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.