Polandball, also known as countryball, is a user-generated internet meme which originated on the /int/ board of German imageboard Krautchan.net in the latter half of 2009. The meme is manifested in a large number of online comics, where countries are presented as spherical personas that interact in often broken English, poking fun at national stereotypes and international relations.
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 Polish Internet, 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 Brit on /INT/, who in September 2009 created the meme using MS 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, which gained in popularity in the wake of the crash in Smolensk which killed Polish President Lech Kaczyński, is it represents Poland and its history, relations with other countries, and stereotypes, focussing on Polish megalomania and national complexes. 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. 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. In another Polandball comic which delves into historic-political satire, Poland is seen to be boring other countryballs, with its proclamation of "So when we crushed Russia and the turks [sic] were were the biggest country in the world... and..", leading other countryballs to laugh at it. Poland, by now irritated, utters kurwa, and holds up a sign saying "Internet serious business", which is an internet slogan used to deride others who treat subjects with disdain, and in Polandball convention, finishes by crying.
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 takes the form of a triangle and is called Tringapore; Israel takes the form of a hypercube (in reference to Jewish physics); Kazakhstan takes the form of a brick; and Britain is shown wearing a top hat and monocle.
The simplicity of Polandball, added with it's 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 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.
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 an example of par excellence on the internet, he further stated that comic plots can be "rude, impolite, racist, abusive, or just plain dumb", whilst also noting that the political 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 nations glorious history and dwelling on a deep rooted martyrdom is mostly true, whilst the stereotype that Poles hold many national complexes and blames external forces for their own failures is true, but somewhat justified.
Oleksiak further notes, from Polandball Poles can learn to have "a sense of humour about our long-time grudges".
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