The white cross red shield is the emblazoned coat of arms in the center against a background that’s half red on top and half white on the bottom
- Vorarlberg: Mimics the flag of Vienna, however, the coat of arms at the center is different.
Wherever, the state flags fly, they are always beneath the national flag as precedence allows.
The Austrian Crown Lands
The flag of the Austrian Crown Lands is the predecessor of the one that flies today. The current Austrian flag was adopted from the Austrian Crown Lands. The Austrian Crown lands were a part of a dual monarchy and the remnants of past conquests.
Austria never really had its own flag, unless the flag of the Holy Roman Empire counted. According to most Austrian historians, it probably shouldn’t. The original flag was supposed to be a combination of the dual monarchies of Austria and Hungary.
It would have had an interesting look. The suggested pairing would have included half of the red and white Austrian flag combined with the Hungarian tri-color flag of red, white, and green.
Apparently, it only ever existed in concept. Whether or not the flag was ever established as the national flag of the dual monarchy is largely unknown and lost to history. Perhaps they did and perhaps they didn’t. What ultimately matters is that Austria eventually chose one-half of the dual monarchy.
Which makes sense, considering one-half was the Austrian monarchy. From that half, exists the Austrian Flag that flies there to this day.
The Austrian flag has a long and storied history. Like the flags of many nations, it’s based on history and legend, with no one around today to tell you if it ever really happened. Fortunately, flags often represent ideals rather than people and Austria’s is no exception.