Visual Stereotypes of Tatars in the Finnish Press from the 1880s to the 1910s
Visual stereotypes constitute a set of tropes through which the Other is described and depicted to an
audience, who perhaps never will encounter the individuals that those tropes purport to represent.
Upon the arrival of Muslim Tatar traders in Finland in the late nineteenth century, newspapers and
satirical journals utilized visual stereotypes to identify the new arrivals and draw demarcation lines
between them and what was considered “Finnish”. The Tatars arrived during a time of tension in
the relationship between the autonomous Grand Duchy of Finland and the Russian Empire, with
the Finnish intelligentsia divided along political and language lines. Stereotypical images of Tatar
pedlars were used as insults against political opponents within Finland and as covert criticism of
the policies of the Russian Empire. Stereotypes about ethnic and religious minorities like the Tatars
fulfilled a political need for substitute enemy images; after Finland became independent in 1917,
these visual stereotypes almost disappeared.