When it comes to Turkey, some things are just known. Many will instantly recognise the white star and crescent moon on red, and know this is Turkey’s flag; the same way some will know that Turkey’s official name is the Republic of Turkey. But there is so much more about the flag you may not know about.
Initially, the Turkish flag first appeared around the Ottoman Empire, with features that tell a lot about Turkey’s history. With there being so much more to learn about the Turkish Flag, familiarising yourself with these facts will help learn so much about how the country became what it is today.
While the Turkish flag’s red background is easily recognisable, it wasn’t always this colour. In the 14th century, it happened to be white, later changing to red in the 15th century, while at one stage the background was green. In the latter half of the 18th century, the decision to have a national flag was decided to reform and modernise the Ottoman state.
When it comes to the star and crescent, while many associate these with Islam, the actual origins go back to Siberia and Central Asia. People at the time worshipped gods they associated with the moon, sun, and sky becoming the reason they chose star and crescent during their worship.
Before 1936, the star and crescent were thinner and without dimensions, meaning flags were not consistent across the country. However, the decision was made to standardise the geometric proportions in 1936 legally, and have been so since.
Northern Cyprus is also known officially as the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus. Because of this, Northern Cyprus’ flag is a reverse mirror of the colours and design of the flag of Turkey.
The North Cyprus flag dates from 1984 after the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus was declared in 1983. The flag has a white background with the star and moon in red with a red stripe at the top and bottom.
One of the most famous legends comes from the Battle of Kosovo—which occurred in 1448. A battle between a Siberian prince named Lazlar, and the Ottoman sultan Murad I, which ended in the victory for the Ottoman Empire. The legend had said when a commander overlooked the battlefield, they saw a reflection of the star and crescent in a pool of blood—possibly giving the red shade the flag uses and the symbols.
While Diana is known as the goddess of the hunt, including wild animals and even fertility, one theory states that the symbols were supposedly used to honour this goddess. The moon picked in her honour by Byzantium, which would later become Istanbul—with a star later being added.
One legend is that the first Ottoman Sultan Osman I, had a dream where a crescent and star rose from the chest of the judge of the Shari’a court—the father of the daughter the sultan wished to marry. It then descended into the sultan's chest, springing a tree whose enormous branches covered the whole world with its shadow. The Ottoman Empire decided to use the symbols as they believed this to be a good omen.
The Turkish flag isn’t just used by Turkey, but also Algeria, Tunisia and Azerbaijan by the 20th century using the crescent and star symbols on their flags. The reason for this is because they are all the Ottoman Empire’s successor states.
Also, the law now dictates a few fundamentals of the Turkish flag. One of these is that if a flag becomes old or torn, it must be taken down and replaced with a new one. The Turkish law also says that the flag can’t be sat or stepped on for any reason.
On national holidays and public holidays, the Turkish flag should be hoisted starting from holiday start and being taken down on the sunset at the end of the holiday.
Pride for the Turkish flag is shown on all buildings with at least one flag. Individual buildings such as a Parliament building or the Mausoleum of Ataturk, the flag should always be raised. The Turkish military will always wear the flag patch on the right shoulder or on the front.
While there are numerous myths and legends regarding the origin of the Turkish flag, no one can doubt it’s beauty or how recognisable it is. Whether you’re planning on visiting Turkey, a country with over 30 languages spoken, in the hopes of learning more about their history, relaxing, or seeing their wonderful landscapes, Turkey will satisfy countless desires, all the while waving their flag proudly.