The Rise of Nationalistic Fervor and Its Effects on Flag Design

As nations around the world continue to grapple with identity politics, the role of nationalism in shaping public discourse and emotional ties to one’s country has increasingly come to the forefront. Nowhere is this more evident than in the design of national flags, which often serve as a visual representation of a nation’s history, culture, and people. The impact of rising nationalism on flag design is a complex phenomenon that reflects the various political, social, and historical factors shaping the world today. This article delves into the complexities of nationalistic fervor, highlighting the historical and present-day examples of how it impacts flag design, and exploring the challenges and controversies that arise as a result.

Defining Nationalistic Fervor

Nationalistic fervor is a complex sentiment that encompasses patriotism, pride, and a strong belief in one’s nation. It often involves the promotion of political or social independence and the desire to assert national identity. In some cases, it manifests as a rejection of outside influence and a desire to assert dominance at home and abroad. The use of flag symbolism can amplify such feelings, as flags represent a visual embodiment of the nation and its core values. However, the use of flags in this way can also be controversial, as their meaning and interpretation can vary widely. To better understand the context and implications of nationalistic flag design, it’s crucial to examine historical and current examples.

How It Affects Flag Design

Nationalistic fervor affects flag design in a variety of ways. Depending on the cultural, social, and political context, different nationalistic movements have a different impact on the way flags are created, renewed, or modified. Below are some examples of how rising nationalism has affected flag design historically and in modern times:

Historical Context Impact on Flag Design
Colonialism and Decolonization Many countries that gained independence from colonial powers created new flags as symbols of their new-found identity and sovereignty. These flags often incorporated elements of indigenous cultures, such as colors or symbols that represented local traditions or geography. Some former colonies kept the flag of their former ruling country but added new symbols or colors to reflect their own identity.
Totalitarian regimes During the 20th century, many totalitarian regimes used flags as a tool of propaganda and control. Flags were often designed to reflect the ideology of the ruling party, featuring symbols and colors that represented the regime’s values and aspirations. In some cases, flags were modified several times during the course of a regime to reflect changing political realities or leadership.
Revolution and Nation Building In times of revolutionary upheaval, flags often become symbols of resistance, unity, or aspiration for change. After a revolution or war, flags are often created to represent the new political system or nation. These flags may incorporate elements of the past, such as ancient symbols or traditions, or may feature entirely new designs aimed at creating a fresh start.

Today, rising nationalism has a similar impact on flag design. In many cases, flags are seen as markers of national identity, pride, and political will. Some countries have modified their flags in response to nationalist movements or to reflect changing political realities. For example, South Africa’s flag was redesigned in 1994 to reflect a new era of multiracial democracy and reconciliation. The flag incorporated elements of different cultural and historical traditions to symbolize unity and diversity.

In other cases, nationalistic movements have led to the creation of new flags by secessionist or autonomous regions. These flags may incorporate elements of the national flag or symbols that represent the region’s unique heritage or aspirations. For example, the flag of Catalonia, a northeastern Spanish region with a distinct history and culture, features red and yellow stripes and a blue triangle with a white star.

Ultimately, the impact of nationalism on flag design can be seen as both positive and negative. On the one hand, nationalism can lead to the creation of flags that represent the aspirations and identity of a community. On the other hand, nationalism can lead to the misuse or appropriation of symbols for political purposes. It is important to recognize the historical and cultural context of flag design and to respect the meanings and symbolism that flags hold for different communities. For more information on the symbolism and history of national flags, please see our article on national flags significance.

Historical Examples of Nationalistic Flag Design

Historical Examples Of Nationalistic Flag Design
Historical Examples of Nationalistic Flag Design have shaped many countries’ national flags as we know them today. Flag design has long reflected the values and cultures of the countries that they represent. Nationalistic flag designs emerged largely in the 19th and early 20th centuries when many European nations were fighting to establish their identity and independence.

Germany’s national flag, the black, red, and gold tricolor, was first adopted in 1848 during the Revolutions of 1848. At this time, German nationalists sought to create a unified country, which had been divided into many smaller territories. The tricolor represented the ideals of democracy, freedom, and unity. However, during the Nazi period, the flag was banned, and the swastika became the Nazi party’s symbol.

Italy’s flag, the green, white, and red tricolor, is another example of a nationalistic flag. The tricolor was first used during the Italian Wars of Independence in the 19th century when Italy was fighting to become a unified state. The colours of the flag represent hope, faith, and charity.

Japan’s national flag, the red rising sun on a white background, dates back to the 17th century when it was used by the Japanese feudal lord, Tokugawa Ieyasu. The flag was later adopted by the Meiji government in the late 19th century after Japan had opened up to the rest of the world. Over time, the sun has become a symbol of Japan’s national identity.

Historical Examples of Nationalistic Flag Design have played a significant role in shaping the national identities of many countries. These flags are often rich in symbolism and represent the values and aspirations of a nation. More details about the evolution of flags throughout history can be found in this evolution of flags history article.


Germany’s flag, also known as the Bundesflagge, has gone through several iterations throughout the country’s turbulent history. The current design was adopted in 1949 after the country was divided by the Allies after World War II. The flag features three horizontal stripes of black, red, and gold. The colors were first used during the 1848 revolution as a symbol of German unification and have since become a symbol of the German nation. However, the flag’s use was outlawed during the Nazi regime and only re-adopted after World War II. The flag’s design represents the country’s freedom and democracy, and its use is highly respected and protected.


Italy’s flag has undergone numerous changes throughout its history, but its current design is deeply rooted in nationalism. The tricolor flag that we see today was first adopted in 1948 after the fall of fascism and the end of World War II. The flag is comprised of three vertical stripes in green, white, and red, which are said to represent Italy’s landscape, purity, and bravery, respectively.
During the fascist period, Italy used a different flag that featured the fasces, an ancient Roman symbol of power, on a white banner. This flag represented the authoritarian and nationalistic values of the fascist regime, which aimed to restore Italy’s former glory.
Italy’s flag is now recognized across the world as a symbol of its unique culture, heritage, and style. Over time, it has become a beloved national icon, celebrated on holidays and special events throughout the year.
In recent years, there have been efforts to incorporate traditional Italian symbols into the national flag, such as the cross of Savoy or the emblem of the House of Bourbon. These suggestions have received pushback from some quarters, with critics arguing that they represent a backward-looking nationalism that excludes newer and more diverse elements of Italian society.
Regardless of these debates, Italy’s flag remains a powerful symbol of the nation’s identity and heritage. As the country continues to navigate its way through economic and political challenges, the flag serves as a reminder of the proud and resilient spirit of its people.


has a rich history of flag design, with the current flag featuring a red circle on a white background, known as the Sunrise Flag. The design has been used as the national flag since 1870. Japan’s nationalistic fervor, especially during the early 20th century, saw the adoption of flags with imperial symbolism. The Imperial Japanese Army and Navy each had their own flags that played a role in propaganda during WWII.

One of the most controversial flags in Japan’s history is the Rising Sun Flag, also known as the War Flag, which was used by the military. The flag’s design features a red sun with 16 rays on a white background. Today, the flag remains a point of contention in East Asia, as it is still used by the Japan Self-Defense Forces and is seen as a symbol of Japan’s imperialistic past.

In recent years, Japan has seen a rise in nationalist sentiment, which has manifested in the usage of the Hinomaru Flag (the current national flag) at public events and sports games. Additionally, certain Japanese prefectures, such as Kochi and Okinawa, have started using their own flags as a means of regional identity and pride.

It is worth noting that Japan’s flag designs have also been influenced by the country’s religion and culture. For instance, the Sixteen-Petal Chrysanthemum, a symbol of the Japanese emperor, has been used on flags since as early as the 7th century. The chrysanthemum is also featured on the Imperial Seal of Japan.

The Modern Day Impact of Nationalism on Flag Design

Rising Popularity of Traditional Symbols
In the modern-day, the impact of rising nationalism on flag design can be seen in the popularity of traditional symbols. Many nations are returning to traditional images on their flags that were used in their history. For example, India’s flag includes a spinning wheel, which was used by Gandhi during India’s independence movement. Similarly, South Africa’s flag features traditional tribal patterns that symbolize unity. The use of traditional symbols shows a nation’s pride in its heritage and creates a connection to the past.

Increasing Use of National Colors
Another impact of rising nationalism on flag design is the increasing use of national colors. Countries are choosing to emphasize their national colors in their flags in order to display their national identity. For instance, the United States flag uses the colors of red, white, and blue to represent the nation. Similarly, the Brazilian flag features the colors of green, yellow, and blue to reflect the country’s national identity. The use of national colors emphasizes the unifying aspect of nationalism and connects citizens to their country.

Internal link: Flags and Nations History

Rising Popularity of Traditional Symbols

The rising popularity of traditional symbols in nationalistic flag design highlights the desire for a collective identity rooted in cultural heritage. Countries such as India and Mexico have maintained symbols on their flags that depict their indigenous history and traditions. The use of traditional symbols on national flags can also symbolize a shared history and values among citizens. However, the adoption of traditional symbols on flags can also be controversial, as some symbols may have origins in a time of colonialism or may be seen as exclusionary. To learn more about the impact of religion, culture, and colonialism on national flags, check out the /religion-culture-national-flags/ link.

Increasing Use of National Colors

One of the most prominent ways that rising nationalism is affecting flag design is through the increasing use of national colors. Many countries are choosing to prominently feature their national colors on their flags as a way to display their national pride and identity.

National colors hold a special significance to people because they are a powerful symbol of their country and their heritage. In the past, some countries chose to use more subdued colors on their flags in order to avoid drawing attention to themselves or becoming too closely associated with a particular symbol or ideology. However, with the rise of nationalism and the desire to assert a country’s unique identity, the trend has shifted to using bolder, brighter colors that more clearly signify their nation.

For example, Germany’s flag famously features the colors black, red, and gold, which are meant to represent the country’s unity, freedom, and democracy. Italy’s flag features the colors green, white, and red, and Japan’s flag is a simple red sun on a white background. In each case, these colors are deeply symbolic and reflect the nation’s history, culture, and values.

However, there is a danger in relying too heavily on national colors when designing a flag. If a country becomes too consumed with its own identity, it risks alienating other cultures and becoming too insular. This can be especially problematic in areas with a history of colonialism or oppression, where the use of national symbols can be seen as a way of asserting dominance over other cultures.

Despite these challenges, the increasing use of national colors is a powerful trend that is reshaping the way we think about flag design. As more and more countries find new ways to celebrate their heritage and identity, it is clear that nationalism is here to stay and will continue to influence the design of flags for years to come.

The Role of Nationalism in Non-Nation States

The Role Of Nationalism In Non-Nation States

In non-nation states, nationalism often manifests itself as regionalism. People belonging to a particular region within a larger country may identify with their region more strongly than with the country as a whole. Such regions may have their own dialects, cultures, and traditions, which distinguishes them from the rest of the country. The people of such regions may take pride in their distinct identity and may want to express it through symbols such as flags.

For example, the Catalans in Spain and the Basques in both Spain and France each have their own distinct language and culture. They have long struggled for greater autonomy within their respective countries, and their flags have become symbols of their regional identity and aspirations for self-rule. The flag of Catalonia, for example, is made up of four red stripes on a yellow background and has been used since the Middle Ages.

In some cases, nationalism in non-nation states can even lead to movements for independence. These movements are often driven by a desire for self-rule and a belief that the region would be better off as a separate country. Such movements may gain traction when there are perceived inequalities or injustices within the country that the region belongs to.

One such example is the movement for an independent Scotland. Scotland has a history and culture that is distinct from the rest of the United Kingdom, and some Scots feel that they would be better off as an independent country. The Scottish flag, a blue field with a white diagonal cross, has become a symbol of Scottish identity and a rallying cry for those who support Scottish independence.

Sometimes, there can be controversy surrounding the use of flags in such movements. The central government may view it as a threat to the unity of the country and may take steps to suppress the use of regional or separatist flags.

The role of nationalism in non-nation states can be complex and multifaceted. Regionalism and movements for independence can lead to the creation and use of flags as symbols of identity and political aspirations. However, these movements can also be met with resistance by central governments, leading to controversy and conflict.

The impact of colonialism on flag design is another significant factor in the history of nationalistic flags. The process of decolonization gave birth to many new countries, each looking to create a flag that represented its unique identity while embracing nationalistic fervor. Similarly, women have also played a significant role in flag design, fighting for their voices to be heard in the political and social spheres.

Regionalism and Self-Identity

Regionalism refers to a particular geographic region’s identification with a unique community of people and their traditions. This ideology is closely related to the concept of self-identity, which plays a crucial role in nationalistic flag design. Regionalism and self-identity can affect flag design by emphasizing the importance of local symbolism, regional colors, and a sense of belonging. For instance, the flag of Catalonia features yellow and red stripes, which symbolize the region’s political and cultural history. The blue triangle and star on the flag of Puerto Rico represent the island’s political aspirations and cultural heritage. Such regional flags promote regional identity and cultural diversity. They aim to distinguish a particular region’s importance and place within a larger national context and draw attention to local traditions and customs. Regionalism in flag design also helps to promote unity within the region and a sense of belonging and pride among its people.

Movements for Independence

Movements for independence originating from nationalistic fervor have been responsible for some of the most iconic flag designs in history. These movements often begin as a response to oppressive regimes or colonial powers, with the flag becoming a symbol of resistance and self-determination. Examples of this can be seen in the flags of countries such as India, Ghana, and Algeria, all of which gained independence in the mid-20th century.

The flag of India, for instance, features a saffron-colored stripe at the top that represents courage and sacrifice, a white stripe in the middle that represents purity and truth, and a green stripe at the bottom that represents faith and fertility. In the center of the white stripe is a navy blue wheel with 24 spokes that represent progress.

Similarly, the flag of Ghana features the Pan-African colors of red, yellow, and green, as well as a black star in the middle that symbolizes the unity of Africa. The flag was designed by Theodosia Salome Okoh, a Ghanaian artist, in 1957, the year Ghana gained independence.

However, movements for independence can also lead to controversy and division when different groups within a region or country have different ideas about what the flag should represent. This can be seen in conflicts such as that between Israel and Palestine, where each side claims different parts of the same area and has its own flag.

Another example is the ongoing movement for independence in Catalonia, Spain. The flag of Catalonia, or Senyera, is a yellow and red striped banner that dates back to the Middle Ages. However, some Catalans feel that the Senyera does not adequately represent their desire for independence and have created new flags and symbols to represent their cause.

Movements for independence have played a significant role in the history of flag design, with the flag often becoming a powerful symbol of national identity and self-determination. As these movements continue to evolve and shape the political landscapes of various regions around the world, it will be interesting to see how they influence flag design in the years to come.

Challenges and Controversies in Nationalistic Flag Design

Challenges and controversies are inherent in the design of flags that represent nations embroiled in nationalist fervor. Here are some of the biggest challenges and controversies that come with nationalistic flag design.

One of the biggest challenges of nationalistic flag design is creating symbols that will resonate with the people it represents. The symbols on a flag are meant to evoke feelings of patriotism and solidarity, but can easily become a source of division if they are not inclusive. For example, in South Africa, the flag incorporates the colors of the different races that make up the nation, but its symbolism is still divisive. Some argue that the flag’s inclusion of the colonial Dutch flag is a symbol of apartheid-era oppression, and that it serves as a reminder of the inequality that exists in the country. The same can be said for the Confederate flag in the United States, which many view as a symbol of racism and slavery.

Another challenge of nationalistic flag design is preventing the misuse and appropriation of a flag’s symbols by groups with extremist views. For example, the Nazi party in Germany appropriated the swastika, turning it from an ancient Hindu symbol of good fortune into a symbol of genocide and hatred. Similar to the swastika, many nationalist symbols can be easily appropriated by extremist groups, causing harm and violent extremism.

Controversies can arise when such symbols are displayed in public spaces. A good example is the Confederate flag, which some wish to ban from public spaces. In South Africa, some want the old South African flag banned in public spaces for similar reasons.

Here are some more controversies that have arisen regarding nationalistic flag design.

Controversy Description
Flag Burning The act of burning a flag is often seen as a sign of disrespect. It is protected by freedom of speech in many countries, though others consider it a punishable offence.
Design changes Changing a national flag’s design can be a contentious issue. Many people view their flag as a symbol of their country and culture, and any change is seen as a threat to their identity.
Regionalism In some countries, regions within that country may want separate flags to represent their unique culture. This can often lead to political dissent and conflict.

Nationalistic fervor can have a significant impact on flag design. There are many challenges and controversies that come along with designing a flag that represents a nation and its people. While the symbolism of national flags is meant to unite people, it can also cause division and controversy. Nevertheless, national flags remain an important symbol of identity and pride for many people around the world.

Symbolism and Allegiance

Symbolism plays a key role in flag design, often serving as a representation of the values and ideals of a nation. Flags that are designed with nationalistic fervor are particularly sensitive to the use of symbolic images and colors. Many national flags incorporate symbols that are meant to invoke a sense of solidarity and allegiance among the populace, such as eagles or stars. However, care must be taken to ensure that these symbols are interpreted in the intended way and not seen as divisive or exclusionary. For example, the use of religious symbols in a national flag can be controversial, as it may exclude minority groups who do not subscribe to the same religious beliefs. Nationalistic flags must strike a delicate balance between invoking a sense of pride and unity while avoiding any hint of exclusion or intolerance.

Misuse and Appropriation of Symbols

Misuse and appropriation of nationalistic symbols in flag design is a sensitive issue that continues to spark controversy and political tensions. The use of national symbols on a flag is intended to represent the values, culture, and history of a nation, but when these symbols are misappropriated by extremist groups or used for propaganda purposes, it can lead to harmful and divisive consequences.

One example of this misuse is the appropriation of the Confederate flag in the United States, which has been associated with white supremacist groups and the defense of slavery and segregation. Despite calls for its removal and prohibition, the flag continues to be flown in some areas, leading to protests and debates about its historical significance and current meaning.

Another example is the use of the swastika in the flag of Nazi Germany, which is now associated with genocide and atrocities committed during World War II. The symbol has been banned in many countries due to its association with hate and discrimination, but its use continues in neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups, causing controversy and discomfort.

In some cases, national symbols are used in flags of other countries or territories without permission, leading to diplomatic tensions. For example, the use of the Indonesian national emblem on a flag by a separatist group in East Timor led to protests from the Indonesian government and an international dispute.

Misuse and appropriation of nationalistic symbols in flag design underscores the importance of understanding the cultural and historical context behind these symbols. It also highlights the need for responsible use of flags and national symbols, especially in the age of social media and instant dissemination of information.

Here are some examples of misuse and appropriation of symbols:

Symbol Misuse/Appropriation
Confederate flag Associated with white supremacist groups and defense of slavery and segregation.
Swastika Associated with genocide and atrocities committed during World War II. Banned in many countries due to its association with hate and discrimination.
Indonesian national emblem Used on a flag by a separatist group in East Timor without permission, leading to protests from the Indonesian government and an international dispute.
The Star of David Used in the flag of the State of Israel and can be appropriated by anti-Israel or anti-Semitic groups, leading to controversies and misunderstandings.

It is important to note that the misuse and appropriation of symbols is not exclusive to nationalistic ones, and the same issues can arise with religious or cultural symbols as well. As such, it is crucial to educate and raise awareness about the appropriate use and interpretation of symbols in various contexts.


After examining the impact of rising nationalism on flag design, it is clear that nationalistic fervor has had a significant influence on the development and evolution of national flags. Throughout history, countries have used flags to express their national identity and assert their sovereignty. However, in recent years, the role of nationalism in flag design has become more complex and controversial.

While some argue that nationalism can be a unifying force, others contend that it can be exclusionary and divisive. Nationalism can lead to the use of traditional symbols and national colors, which can strengthen a country’s identity and promote a sense of pride among its citizens. However, it can also lead to the appropriation and misuse of symbols, which can be hurtful and offensive to certain groups.

The impact of nationalism on flag design is not limited to nation-states, as there are also movements for independence and self-identity among non-nation states, which can create challenges and controversies in flag design. In addition, the increasing globalization and interconnectedness of the world may lead to a shift away from nationalism and towards more inclusive and diverse symbols and colors.

Overall, the impact of nationalism on flag design is a complex and evolving topic that requires careful consideration and dialogue. It is important to balance the expression of national identity with inclusion and respect for all individuals and groups. National symbols and colors should be used in a way that promotes unity and pride, rather than division and exclusion. By examining the historical and modern-day examples of nationalistic flag design, we can learn from the successes and challenges of past generations and continue to shape the future of flag design in a positive and inclusive way.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the definition of nationalism?

Nationalism is a political ideology that emphasizes the importance of a nation and often promotes its culture, values, and interests above those of others.

How does nationalism affect flag design?

Flag design can be influenced by nationalist sentiments, leading to the use of national symbols and colors that reflect the country’s identity and history.

Can nationalism lead to controversy in flag design?

Yes, the use of national symbols and colors can be controversial, as they may represent different things to different groups and can be misused or appropriated for non-nationalistic purposes.

What are some examples of nationalistic flag design in history?

Historical examples of nationalistic flag design include Germany’s Nazi flag under Hitler, Italy’s Fascist flag under Mussolini, and Japan’s Rising Sun flag during World War II.

What is the modern impact of nationalism on flag design?

The modern impact of nationalism on flag design can be seen in the rising popularity of traditional symbols and the increasing use of national colors in designs.

What is regionalism, and how does it relate to flag design?

Regionalism refers to a sense of identity and pride based on a specific region or locality. It can influence flag design by incorporating symbols and colors that represent the region’s unique history and culture.

What are some challenges in nationalistic flag design?

Some challenges in nationalistic flag design include ensuring that the symbols used are not offensive or exclusionary to certain groups, and preventing the misuse or appropriation of symbols for non-nationalistic purposes.

What is the role of symbolism and allegiance in nationalistic flag design?

Symbolism is crucial in nationalistic flag design, as it must accurately represent the values and identity of the nation it represents. Allegiance to the flag is also often emphasized in nationalism, as it signifies devotion to the nation and its values.

What is the significance of national colors in flag design?

National colors can be an important aspect of flag design, as they can represent the history, culture, and values of a nation. They often symbolize unity and pride in the country.

Can non-nation states use nationalism in their flag design?

Yes, even non-nation states may use nationalism in their flag design in order to assert their identity and values. Regional flags may also use elements of nationalism in their design.


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