The national flag of Latvia was used by independent Latvia from 1918 until the country was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1940. After regaining its independence, Latvia re-adopted on February 27, 1990, the same red-white-red flag. Though officially adopted in 1922, the Latvian flag was in use as early as the 13th century, but its use was suppressed during Soviet rule. The red colour is sometimes described as symbolising the readiness of the Latvians to give the blood from their hearts for freedom and their willingness to defend their liberty. An alternative interpretation, according to one legend, is that a Latvian leader was wounded in battle, and the edge of the white sheet in which he was wrapped was stained by his blood. The white stripe may stand for the sheet that wrapped him. This story is similar to the legend of the origins of the flag of Austria.
The red-white-red Latvian flag was first mentioned in the chapters of Ditleb von Alnpeke’s Rhymed Chronicle of Livonia (Livländische Reimchronik). This historical evidence places the Latvian flag among the oldest flags in the world. The chronicle tells about a battle that took place around 1280, in which ancient Latvian tribes from Cēsis, a city in the northern part of Latvia, went to war, bearing a red flag with a white stripe.
A legend refers to a mortally wounded chief of a Latvian tribe who was wrapped in a white sheet. The part of the sheet on which he was lying remained white, but the two edges were stained in his blood. During the next battle, the bloodstained sheet was used as a flag. According to the legend this time the Latvian warriors were successful and drove the enemy away. Ever since then Latvian tribes have used these colours.
Based on the aforementioned historical record, the present day flag design was adapted by artist Ansis Cirulis in May 1917. The Latvian national flag, together with the national coat of arms was affirmed in this format by a special parliamentary decree of the Republic of Latvia passed on 15 June 1921.