A very distinctive flag with its yellow (or gold) design on a sky blue background, the flag of Kazakhstan is visually one of my favourite flags along with the flag of Turkmenistan. That blue is so distinctive and so unique in the world of flags. Incidentally it’s also the same blue used for their passports, so it’s dead easy to spot a Kazakh passport a mile away – amidst all the navy and maroon passports, the sky blue really stands out.
The ornamental pattern down the left-hand side of the flag is called “koshkar muiz” which means “the horns of the ram”, and represents the art and cultural traditions of the Kazakh people. This pattern is all over Kazakhstan, used in construction and interior design, it’s used in menus and on clothing, and really is just all over the place. If you go to Kazakhstan and keep your eyes open you’ll definitely see this design.
The steppe eagle which makes up part of the central design is a symbol that has appeared on tribal flags for centuries and represents freedom and power. The sun which rests atop the eagle, has 32 rays that are in the shape of grains of wheat, which ironically (given the huge expanse of Kazakhstan that is completely barren desert) is supposed to represent the prosperity of the land.
The colour scheme was inherited from the flag of the Kazakh SSR, which had the standard gold hammer and sickle alongside the star of the Communist Party, all in the top left hand corner of a red field. Although all the flags of the Soviet Republics are very similar, and it’s quite a task to memorise them all and remember which one belongs to whom, like with the modern flag, the colours of the Kazakh SSR’s flag do stand out. The rest of the flag is very standard, but the band across the bottom third of the flag is in that iconic and unique sky blue.
Between 1917 and 1953 when this flag was adopted, there were several other variations on the flag incorporating Kazakh SSR written in Kazakh and Russian, and in both Latin letters (Kazakh) and Cyrillic letters. It’s possible though that the sky blue colour scheme that makes the Soviet and the modern flags stand out so much was actually taken from the flag of the Kazakh Khanate.
The Kazakh Khanate existed between the 15th and the 19th centuries and was located roughly where modern-day Kazakhstan now is. We can’t be sure of exactly what their flag was, and it’s very likely that they didn’t just have one unifying flag in the way that countries do now, but the flag that is generally assumed to have been theirs is a field of our favourite sky blue, topped with a white design..