Kyrgyzstan moves to rid national flag of likeness to ‘fickle’ sunflower

BISHKEK (Reuters) – Kyrgyzstan’s parliament voted on Wednesday to tweak the design of the national flag after critics, including President Sadyr Japarov, said its central element looked like a sunflower which in the local culture symbolises fickleness and servility.

The Central Asian nation’s flag, adopted in 1992 after it gained independence from the Soviet Union, depicts a yellow sun – which doubles as the pinnacle of a traditional Kyrgyz yurt tent – with 40 rays on a red background.

But the wavy rays caught the eye of some parliament deputies in September who pointed out that they look more like sunflower petals.

The sunflower has a peculiar meaning in the Kyrgyz culture equivalent to that of a weathercock in some European languages – it is used to describe a fickle and servile person willing to switch allegiance for personal benefit.

Such notions could be seen as particularly hurtful in the country whose relatively small economy is heavily dependent on its larger partners. More than a million Kyrgyz, out of the total population of less than seven million, work abroad.

“There has been a widespread opinion in our society that our flag looks like a sunflower, and that is one of the reasons why the country cannot get up off its knees,” President Japarov said last month, commenting on the initiative.

The law adopted by Kyrgyzstan’s parliament in the first reading on Wednesday changes the design to make the sun rays straight.

(Reporting by Olga Dzyubenko; Writing by Olzhas Auyezov; Editing by Sharon Singleton)