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Republika Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina): Coat of arms

Last modified: 2014-03-01 by ivan sache
Keywords: republika srpska | eagle: double-headed (white) | crown (yellow) | firesteel | cross (white) | fleurs-de-lis: 2 (yellow) | crow: kotromanic |
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Invalidation of the coat of arms of Republika Srpska (2007)

The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina decided on 31 March 2006 that both Republika Srpska and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina had to adopt new symbols.

Quoting the website of the Constitutional Court:

In case U 4/04, concerning a request of Mr. Sulejman Tihić, who was at the time of filing the request a Chair of Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, for review of constitutionality [...] of Articles 1, 2 and 3 of the Constitutional Law on Flag, Coat of Arms and Anthem of the Republika Srpska, Articles 2 and 3 of the Law on Use of Flag, Coat of Arms and Anthem and Articles 1 and 2 of the Family Patron-Saint's Days and Church Holidays of Republika Srpska, the Constitutional Court decided to take a partial decision. In regards to part of the request referring to Articles 1 and 2 of the Law on Family-Patron's Days and Church Holidays of the Republika Srpska and having regard to the fact that adoption of new law is currently in the process, the Constitutional Court decided to postpone its decision on this issue, as well as on the issue of flag referred to in Article 1 of the Constitutional Law on Flag, Coat of Arms and Anthem of the Republika Srpska.
In the partial decision adopted today, it was established that [...] Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitutional Law on Flag, Coat of Arms and Anthem of the Republika Srpska are not in conformity with Article II.4 of the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina in connection with Article 1.1 and 2 (a) and (c) of the International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination under Annex I to the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Parliament of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and National Assembly of Republika Srpska are ordered, in accordance with Article 63 para 4 of the Rules of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to conform these provisions to the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina within time limit of six months, from the date of publishing this Decision in the Official Gazette of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It was established that Article 2 of the Law on Use of Flag, Coat of Arms and Anthem in the part providing that flag, coat of arms and anthem of the Republika Srpska "represent statehood of the Republika Srpska" is not in accordance with Article I.1 and I.2 of the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina and that Article 3 of the Law on Use of Flag, Coat of Arms and Anthem, in the part providing that symbols of the Republika Srpska are used "in accordance with moral norms of Serb people" are not in accordance with Article II.4 of the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina in connection with Articles 1.1 and 2 (a) and (c) of the International Convention on Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination under Annex I to the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina so that the Constitutional Court annulled them respectively. The annulled provisions shall not be in force as of the following date from the date of publishing this Decision in «Official Gazette of Bosnia and Herzegovina» pursuant to Article 63, para 3 of the Rules of the Constitutional Court.

On 29 January 2007, the B92 news agency reported (text):

The Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina reached a verdict to abrogate the coat of arms and the flag of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the coat of arms and the anthem of Republika Srpska.
With this decision enters into force the prohibition on the use of those symbols and new symbols should be adopted that would contain symbols of all constitutional peoples.
This verdict was made since none of the two entities did obey a previous Court decision requiering that within 6 months the symbols be aligned with the determinations of the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina, that requires the symbols to represent all three constitutional peoples.
A request for the prolongation of that dead line by the Republic of Srpska was rejected, as much as the request to reexamine the Constitutional Court decision.
In the Federation the abrogation produced almost no reactions, since they were not considered real symbols by anyone. In the Federation the abrogation produced almost no reactions, since they were not considered real symbols by anyone, however, in Srpska the decision produced bitterness "I believe that the Court does not understand neither the time nor the place where it is. There is no Legislation on the Constitutional Court, so it works by its own rules as it likes, which is legal nonsense." - stated Igor Radojičić, Chairman of the Parliament of Srpska, adding that the decision on symbols is way too emotional issue to be made in such way.

HINA reports on reactions from Srpska on the revoking of the symbols. Summarized, Republika Srpska does not plan to remove the symbols any sooner then the decision of the Court is published. The president of the Parliament of Republika Srpska announced that on the first subsequent session a commission shall be determined to prepare the design of the new symbols. He stated taht there is no much time and the work shall be done under pressure, but that the confuzion is not necessery - the symbols need not be removed yet, since they are still valid. The jurists estimate that the Constitutional Court deliberately postponed the "verification" of the decision for its subsequent session, so to, indirectly, give more time to the parliaments of the two entities to prepare the new symbols. It is estimated that the decision shall not be published in the official gazette for two or three months at least.

The Decision of the Constitutional Court invalidating the coat of arms and the anthem of Republika Srpska was eventually issued on 31 May 2007 in the official gazette of Bosnia and Herzegovina Službene novine Bosne i Hercegovine, No. 45. This made the symbols officially invalid and abandoned.

Željko Heimer & Adi Mirojević, 18 March 2001


Emblem of Republika Srpska

[Flag]

Emblem of Republika Srpska - Image by Željko Heimer, 16 June 2007

Following the invalidation of the coat of arms by the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Republika Srpaska officially adopted an emblem to be used instead of the coat of arms until a new solution is adopted.
The emblem shows within a seal inscribed with the name of the republic in Cyrillic and Latin letters the initials "RS" in Cyrillic set on a base of the flag of Republika Srpska surrounded with a golden oak wreath with a tricolour ribbon, above the royal crown and below a new element, the royal crown of the Kotromanić dynasty, originating in the medieval Bosnia history.

Željko Heimer & Adi Mirojević, 30 January 2007


Contest for the coat of arms of Republika Srpska

The public contest for the new coat of arms of Republika Srpska resulted in nine proposals being considered as appropriate for the discussion in the Parliament, to be held in September 2008. The Parliamentary Commission further selected five proposals (image) to be discussed in the Parliament.

On 15 June 2008 the People's Assembly of the Republic of Srpska adopted a new coat of arms and a new anthem.
The adopted coat of arms is the one showed at the bottom of the aforementioned image. Its designer must be Zdravko Krulj, a painter from Banja Luka.
As reported by the FENA agency, the coat of arms and the anthem were adopted with 49 votes from the governing coalition, while the opposition (SDA, Party for BiH, SDP BiH) was against or sustained (SDS, SRSRS), for various reasons. The SDA and SDP delegates preferred the proposal with the shield divided into three parts, with the flag in the top field charged with the Serbian eagle, and with the checky field and the green field with a golden fleur-de-lis as the other two fields. It seems that the SDS and SRS delegates supported the readoption of the previous design, already declared unconstitutional.

The adopted design is "Gules a double-headed eagle argent crowned, beaked and armed or and with two fleurs-de-lis in base or bearing an escutcheon gules a cross argent between four firesteel also argent. The shield crowned with a Royal crown or. As supporters two lions rampant gules, armed and gorged with a crown flory or, and ensigned with circular shields in dexter azure a crown flory or and in gules argent three bends argent, standing on a compartment of a triple wattle ornament or".

Željko Heimer, 16 July 2008


Former coat of arms of Republika Srpska

[Arms]

Coat of arms of Republika Srpska - Image by Željko Heimer, 6 September 2000

The coat of arms of Republika Srpska is prescribed in Article 2 of Constitutional Law Ustavni zakon o zastavi, grbu i himni Republike Srpske, published in 1992 in the Republika Srpska official gazette Slubeni glasnik Republike Srpske, No. 19, as follows:

The coat of arms of Republika Srpska is the coat of arms of Nemanjici represented by a double-headed white eagle with a crown over its head. A red shield with a cross and four white firesteels between the arms of the cross is on the eagle's chest.
Željko Heimer, 30 January 2007


Unofficial variants of the coat of arms

The coat of arms of Republika Srpska has undergone an interesting evolution since its adoption in 1992 until its abolition in 2007, having had a number of variants which, considering the official sources available (Official Gazette of the Republika Srpska No. 19/92), should have been unofficial, although the way in which they were used shows that they did have an official, or at least semi-official status.

[Arms]

Coat of arms of Republika Srpska, 1992 - Image by Željko Heimer & Tomislav Todorović, 4 March 2010

After Republika Srpska had been founded on 9 January 1992 as the Republic of the Serb People of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Republika srpskog naroda Bosne i Hercegovine), its official name was chosen as the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Srpska republika Bosna i Hercegovina) with the adoption of its Constitution on 28 February 1992: the coat of arms that was subsequently adopted was almost identical with the current lesser coat of arms of Serbia, only without the crown above the shield. This coat of arms was seen in a number of TV-reports from the region.

[Arms]         [Arms]

Coat of arms of Republika Srpska, 1992 variants - Images by Željko Heimer & Tomislav Todorović, 4 March 2010

By the mid-1992, a new version appeared, with the field changed into blue.
Not long afterwards, the field of the escutcheon was also changed into blue For a rather long time, the only source for this particular version were the banknotes of the Serbian Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina (50 dinars, 1992, obverse and reverse; 10 million dinars, 1993, obverse and reverse), whose name was changed into Republika Srpska on 12 August 1992, this version of the Coat of Arms having remained on the banknotes after that date as well (50 million dinars, 1993, obverse and reverse; 100 million dinars, 1993, obverse and reverse).
The banknotes were made by monochromatic printing technology (different color for each denomination), the colors of the coat of arms denoted by the hatching (requires some zooming of the scanned images to be recognized better). The blue fields of both the shield and the escutcheon were confirmed in summer 1994, in TV-reports from the sessions of the People's Assembly of Republika Srpska when the Owen-Stoltenberg Peace Plan was discussed.
The described color changes were never officially introduced, although these versions of the coat of arms were used in clearly official circumstances. The possible reason for their introduction was the wish to create a distinctive emblem, which would visibly differ from that which was expected to be adopted by Serbia (which actually happened much later), and the idea for the solution must have come from the then Republic of Serbian Krajina, which had introduced a similar coat of arms in 1991.

[Arms]

Coat of arms of Republika Srpska, 1995 variant - Image by Željko Heimer & Tomislav Todorović, 4 March 2010

After Republika Srpska had rejected the Owen-Stoltenberg Peace Plan, the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia imposed the blockade on it, which was indeed carried out, at least considering the program content of the state-controlled media in Serbia, especially the television.
This made the evolution of the coat of arms of Republika Srpska in the succeeding period very difficult to follow. Nonetheless, there was at least one appearance of another version in 1995, where the field of the escutcheon was reverted to red, the crown added above the eagle's heads and the fleurs-de-lis removed.

[Arms]

Coat of arms of Republika Srpska, 1995-1996 variant - Image by Željko Heimer & Tomislav Todorović, 4 March 2010

Some time after the Dayton Peace Accords were signed on 14 December 1995, or perhaps shortly before that event, the field color also seems to have reverted to red.

[Arms]

Coat of arms of Republika Srpska, shape variant - Image by Željko Heimer & Tomislav Todorović, 4 March 2010

Acović (Heraldika i Srbi, 2008) suggests that it was the shape of the shield and the escutcheon, not the field color, that achieved its final form first, describing this as the "unofficial version" of the coat of arms. The precise chronology of these last stages of the coat of arms evolution and the date of the final version's adoption still have to be determined. It is quite possible that the two versions described above have co-existed from some time.
The same might be true for some of the earlier versions: some banknotes issued by Republika Srpska suggest that the final form of the shield and escutcheon might have been in use even before the escutcheon was reverted to red field (100 million dinars, 1993, reverse; 500,000 dinars, 1993, reverse).

The fleurs-de-lis were removed probably because they were also the most conspicuous charges of the then flag and arms of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which might eventually have made many people in Republika Srpska see them only as the symbol of the opposite side in the war. Another reason might be the wish to bring the coat of arms in better accordance with the legislation on the coat of arms: the original coat of arms of the Nemanjić dynasty did not contain fleurs-de-lis, which were added to its representations in the "Illyrian armorials", a series of apocryphal armorials which have been created from the 15th to the 19th century (Acović; Spasić, Palavestra and Mrdjenović).

Tomislav Todorović, 4 March 2010

There are several caveats one should bear in mind.
First, it is not unusual practice in money printing that the coat of arms shown on banknotes is somewhat different from the official version, whether by intention or not. I believe that German pre-Euro banknotes also had a special coat of arms shape differing from the official one, and certainly the Croatian Kuna notes bear a coat of arms in a shape that is never used otherwise. It seems that the original heraldic artists freedom in shaping of the coats of arms is still maintained among the banknotes designers to a greater degree then anywhere else. For this reason, a coat of arms shown on banknotes may be misleading, and other sources should be consulted.
Secondly, I am not convinced that we can establish any clear evolution of this coat of arms, except those instances appearing in legislation. The usage of these coats of arms was rather arbitrary, probably depending on whatever was readily available and such "minute" details reported above were widely ignored by both officials and in unofficial use. Certainly, the coats of arms appearing on the flags were of even more differing details and used throughout the period. Even, I believe that various versions of the flags with coat of arms were used side by side for patriotic effect in official circumstances like Parliament sessions and public celebrations. Beside the legislation we have mentioned, there is, as far as I know, no other legislation determining changes in the coat of arms, while the flag legislation was always scarce, the flag being mentioned in Constitutions (when it was) as only simple tricolour.

Željko Heimer, 6 March 2010

The case of the described coat of arms with both shield and escutcheon fields in blue indeed seemed like an example of the above practice for a rather long time since I first saw it - early 1993 - until the occasion on which I saw it in full colors in summer 1994. During this time, I thought that horizontal hatching might have been an error due to poor knowledge of heraldry, as I have already witnessed a number of similar errors in Serbia, made even by people who were considered experts in the area. This was even more conspicuous due to apparent reluctance of the then government, but also of many citizens of Serbia, to get rid of Communist-era symbols, which was inducing similar tendencies in the Republic of Serbian Krajina, for example (never resulted in any official actions, though)). Not only that my ideas were eventually denied by the TV-reports which showed that the banknote design was based on an existing coat of arms, whether it was or was not official, but my current idea, based on a number of later sources, is that the introduction of proper heraldry actually might have passed much easier in Republika Srpska than in Serbia, although the impact of Communist-era pseudo-heraldry is still strong in both places.

Tomislav Todorović, 9 March 2010