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Nations as People

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Clockwise from top left: Norway, Sweden and Denmark

"Occasionally I idle time away by wondering what cities would be like, were they people. Manhattan is, in my head, fast-talking, untrusting, well-dressed but unshaven. London is huge and confused. Paris is elegant and attractive, older than she looks. San Francisco is crazy, but harmless, and very friendly. It's a foolish game: cities aren't people."

This is a particular type of Anthropomorphic Personification that depicts a country (or some other sociopolitical or geographical unit) as one person, using that person's actions and foibles to make a comment on the country's politics and history. Sometimes this "person" is an animal or landmark (like the Statue of Liberty). This sort of metaphor can be very descriptive of the feelings a writer has about a place, be they great affection or sentimentality, or something else.

While it is Older Than Dirt with precedents going as far back as The Middle Ages if not Ancient Greece (the myth of Europa and Asia), this technique has been closely associated with newspaper political cartoons for the past few hundred years, and nowadays can be found in webcomics as well. As such, it may be considered a genre of comic, though it's been known to appear in other media (such as the anime of Hetalia: Axis Powers) once in a blue moon.

    Classic Characters of this Type 
  • Adelita - Mexico
  • Britannia - Britain
  • John Bull - Britain (or occasionally England, with his sister Lil or Peg representing Scotland and his brother or cousin Jonathan representing the USA)
  • Johnny Canuck - Canada
  • Rodina or Rodina Mat' or Mother Russia - Russia
  • Uncle Sam - USA (representing the American government), Columbia used to be one, but Lady Liberty seems to have overtaken her in popular consciousness.
  • Brother Jonathan, the earlier representation of the USA, until Uncle Sam replaced him. Sometimes considered to be an earlier version of Uncle Sam.
  • Columbia- USA (representing the American state and nation)
  • Marianne - France (Which eventually replaced the Gallic rooster as the symbolic embodiment of the country)
  • Michel - Germany (see German Peculiarities)
  • Germania - Germany (counterpart to Britannia, not seen a lot nowadays due to the taboo on nationalism since World War II)
    • There are also many female personifications of German states and cities, e. g. Bavaria, Berolina (Berlin), Borussia (Prussia), Hammonia (Hamburg), and Saxonia. The city-state of Bremen is traditionally represented by the Bremer Roland, a 15th century statue of one of Charlemagne's paladins.
  • Bharat Mata ("Mother India") - India (this one's politicized even within India, so handle with care)
  • Helvetia - Switzerland
  • Hunnia - Hungary
  • Cossack Mamay - Ukraine
  • Srulik - State of Israel
  • Mother Svea - Sweden
  • Holger Danske - Denmark (another paladin of Charlemagne)
  • Mermaid of Warsaw - Warsaw
  • Fjallkonan - Iceland

Works That Use This Trope:

    open/close all folders 

  • In order to advertise the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan's Olympic committee launched, which personified the participating nations as handsome young men with ornate, culture-inspired accessories, armor and weapons.

    Anime and Manga 

  • Hetalia: Axis Powers, as stated above, uses anthropomorphic personifications of various nations across the world as the main characters, using typical stereotypes to create the exaggerated personalities. It's considered by many to be the Trope Codifier.
    • And by extension, the fanworks the State-tan Project and I Am Matthewian, which expand on APH with personifications for the US states and Canadian provices, respectively.
    • The cat personifications of the countries in Hetalia Axis Powers are called Nekotalia.

  • The Statue of Liberty represents the democracy of America, which offers the torch of enlightenment to all the "poor and huddled masses" of the world. Meanwhile, Uncle Sam represents the US government (hence the trope of him wanting you to do something for him), and it used to be customary for the United State as a whole to be depicted as Columbia.
  • Marianne leads the French people on Eugène Delacroix' painting "Liberty Leading the People".
  • Germany and Italy nuzzle together in Friedrich Overbeck's "Italia and Germania".
  • An 18.5 metres tall bronze statue of Bavaria overlooks the Theresienwiese in Munich, where the Oktoberfest is held.
  • The Niederwalddenkmal near Rüdesheim was erected to commemorate the German unification of 1871. It is topped by a 10.5 metres tall bronze Germania.
  • Volgograd has The Motherland Calls atop Mamayev Kurgan. This personification of the nation is the world's tallest statue of a woman (91 metres without the pedestal).
  • Marie de' Medici Cycle: The womanly personification of France is more or less a supporting character; she approves of Henry's marriage to Marie and gives Marie the tools of government after Henry dies. A personification of Spain joins in in The Exchange of the Princesses at the Spanish Border, approving of the marriage of the French princess to the Spanish king.

    Comic Books 
  • Uncle Sam is an actual comic book superhero from the 40's (currently owned by DC Comics, and best known for being the leader of the Freedom Fighters superteam.) He is the literal embodiment of the Spirit of America, created by the Founding Fathers using a magical talisman. He originally took the form of a Minuteman, before becoming Brother Jonathan, then split into Billy Yank and Johnny Reb, before finally taking his current form (apart from a very brief Audience-Alienating Era where he became some kind of star-spangled spaceman called the Patriot).


    Films — Live-Action 
  • One of the scariest and most disturbing uses of this trope can be found in the 1991 Soviet\Russian film House Under The Starry Skies. Valentin Komposterov, the antagonist, is heavily implied to be the anthropomorphic representation of the accumulated 70 years of Soviet history and ideology. Unsurprisingly, he shrugs off rifle rounds and procures fantastic weaponry out of Hammerspace, all while alternating between gloating in front of his victims and spewing communist ideology.
  • The James Bond films have featured Britannia at least twice in Title Sequences — in On Her Majesty's Secret Service (one of the Sexy Silhouettes wears a helmet and wields a trident) and in No Time to Die (a statue, which then gets frozen and crumbles into the sand, accompanied by a shield with the Union Jack).

  • Monstrous Regiment has an in-universe political cartoon of Borogravia kicking Zlobenia in the crotch, while Morporkia (the personification of the city state Ankh-Morpork, who resembles Britannia) sarcastically looks on. This a nod to the Punch!.
  • Carl Sandburg's poem "Chicago" describes the city as a brawny workingman taking care of business for the nation:
    Hog Butcher for the World,
    Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
    Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
    Stormy, husky, brawling,
    City of the Big Shoulders
  • Rudyard Kipling's "Song of the Cities" personifies a variety of cities around the old British Empire, giving each a verse where they "speak" in the first person. Such as the verse for Bombay:
    Royal and Dower-royal, I the Queen
    Fronting thy richest sea with richer hands —
    A thousand mills roar through me where I glean
    All races from all lands.
  • Irish poetry has a genre known as aisling (Irish for "dream" or "vision") poetry, which features Ireland appearing before the poet in the form of a woman. She often laments the current state of the Irish people, but predicts that soon things will improve for them.
  • The album "C'était la guerre mondiale ("It was world war") by Emile Bravo. It metaphorically transpose World War II in the context of a school brawl. Local bully and Book Dumb Germain decides to take over adults, while his schoolmates take the decision to either support, or rebel against him. The kids wear clothes of colors reminding of the national flags. They also have meaningful names: François (France), Bertrand (Britain), Aymeric (America), Jason (Japan), Ursule (USSR), and so on.

    Live Action TV  

  • Spoofed in El Chapulín Colorado, whilst Chapulin seems to be the personification of Mexico (or sometimes Latin America as he's called the "hero of Latin America"), his bitter rival is Super Sam (mix of Uncle Sam and Superman) whose main weapon is a bag of money.


  • Punch!'s political cartoons helped popularise some of the classic personifications.

  • In Rammstein's music video for "Deutschland", Germania is presented as a black woman, played by German actress Ruby Commey.
  • The Doors' "L.A. Woman" actually describes Los Angeles as a woman:
    I see your hair is burning
    Hills are filled with fire
    If they say I never loved you
    You know they are a liar
    Driving down your freeway
    Midnight alleys roam
    Cops in cars, and topless bars
    Never saw a woman so alone
  • The Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Under the Bridge" also personifies Los Angeles, this time as a comforting friend in loneliness:
    Sometimes I feel that my only friend
    Is the city I live in, the City of Angels
    Lonely as I am, together we cry
  • “Homecoming” by Kanye West represents Chicago as a woman named Windy.
    And when I grew up she showed me how to go downtown
    In the nighttime her face lit up, so astounding
    I told her in my heart is where she'll always be
    She never messed with entertainers 'cause they always leave

    Mythology, National Legend 
  • The personification of Great Britain as Britannia, a stately robed woman in Greek helmet and carrying a trident, symbolic of Britain's association with the sea. She only recently ceased to appear on the currency, something that caused angst to nationalists. Britannia goes back over two thousand years; a kingdom of northern England was called Brigantia, and was corrupted to "Britannia" by the Romans. Its patron Goddess was conflated with Juna, in the way of Roman religion. And persisted.
  • Marianne, the national symbol of France, often depicted as a woman with disarrayed robes and Phrygian cap, storming the Bastille during the revolution. She used to appear on French currency in pre-Euro days but is still on the stamps. Every town hall has a bust of her, and periodically the image is refreshed by selecting an actress who is held to embody French beauty. Post-holders have included Brigitte Bardot and Catherine Deneuve.
  • Germany, especially in the Imperial German era, is often depicted as Germania, a young, winged angelic maiden holding a pike with an iron cross on it, and a winged helmet. Notable depictions include the Brandenburg Gate and the Victory Pillar in Berlin. Prior to the fall of Imperial Germany in 1918, she was also often depicted as a Lady of War carrying a shield and a sword with a defiant stare (aimed at France).
  • Mother Russia. Exemplified at Volgograd (formerly Stalingrad) with a huge statue of her raising her sword to lead her children to war. A few other cities of the Soviet Union / former Soviet Union have similar giant statues in various poses, such as Kyiv.
  • Scotia: wears green tartan, likes mountains and rain and horses and singing.
  • Bulgaria in its modern history is referred to as "Mother" or depicted as a young woman in a dress holding a sword in one hand and a banner in the other. After the initial project for its restoration was scrapped in 1878, Thrace and Macedonia, left out of its borders, were typically depicted as "sisters" of Bulgaria proper, weaponless and dejected. Notably, a painting commemorating the 1885 union of Bulgaria with Thrace as the two sisters standing side by side, with Bulgaria wrapping her cloak around Thrace's shoulders.

    Sketch Comedy 
  • Not quite nations, but in the Australian sketch comedy show News Free Zone, the "88 Australia Street" segment was about a share house occupied by anthropomorphic embodiments of the Australian states.
  • Studio C has two sketches featuring this, "International Relations" and "National Relations: Republicans vs. Democrats".

    Web Comics 

    Web Original 
  • SCP Foundation: SCP-1761 seems to be the personification of a country that doesn't exist. Or he may be a former human who somehow became a country. Or perhaps he is just a delusional Reality Warper who thinks he is a country.

    Web Video 
  • United Queendom represents the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum using the gay couple Scott (Scotland) and Adrian (England), and, in one episode, 'the Scandinavian Model' (Scandinavia).
  • CGP Grey videos depict countries (as well as other political entities like states or territories and NGOs like the International Olympic Committee) as female stick figures starting from "How Many Countries Are There?" Their skirts contain the patterns of their country's flags to identify them, and some countries get other features drawn on as well: the US carries a gun holster, monarchies like the UK wear crowns, Russia or the Soviet Union sometimes wears an ushanka, etc.
  • Alternate History Hub uses colored human figures with their flags on their stomach, with some other differences (USA is blue, has Sunglasses and the flag is in the shape of a star, the Soviet Union is red and wears a ushanka, etc.)
  • In this episode of Drawfee, the hosts personify their home states.
  • Welcome To The Table by comedian Ben Brainard depicts each US state as a personification based on its biggest stereotypes, particularly their response to the Coronavirus Pandemic. The bulk of the videos consist of arguments between the federal government as The Straight Man and Florida as, well, Florida.

  • This art book (link is NSFW due to advertisements and thumbnails in the sidebar) depicts 74 countries as teenage girls, including North Korea.


Video Example(s):


Studio C's World Market

Several personified nations bump into each while shopping.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (7 votes)

Example of:

Main / NationsAsPeople

Media sources: