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Croatia - Counties and Municipalities

Last modified: 2023-07-03 by dov gutterman
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Republic of Croatia is divided in 21 counties called zupanija (sg., read zhupaniya). They are administrative units, and slowly aquiring coats of arms and flags. But historical parts of Croatia do have coats of arms (those in the crown of the coat of Croatia). Now they are not officially used by any unit. Some are, however, often seen, especially the one of Istria (goat) and Dalmatia (three heads), used by political parties as shields on a white flag. There are many towns' coats and flags that are used. Since 1 January 1997, there are 20 counties, plus City of Zagreb with special status within Zagreb County.
}eljko Heimer

The photo of the assembly hall of the former House of the Counties (Upper House of the Parliement) is available on the parliament site. The coats of arms of the 20 Counties are set there. Since the reorganization of Parliament in 2001 it becomes unicameral, and the House of the Counties was abolished, so this assembly hall is today used for congressional purposes (named Josip `okcevic Hall).
The coat of arms of the Sisak and Moslavina County is different from the one used by the County itself - by not having the crown and with some minor differences in drawing - this is the only coat of arms today that is not officially approved by the central authorities.
}eljko Heimer, 26 May 2007

The HGZD (Croatian Heraldic and Vexillologic Association) organized a lecture a few days ago where prof. Josip Kolanovic held us a presentation on coat of arms and flags of the Units of Local Self-Government (ULS = counties, cities and communities) in Croatia. Prof. Kolanovic was the head of the Croatian State Archive since 1991 and member of the government Commission for approval of coat of arms and flags of ULS in the Ministry of Administration since its establishment on his initiative in 1994 until his retirement in 2003. Have a look on my short report of the event on <>. I hope that the full text of the lecture shall be available in the next issue of "Grb i zastava".
For our immidiate interest, I would highlight one info he presented us. Namely, until the end of September 2007 the Commission (today within the Central State Office for Administration) approved coat of arms and flags of all twenty counties, of 93 cities (out of 127) and of 262 communities (out of 429). I.e. 375 of total 576 ULS have the approved coat of arms and flags, being roughly 65% of them. On the other hand, on FOTW we have data on about 400 flags of ULS that "look" as if they may have been granted approval, although for the most we do not have the confirmation that they were indeed approved, and we have yet some two dozen ULS for which we have data on coat of arms that might have been approved and if so they would have a flag to go with them, but we do not have data on it. Obviously (unless the commission was very busy during the last half a year), there are more flags in use then those approved (and there are yet a dozen flags that we know are in use, but by their design they could hardly pass the approval).
}eljko Heimer, 12 April 2008

We are already aware from various sources that the heraldic company from Rijeka named Heraldic Art d.o.o. and its director Mladen Stojic are responsible for the majority of the modern Croatian local coat of arms and flags. I have received from Jovan Jonovski photos of four posters he received by Mr. Stojic in 2006 when both were attending the establishing assembly of HGZD. These 4 posters, titled "Official coat of arms designs approved by the Ministry of Administration based on a positive evaluation from the Commission for approval of coats of arms and flags" ("Likovna rjeaenja slu~benih grbova odobrena od Ministarstva uprave a na temelju pozitivne ocjene od Povjerenstva za odobrenje grba i zastave", poster, 4 str, Heraldic art d.o.o. Rijeka (2006.)) include together 160 coat of arms, most probably the majority of Stojic's approved designs at the time. If we know that by September 2007 there were altogether 375 coat of arms approved (numbers presented by prof. Kolanovic in his lecture for HGZD on 3 Apr 2008, text to be included in the next issue of GiZ), and presumably some of the new Stojic's design were also approved in 2006/2007, it is fairly obvious that he is responsible for at least 50% of the approved coat of arms (e.g. flag) designs.
The mentioned posters being the largest compendium of the approved coat of arms, this is an excellent source for us. However, the truth is that we already know the great majority of them, however, this confirms that they have actually been approved (although in many cases we could easily suspect that). Also, unfortunately, no info on flags is provided there, but once we know the coat of arms, the flags are easier to get by (being as a rule, monocoloured with coat of arms on it).
Regarding the faithfulness of the source, one should consider it the best we could get, as, presumably, the author would have to know what he designed - however, a grain of salt should be taken - as I have noticed that in several cases the drawing included is not the one finally adopted (being a proposal that got "far" into the adoption process) or that some obvious errors crept into the drawing. There are also a few cases where I suspect the Stojic's design was adopted and approved, but eventually the city decided to employ another artist for slight redesign - usually heraldically insignificant - and this being now used - probably without Stojic's knowledge.
}eljko Heimer, 23 May 2008


The Croatian "Law on local self-government and administration" on the web server of the Croatian Parliament. Article 9 says:

Article 9: The municipality, town and county can, with approval of the central state administration body that is competent for local self-governement matters, have its coat-of-arms and its flag.

The coat-of-arms must be described in accordance with the rules of heraldry and displayed in a special document of which one copy is kept in the National Archives.

The representative body of the local self-government unit can approve the usage of the coat-of-arms by natural and juridic persons, if it assesses that this is in the interest of the municipality, town and county.

The central state administration body competent for local self-government matters can withhold the approval as per the paragraph 1 of this Article only if the contents of the coat-of-arms do not correspond to the historical or real state of affairs or if differs insufficiently from the coat-of-arms of another local self-government unit, while a flag can be refused only for the reasons of public consideration with regard to its contents or the colour symbol.

Law of the 29 December 1992.
Source: Parliament of Croatia.
Pascal Vagnat, 9 September 1996

The general pattern of the Croatan county flags:
They all follow this simple rule - a simple geometric pattern with the coat of arms in it . Three of the counties chose their simple geometric pattern as pure field of one colour, but this is quite regular, IMHO. Two counties have vertical bicolours, one of them off- centered. Four have horizontal bicolours, and two have five-striped horizontal bicolours. One has quartered fields, and one have two tins stripes on top (quite unusual, even original!). Three have two stripes in the field, one horizontal, one diagonal and one Israeli style.
Suprisingly, there are no inscriptions, except in one case, in which inscription is part of the coa. Also in one case, there is writing, but not in regular flag, but only for special occasions.
Sevetal counties changed flags, soon after their adoption by the County, when they were not confirmed by the body of the Ministry of Administration. After minor changes, new improved flags were adopted. I am aware of two such cases (regarding counties, more regarding cities and communities) but probably there were more.
}eljko Heimer, 28 June 1998

Browsing the official gazzete for flag related material, I found that recently there were issued regulations for local flags and Coat of Arms in Croatia. The most important thing in it, for us, is the part regulating the design of flags - two- coloured (not bi-colours!) for counties, and one-colored for cities and communities, in both cases with CoA in the middle or in hoist. This only confirms the rule that I have found (obviously, not only me collecting them).
Here is the exctract from the regulations, published in official gazette NN, 94/1998, 10-JUL-1998. [my comments in brackets]

Ministarstvo uprave Pravilnik o postupku davanja odobrenja grba i zastave jedinici lokalne samouprave

Ministry of Administration - Regulation on the procedure for confirmation of the coat of arms and the flag of a unit of local self-government

Art. 2.
The coat of arms of the unit of local self-government [county, city and community] should be made according to the rules of heraldry. A coat of arms consists of a shield and the contents within it. The coat of arms of a unit of local self-government can not contain the state coat of arms or a part of it. A unit of local self-government, as a rule, takes its historical coat of arms with the shield and its contents.

Art. 3.
In making of the flag heraldic colours are used: white, blue, yellow, red and green. [what about black?!] A county uses for the making of the flag, as a rule, two colours, and a city and a community use, as a rule, one colour. On the flag of a county there is the coat of arms of the county, on the flag of a city there is the coat of arms of the city, and on the flag of a community there is the coat of arms of the community. The coat of arms is in the middle of the flag or in hoist position. The ratio of a flag should be 1:2.

Art. 4.
A unit of local self-government lays request for confirmation of the coat of arms and the flag to the Ministry of Administration.
&#x017Deljko Heimer ,15 August 1998

The regulations on adoption of the flags for counties, cities and municipalities prescribe that they have to be of a field of one colour (or two-coloured in case of the counties) in anyof the heraldical colours: red, blue, green, yellow and white. (that is, the five colours are named). Notably, the black is not listed.
One can speculate for the reason, one of the obvious might be the association of the black with mourning, as Antonio noted. However, there might be other reasons - black flags have "association" of anarchy, or in these regions they are connected with extreme right movements from the World War II. (cf. Chetnik flag, but also Ustashas used black often, if not so on flags). There might be other theories, also, but the fact remains - black is banned from the local Croatian flags.
}eljko Heimer, 4 June 2000


Municipalities in FOTW

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