Maps, Caricatures and Cartoons
By Katariina Kosonen
Cartography is usually perceived as an objective and exact science. Maps are seen as actual presentations of the world or the area they depict. Another angle is also possible, however: maps are not always as neutral as they seem to be. They may also be interpreted as powerful tools, as social statements, which affect people's opinions and images.
A case in point is how maps were used in Finnish caricatures in the last decades of Russian rule in Finland in the early 1900s. With the emerging Finnish journalistic cartography, the use of maps was now possible in humorous papers, too. In many cases, the map was an essential part of the caricature, along with the text and other figures. But what kind of opinions were actually expressed and what role did maps play in those statements?
The lecture by Katariina Kosonen will aim to interpret maps as products of their own time, in their own social and historical context. Using both cartographic and iconological analysis, she has traced three lines of usage in newspaper cartography. First of all, caricatures were drawn to describe the difficult relationship between autonomous Finland and Czarist Russia. Furthermore, pictures clearly reflected disagreements between Finnish-speaking Finns and Swedish-speaking Finns in Finland, as well as between working-class and right-wing parties. Strong stereotypes and insults were the order of the day.
Caricature maps did not give any exact information concerning location. The use of cartographic icons was also limited. Instead, they connected different aspects and their geographical range, such as the social power of the working class or the cultural importance of the Swedish-speaking population.
But even though maps were used to hit the political opponents at home, their message was most intensively directed towards defending Finnish autonomy and protesting against acts of Russification that were perceived as illegal. Maps defined the land in which the acts of oppression took place. The geographical shape of the country was often used, either as the "Finnish maiden" or an object that the Russians loathed. Among the other national symbols, such as the flag, national anthem or coat of arms, the map of Finland was therefore a strong symbol of nationhood.
The Cartoon: "Silly Finns, they don't understand their own best but are convinced by their agitators that we want to harm them. (Novoje Wremja)
- Mapping The Visible Society: Geography and the power of maps by Jouni Häkli (Profiles of Finland Study Day, Saturday 11 October 1997)
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