Comparing flags: Netherlands vs. Russia, France, Luxembourg and others

Although the Dutch flag is not a part of everyday life in the Netherlands, it certainly makes an appearance at international sports events. And because of that, many people have noticed the similarities between the flag of the Netherlands and the flags of Russia, France, Luxembourg, Croatia, Paraguay, and even Missouri. So, let’s compare these flags and discover the reasons for their similarities!

The Dutch flag vs. the Russian flag

As we all know, Russia was part of the Soviet Union and used the Soviet flag, also known as the Hammer and Sickle, from 1922 to 1991. So, you might think that the current Russian flag is a new design, but that’s actually not the case. The Russians have been using this flag since the 17th century. This was the original flag that the Soviet flag replaced, and they simply went back to it when the Soviet Union collapsed.

Now, the fact that this flag looks similar to the Dutch flag is actually not a coincidence. There are two possible explanations for how the Russian flag came into existence, and they both involve the Dutch flag.

The first one dates back to 1668. That year, Russia was building its first warship and tsar Alexis I had hired experienced Dutch shipbuilders and sailors to make sure it was done right. These Dutch men indicated that the ship needed a flag, and because Russia had no experience with naval flags yet, the tsar gave the Dutch captain Davidt Jansz Butlaer permission to come up with his own design, inspired by the Dutch flag.

The second one is that Peter the Great, also very interested in Dutch shipbuilding techniques, came up with the idea to model Russia’s naval flag on the Dutch flag in 1693, when a Dutch-built warship he had ordered from Amsterdam arrived in Russia with the Dutch flag flying from its stern.

Regardless of which explanation is correct, the flags are easy to tell apart because the colors on the Russian flag are in a different order and the shades of blue and red are different as well.

The colors also carried different symbolic meanings in each country. In the Netherlands, red represented the people, white represented the church, and blue represented the nobility. In Russia, however, red represented courage, generosity, and love, white represented nobility and frankness, and blue represented faithfulness, honesty, impeccability, and chastity.

The Dutch flag vs. the French flag

The main difference between the Dutch flag and the French flag is that the Dutch flag is horizontally striped and the French flag is vertically striped. The French flag is essentially the Dutch flag turned sideways with different shades of blue and red.

It’s noteworthy that the French actually have two versions of their flag, the version you see above and one with lighter shades of blue and red. Those shades aren’t an exact match with the Dutch flag either, though.

The French began using this flag during the French Revolution, in 1794. So, the Dutch flag had already been in use for a long time at that point, but the French had personal reasons for using the same three colors in their flag.

Blue and red were the traditional colors of Paris, used on the city’s coat of arms and linked to Saint Martin and Saint Denis, and white had long featured prominently on French flags. So, the Paris militia wore cockades that combined these three colors on their hats. And when the time came to pick a new flag, these colors were an obvious choice. Naturally, they didn’t want their flag to be too similar to the Dutch flag, so they went with vertical stripes instead of horizontal ones.

The Dutch flag vs. the Luxembourgian flag

There are two differences between the flag of the Netherlands and the flag of Luxembourg. The most noticeable difference is that Luxembourg’s flag has lighter shades of red and blue. A less obvious difference is that Luxembourg’s flag is slightly longer. The Netherlands’ flag has a ratio of 6:9 while Luxembourg’s flag has a ratio of 6:10.

Nonetheless, these flags look very similar. They can be hard to tell apart if you don’t see them side by side. And because Luxembourg is a very small country (its population is under a million) and it’s located close to the Netherlands, people often assume that Luxembourg is signaling loyalty to the Netherlands or something along those lines. In reality, however, that’s not the case.

Similar to France, Luxembourg simply chose this design because these three colors had been part of their coat of arms for a long time. They adopted the flag around 1830, during the Belgian Revolution. So, they were aware that they were choosing a design that looked very similar to the Dutch flag, but they just didn’t consider that a problem.

These days, however, many people in Luxemburg would like to have a more distinct flag. So, there’s a national debate about it, and there have even been official attempts to change the flag. The new flag would be a flag known as the “Roude Léiw” (red lion), which is also based on Luxembourg’s coat of arms. Many Luxembourgian sports fans already use this flag to signal support for their country, like these Tour de France fans:

The Dutch flag vs. the Croatian flag

The Russian flag is based on the Dutch flag, and many other flags are, in turn, based on the Russian flag. This is true for the flags of the Czech Republic, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, and Croatia. Of those flags, the Croatian flag looks most like the original Dutch flag.

As we’ve come to expect, the shades of red and blue are slightly different. But unlike the other flags we’ve looked at so far, the Croatian flag actually contains the national coat of arms. And lastly, the Croatian flag is longer than the Dutch flag. The Dutch flag has a ratio of 2:3 while the Croatian flag has a ratio of 2:4.

So, there are enough differences not to get confused. But there are also enough similarities to clearly see that the Croatian flag was indirectly inspired by the Dutch flag.

The Dutch flag vs. the Paraguayan flag

The Paraguayan flag also looks like it was based on the Dutch flag, but according to the Paraguayans themselves, they were actually inspired by the French flag. They adopted this flag in 1842, after gaining independence from Spain. The main reason they were inspired by the French flag was its association with independence and liberty.

Despite its remarkable similarities, it’s easy to tell it apart from the Dutch flag. The colors are different shades, the flag is slightly longer, and most notably, it contains the national coat of arms with the text “REPUBLICA DEL PARAGUAY.” Interestingly, the two sides of this flag are not identical. The other side shows the seal of the treasury instead of the coat of arms.

The Dutch flag vs. the flag of Missouri

The last flag on the list is not a national flag but a US state flag: the flag of Missouri. Like the previous flags, the shades of red and blue are different, it has a slightly different size, and it contains a coat of arms. Nonetheless, it still looks a lot like the Dutch flag, which raises the question if there’s a connection between the Netherlands and Missouri that led to this.

The answer to that question, however, is no.

Missouri’s flag was adopted in 1913, and according to its designer, Mary Elizabeth Oliver, the red and white stripes represent valor and purity, just like they do in the national flag of the US, and the blue stripe represents the permanency, vigilance, and justice of the state. Mary made no mention of the Netherlands, but she did say that the combination of red, white, and blue was also meant to highlight the French influence on the state in its early days. So, the Missouri flag is one more example of the French flag inspiring people to design flags that look more Dutch than French.

Origin stories aside, though, we can safely conclude that the combination of red, white, and blue is loved by people in many countries! And now that you’re aware of the subtle differences between all these flags, you can appreciate them all without being confused about which countries they represent.