Romanian Flag Ethics, or “Who Cares About Chad?”


The national flag of Romania (above left)  is designed with vertical stripes colored blue, yellow and red. It has a width-length ratio of 2:3. So does the national flag of Chad (right). In fact, they are identical. (One or the other supposedly has as slightly darker blue, indigo vs. cobalt, but I can’t see it.

Romania established the colors and the design by law in 1989, when its Communist government fell.  It essentially ripped off Chad’s flag, and Chad immediately protested. True, these had been the Rumania/Romania colors forever, but not in this exact form. Do you think Romania bothered to check whether than design was, like, taken? Nah. “There were more important things to care about,” rationalized the nation’s president at the time,  Ion Illiescu. More important to Chad, though? This is the essence of ethics: thinking about the other parties affected by your conduct.It is not the Romanian way, at least when it comes to flags.

What does Romania care about Chad? It’s one of the bleakest, poorest third world nations in the world. Who cares if Chad objects? Who listens to Chad? “It’s too far away,” reasons a Romanian quoted by the Wall Street Journal. Now there’s the keen logic, sense of fairness, and respect for the rest of the world we like to see from our fellow citizens of the planet.

There is no authorized body that referees flag theft. Of course, there shouldn’t have to be, as this is an act without plausible defenses. If a nation takes another country’s flag, it is either being spectacularly arrogant, disrespectful and dishonest,  or incredibly negligent. There is no third explanation.

There are some legitimate disputes in the national flag area. The Netherlands and Luxembourg both stubbornly claim  the same flag design, as do Indonesia and Monaco, but in both cases the competing flag-wavers have colorable (sorry), centuries-old evidence that they had the flag first. (Do you know why countries don’t go to war over having the same flag? Nobody will be able to tell which army is which!) When another nation appropriates an existing flag, however, there is only one ethical response: design a different one. At the 1936 Berlin Olympics,  known for events other than the oddly forgotten Great Haiti-Liechtenstein Flag Dispute,  the Haitian team was shocked to find the Liechtenstein team competing under the same banner as the Haitian were. Eschewing the “Who cares? Your country is too far away” argument now embraced by Romanians, Liechtenstein adopted a new flag design within a year.

Chad has repeatedly asked the  (pretty much useless) United Nations to settle the issue, but the U.N. just says in response, most recently this week, “It’s up to member states to select their own flag.” Or, in the case of Romania, to select another nation’s flag, and say “Nyah-nyah-nyah!”

The Chadian flag was adopted in 1959, while then Rumania (the nation also has had spelling disputes, unlike Chad. There is only one way to spell Chad. [Correction! I am told that it is also spelled “Tchad”!) was flying the same three stripes but with a lot of typical Commie symbols on top of them. In contrast, Chad’s choice of the stripes had meaning: a red stripe for the blood the nation’s people shed in WWII, yellow for the Sahara Desert, and blue for Lake Chad. If the colors ever meant anything to Rumania/Romania other than “gee, what pretty colors!” historians haven’t been able to ferret it out. But Romania has choices. Poor Chad doesn’t have much to symbolize, except constant famine. It was Chad that the late Sam Kineson was talking about in his memorable riff on world hunger…


I can’t imagine putting Sam on a flag, though.

Now Romania, in contrast, has lots of options. Nadia Comenici on the balance beam! Vlad the Impaler! Dracula! Romanian Traian Vuia made the first airplane that could take off on its own power: how about an airplane against that red, yellow and blue field?

Apparently when Romania rejected Communism, there was a period where its flag was the old Iron Curtain banner but with the Communist symbols cut out or it with a scissors, giving the nation a unique flag with a hole in the center. That would have been cool, and symbolic too. Unfortunately, those flags quickly fell apart in a stiff wind.

The obvious solution, at least to Romanians, was to steal Chad’s flag, for the same reason bullies steal lunch money from the smallest kid on the playground.

When a newly independent Tierra Del Fuego decides to adopt the stars and stripes as its new flag, we will see why this is a wise strategy, if an unethical one.


Pointer: The Wall Street Journal, but it’s not going to get a link because of its paywall. So there.

48 thoughts on “Romanian Flag Ethics, or “Who Cares About Chad?”

  1. Thanks for the link to on of my all time favorite comedy routines.

    “We have deserts in America but we don’t live in them” was true at one point… but where I live right now is ‘semi arid’ verging on desert. We already truck food in. If the water shuts off we will be just like Chad.

  2. Jack, I am puzzled by this. The flag the Kingdom of Romania had since 1867 had the same color scheme as the one you showed until the communists took over. Chad was a French colony until they gained independence from France so I suppose they flew France’s tricolor. I don’t think Vlad the Impaler would be a good choice to put on a flag unless they want to scare the Russians and anybody else that wants to mess with them.

  3. I think I’m with Wayne on this one. Chad adopted (in 1959) a flag that had been in use by Romania from 1867 to 1948. Prior to that, Romania had been using those same colors dating back to 1834 but with horizontal stripes.

    The obvious solution, at least to Romanians, was to steal Chad’s flag, for the same reason bullies steal lunch money from the smallest kid on the playground.

    …but is it stealing when you are taking it back? If we abandoned our stars and stripes for 10 years, does that mean someone else can take the banner and we lose all rights to it?

    • Absolutely. Romania abandoned that design, and it was fair for anyone to adopt it. Romania had another flag for 40 years! That’s more than enough to create a property right for anyone who picks up abandoned property. If a US company truly abandons a trademark, another company can use it, and register it itself.

      • So…. all of the previous US flag variants are open and available for another country? “Uh, my flag has 51 stars, so it’s not the same and it’s completely different.”

      • Your article is written, obviously, with the purpose of talking bad about Romanians. We did not steal anything. Romanian flag is the same since 1861. The only thing that was added during the communist era was the coat of arms designed to represent the communist ideology. But since 1861 the Romanian flag had the same colours, in the same order, while Chad flag was adopted in 1960. You prove your ignorance by referring to Dracula / Vlad the Impaler / Nadia Comaneci. If you think this could be put on a flag, you are an ignorant. Romania had and has a lot of symbols that could be put on a flag. Real symbols, not medieval fairy tales or gymnasts. Supposing that you are an American, what would you say if I would tell you that the American flag should have on it a hamburger or the image of Mickey Mouse ? You wouldn’t like that, would you?

    • Do you seriously believe this article ?

      – Lie: “True, these had been the Rumania/Romania colors forever, but not in this exact form.”
      – Truth: Romania has been using that flag in the exact same form since 1866. That’s almost 100 years before Chad got its flag. But I guess this unbiased and objective article forgot to said that.

      The flag was changed in 1947 when Communism was imposed, meanwhile Chad took the flag in 1959. But the flag was readapted in 1989 after Communism feel.

      – Lie: “There is no authorized body that referees flag theft.”
      – Truth: There is, United Nations has a department for symbols. When Romania registred the flag any country that had anything to object could have done so in a 12 months period, Chad didn’t. I guess this unbiased and objective article also forgot to said that.

      – Half-Truth: Chad has repeated asked the (pretty much useless) United Nations to settle the issue.
      – Whole-Truth: Chad has repeated asked the (pretty much useless) United Nations to settle the issue in 2004.

      – False Claim: “In contrast, Chad’s choice of the stripes had meaning: a red stripe for the blood the nation’s people shed in WWII, yellow for the Sahara Desert, and blue for Lake Chad. If the colors ever meant anything to Rumania/Romania other than “gee, what pretty colors!”

      – Truth: Romania was created as a union between Wallachia and Moldavia. Wallachia’s flag was Yellow & Blue. Moldavia’s flag was Red & Blue. Wallachia and Moldavia’s flags also had a meaning but let’s not go any deeper. Blue is the colour of the sky and signifies freedom, the yellow comes from the grains and signifies justice, red is the colour of the blood stands for brotherhood.

      When you make such an opinionated article while also claim the higher moral ground ignorance is no exucse. In contrast this article is as honest as that nigerian prince that needs your bank account.

      Funny how all of this comes from a webside called “ethicsalarms”, more like hypocrites alarm.

      • Ah, where to begin? How about here: You’re banned, jackass. Don’t come back. I’m only allowing this junk to post so I can mock and jeer at you mercilessly. The Comment Policies are clear: come here spouting insults, jerk, and you don’t get another shot. That should be obvious to a non-microcephalic even without Comment policies. To you walk in the door of a new neighbor’s home saying, “You suck!”? You probably do. You could have made your lame, lame, pedantic points politely, but didn’t. You were a guest here, and abused the privilege.

        What else? Let’s see: those are the flags of Rumania and Chad; Rumania did adopt its flag after Chad was using the same design (and Rumania had abandoned it once), the UN did NOT step in and block it, the supporting quotes are accurate, and that’s all you need to know. My post is accurate. Your nit-picking or whatever it is changes nothing at all. You don’t know what a lie is, you don’t know what hyperbole is (“Forever” does not mean “since the earth cooled,” Butt-head), I assumed that the Rumanian colors meant something, or at least they would claim they did, and was being f-a-c-e-t-i-o-u-s, though I could not imagine caring less what they symbolize, as if a single living Romanian could tell you (what to the red, white and blue on our flag stand for?) and you really should look up hypocrisy.

        Move to Chad for all I care. You’re not getting back here.

        • “(what to the red, white and blue on our flag stand for?)”

          In all fairness, I don’t think they really *meant* anything, when they were first designed. I think we added meaning to them, as we humans are prone to do. A member of the Continental Congress did ascribe the traditional meanings to the flag when he argued for the official adoption of the flag in 1782. But by then, the 3 colors had been pretty much the official colors of American flags for more than several generations, and even then, his language wasn’t adopted into the law adopting the flag.

          My guess is, Red, White, and Blue were chosen because that was the colors of the various flags flown by Great Britain…even the general flag layout is inspired by several British flags.

          Now, did the “Union Flag” colors have a meaning back then, or are those just meanings added over time?

          I mean, the Red & White derived from St. George’s Cross. And the White on Blue was St. Andrew’s Cross.

          St. George’s cross, it is assumed, was adopted by Richard the Lionheart on Crusade when he stopped at Genoa, for whom St. George was patron, where they flew the Red Cross on White Banner flag. I can’t see where there is any meaning attributed to the selection of this flag or it’s colors by the Genoese.

          St. Andrew’s cross, derived from the tradition that St. Andrew was crucified on a cross diagonally, and during a medieval battle in Scotland, some leader claimed to have seen a vision of the cross in the form of White Clouds set against the Blue Sky. So there’s that.

  4. I am curious to know why Romania is accused of stealing the flag of Chad but not Andorra who has the same flag and doesn’t make a fuss? Romania has used the three colours long before Chad existed, and was forced by Soviet occupation the change the flat. So in 1989, after communism collapsed, Romania returned to the old flag. See discution on Wikipedia:
    The idea of Romanian strealing the flag of Chad is one of the most ridiculous lie.

    • I explained the time line. There’s no “lie.” Your problem is that you can’t see, apparently. Here’s the Andorra flag—see if you can figure out how it differs from Chad and Romania. I’ll wait for you to check in Wikipedia:

      • If there is no lie, is what exactly? Romania did not steal any flag, it returned to the one it had before the communism regime. And communism was installed by Soviet occupation tanks.Romania changed its flag under duress (Stalinist regime). It was a restoration, not a steal. Are Romania supposed to change hear historical flag, just because is similar to Chad’s (not identical, blue is different)????

        • Ridiculous. Romania changed its flag. Fact. While it was changed, Chad adopted the same design exactly (the bickering about the blue is stupid: if a country duplicate the US flag with a slightly darker blue, would you make that argument?). Thus at the time Romania dumped the Communist flag (whether it was changed due to “duress” is 100% irrelevant), its old design was no longer available. FACT. Chad had it. FACT. Chad owned it. Every nation is supposed to have a different flag so there is no confusion.

          You don’t get to demand a parking space after you have left it, and another car is parked there. You don’t get to give up your seat on the subway, and then demand it back if you feel tired. If you give up your trademark and don’t use it anymore, anyone can register it, and it’s theirs. If you divorce your spouse, she marries someone else and you change your mind, you don’t get to demand that she sleep with you. If you decide to change your nations’ national anthem, and another country uses your old tune and words, its not your anthem any more.After The Beatles had changed the band’s name from “The Quarrymen,” if another band had taken their old name and had a hit record, the Beatles could not just change their name back. Need more? Is that clear? There is nothing, anywhere, that supports the principle you are claiming. Nothing. Once you have abandoned something and someone else legally takes it, it belongs to them, not you, and if you take it back without their consent, that’s theft.


          • The Romanian flag as it is now existed long before Chad was proclaimed as a country and got a flag. FACT. Romania was 50 years wronged by communism, it had every right to restore her flag after the fall of communism, namely between 1866–1948. Restoring is no theft. FACT.

            There is no patent, IPR or any other rights on flags as it is on brand names. As there is no such thing, Romania cannot be accused of stealing it. If Chad accuses Romania of theft, it has to demonstrate it in the court of Law. Chad can use the International Court of Justice to settle this issue for good. Why Chad never took legal action against Romania? What stops them taking legal redress? Maybe the tacit knowledge that they stole Romania’s flag while the country was under Communist rule?

            • Got it. You’re an idiot. The facts are simple. 1. Romania gave up the design. 2. Another country had it, fair and square, for 30 years. 3. You can’t ethically take another country’s flag for yourself while another country has it. 4. We are talking ethics, not law. I know this may be a little advanced for you. 5. I explained that there is no principle at all allowing he who has abandoned property that has been legally and fairly taken by another to just take it back 6. As I also said, why Romania adopted a different flag is not Chad’s problem, and irrelevant.

              That’s the end. There is no argument. You are just being obstinate, or stupid, but whichever it is, that’s the final word. Comment on another post, or go away. You’re finished on this one.

              • First Romania did not gave up the flag, the communists change it to fit better their ideology. And second you cant talk a about a flag witch is part of the identity of people like is just a piece of property, its much more than that. You cant buy or sell identity, its not like brand, its much more than that. The flag of Romania right now was the return of Romania to freedom, its the symbol of democracy like it was before communism.
                And if I may ask considering you are author of this article what would have been an “ethical” flag for Romania after communism fell? Considering the flags that Romania had over the years and their relation with the Romanian identity?

                  • scare quotes?? Please explain. And what can i say? Sorry for not being a native english speaker, i used google translate to make sure i dont miss spell word, but google translate is not perfect, so sorry again. And just because i am not a native english speaker my argument is not valid? and Is it ethical to not consider an argument just because the person who is writhing it is not an native english speaker?

                    • Scare quotes means putting quote marks around a particular word to suggest that the use of the word is misleading and inappropriate in some respect. Used on “ethics,” “ethical’ and “ethicist,” they suggest doubt about the legitimacy and credibility regarding the topic (and my profession.)

                      I absolve you from any blame or fault for not following standard English composition conventions. But the good faith efforts of a non-English speaker and writer are indistinguishable from the careless, lazy, disrespectful comments I ding regularly from too-typical native commenters who deface comment sections across the ‘net. I apologize for assuming you were one of those, but they do outnumber non-English speakers here about a thousand to one. I was only applying Occam’s Razor.

          • “whether it was changed due to “duress” is 100% irrelevant”

            Ooo is that one hundred percent sure though?

            If my house is robbed or I am robbed at gunpoint and someone steals my TV or guns (all with serial #s on them) and a year from now I find them in possession of someone completely unrelated to the crime, do I not still have grounds to recover my property?

            The parallel is Romania was compelled to give up its property- in this case, it’s flag, under duress, and 3rd party I associated with the original crime has now acquired that property.

  5. The flag was not stolen, If anything chad stole the flag. Before communism the Romanian lag looked as it looks right now, the red yellow and blue tricolour is tied to Romanian history. Where as chad is an aritificial country which basically stole the french flag and changed one colour in the middle.

  6. Jack Romania adopted the flag on 26 June 1848 ok ? I don’t care what was in the middle in the meantime. Chad didn’t even existed when we first created this flag. Chad is an African country and has no power over Romania. Having something in the middle does not create a change. We had the 3 stripes before them. It’s like buying a black car and painting the door red, that does not mean it’s very different. We had the design before them, and that’s the end of the story. Chad should take care of its starving people, and not interfeer into the business of an EU country that has been on the map longer than their starving african nation. You can say whatever you love, but as long as we had the 3 stripes since 26 June 1848, i don’t really care what Chad has to say, about their 1959 flag.

    • Alex,

      Seeing as you chose to come to an ETHICS blog to comment, how about you go research and name all of the rationalizations you managed to cover in a single (run on) paragraph?

      Hint: if you get less than three you need to look closer

  7. Man, the author of this article kind of hates Romania. He said the colors of the Chad flag mean something for them, but for Romania: they just like it……WTF…. Romania has this flag since the 19 century, and still had it until communism came, its part of its heritage, and after communism fell its pretty obvious Romania would go back to its roots. And when Romania was communist its still had the same flag but with the socialist symbol, so Chad kind of still copied Romania on that. And for the author, man i get that nobody cares about a poor African countrys like Chad, and you are trying to raise awareness, but don’t mock and slander the hole history of Romania like nobody ever suffered there. And just so you know a lot of Romanians died for that flag, for independents from Russia, Austro-Hungaria, The ottoman empire. So don’t start talking shit about someone you dont know.

    • also in the context of ethics, Romania always had that flag, communism just put a symbol on it for propaganda reasons, but it still was the same flag, so when communism fell, what should Romania do??
      Change the flag that has 150 years of History and meant something to all Romanians (btw all Romanians learn what the flag and colors mean in school since before communism came and they still learned about it when communism was around). If Romania ever change its flag, it wont be Romania any more. I dont know much about Chad, but from your description of the flag, Chad has the same flag as Romania, when you look at it, but it symbolises different things, like if two people look at the same thing but get different feelings, so as an image those flags look the same, but as a symbol they dont feel the same for the people of the two nations.
      In conclusion ethically speaking Chad is in the wrong here. Romania had a right to that flag, and Romania never told Chad to change that flag. Chad was in a hurry to tell Romania go change the flag. And just like you said the people of Chad are starving and all the politicians care about is the flag…….

Leave a Reply to texagg04 Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.