The flag of Finland dates back to the mid-19th century, to efforts to distinguish Finnish vessels from Russian ones. Finnish merchant ships had been the object of attacks by Russia's enemies, and it was thought that future incidents of this kind could be avoided by sailing under a separate ensign.
Approval by Emperor Alexander II of the Nylandska Jaktklubben (The Nyland Yacht Club) regulations, which allowed the vessels of club members to sail under "a white flag with an upright blue cross and the complete coat of arms of the Province of Nyland in the upper corner" provided further impetus to these efforts. In 1862 use of a similar flag, including the relevant coat of arms, was decreed for other yacht clubs. This served as a precedent for a proposal made to the Finnish Diet in 1863 concerning a flag for the entire Grand Duchy. The proposal was dropped when the matter could not even be taken up. This marked the end of open efforts to gain recognition for a national standard for the time being, although numerous suggestions for a "Finnish flag" were made in the press.
During the years of Russification, the issue arose again, and resulted in the "lion-flag" based on the coat of arms. Two different suggestions for colours arose out of the discussion: red/yellow and blue/white. Most suggestions employed a cross motif.
The issue was again topical when Finland gained her independence. After all, independent countries need flags of their own. Since no consensus could be achieved, the provisional "lion-flag" was used.
After the war for independence, the issue was taken up yet another time, and a white flag with a blue cross was adopted. The design was identical to that of the other Nordic flags, although the colours made it sufficiently distinct.
According to present legislation, the official standard is Finland's first flag. It has a blue cross on a white field, with the coat of arms in the centre. Other flags are derived from this one, such as the basic flag without the coat of arms, the military banner with the coat of arms and three points, and the President's standard with three points, the coat of arms and the Cross of Freedom in the upper corner.
The President's Standard
The coat of arms of Finland
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