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A Short History of Finland National identity, political history and socio-economic development from 1809 to our days

Modestino Carbone

To: Medea, Maia and Nora


Edited and published by

London 2017

Cover design: Essi Viitanen

Table of Contents Foreword


1. Finland and its National Identity: National identity and


economic development of Finland in the nineteenth century 2. The period of Oppression and the Formation of Political


Parties in Finland 3. Finland’s independence between social crisis and political


instability 4. Finland between the two World Wars: From the Civil War


(1918) to the Winter War (1939) 5. Finland in danger


Finland's quest for security and the Winter War


(1939–1940) The Continuation War and the breakthrough in


Finnish-Soviet relations 6. Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim and Finland


7. The New Finland: From World War II to our days


Selected bibliography


Appendix: Letter from a reader


About the author Modestino Carbone is an Italian academic, who is fascinated by European languages and cultures. He is interested especially in the history of Finland and Estonia, and is a long-term member of Finn-Guild.


Foreword This collection of articles on Finland's history, originally published in Finn-Guild’s

Horisontti and Links magazines, represents a Finn-Guild contribution to the celebrations for the centenary of Finland. The author is particularly grateful to Anja Eskelinen, Links’ editor and managing director of Finn-Guild, who has endeavoured to realize this project of historical divulgation. The historical journey of this Short History of Finland spans from the annexation of Finland to the Russian Empire (1809) to our days. In these two hundred years of history, the crucial stages of the formation of the country's cultural identity are highlighted. Finland's political, economic and social development stands out against the backdrop of European and international history. The achievement of independence, the dramatic events of the Civil War, Finland’s involvement in World War II are subjected to a particularly detailed analysis. A special place is dedicated to the controversial figure of Mannerheim, who dominates the political-military scene during and after the Civil War and throughout World War II. The author then focuses on the years of the Cold War when Finland plays a unique role between East and West. The country maintains very peculiar relations with its powerful eastern neighbour, builds close ties with the Scandinavian countries, and gets involved in the process of integration in Western Europe. Finland’s membership of European Union, the rise and fall of Nokia, and a synthesis of the current state of affairs conclude the overview. Finally, this Short History of Finland offers the reader the opportunity to follow in a quick and systematic way the process that has transformed Finland from a poor, subjugated and isolated country into an affluent one well-integrated in the European and international arena.

Modestino Carbone


1. Finland and its National Identity National identity and economic development of Finland in the nineteenth century


he starting point in the formation of an autonomous Finnish state dates back to 1809. After almost 700 years of Swedish rule, Finland became an autonomous Grand Duchy in the Russian Empire. The tsar retained

Finland’s constitution, the Lutheran religion and the use of the Swedish language as administrative language. At that time, Swedish was the language of the elite, while Finnish was the language of the peasants. The Grand Duchy had its own governing body, the Senate, directed by a governor-general. In 1812 the capital was moved from Turku to Helsinki. In 1828 the university was relocated to the new capital. Under the impetus of the Romantic Movement, Elias Lönrot (1802–1884) published in 1835 a compilation of folk poems, the Kalevala, which became the national epic poem. Finnish nationalism found an advocate in the philosopher Johan Vilhelm Snellman (1806–1881). He argued that language was the basis of national identity and that the Swedish-speaking population had to adopt the Finnish language. Many Swedish men of culture chose a Finnish surname. For instance, the writer Aleksis Stenvall (1834–1872), changed his surname in Kivi. His novel, The Seven Brothers (1870) is recognized as the first literary work in Finnish. The seven brothers have to struggle against adverse climatic conditions, the harshness of the soil and the arcane forces of the forest to create a model farm in the wilderness. They, like the peasant Paavo of Saarijärvi – a poetic creation of the Swedish-speaking poet

Aleksis Kivi drawn by A. Edelfelt in 1873.


Johan Ludvig Runeberg (1804–1877) – stand out for their unflinching determination. This quality (sisu in Finnish) depicts the national character with which the Finns identify themselves. One of the most important concessions that Alexander I made to Finland was undoubtedly the retention of the Estates-General, the legislative body made up of representatives of clergy, nobility, bourgeoisie and peasants. Yet, after the convocation in March 1809, the Estates were not convened until 1863. Subsequently, they were summoned every five years. In 1860 the Grand Duchy had its own currency, the Finnish mark. In 1878 Alexander II instituted the Finnish army. There was also a customs border between Finland and Russia and the Finns had their own passport, on which their nationality was certified. From the economic point of view, at the time







was a poor and backward country. Agriculture provided mainly cereals, the production of which – due to the nature of the soil, adverse weather conditions and primitive methods of cultivation – was still insufficient. Famines were frequent. In the poorest areas flour made from pine bark was often added to cereal flour to make bread. At the beginning of the century forests provided especially firewood, wood for construction and, Farming based on cutting and burning the forest was still being practised in Eastern Finland at the end of the nineteenth century. This photograph by I. K. Inha was taken in Eno in 1893.

in some areas, the raw material for the manufacture of tar, widely exported. The impact of liberalism and political changes triggered economic development in the second

half of the nineteenth century. In the 1860s restrictions on logging were abolished and, within a few years, Finland became a major exporter of wood and then also of paper. The beneficiaries of this new wealth were mainly the peasants who owned most of the forest.


The improvement of communication routes contributed to industrialization. In 1862 the first railway line was built, linking Helsinki to the hinterland. In the following years Helsinki was connected to St Petersburg. Some waterways were connected to the sea. The new capitals led to an improvement in living conditions and were used to modernize and diversify agricultural production. The cereal crisis of the 1870s and 1880s impelled farmers to develop animal husbandry and Finnish butter became known worldwide. This economic development caused social tensions, especially among rural communities. These tensions, changes in the tsarist policy towards Finland and the intensification of the struggles in the labour movement in Europe, had dramatic consequences on the fate of Finland.

Russian map of the Grand Duchy of Finland from the Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary (1890–1907)


2. The period of Oppression and the Formation of Political Parties in Finland







towards the Grand Duchy of Finland in the nineteenth century

allowed the Finns to create their own national identity and start the modernisation of the country. At the end of the century, however, the imperial policy towards Finland took a dramatic turn. This change was due to three different yet interwoven factors: the threat to Russian hegemony in the Baltic Sea from the emerging German Empire; the desire to unify the institutions of the Russian Empire; and the pressure on the

The Attack by Edvard Isto 1899. Edvard Isto's painting ‘The attack’ (1899) (1899). The double-headed eagle of The double-headed eagle of Russia Russia is tearing away the book of is tearing away the book of laws laws from the Maiden of Finland. from the Maiden of Finland.

tsar from the Russian nationalists. As a consequence, in 1890 Tsar Alexander III put the Finnish postal service under the

control of the Russian government, and in 1899 Tsar Nicholas II, with the February Manifesto, placed all Finnish laws, except the local ones, under the control of the imperial legislation. The attack on Finnish institutions, which initiated the so-called period of oppression, provoked a nationwide reaction. Already in March 1899, a petition in defence of constitutional rights with more than 500,000 signatures was presented to the tsar. However, he ignored it and continued pursuing his subjugating policy. As part of these plans in 1900 he enacted the Language Manifesto, aimed to replace Swedish in favour of Russian as administrative language. In 1901, the Finnish army was placed under Russian command and the recruits could be called to serve anywhere in the empire. The young conscripts responded with mass desertion. The tsar in turn disbanded the Finnish army. This measure had long-lasting consequences as it brought about – when


independence was declared in 1917 – the birth of a weak Finnish state, lacking the power to impose its authority. Finnish political parties were divided over the tsarist policy. The Finnish Party (the Old Finns), made up of Finnish nationalists, favoured a policy of compromise with the tsar and they were thus called ‘compliants’. By contrast, according to the ‘constitutionalists’ the legal rights of Finland had to be defended without compromise. They invited civil disobedience and in protest abandoned the Senate i.e. the government. The Young Finnish Party, the Swedish Party, and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) adhered to the constitutionalist movement. The first split from the Old Finns in 1894 due to divergent views on social and economic policy. The second consisted of Swedish nationalists. Finally, the SDP, founded in 1899 as the Finnish Labour Party, adopted a socialist programme and therefore changed its name in 1903. On 16 June 1904, a young ‘activist’ assassinated the governor-general Nikolai Bobrikov, who had been exercising his power dictatorially since 1898. This event, but especially the revolutionary ferment in Russia and a strike in Finland – following the Russian defeat against Japan in 1905 – contributed to soften the tsar‘s position. In his November Manifesto, he partially annulled the Manifesto of 1899 and promised the abolition of the EstatesGeneral, an antiquated legislative body. The reform, drafted by the Senate in 1906 under the leadership of the liberal reformer Leo Mechelin, gave the country a unicameral parliament of 200 members elected by universal suffrage with equal rights for men and women. Finland obtained thus a modern and efficient legislative system still valid give voting rights to women. However the tsar continued to have the power to dissolve parliament and repeal laws.

Leo Mechelin (1839–1914). Finnish statesman and reformer. Co-founder of Nokia in 1871. Photograph by unknown author. Leo Mechelin.

today, and became the first country in Europe to

In the elections of 1907 held under the new system, the SDP obtained 80 seats out of 200, becoming the first party. Social problems thus assumed an important


role in the democratic process in Finland.




proletariat – still small at that time – voters for the SDP included the poorest peasants, farmhands and tenants. The latter were hit by a serious systemic crisis right at the beginning of the century. The Agrarian League – democratic, The first session of the new Finnish Parliament in 1907. Picture by Signe Brander.

nationalist and constitutionalist – won only 9 seats, but it became

important after the country’s independence. This party, founded in 1906, was initially rooted only in Ostrobothnia and Eastern Finland, where the predominant small and medium-sized farms corresponded precisely to the kind of family farm favoured by the agrarian ideology. After two years of enthusiasm and changes during which Finland had shown great vitality and political maturity, the tsarist oppression became fierce again. The laws of the Finnish parliament were constantly repealed and the parliament was dissolved several times. In 1912, the so-called Equality Law allowed all Russians living in Finland to obtain the same rights as Finnish citizens. The Finnish institutions fell more and more into Russian hands and many Russian officers entered the Senate. The state of subjection in Finland ended with the First World War, when European empires collapsed and nationalities triumphed.


3. Finland’s independence between social crisis and political instability


fter the great famine of the 1860s, Finland's economy showed signs of a strong

recovery. The leading sector that gave the start to the industrialisation of the country was the forest industry. Finnish wood was widely exported to the industrialised countries of Western Europe and constituted the raw material for the nascent pulp and paper

Floating timber in Ämmäkoski rapids, Kajaani. Picture by Alexander Thiodolf Federley 1908.

industry. The largest landowners (not many in Finland) and the owners of medium and large farms (about 35% of the total) benefited most from the thriving forest industry. The increase in timber prices contributed to the rise of land value. The boom of the forest industry also produced an improvement in the living condition of leaseholders (about 20% of the rural population) and farmhands (over 40%). Felling trees in winter and floating logs to sawmills in spring brought additional income for both tenant farmers and farm labourers. As in all other Eastern European countries, also in Finland the number of farmhands was exceedingly high compared to the needs of agriculture. This category of labourers concealed most of the demographic surplus that neither emigration nor the country’s weak industrialisation could absorb. This surplus together with the problem of tenant farmers constituted the core of the Finnish agrarian question.


Patalankoski papermill and mechanical pulp mill in Jämsänkoski in early 20th century. Photograph by unknown author.

Tenant farms were plots of various sizes whose rent was paid mostly as working days on the landowner's farm. This kind of exchange was particularly important for both larger estates and medium-sized farms. However, the economic expansion fuelled by the wood industry destabilised this farming system. The increase in land value drove the landlords to stop the creation of new tenant farms. Meanwhile, at a time of major structural changes in agriculture, the existing tenants were required additional working days for their rent. The landlords also tried to limit the tenants' rights to use the forest for grazing and gathering wood. As lease agreements were mostly oral, tenants were forced to accept new charges to avoid eviction. The laws enacted since 1892 to strengthen their legal position were ineffective. In 1909 it was necessary to enact a special law that prohibited evictions for seven years. The tenancy issue was endorsed by the Social Democratic Party and became highly politicised. It created a deep rift in the country and caused growing social unrest. During World War I, Finland was not directly involved in the hostilities. However, the closure of western markets had a heavy impact on the timber industry. In the meantime, Russia continued to absorb much of the pulp and paper industry as


well as metallurgical, chemical, textile and husbandry products. Finland, in its turn, depended heavily on Russia for cereal supply. In 1916, the construction of Russian fortifications along the Finnish coast gave work to thousands of unemployed and this helped to relieve social tensions. After March 1917, when a liberal Provisional Government took power in Russia, the economic situation in Finland became dramatic. Exports and imports with Russia ceased and the country remained suspended on the brink of unemployment and hunger. During the war, there were no major political initiatives in Finland. In the elections of July 1916, however, the SDP won 103 seats out of 200, thus becoming the first social democratic party to have ever achieved an absolute majority. When in March 1917 the Provisional Government convened the Finnish Parliament (Eduskunta), this majority appointed a coalition government of six socialists and six non-socialists led by the socialist Oskari Tokoi. On 18 July, with an "Enabling Act" the Eduskunta assumed unilaterally all powers, excluding defence and foreign affairs. The Provisional Government then dissolved the Eduskunta. In the elections of early October the SDP remained the largest party with 92 seats, but lost the absolute majority. The defeat strengthened the radical wing of the party that advocated violent revolution to achieve a political and social breakthrough. The seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in Russia on 7 November 1917 triggered an escalation of political events in Finland. The non-socialist parties wanted to break relations with revolutionary Russia as soon as possible, while the SDP supported negotiations for the country's independence. A Revolutionary Council, made up of representatives of the SDP and the Trade Union Federation, proclaimed a general strike on 14 November. During the strike, the Red Guards, the workers’ militia, clashed, in some places, with the White Guards, the right-wing paramilitary organisation. The strike was called off on 20 November after legislative reforms of local government and the introduction of an 8-hour working day. However, the tension in the country remained very high. In late November, the Eduskunta voted confidence in a government led by the conservative Pehr Evind Svinhufvud and, on 6 December, passed a declaration


of independence made by the government on 4 December. The Russian Bolshevist government recognised Finland’s independence on 31 December.

Suomen Kansalle (To the people of Finland): text of Finland’s declaration of independence (6 December 1917).


4. Finland between the two World Wars From the Civil War (1918) to the Winter War (1939)


ndependence did not bring peace in Finland. Two opposing sides were fighting for power. On the one hand, the Whites – the landowners and the bourgeois Government – wanted to consolidate their power. On the other

hand, the Reds – the landless and the urban proletariat – believed that the election of October 1917, in which the Socialist Democratic Party had lost the absolute majority, had been a move by the Russian Provisional Government to strip them of their power. The Reds were also encouraged to fight by the revolutionary developments in Russia. In January 1918 the Red Guards intensified the collection of weapons from Russian arsenals. The Government for its part appointed General Carl Gustav Emil Mannerheim, a former general of Imperial Russia, commander of the White Guards and renamed them Finnish White Army. The Civil War began on 27 January with the seizure of power in Helsinki by the Red Guards and the simultaneous start of the disarmament of the Russian Army by the White Army in Vaasa. Finland was divided in two: the Reds controlled the south, the Whites the north and the centre. On each side the forces amounted to approximately 80,000 men. However the Reds did not have an efficient military leadership. They received ammunitions but little aid in military operations from the Russian Army (still present in Finland with about 40,000 men). On the contrary, the Whites could rely on the skilled strategist Mannerheim, some

Map of the Civil War at the beginning of February 1918. The Whites controlled the blue area, the Reds the red one. Author: Ville Virrankoski (2007).


tsarist-trained Finnish officers and a body of about 2,000 officers, trained in Germany and therefore called Jägers (light infantrymen). The decisive victory of the Whites in the battle of Tampere was followed by the defeat of the Reds in Helsinki by a German expeditionary force of about 14,000 men, negotiated with Germany by the Finnish Government reconstituted in Vaasa. The war, which ended on 15 May, was extremely bloody. Out of a population of about 3 million inhabitants more than 30,000 people died during the Red and White Terror, on the battlefield and, after the war, in prison camps from malnutrition and disease. The Civil War deepened the division in Finnish society and caused a split in the labour movement. The radical socialist leaders fled to Russia, where they founded the Finnish Communist Party, banned in Finland. The moderate wing renounced communism and continued to operate in the ranks of the Socialist Democratic Party. After a failed attempt to establish a monarchy in Finland, the Republican Constitution was enacted on 17 July 1919. It granted extensive powers to the President, who could, inter alia, determine foreign policy and exercise the legislative power jointly with the Parliament. Finnish Parliament House in Helsinki (March 1931). Architect: Johan Sigfred Sirén (1889– 1961). Picture by Alvesgaspar (2013).

The Treaty of Tartu of 14 October 1920 confirmed the eastern borders

of Finland along the dividing line between the Grand Duchy of Finland and Imperial Russia. Finland also received an outlet on the Arctic Ocean through the corridor of Petsamo. In 1921, the ÅIand Islands, disputed by Sweden, were attributed to Finland by the League of Nations, on condition of their broad autonomy and demilitarisation. After the war, to eliminate a major source of social conflict, the Finnish Government launched a drastic land reform. In 1918, according to the Crofters' Law the tenants could redeem their farms on favourable terms. In 1922, the so-


called Lex Kallio (named after its promoter) allowed the landless to buy small holdings with the Government support. Between the World Wars the Finnish economy grew at a rate among the highest in Europe. The main export goods towards the Western industrialised countries were still wood, paper and cellulose. The export of these products helped the Finnish economy to recover faster than other countries from the Great Depression of the early '30s. The improved economic conditions allowed the Government to launch a vast programme of social reforms in the education and labour legislation. In 1937, a pension system was introduced. The maternity package, set up in 1938, is still today a unique feature of the Finnish identity. The social safety net and the general improvement in living standards helped to mitigate the climate of mistrust generated by the Civil War. Even on the issue of language, Finnish society gradually accepted the principle of ‘one nation, two languages’. Up to World War II, Finnish culture was granted Frans Eemil Sillanpää (1888–1964), winner of the Nobel Prize in 1939. Picture: Finland’s National Board of Antiquities

important international recognitions.

In addition to

those to music (Jean Sibelius, 1865–1957), art (Akseli Gallen-Kallela, 1865–1931), architecture (Alvar Aalto, 1898–1976), sport (Paavo Nurmi, 1897–1973), the one to literature stands out. In 1939, Frans Eemil Sillanpää

(1888–1964) was awarded the Nobel Prize for the mastery and reality with which he had portrayed his country’s peasantry. After the ban of the so-called Lapua Movement in 1932, a far-right movement with fascist connotations, Finland could be considered a mature democracy. In 1937 the centre-left coalition between the Agrarian League and the SDP, with its two-thirds majority in Parliament, strengthened political stability and unity in society. Of this unity the country was in extreme need at a time when Finland became a pawn in the ruthless power politics of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union and the Finnish diplomacy had failed to find a satisfactory system of security in Europe.


5. Finland in danger

Finland's quest for security and the Winter War (1939–1940)


he Peace Treaty of Tartu in 1920 did not mark the start of good

neighbour relations between the new Republic of Finland and the Soviet Union. The Finns still strongly remembered the period of








interwar period White Finland remained prepared to face the

Reindeer Patrol in Jäniskoski in the Winter War. Author: SA-Kuva (1940).

Bolshevik danger. Finnish activists, moreover, dreamed of the so-called Greater Finland, extended to Eastern Karelia and the Kola peninsula, in order to unify all the Finno-Ugric people of this vast area. This ambition was fuelled by the nationalist right and kept alive among young people by the Academic Karelia Society, founded in 1922. The neutralisation of the danger from the East dominated the security policy of Finland between the two World Wars. After a brief period of pro-German and subsequently pro-Western orientation, Finland sought an agreement with the other countries of the Baltic area that had gained independence from Russia after World War I. As this attempt failed too, Finland relied on the collective security promised by the League of Nations. The rearmament of Germany and the growing tensions in Europe pushed the country to seek closer cooperation with the neutral Scandinavian block. This cooperation was frustrated by the inability to find a common plan in the event of crisis. Not even the 1932 non-aggression pact between Finland and the Soviet Union managed to create a relationship of trust between the two states. In April 1938 the Soviet Union began secret negotiations with Finland for territorial concessions to ensure the security of Leningrad. Finland held firm in defence of its territorial integrity.


The non-aggression pact between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany on 23 August 1939 marked a dramatic turning point for the fate of Finland. According to a secret protocol, Germany obtained a free hand to the invasion of western Poland, while the eastern part of Poland, Finland and the Baltic countries were assigned to the Soviet sphere of influence. In autumn 1939 – when Germany had already attacked Poland – the Soviets, having obtained military bases in the Baltic States with no resistance, asked Finland to grant them the installation of military bases on the Hanko Peninsula. Finland did not yield and the Soviet Union, staging a border incident, started the so-called Winter War on 30 November. While the first air raid on Helsinki caused 65 casualties, the Red Army crossed the Finnish border on the Karelian Isthmus and in other northernmost points. Subsequently the Soviet Government announced that armed intervention in Finland had been urged by the Terijoki Government, a puppet government headed by Otto Ville Kuusinen, a Red Finland leader, who had escaped to Russia after the Civil War. The Soviet Government acknowledged the Terijoki Government as the sole representative of all Finnish affairs. The beginning of the war ended the Finnish government coalition between the Social Democrats and the Agrarian League. A broad coalition government was appointed under the leadership of Risto Ryti, former director of the Bank of Finland. The supreme military responsibility fell on C.G.E. Mannerheim, who – already in charge of Finland's Defence Council from 1931 – was appointed, after the Soviet attack, Commander-in-Chief of the Finnish armed forces. During the first month of fighting, despite the huge disparity of resources in terms of both men and equipment, Finland managed to contain and repel the Marshal Mannerheim in 1940. Author: WSOY/Vesteri (1943).







superiority, the soldiers' self-sacrifice in the desperate defence of their homeland and the unity of the whole nation, which swept away decades of linguistic and


social divisions, awoke the admiration of the whole world and made the Winter War a myth of the Finnish national identity. One of the most memorable episodes of the Winter War was the Battle of Suomussalmi: two Soviet divisions were divided, encircled and destroyed by two Finnish brigades equipped with skis and white camouflage. With this victory, the Finns foiled the Soviet attempt to break Finland in two and cut off communications with Sweden. In early February 1940, after a period of military reorganisation, the Soviets launched a powerful offensive on the Karelian Isthmus. The so-called Mannerheim defence line was broken in several places and when the Red Army reached the outskirts of Viipuri – without the prospect of immediate reinforcements from abroad – Finland was forced to accept the Moscow’s peace terms. The Soviet Union had in fact abandoned the historical fiction of the Terijoki Government and engaged in negotiations with the legitimate government of Finland through the Soviet ambassador to Stockholm. With the Peace of Moscow, signed on 13 March 1940, Finland ceded to the Soviet Union almost all the Finnish Karelia, some islands in the Gulf of Finland, a part of the Salla region and the Finnish part of Rybachy Peninsula on the Arctic. On the Hanko Peninsula, leased for 30 years, a Soviet naval base was to be established. Finland lost about a tenth of its territory and about 12% of its production capacity. Approximately 420,000 inhabitants abandoned the ceded areas and had to be relocated within the new border.

Map of Finland’s areas ceded to the Soviet Union after the Winter War (1940). Author: Jniemenmaa (2005).


During the Winter War some 25,000 Finnish soldiers died and about 45,000 were injured. Finland however remained free and Finnish society had found a new unity. The Soviet Union had lost about 150,000 men, and because of the attack on Finland was expelled from the League of Nations.

The Continuation War and the breakthrough in Finnish-Soviet relations


fter the Peace of Moscow, the Finns ardently aspired to regain their lost territories. The country was more isolated than ever, in a time when the Baltic area had become one of the major centres of tension in

World War II. Soon, however, Finland had the opportunity to come out of isolation. In his project for supremacy in Europe, in the summer of 1940 Hitler designed the so-called Operation Barbarossa. This plan aimed at the total annihilation of the Soviet Union. It included the destruction of Leningrad and assigned to Finland the coverage of the northern flank. German overtures for a trade agreement were immediately welcomed by the Finns. A controversial transit agreement of German troops through Finland to northern Norway followed in September 1940. In fact, the presence of German military forces in northern Finland soon became uncontrollable. When the Finnish military involvement in the war became certain, Finland received an increasing amount of military supplies from Germany. On 22 June 1941 the Germans attacked the Soviet Union in Lapland. Soviet air raids on Finnish positions followed on June 25, and on this very day Finland declared war on the Soviet Union. This war was called the Continuation War to emphasize the continuity with the Winter War. Officially, the Finnish Government claimed that this new war was also defensive and that the country was not allied with Germany but only a co-belligerent. The Finns fought south of the River Oulu, the Germans north of it. In 1941, Finland boasted an army of 475,000 men and, thanks to German aid, was much better equipped with arms and ammunition compared to 1939.


The Finns quickly regained the territories lost after the Winter War, and in September advanced into Eastern Karelia, conquering it in large part by the end of the year. For the next three years the Finns kept the positions won in 1941 but refused to intervene in the siege of Leningrad and to cut off the Murmansk railway line. The occupation of Eastern Karelia aroused negative reactions in the western countries. They objected that the thesis of defensive war was no longer tenable and on December 6, 1941, Britain declared war on Finland.

Administrative divisions of Finland in 1942–1944 (including East Karelia). Date: 19 February 2015. Author: Andrein.

After the German defeat at Stalingrad and the breaking of the siege of Leningrad, in June 1944 the Red Army forced the Finns to retreat both on the Karelian Isthmus and in Eastern Karelia. The Finns tried to open negotiations with the Soviets, and in retaliation Hitler cut off supplies of food and weapons. To avoid the collapse of the country, Risto Ryti, President of the Republic, pledged in a written statement not to sign a separate peace with the Soviet Union during his presidency. The new German aid allowed the Finns to stop the Soviet


offensive on the Karelian Isthmus. On August 4, Ryti resigned and Mannerheim, who succeeded him, called off Ryti’s commitment with Germany. The new government immediately entered into peace negotiations with Moscow. The terms of the armistice, reached on September 9, were later confirmed at the Paris Peace Treaty of 1947. Finland returned to the borders of the Peace of Moscow and in addition lost the Petsamo region in the Arctic. In exchange for Hanko the Soviets opted for a naval base in Porkkala, leased for 50 years. Finland also undertook to pay war reparations to the Soviet Union of $300 million over six years, to reduce the army to a maximum of 37,000 men, to legalize the Communist Party, to dissolve all far-right organizations, to prosecute all war criminals and finally to expel all German troops (about 200,000 men) from Lapland. An Allied Control Commission, based in Helsinki, was Finnish areas ceded to Soviet Union in 1944. Date: 10 September 2005. Author: Jniemenmaa.

to check the implementation of the armistice.

The retreat of the Germans to Norway, initially well-ordered, turned into the Lapland War with fierce battles between German and Finnish troops between September 1944 and April 1945. In this war and in the Continuation War Finland lost more than 60,000 men. The future of Finland seemed difficult again. The country, however, had retained its independence and its democratic institutions. Juho Kusti Paasikivi, who succeeded Mannerheim as President of the Republic in 1946, offered a new perspective on the country's fate. Negotiator with the Soviet Union in the most critical moments, Paasikivi claimed the need to establish peaceful relations with the powerful neighbour. He tried to convince the Soviets that Finland was no longer a threat to the security of the Soviet Union.


At the same time Paasikivi did not accept compromise on the independence of Finland. The so-called Paasikivi line attained considerable success and was the foundation of Finnish foreign policy for many years. In the Cold War scenario in Europe, it constituted a unique model of political experimentation.

Juho Kusti Paasikivi (1870– 1956). President of Finland 1946–1956. Library of Congress Country Studies (2012). Author: Unknown


6. Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim and Finland


fter 30 years of service in the Imperial Russian Army, LieutenantGeneral Baron C. G. E. Mannerheim returned to Finland in December 1917. At this time, he was still unknown to the Finnish public. Born on

4 June 1867 in a noble Swedish-speaking family in the southwest of Finland, in 1887 the ambitious young Mannerheim left his country to enlist at the Nicholas Cavalry School in St Petersburg. Suited to military life, energetic and determined, Mannerheim became the most successful of the many young Finnish aristocrats who sought a military career in the Russian Empire. In 1891, he was assigned to the prestigious regiment of the Chevalier Guards in St Petersburg and in 1896 took part as a guard of honour at the coronation of Tsar Nicholas II. Promoted to colonel for his courage in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904–1905, Mannerheim took part in 1906–1908 in an expedition of military intelligence in Central Asia, on which he related directly to the Emperor. Mannerheim was promoted to lieutenant-general in 1917 while in command of the Sixth Cavalry Corps in Transylvania. The revolution in Russia and the disintegration of the imperial army were a blow to Mannerheim, who felt a deep sense of loyalty and gratitude to the imperial government. Back in Finland, he immediately made contact with the Military Committee, engaged in the creation of a Finnish army with the help of Germany. Commissioned by the government to organize the army, on 18 January 1918 Mannerheim went to Vaasa, where he established his headquarters.




formed the nucleus of the new army and





Mannerheim on horseback, 1944. Source: A. Voipio, Suomen Marsalkka 1943 (Marshal of Finland 1943)


The spectacular parade in Helsinki on 16 May 1918 marked both the victory of White Finland and Mannerheim’s triumph after the defeat of the Red rebels and the disarmament of the Russian soldiers. But the idyll between Mannerheim and the Finnish Government did not last long. Mannerheim did not approve of the proGerman orientation of the government and even less of the organization of the Finnish army according to German guidelines. The Finnish Government, on the other hand, did not support Mannerheim’s ambitions to rid Petrograd of the Bolsheviks in alliance with the White Russian generals. Because of these dissents, Mannerheim resigned as commander-in-chief. In November 1918, however, Mannerheim accomplished an unofficial diplomatic mission to London and Paris to get aid in foodstuffs and to urge the British and French recognition of the Finnish state. Appointed Regent of Finland, Mannerheim made the White Guards – also known as Civil Guard or Defence Corps [Suojeluskunta] – into a defence organ parallel to the regular army. In foreign policy, he continued to pursue the intervention in Russia. He believed that by helping White Russia to capture Petrograd, Finland would have guaranteed its own security. These plans were encouraged in the West especially by Winston Churchill, who favoured an international anti-Bolshevik coalition. Nevertheless, this coalition was slow to materialize and the White Russians were indeed not willing to grant independence to Finland. After the defeat in the presidential elections of 25 July 1919, Mannerheim retired from active political life. As a civilian, he devoted himself to some humanitarian activities. In 1920 he founded the General Mannerheim Children's Welfare Association and in 1922 became honorary chairman of the Finnish Red Cross. In 1930, Mannerheim, opposed to the party system, backed the anti-communist and anti-democratic Lapua Movement while remaining in the background. Appointed in 1931 chairman of the National Defence Council, in 1933 Mannerheim was promoted to Field Marshal. Until 1939 he considerably improved the defensive structures of the country despite budget restrictions. In particular, he strengthened the fortification line across the Karelian Isthmus, named by the media Mannerheim Line during the Winter War. In foreign policy,





efforts of the Finnish Government for an alignment with the Scandinavian block. In 1939, during the RussoFinnish negotiations, Mannerheim was in favour of minor territorial concessions to the Soviet Union. At the outbreak of hostilities, he was appointed commander-in-chief. The

Map of the Mannerheim Line across the Karelian Isthmus in the Winter War. Source: en.wikipedia. Author: Jniemenmaa.

stubborn Finnish resistance to the Red Army during the

Winter War sanctioned the international reputation of Mannerheim, while at home he was hailed as a national hero. Mannerheim's decision to occupy Eastern Karelia during the Continuation War was however controversial. He was granted the title of Marshal of Finland on 4 June 1942, on his 75th birthday. On this occasion, he also received an unexpected visit from Hitler. As President of the Republic from August 1944 to March 1946, Mannerheim led Finland out of the war and started the peace process with the Soviet Union. After his resignation for health reasons, he lived above all in Switzerland, where he devoted himself to writing his memoirs. He died in Lausanne on 28 January 1951. He received a state funeral in Helsinki and was buried in the military cemetery of Hietaniemi. Mannerheim occupies an important place in Finland’s history and identity. His figure has become part of the collective imagery of the nation. A glimpse of the Mannerheim Line, winter 1940. Source: C.-F. Geust, A. Uitto, Mannerheim-linja: Talvisodan legenda (Mannerheim Line: Legend of Winter War), p. 170.


7. The New Finland From World War II to our days


fter World War II Finno-Soviet relations were governed by the so-called







Assistance of 1948. Thanks to Paasikivi's diplomatic abilities, this treaty differed considerably from similar treaties already imposed by the USSR to Hungary and Romania. In the event of an attack on Finland or the USSR through Finland, Soviet military intervention was not automatic but had to be mutually agreed. On the other hand, the Finnish military

A Karelian family clearing a plot in the forest to build a homestead, Askola, Southern Finland, ca 1945. Author: Unknown.

forces were not required to leave the national borders to defend the Soviet Union.

The firmness of the so-called Paasikivi line allowed the country to maintain its democratic institutions, to remain anchored to the market economy and to start the process of integration with the Nordic countries and Western Europe. Furthermore, the Soviet appreciation for the new Finnish foreign policy led to important bilateral trade agreements. In 1955, the Porkkala Naval Base was returned to Finland earlier than expected. This event marked for Finland the end of the war phase and for Paasikivi, at the end of his second presidential term, an acknowledgment of his policy of dĂŠtente. In the 1945 elections, the communist People's Democratic League, legalized in 1944, obtained 49 seats and joined the government with the Social Democratic Party (50 seats) and the Agrarian League (49 seats). In the 1948 elections, however, the PDL won only 38 seats and was excluded from the government.


Immediately after the war, the Finnish government endorsed a colossal land redistribution plan to accommodate the nearly 420,000 refugees from Karelia and other territories ceded to the USSR. The fragmentation and the deforestation led to the creation, by the end of the 50s, of some 150,000 new farms. War reparations, paid by 1952, constituted a serious burden for Finland. However, the obligation to provide the USSR with large quantities of metallurgical products actually created diversification in the country's industrial development. After 1952 Finnish-Soviet trade relations – based on the mutual status of the most favoured nation – remained intense. From 1956 to 1981, the political scene of Finland was dominated by Urho Kekkonen (1900–1986). Coming from the Agrarian League, in 1956 Kekkonen – already five times prime minister – became President of the Republic with only two more votes (151– 149) against his opponent. In the 1978 presidential election, Kekkonen obtained 259 votes out of 300. The reasons for this exceptional consensus are still debated. Urho Kekkonen (1900–1986). President of Finland from 1956 to 1982. Date: 1955. Author: Unknown.

In foreign policy, Kekkonen continued the good relations with the USSR. In fact, he made





dependent on its foreign policy. The political forces conformed to the so-called Paasikivi-Kekkonen line because they eventually considered it the most appropriate for the country. In the West, this process was dubbed ‘finlandization’, a term that has become synonymous with the subservience of a small country to a great power. Nevertheless, Kekkonen rejected all Soviet attempts of closer political and military relations and pursued the process of Finland’s integration with Western Europe by joining EFTA and the EC. Moreover, trade with the East – which accounted for about 20% of Finnish foreign trade – and the West was behind the country's boom in the ‘60s and '70s. Traditional wood and paper products were directed to the West, while Finnish manufactured goods went to the USSR. In return, Finland imported from the Soviet Union especially energy products and


this spared the country from the energy crisis that gripped Western countries in the ’70s. In the 60's, agriculture lost its fundamental role in the country's economy. Not all the manpower of the massive rural exodus could be absorbed by the secondary and tertiary sectors and about 300,000 Finns migrated to Sweden. The new demographic and socioeconomic conditions urged the Agrarian League to review its program and rename itself Centre Party. A generous welfare state – made possible by the remarkable economic development – and a sustainable income policy, agreed between entrepreneurs, trade unions and government, dispelled the social tensions and caused the decline of the PDL. Mauno Koivisto (1923–2017), President of the Republic from 1982 to 1994, continued the Paasikivi-Kekkonen line in foreign policy but did not interfere in domestic politics. Under his presidency, the constitutional reform process that ended in 2000 was launched. In the new constitution, the president‘s powers were limited to the benefit of those of the parliament and the government. After a short but severe economic crisis in the early 90s – due to financial liberalization in the absence of regulatory measures and the loss of the Soviet market after the disintegration of the USSR – Finland’s economy grew again at a spectacular rate. The country had entered the phase of the new economy. The electronic export industry became the engine of development, overcoming the traditional industrial sectors. The Nokia group – which accounted for 4% of the country's GDP – became a world leader in the production of mobile phones. This rapid structural change was possible thanks to an excellent education system and to significant investments in research and development. The collapse of the Soviet Union marked an important turning point for Finland. The country disposed of the Treaty of Friendship with the USRR of 1948 and in 1995 joined the European Union. In 1999 Finland was among the first eleven European countries to adopt the euro.


Headquarters of Nokia Corporation in Keilaniemi, Espoo. Date: 6 April 2005. Author: J-P Kärnä.

The global crisis of the last few years has hit Finland hard: Nokia's fortunes have waned, paper production has undergone a major contraction, and trade with Russia, again intense, has been affected by the EU sanctions against Russia due to the war in Ukraine. Following the eurozone trend, Finnish economy is growing. However, the biggest problems facing Finland today are the high costs of the welfare state, the rapid aging of the population and the high structural unemployment. Finland remains an open economy among the most competitive in the world. Corruption in the country is low and the Finns trust their institutions. The propulsive strength of the nation is evident in its extraordinary cultural vitality.


Selected bibliography M. L. Adorno, La Guerra d’Inverno: Finlandia e Unione Sovietica 1939-1940 (The Winter War: Finland and the Soviet Union 1939-1940). Milano 2010. M. L. Adorno, Storia della Finlandia contemporanea (History of contemporary Finland). Milano 2014. R. Alapuro, State and revolution in Finland. Berkeley, Los Angeles, London 1988. E. Andere M., Teacher’s perspectives on Finnish school education: creating learning environments. New York 2014. D. F. G. Austin, Finland as a gateway to Russia: issues in European security. Aldershot, Brookfield, 1996. N. I. Baryshnikov, Mannerheim without the mask 1940-1944. Helsinki, St Petersburg 2005. M. Castells and P. Himanen, The information society and the welfare state: the Finnish model. Oxford, New York 2002. J. Clements, Mannerheim: president, soldier, spy. London 2009. H. Colin du Terrail, La Finlande et les Russes depuis les Croisades Suédoises. Paris, Strasbourg 1963. P. Flora (ed.), Growth to limits: the Western European welfare state since World War II: offprint Finland. Berlin 1986. L. Granberg and J. Nikula (eds.), The Peasant State. The state and rural questions in 20th century in Finland. Rovaniemi 1995. K. Immonen and J. Kalela (eds.), Mauno Koivisto. Helsinki 1985. I. Hakalehto (editor), J. K. Paasikivi Suomen politiikassa (J. K. Paasikivi in Finland’s politics). Helsinki 1970. Y. Hakanen, Kuusi kuvaa Kekkosesta (Six pictures of Kekkonen). Helsinki 1985. E. Heinrichs, Mannerheim Suomen kohtaloissa (Mannerheim in the destinies of Finland), I,II. Helsinki 1957 and 1959. R. Hjerppe, The Finnish economy 1860-1985. Helsinki 1989. J. H. Hodgson, Communism in Finland. Princeton, New Jersey 1967. S. Honkapohja, E. A. Koskela, W. Leibfritz and R. Uusitalo, Economic prosperity recaptured: the Finnish path from crisis to rapid growth. Cambridge (USA), London 2009. M. Häikö, A brief history of modern Finland. Helsinki 1992. M. Jakobson, The diplomacy of the Winter War. Cambridge, Massachusetts 1961. M. Jakobson, Finland: myth and reality. Helsinki 1987. M. Jakobson, Finland: a lone wolf. Helsinki 2006. L. Jonung et al. (eds.), The great financial crisis in Finland and Sweden. Cheltenham, Northampton 2009. O. Jussila, S. Hentilä, J. Nevakivi, From Grand Duchy to a modern State. London 1999. E. Jutikkala, K. Pirinen, A history of Finland. Porvoo, Helsinki, Juva 1996. E. Jutikkala (ed.), Suomen talous- ja sosiaalihistorian kehityslinjoja (The development lines of Finland's economic and social history). Porvoo, Helsinki 1968. S. Jutila, Finlandization for Finland and the world. Bloomington 1983. S. Jägerskiöld, Mannerheim: Marshal of Finland. Minneapolis 1986. Kalu N. Kalu, Technology, culture, and public policy: critical lesson for Finland. New York, London 2017. U. Kekkonen, A President’s view. London 1982.


A. Korhonen, Barbarossa suunnitelma ja Suomi (Barbarossa plan and Finland). Porvoo, Helsinki 1961. P. Kuusi, Social policy for the sixties: a plan for Finland. Kuopio 1964. D. G. Kirby, A concise history of Finland. Cambridge 2006. D. G. Kirby, Finland and Russia 1808-1920. London 1975. D. G. Kirby, Finland in the twentieth century. London 1979. M. Klinge, A brief history of Finland. Helsinki 1994. M. Klinge, Finland in Europe. Helsinki 2003. M. Klinge, The Baltic world. Helsinki 1997. K. Korhonen (ed.), U. Kekkonen: a statesman for peace. London 1975. J. Lavery, The history of Finland. London 2006. H. O. Lunde, Finland’s war of choice: The troubled German-Finnish coalition in World War II. Havertown, Newbury 2011. C. L. Lundin, Finland in the Second World War. Bloomington 1957. Chr. Mann and Chr. Jörgensen, Hitler’s arctic war: the German campaigns in Norway, Finland and the USSR 1940-1945. London 2002. C. G. E. Mannerheim, The memoirs of Marshal Mannerheim. London 1953. G. Maude, Aspects of the governing of the Finns. New York 2010. A. G. Mazour, Finland between East and West. Westport, Connecticut 1975. H. Meinander, A history of Finland. London 2011. V. R. Mead, An economic geography of the Scandinavian States and Finland. London 1958. W. R. Mead, Farming in Finland. London 1953. V. Meri, Suomen Marsalkka C. G. Mannerheim (The Marshall of Finland C. G. Mannerheim). Porvoo, Helsinki, Juva 1988). R. Mickelsson, Suomen puolueet (Finnish Parties). Tampere 2007. I. Montanelli, Dentro la Storia: Finlandia 1939-40, Ungheria 1956 (Inside History: Finland 193940, Hungary 1956). Milano 1992. J. Mylly and R. M. Berry (eds.), Political parties in Finland. Turku 1984. K. Möttölä ( al.), Finnish-Soviet economic relations. London 1983. J. Nousiainen, The Finnish political system. Cambridge (USA) 1971. J. Paasivirta, Finland and Europe. London 1981. J. Paavolainen, Poliittiset väkivaltaisuudet Suomessa 1918: Punainen terrori (Political violence in Finland 1918: Red terror). Helsinki 1966. J. Paavolainen, Poliittiset väkivaltaisuudet Suomessa 1918: Valkoinen terrori (Political violence in Finland 1918: White terror). Helsinki 1967. J. Paavolainen, Vankileirit Suomessa 1918 (Prison camps in Finland 1918). Helsinki 1971. M. Peltonen, Talolliset ja torpparit: vuosisadan vaihteen maatalouskysymys Suomessa (Freeholders and tenant farmers: the agricultural issue in Finland at the turn of the century). Helsinki 1992. R. E. I. Penttila, Finland’s search for security through defence, 1944-89. Basingstoke 1991. P. Pesonen and O. Rihinen, Dynamic Finland: the political system and the welfare state. Helsinki 2002. T. Polvinen, Venäjän vallankumous ja Suomi. 1, Helmikuu 1917 – Toukokuu 1918 (The Russian Revolution and Finland. 1, February 1917 – May 1918). Porvoo, Helsinki 1967. T. Polvinen, Venäjän vallankumous ja Suomi. 2, Toukokuu 1918 – Joulukuu 1920 (The Russian Revolution and Finland. 2, May 1918 - December 1920). Porvoo, Helsinki 1971. L. A. Puntila, The political history of Finland 1809-1966. Helsinki 1974.


M. Rahikainen (ed.), Austerity and prosperity. Helsinki 1993. T. Raunio and T. Tiilikainen, Finland in the European Union. London, Portland, Oregon 2003. M. Rintala, Three generations: The extreme right wing in Finnish politics. Indiana University 1962. M. Ruotsila, Churchill and Finland. London, New York 2005. T. Saarela, Suomalainen Kommunismi ja vallankumous 1923-1930 (Finnish Communism and Revolution 1923-1930). Helsinki 2008. J. Saarinen and N. Rilla (eds.), Changes in innovation: towards an improved understanding of economic renewal. Basingstoke 2009. G. Schienstock (ed.), Embracing the knowledge economy: a dynamic transformation of the Finnish innovation system. Cheltenham, Northampton (USA) 2004. J. E. O. Screen, Mannerheim: the Finnish years. London 2000. K. Selén, C. G. E. Mannerheim ja hänen puolustus-neuvostonsa 1931-1939 (C. G. E. Mannerheim and his Defense Council 1931-1939). Helsinki 1980. J. Selovuori, Power and bureaucracy in Finland 1809-1998. Helsinki 1999. K. J. Sillanpää, Tasavallan päämiehet (Heads of the Republic). Helsinki 1977. J. Siltala, Lapuan liike ja kyyditykset 1930 (Lapua Movement and deportations 1930). Helsinki 1985. F. Singleton, A short history of Finland. Cambridge 1998. F. Singleton, The economy of Finland in the twentieth century. Bradford 1987. B. Suviranta, Finland and the world depression. Helsinki 1931. T. Tiilikainen, Europe and Finland: defining the political identity of Finland in Western Europe . Aldershot, Brookfield 1998. H. M. Tillotson, Finland at peace and war. Norwich 1996. P. Tommila et al. Mannerheim: sotilas ja ihminen (Mannerheim: soldier and man). Helsinki 1992. U. Tuominen, J.K.Paasikivi: a pictorial biography. Helsinkiu 1970. R. Uimonen, Riisuttu Presidentti (The President stripped of power). Helsinki 2001. A. F. Upton, The Finnish revolution 1917-1918. Minneapolis 1980. A. F. Upton, Finland in crisis, 1940-1941. London 1964. O. Vehviläinen, Finland in the Second World War: Between Germany and Russia. Basingstoke 2002. T. Vihavainen (ed.), Mannerheim: an officer of the Imperial Russian Army, Marshal of independent Finland. Helsinki 2005. P. Virrankoski, Suomen talous historia kaskikaudesta atomiaikaan (Finnish economic history from the slash-and-burn period to the atomic era). Helsinki 1975. J. P. Vloyantes, Silk glove hegemony: Finnish-Soviet relations, 1944-1974. Kent, Ohio 1975. O. Warner, Marshal Mannerheim and the Finns. London 1967. N. Westermarck, Finnish agriculture. Helsinki 1964. J. H. Wuorinen (ed.), Finland and World War II 1939-1944. New York 1948. J. H. Wuorinen, A history of Finland. New York, London 1965. H. Ylikangas, Käännekohdat Suomen historiassa (The turning points in Finnish history). Porvoo, Helsinki, Juva 1986. S. Zetterberg (ed.), Finland after 1917. Helsinki 1991.


Appendix Mr Colin Davies’ testimony After the publication of the article "Finland between the Two World Wars: From the Civil War (1918) to the Winter War (1939)" in Links, Autumn 2016, we received from Mr Colin Davies a letter, from which we quote some excerpts. “In the summer 1954, I spent three months in Finland ... in Mainiemi near Padasjoki . [One day I went] to a local “council office” in Padasjoki ..., a 2 storey building that appeared to be some kind of local administration centre... Upstairs, in a big dusty attic with very little furniture, there were a few large open cardboard boxes full of handwritten papers. In fact they were overfull... They were almost all letters written around 1918 by worried family members asking for help in tracing their missing relations. ...There was one very interesting sheet of papers that was not handwritten, but typed... The todistus [certificate] said that some White Official (apparently based in Lahti) had been informed that a certain White soldier had gone missing, and now he had learned that the missing man had joined the Reds in the south. The todistus had been written to emphasise that in fact the man had been kidnapped by the Reds. ...I wish now I had kept a few of those bits of paper. That attic could have been a historian’s treasure trove. Colin Davies”

Thank you for your letter, Mr Davies. It is extraordinary. It presents in a vivid manner certain aspects of the dramatic events of the Finnish Civil War, today critically overcome in the conscience of the Finnish people. It does not matter that you did not take some of those pieces of paper (after all, how could you?). Your testimony is the historical memory! Modestino

A Short History of Finland - Modestino Carbone