Finnish Coats of Arms
This origin of this post comes via an old scan of a Finnish textbook I’d come across on ffffound.com (now defunct).
The scan features an intriguing selection of coats of arms representing various municipalities of Finland. These crests all share a powerful combination of both graphic and abstract elements, underpinned with a definite feel of modernism. Essentially then, far more punch than the boring traditional British heraldic crests I’m accustomed to.
Anyway, I decided It was high time to do the research so here’s selection of my favourites.
Pielisjärvi – Pielisjärvi is an area of North Karelia, situated on the Russian border. As with many Scandinavian Coats of Arms the endless boreal forests and creatures that inhabit them are a common theme.
The original design is credited to Tapio Vallioja (1920-2005) who designed numerous coats of arms for municipalities, communities and individuals. According to translated Finnish Wikipedia (quite well I might add) Vallioja was one of the 12 founding members of the Heraldic Society of Finland, the article describes his style as ‘clear and understated’.
Enontekiö – A community in Finland’s North West that lays above the Arctic Circle, part of the area that is considered Lapland. This design a Rock Ptarmigan on a bright blue shield, a pretty bird colloquially known in English as a ‘Snow Chicken’.
This crest was created by Olof Eriksson (1911-1987) another Finnish designer and Heraldic mastercraftsman. Eriksson enjoyed a prolific and wide-ranging career which included crafting many more ‘Vaakuna‘ (the Finnish word for Coat of Arms) including Finland’s current national emblem.
Savitaipale – Municipality in Southern Karelia, not far from Helsinki.
This Coat of Arms depicts the coniferous skyline that dominates the Finnish landscape and a stylised representation of a humpback plough, a type once popular in the region. The design dates from 1953 and was created by Viljo Savikurki (1905-1975) who was a popular Finnish sculptor.
Nuijamaa – another former municipality in Southern Karelia known for its proximity to the Russian border. It’s also the home Nuijama border station, a major crossing point between the two nations.
This striking crest portrays a black bears paw brandishing a bright red club – do Finnish Bears have opposable digits? Not sure they do, so I presume this is some macho creative license.
This Vaakuna was designed by Gustaf von Numers (1912 – 1978) and was approved in 1960. Numers, interestingly was a self-taught heraldic designer but never a full-time artist.
Kaarku – is an area in southwestern Finland famed for its many churches, clearly reflected in this super-bold design.
This vaakuna was created by Lauri Ahlgrén (born 1929) a Finnish artist and graphic designer renowned for his colourful abstract style.
Multia – A sparsely populated region in the centre of the country, heavily wooded and home to many lakes, though I guess that description fits much of rural Finland.
This coat of arms features a simple but powerful silhouette, designed by the aforementioned Ahti Hammar.
Koski Tl – An area in the southwestern tip of Finland close to Turku.
A striking almost fascist feel here? Though fear not, for the design is just an abstract representation of a water mill’s wheel. This vaakuna again from Gustaf von Numers, it was approved in 1966 and is still used today.
Korsnäs – A Swedish speaking coastal community on the Gulf of Bothnia, the northernmost arm of the Baltic Sea.
No prizes for guessing these crossed harpoons relate to the regions traditional maritime industry, in this case sealing. The golden cross is a reference to Swedish word for cross ‘Kors’ and thus where the name Kornäs is derived from. Design once more from Gustaf von Numers, commissioned in 1968.
Suomenniemi – Located at the western edge of South Karelia, this was Finlands least populated municipality until it was absorbed in 2013.
A golden cuckoo on in a blue flash upon a silver shield, this vaakuna is another from Ahti Hammar and despite the faux-emboss and shadowing I absolutely love it.
Laukaa – A muncipality in central Finland (not Super Marioworld).
Another gorgeous, minimal design by Olof Eriksson. From the heart sprouts a three-pronged ‘havunoksa’ (a fresh sprig or small branch of a coniferous tree). Crest commisioned way back in 1955.
Pudasjärvi – A town in the rural province of North Ostrobothnia approx 200 Km south of the Arctic Circle.
A furiously scrambling brown bear is framed within the negative space of more havunoksa sprigs, above lay the stars of the The Big Dipper (The Plough) part of the constellation that forms Ursa Major (the Great Bear).
Incidentally, It’s estimated that there only 1200-1500 bears still living wild in Finland, their main habitat, the eastern wilderness that runs along Finland’s Russian border.
This design from Gustaf von Numers dates from 1950.
Kemijärvi Maaseutu (Countryside) – a former muncipality in Lapland.
Sadly Google page-translate let me down on this one, the description reads more like a limerick, so I’ll be honest I’m slightly flummoxed as to what this actually represents, I presume something to do with forestry? Anyway, it looks fab.
Design by Olof Eriksson, 1952.
Ylämaa – A former municipality in the southern Karelia, again on the Finnish-Russian border.
Another clever design from Olof Eriksson this crest is the epitome of minimalistic graphics merging the familiar Finnish treeline with a silver-grey sky.
Eno – A former municipality in North Karelia. Apparently, Eno is the Karelian word for ‘middle of the river where the water flows most strongly’
We’ll finish up with probably the most ridiculous of the selection. Can anyone think of anything better on a crest than a giant anthropomorphised Beaver with an axe? I can’t…
Design by Ahti Hammar.
Firstly, the title image is the emblem of the Central Finland Province, not sure on Designer unfortunately they aren’t credited.
Secondly a big up to all the translation algorithms over at Google, couldn’t have put this together without you.
Thirdly if you’re interested in the more ‘Finnish Vaakuna’ then check out this link that lists all the municipalities of Finland, there are literally hundreds of designs past and present, highly recommended. In fact, if this article has floated your metaphorical boat and you’re intrigued with more smack-in-face-style Coats of Arms, I advise a Google Search for the other Baltic Nations: Sweden, Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia.
Finally below is the scan that inspired the post, this I believe is how the vaakuna were initially rendered, alas no idea of the original source I’m afraid.
Thanks for reading.
Next up, Sci-Fi-O-Rama is 10 years old on the 29th of March, so I’m going to try and squeeze in another special post this month to celebrate the milestone.