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. (December 2013)
When the Estonian flag is displayed vertically, it should be so that the blue appears on the left of the flag when viewed by an observer.
The flag of Estonia fundamentally grew out of the flag of the German Order of the Cross, the black cross on a white field (this flag was later to be used as the flag of the United Baltic Duchy). In the era of the crusades, the particular geographic domain of the contemporary Estonia's location (the Eastern Baltic shores) was proclaimed to be "Maryland", the Land of the Virgin Mary, "Terra Mariana" in Latin (as the region more to the South, the then-Prussia, was named the Land of St Peter), and, when creating its flag, the generic Teutonic banner was adapted so as to include two fields of the colour blue (Mary being the "Queen of Heaven", blue representing the heaven/sky; the "Marian flag", the flag of St Mary (St Maria) has two fields, white over blue; it is popular in Poland, it is the flag of the Cathedral of St Mary in Luxembourg, this flag is also taken for the background in the San Marino (St Marinus) banner). The pattern is also used in the coat of arms of the Jungingen family (Ulrich von Jungingen, notably, the Grand Master of the Teutonic Order active in the Baltic domain) and in the coat of arms of the German town of Jungingen. The State of the German Order of the Cross ceased to exist in 1561.
In 1860 the students of the Baltic-Prussian extraction studying in Germany (in Danzig, in Karlsruhe) established a society, the Baltica-Borussia (Prussia) student organisation ("corporation"). The coat of arms of that corporation was based on the known pattern of colours and their arrangement associated with the region and its German past (the coat of arms also incorporated the German eagle). The corporation also adopted a flag. As the idea behind the French revolutionary tricolours demanded that flags be composed of three fields of equal width (representing the equality of the citizens), so was the old Terra Mariana flag transformed into a tricolour (technically, a triband).
In 1881 the Society of Estonian Students at the University of Tartu (Estonia) was formed, a similar tricolour was constructed. Yet by that time the selection of the particular colours was also attributed to the Finnish flag, and the colours were ascribed symbolic meanings.
The coat of arms of the Baltica-Borussia (Prussia) student corporation. Includes (1) the Terra Mariana pattern, (2) the eagle of Prussia (upper right corner), (3) half of the eagle of Russia (upper left corner; though a black eagle in a blue field has also been used in the coat of arms of Denmark to represent Saaremaa/Øsel
) covered with the coats of arms (from top to bottom) of the (3.1) governorate of Courland (in the past the Duchy of Courland (lion) and Semigallia (elk)), (3.2) governorate of Livonia (the winged lion, "griffin"), (3.3) governorate of Estonia/Reval (really the coat of arms of Denmark); (4) the date of the establishment, and the (5) insignia (Germ. "Zirkel") with the flag in the background), and the coat of arms of the city of Danzig (now Gdansk (the seat of the corporation)). It is known that the colour scheme blue-black-white was not the first scheme adopted by the corporation. It is also known to have used the scheme green-red-white (the colours of the governorate of Livonia within the contemporaneous Russian Empire, but since the governorate of Livonia was but a small portion of the entirety of the Baltic-Prussian area that the corporation united, a more encompassing colour scheme was eventually arrived at; the existence of the corporation was sporadic because the students of the Prussian/Baltic/Estonian extraction, sometimes understood to be legally Russian, were not always equally welcome to study in Germany).
The Estonian flag was therefore officially adopted first as a student organisation flag on 17 September 1881 by the constituent assembly of the first Estonian national student Corps "Vironia" (modern Estonian Students Society) in the city of Tartu. The colours and the pattern eventually became the national flag.
The flag became associated with Estonian nationalism and was used as the national flag (riigilipp) when the Estonian Declaration of Independence was issued on 24 February 1918. The flag was formally adopted on 21 November 1918. 12 December 1918 was the first time the flag was raised as the national symbol atop of the Pikk Hermann Tower in Tallinn.
The invasion by the Soviet Union in June 1940 led to the flag's ban. It was taken down from the most symbolic location, the tower of Pikk Hermann in Tallinn, on 21 June 1940, when Estonia was still formally independent. On the next day, 22 June, it was hoisted along with the red flag. The tricolour disappeared completely from the tower on 27 July 1940, and was replaced by the flag of the Estonian SSR.
During the German occupation from 1941 until 1944, the flag was accepted as the ethnic flag of Estonians but not the national flag. After the German retreat from Tallinn in September 1944, the Estonian flag was hoisted once again.
Second Soviet occupation
When the Red Army arrived on 22 September 1944, the red flag was just added at first. Soon afterwards, however, the blue-black-white flag disappeared. In its place from February 1953, the Estonian SSR flag was redesigned to include the six blue spiked waves on the bottom with the hammer and sickle with the red star on top.
atop Lenin Peak
, the first time the Estonian flag was displayed higher than 7,000 metres (23,000 ft)
The flag remained illegal until the days of perestroika in the late 1980s. 21 October 1987 was the first time when Soviet forces did not take down the flag at a public event. 24 February 1989 the blue-black-white flag was again flown from the Pikk Hermann tower in Tallinn. It was formally re-declared as the national flag on 7 August 1990, little over a year before Estonia regained full independence.