Finland History Part III

By | December 17, 2021

During the World War, a large part of the Finns hoped for the victory of Germany, fearing that a success of Russia would cause new oppressions: while only 2000 Finns fought voluntarily in the ranks of the Russian army, an equal number, managed to pass to the abroad, formed a body of Finnish hunters in Germany, which, incorporated into the Prussian hunters, fought in 1916 in Courland.

The Russian provisional government, established after the abdication of Nicholas II, restored the parliamentary regime in Finland; the Russified senate was replaced by a provisional senate made up of 6 socialists and 6 representatives of the bourgeois parties, under the presidency of the socialist O. Tokoi, while the socialist Kullervo Manner was appointed president of the diet. While the Social Democracy showed Russophile tendencies, the bourgeoisie, frightened by the progress of the Socialists, showed itself more and more oriented towards the complete independence of Finland. And since Social Democracy also demanded complete autonomy in domestic affairs, while it was willing to recognize Russian authority in foreign policy and military affairs, the diet passed a law on July 18, 1917 that established its exclusive jurisdiction over domestic legislation, taxes and customs. This led to a conflict with the Russian provisional government, which dissolved the diet and called new elections: in the new diet, the bourgeois parties had the majority. Meanwhile in Finland famine was making itself felt, prices were rising every day and from March 1917 to February 1918 the incessant strikes threatened the very existence of the nation. With the rise of the Bolsheviks to power (November 1917), while the extremists took over in the ranks of Finnish Social Democracy, the bourgeois parties made every effort to achieve complete separation from Russia: on December 6, 1917, the Diet and Senate approved the declaration of independence, proposed by EP Svinhufvud. The socialist extremists planned, under the influence of the Bolsheviks, to seize power in order to establish the dictatorship of the proletariat; but, to the institution of the “red guards”, the bourgeoisie responded by organizing the “white guards” commanded by general baron G. Mannerheim. However, since the White forces were unable to defeat the Red Guards, the help of Sweden was invoked, which refused, and then Germany, which sent a body of 12,000 men under the command of the Prussian general Count Rudiger von der Goltz. The Germans defeated the Reds in Lahti (April 30-May 2, 1918), and Mannerheim in turn defeated them in Viipuri (April 28-29) and on May 16 entered Helsinki, occupied by the Germans since April 13. The remnants of the Red Army were driven back to Russia; in Finland the repression was relentless, and many thousands were killed. The socialists were struck off the electoral roll and the new diet, which met in June 1918, was made up of conservatives. It appointed PE Svinhufvud as regent who, having been deported to Siberia in 1914, had returned in 1917 with a triumphal welcome. The senate on 9 October 1918 offered the crown to Prince Frederick Charles of Hesse, brother-in-law of William II. But the fate of the world war forced the prince to decline the offer, while Svinhufvud had to give way to Mannerheim (12 December). In March 1919 the new elections brought a republican majority; on 17 July 1919 the republic was proclaimed and on 25 July the prof. Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg was named president. Only on October 14, 1920 was peace with the Soviets signed in Tartu; Finland obtained with that treaty an outlet in the Arctic Ocean with Petsamo (Petjenga); and on December 16 the republic was admitted to join the League of Nations. The question about the belonging of the Åland islands (see) disturbed for some time friendly relations with Sweden; the dispute was settled by the League of Nations in June 1921 in favor of Finland. For Finland 2008, please check

The peace of Tartu did not completely put an end to the dissensions with the Soviets, aggravated by the revolt against the Bolshevik regime of the Karelî, similar by race to the Finni and in favor of which Finland intervened, asking in vain for the attribution of Karelia.

Beginning with the elections of July 1922, the Communists, effectively aided by the Soviets, made their first appearance in the diet, mainly at the expense of the Socialists. The cabinet, headed by the agrarian Kyösti Kallio, approved a law in favor of non-proprietary peasants; then, in the face of the Communist threat, more strongly felt by the proximity of Russia, he had the Communist Party dissolved, its newspapers suppressed and its deputies arrested. New elections were necessary, called in April 1924, which marked a considerable loss for the Communists to the benefit of the Social Democrats. On February 16, 1925, Lauri Relander, candidate of the agrarians, was elected president. Right-wing parties demanded stricter measures against Communist propaganda; and a law to this end was passed at the end of 1929 with a weak majority. The Communist Party, declared illegal by the Supreme Court in 1923, had reconstituted itself with the name of the “Workers and Small Owners Party” and in the 1929 elections it had won 23 seats on the diet; from this originated the “Lappist movement”, so called from the village of Lapua (Swedish. Lappo, in the province of Vasa) where it began in early June 1930, under the leadership of Vihtori Kosola, who fought in the ranks during the World War and then, under Mannerheim, against the Red Guards. The Lappists began a violent campaign against the Communists and on 11 June presented the President of the Republic with a memorial for the total prohibition of all Bolshevik activities. The diet, convened in an extraordinary session to approve the measures requested by the Lappists, it did not bring together the two-thirds majority that the constitution requires for the modification of fundamental laws: the right-wing government under the presidency of Svinhufvud, which had succeeded the agrarian Kallio, obtained the dissolution of the diet, after 12,000 Lappists had made a demonstration march on Helsinki (7 July 1930). The new diet elected on 1 and 2 October 1930 gave the majority necessary for the approval of the laws. On February 16, 1931, Svinhufvud, a right-wing candidate, was elected president with 159 votes against 141 given to the liberal candidate, former president Ståhlberg.

Finland History Part III