In today's world we speak of a "national" flag as the symbol of a country, but before the French Revolution of 1789, flags were more likely to symbolise some other entity such as a ruling house, a religious sect or even a charismatic individual. The concept of national solidarity with loyalty to a defined geographic area and a shared culture is a modern one. A national flag may be designed and approved by the people of the country, but its elements may be chosen from earlier times, as are those of the Albanian flag.
The national flag of Albania consists of a black double-headed eagle on a rectangular field of red. It was adopted April 17, 1992. The word for Albania in the native language is "Shapiperia," translated as "Land of Eagles." In the folktales of the country, the ruler was once known as "The Eagle," and the eagle is said to guide and guard him as a "Son of the Eagle."
The red colour in the Albanian flag symbolises bravery, strength and valour. Red is the colour of blood, the life force, and it is found in a great many national flags. It frequently symbolises revolution or the blood of martyrs.
The double-headed eagle centred on the Albanian flag is an ancient symbol, used on banners of the Byzantine empire in the year 1100 and probably long before. It was the imperial symbol of Vienna, Russia, Prussia and the Holy Roman Empire. Silhouetted in black on Albania's flag, it is derived from the heraldic arms of her national hero, Georgi Castriota (known as Skanderberg), who led the revolt that freed the Albanians from the Ottoman Empire in 1443. In flag symbolism, the colour black is said to represent determination and the defeat of enemies.
Before the current official national flag was adopted, variations on the same design were used. When Albania was taken over by the Soviet Union in 1946, a red star with a yellow border was added above the eagle, but has since been removed. The national flag reduced to a square shape is flown as the personal flag of the President of Albania.
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