Polandball, also known as countryballs, refers to user-generated visual art, typically manifesting as online comics, where countries are personified as (typically) spherical personas decorated with their country's flag, interacting in often broken English named Engrish (with the exception of countryballs that speak English natively). The characters poke fun at national stereotypes and international relations, as well as historical conflicts. It is an Internet meme which originated on the /int/ board of German imageboard Krautchan.net in the latter half of 2009.
The comics style may be referred to both as Polandball (by convention, even in cases where there is no Poland among the cartoon characters) and countryball (or, collectively, countryballs).
Polandball has its roots in an August 2009 "cyberwar" between Polish Internet users and the rest of the world on drawball.com. The website, which offers a virtual canvas, allows Internet users to draw whatever they want, and to draw over others' drawings. On the Internet in Poland, an idea was raised to draw the Polish flag on the ball, and thousands of Poles together managed to take over the drawball with a painting of white on top of red, with the word "POLSKA" written in the middle. After co-ordination from 4chan, this was then covered over by a giant swastika.
Krautchan.net is a German-language imageboard whose /int/ board is frequented by English-speaking netizens. The beginning of the Polandball meme is credited to Falco, a British user on /int/, who created the meme in September 2009 using Microsoft Paint in an apolitical way to troll Wojak, a Pole on the same board who contributes in broken English, after which Polandball cartoons were enthusiastically drawn by Russians.
The premise of Polandball is that it represents Poland and its history, relations with other countries and stereotypes, focusing on Polish megalomania and national complexes. With the exception of English-speaking ones, interactions between countryballs tend to be written in broken English and Internet slang, reminiscent of the lolcat meme, and by the end of the cartoon Poland, which is purposely represented as red on top of white (the reverse of the Polish flag), is typically seen weeping.
Some Polandball comics arise from the premise that Russia can fly into space, whilst Poland can not. (Although in reality, a Polish astronaut, Mirosław Hermaszewski, did fly into space aboard the Soviet Soyuz 30 spacecraft in 1978.)
One of the most popular Polandball cartoons begins with the premise that Earth is going to be struck by a giant meteor, leading to all countries with space technology leaving Earth and going into orbit around the planet. At the end of the cartoon, Poland, still on earth, is crying, and in broken English pronounces the canonical Polandball catchphrase "Poland cannot into space". In this humorous way, Russians put a halt to all discussion with Poles on which country is superior.
Polandball can also include comics on other countries, but by convention these comics are usually still referred to as Polandball, although they can also be called countryballs. Countries are also represented as balls, although Singapore, Bermuda, the city of Malabon, and the Colombian department Nariño take the form of a triangle, in which Singapore is called Tringapore and Nepal (called Nepalrawr) is in the shape of its national flag (one triangle on top of another) and has teeth. There are a few other "rawrs" like Nepal, such as the city of Tampa, Florida and the state of Ohio; the German Empire of 1871–1918 (on Facebook and elsewhere) or the theoretical Fourth Reich (on Reddit) is a tall rectangle with small eyes and is known as Reichtangle; Israel takes the form of a hypercube called Israelcube (in reference to Jewish physics). Jewish Autonomous Oblast, a federal subject of Russia, as well as the state of Michigan and the Philippine municipality of Pateros, also take the form of a cube; and Kazakhstan takes the form of a brick called Kazakhbrick, due to Kazakhstan being the only country whose flag icon was inadvertently not changed to a ball on Krautchan.[better source needed] Omsk, a city in Russia, takes the form of a bird, and in the meme is known as "Omskbird"'; he has a rather malevolent appearance to represent the drug crisis and other issues in Omsk. In addition, the United States sports a pair of shades, the United Kingdom wears a monocle and a top hat (same with Hong Kong, since it was once a territory of the United Kingdom) and Canada is often seen wearing a coonskin cap. Indonesia is always drawn with either a songkok or Asian conical hat, and Monaco, like the USA, wears shades to differentiate itself from Malaysia, due to its resemblance with the flag of Malaysia, and Vatican City, who wears a mitre. Other noted countryballs include countries whose emblems are offset to the hoist of their flags (i.e Serbia and Slovakia) which are usually depicted as eyepatches and Mauritania, whose orientation of the star and crescent on its flag give it the appearance that the countryball is perpetually smiling. India is sometime shown wearing a turban with some Hindu and traditional markings on its forehead.
The simplicity of Polandball, added with its recognition of world history and a focus on current affairs, makes the meme suited to commenting on international events. Amongst events which have been covered by Polandball and have been noted in the media, are the Senkaku Islands dispute, the 2013 papal conclave which saw Jorge Mario Bergoglio being elected as the new Pope, the 2014 Ukrainian crisis, the 2014 Crimean crisis and issues relating to Filipino workers in Taiwan.
A report on the Russian radio station Vesti FM noted a post on Livejournal which asked readers to list five images that come to mind when thinking of Poland or Poles. The five pages of responses, illustrating the deep historical ties between Russia and Poland, recalled subjects including False Dmitriy I, Tomek in the Land of the Kangaroos by Polish author Alfred Szklarski, Czterej pancerni i pies ("Four tank-men and a dog"), Russophobia and Polandball.
Wojciech Oleksiak, writing on culture.pl, a project of the Polish government-funded Adam Mickiewicz Institute which has the aim of promoting Polish language and culture abroad, noted that due to anyone being able to create a Polandball comic, the existence of the meme has created new opportunities for people to express their personal views on race, religion and history. In describing Polandball as the Internet par excellence, he further stated that comic plots can be "rude, impolite, racist, abusive, or just plain dumb", whilst also noting that the politically incorrect nature of the comics add to the attractiveness of the meme.
At the same time, Oleksiak notes that Polandball comics often employ exaggerated Polish stereotypes, such as Poles not being as proficient in English as other nationalities, and Poland itself being a country full of dull-witted psycho-Catholics. On the other hand, some stereotypes employed in Polandball comics, such as Poles telling stories about the nation's glorious history and dwelling on a deep rooted martyrdom, are mostly true; whilst the stereotype that Poles hold many national complexes and blame external forces for their own failures, is true, but somewhat justified.
Oleksiak further notes that from Polandball, Poles can learn to have "a sense of humour about our long-time grudges".
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- "dzien dobry, friend".
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Why is Kazakhstan a brick? On Krautchan when the country flags were changed to balls, the Kazakhstan flag stayed a normal rectangle initially. Thus it became a brick.
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Media related to Polandball at Wikimedia Commons