Finland’s foreign policy includes adorable Arctic emojis

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Finland has produced Arctic emojis as the country assumes chairmanship of the Arctic Council from May 2017 to May 2019. (Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland)
FAIRBANKS — Searching for a cute, wry or funny way to text about the Arctic? The Finnish government is on it.

In perhaps its most adorable incarnation of soft power since a Finnish author and illustrator invented the hippo-like Moomins, the country that gave the world Angry Birds has released a set of Arctic-themed emojis to complement its pending chairmanship of the Arctic Council.

The council is the main forum for international cooperation among the eight Arctic nations and other stakeholders with interests in the region. The United States is set to pass the chairmanship to Finland on Thursday during a ministerial meeting in Fairbanks attended by top-ranking diplomats from the eight Arctic nations, including U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson.

Now back to those emojis.

Finland’s 16 Arctic emojis, made public in February, include widely recognized Arctic iconography like reindeer, Santa Claus and the aurora borealis, or northern lights.

“The Polar Bear That Never Existed”
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Finland has produced 16 Arctic emojis, including one of a polar bear that has “lost its way.” (Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland)

Polar bears are perhaps the most emblematic Arctic animal, but aren’t found anywhere in Finland. That didn’t deter the Ministry of Foreign Affairs from producing an emoji of a slightly befuddled-looking polar bear standing outside the Helsinki Cathedral, one of the nation’s most famous landmarks.

The emoji is called “The Polar Bear That Never Existed.” The press statement from the Foreign Ministry explains that the polar bear has “lost its way.”

Some of the emojis aren’t as widely recognizable, but represent aspects of the country the government wants to highlight to the rest of the world.

The Sami flag represents the indigenous people of Lapland in Finland’s northern region. The woman punching through rock illustrates the concept of “sisu” or perseverance.

“Arctic nature has given us guts — or ‘sisu’ as we call it,” the accompanying explanation says. “It’s about not giving in — even when it might be wiser to do so…”

Playful… but not innocent

Using emojis to help shape the nation’s image is a playful, but not frivolous approach to foreign policy. Finland is a highly educated country where tech is an important industry. The selection of emojis appears to be a way to highlight Finland’s values and Arctic presence, while also demonstrating its tech expertise.

Mikko Ollikainen, a Finn now living in Washington, D.C., wrote in an email that he found the “kaamos,” or polar night, emoji among the most useful of the bunch.

“It conveys in one word the whole concept of ‘don’t expect me to (be) my cheery and outgoing (self) now that it’s 20 hours dark and 4 hours dim every day, please just let me hibernate!’ “

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canadian NGO wins Google grant to build ‘Wikipedia of Inuit knowledge’, Radio Canada International

Denmark/Greenland: Ice melt to motivate whizzkids?, blog by Irene Quaile, Deutsche Welle

Finland: Arctic Council ministerial – View from Finland, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Iceland’s Pirate Party leads polls few days before elections, The Independent Barents Observer

Norway: Norwegian «slow TV» follows reindeer herd to the coast of the Barents Sea, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Northern Sweden cities on shortlist for battery gigafactory, Radio Sweden

Russia: Novatek to artists: Can you beautify our gas plant?, The Independent Barents Observer

United States: ‘I Am Inuit’ goes from Instagram to museum in Anchorage, Alaska, Alaska Public Media


The Arctic Council chairmanship moves from the United States to Finland on May 11, 2017 in Fairbanks, Alaska. Eye on the Arctic’s Eilís Quinn along with EOTA media partners and contributors will be bringing you stories, interviews and analysis leading up to the handover.
Read our full coverage here!

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