FARAVID 33/2009


Kari Alenius, Under the spell of Lapland’s nature – and in the shadow of it. The image of Northern Finland conveyed by Finnish postage stamps

Postage stamps are official documents published by a state, and they basically have three purposes. The original primary purpose is to indicate that the fee for transporting a postal item has been paid. Their secondary purpose, although today at least as important as the former, is to function as instruments for building the publishing state’s identity and image. The third purpose is to function as selling lines. In sum, postage stamps are miniature works of art that are packed full of symbolic meanings. They are ”paper ambassadors” (Dennis Altman), and the publishing states usually take their creation very seriously.

In my article I discuss how state Northern Finland has been depicted on Finnish postage stamps from the 1940s to the present. The different manner of depicting Northern Finland can be crystallized in the following basic models: 1) the fascination for Lapland in general and at the expense of the other Northern regions; 2) presenting animals (above all, reindeer) and the Sámi people in a stereotypic way 3) emphasizing exotic and extraordinary natural conditions and landscapes. In addition, it can be seen that depiction of history on Finnish postage stamps has been quite a dominant viewpoint compared with topics that possibly present the current day.


Faravid 33/2009