Paasikivi’s Russian policy and Snellman

“Nationalists paying tribute to J.V. Snellman by his statue on 13 May 1932. Photo: The Finnish Heritage Agency, photographer Pietinen.”

The Snellmanian programme during the Russification and the legal battle

The thoughts and actions of J. K Paasikivi were marked throughout his life by the principle laid down at the Diet of Porvoo in 1809 that would determine the relations between Finland and Russia for more than a hundred years. Annexed to Russia as an autonomous grand-duchy, Finland’s position was secured by installing a Russian Governor-General alongside a Finnish Secretary of State, who presented Finnish affairs directly to the Tzar. Meanwhile, the remit of Russian ministers did not extend to Finland. The turning point was the January Uprising in Poland in 1863, which reinforced the grip of the Slavophile movement advocating the unity and integration of Russia. Russia began to develop towards a bureaucratic, minister-led, unitary state, as a result of which Russia’s particular viceroyalties were abolished one after the other: Poland lost its autonomy and name in 1863 and the Baltic General Governorate was abolished in 1876 and the Caucasus Viceroyalty in 1881. Meanwhile in Finland, the position Tzar’s local favourites as guarantors of the status enjoyed by the Russia’s peripheral areas changed and the authority of the Russian ministers increased.

The Finnish Minister-Secretary of State and the Governor-General began to lose their influence on the Tzar, and the power struggle eventually ended in the defeat of the Minister-Secretary of State. With the establishment of the Council of Ministers, Finland was no longer able to remain outside the jurisdiction of the Russian ministers, because the Minister-Secretary of State was not a member of the Council . Without the endorsement of a Russian minister, the opportunities to directly present Finnish affairs to the Tzar by the Minister-Secretary of State and the Governor-General became increasingly rare. The most salient form of interference by Russian ministers in Finnish politics was the pressure they placed on the Senate and the Diet. The Estates were given a new proposal as many times as it took for them to agree with the resolution presented.

The attitude of the Russian towards Finland’s particular position became less lenient in the 1870s under the General-Governorship of Nikolai Adlerberg. The last Governor-General during the reign of the reformist Tzar Alexander II assumed the role of a ceremonial viceroy who had little interest in dedicating his time to actual government work. A personal friend of the Tzar, Adlerberg could easily carry through his ideas, and he heavy-handedly shaped the Senate of Finland to suit his own purposes. Under Alexander Armfelt, the political influence of the Minister-Secretary of State diminished never to be regained by him or any of his successors. After the assassination of Alexander II, Alexander III adopted an autocratic rule following the model of his grandfather Nicholas I. This included adopting a mistrustful attitude towards Finland. The Governor-General was the central instrument in implementing such policies. The first one of them, F. L. Heiden, implemented a systematic Russification programme with the main focus on education and language policy. In his view, Russia might consider granting Finland an ethnographic independence. Following the sudden death of Alexander III in 1894, Heiden’s kid-glove approach had no future in the escalating situation. i

Under the changed circumstances, Finns drew on the ideas of Johan Vilhelm Snellman, who had the experience of surviving conflicts. ii According to the political maxim of Snellman, who died in 1881, the Russian emperor would personally guarantee favourable conditions for the internal development of Finland in all eventualities. As an active conservative Fennoman and member of the Finnish Party, J. K. Paasikivi adopted the policy of compliance and compromise towards Russification but also saw certain boundaries beyond which this policy could not be stretched. He concurred with Snellman and his disciple Z. Yrjö-Koskinen in that the emperor had provided personal protection to Finland, but this protection ceased at the end of the 1890s. Alexander II never supported the attacks against Finland’s particular position, but his son Alexander III, who was an autocrat through and through, had communicated to Count S. J. Witte, the Chairman of the Russian Committee of Ministers and the Minister of Finance, that “Finland’s constitution displeases us”. However, Alexander III considered that he was bound by his predecessor’s guarantees and was intent not to undermine them. A major shift took place during the reign of Nicholas II, who, as Yrjö-Koskinen in 1902 phrased it, was “extremely weak of character”. According to Paasikivi, nothing positive was to be expected when “various people ran in and out of the Emperor’s cabinet, and the Emperor seems to be largely of the same mind as whomever last paid him a visit. ”iii

The Senate was politicised from 1882 onwards, as party leaders G. Z. Yrjö-Koskinen from the conservative Fennomans and Leo Mechelin from the Liberals were called to join the Senate. Yrjö-Koskinen’s membership in the Senate paved the way for the opinion that relationships with St Petersburg should be harnessed to the Finnish nationalist cause. A constitutional Fennoman, K. J. Ståhlberg stated that the goal must be potential independence, that is, two countries in a union as two equally independent states. The joint head of state would lead the countries according to their respective constitutions. iv This tenet had become the guiding principle when the Senate was tasked with drafting a statement on the constitutional position of Finland, to be then translated into Russian and distributed among Russian officials. Mechelin accepted the assignment and in 1886 published a work entitled Précis Du Droit Public Du Grand-Duché de Finlande, a summary of the Finnish constitutional law and nature of government. He had published a similar summary ten years earlier, while serving as a university professor, entitled The Constitution of the Grand-Duchy of Finland and an appendix. Essentially the idea was that Finland and Russia had entered into an alliance in Porvoo in 1809, an act of union. He considered the relationship between Finland and Russia a personal union. In other words, Finland was to be regarded as a fully formed state.v

The measures to limit Finland’s position began in earnest during the reign of Nicholas II, and in 1898, Nikolay Bobrikov, Chief of Staff for St Petersburg Military District, took over from Heiden to carry out the Russification programme with considerably more vigorous and dictatorial methods. An officer to the core, he clearly felt that the autonomy that Finland had developed from their particular regional position was threatening the unity of the empire. Bobrikov’s programme was based on the rationale that the invasion of Finland had essentially been a necessary step to reinforce the military defence of St Petersburg. As the events had since taken a completely wrong path, he had decided to put a stop to any such separatist aspirations that were against Russian interests. Bobrikov’s goal was to abolish Finland’s monetary system, to introduce Russian as the official language in all Finnish institutions and to merge the Finnish and Russian armies. Bobrikov’s actions meant that the Finnish question had become a matter to be dealt by the Ministry of War. As A.N. Kuropatkin, the Minister of War, concluded: “Having conquered Finland, we paid too little attention during the 19th century to the internal affairs of this Russian province and, as a result, we now have at the doorstep of our capital city another city that is hostile and full of separatist aspirations, even if with only a few albeit stubborn inhabitants. We in the 20th century have inherited a task of bringing Finland to imperial unity with Russia.”vi

New sanctions were decreed on a continuous basis: Kuropatkin in his ministerial capacity obtained the necessary consent from the Tzar, while Bobrikov saw to their enforcement. In 1890, the directors of the Finnish postal service were brought under the Russian Ministry of the Interior and the Chief Postal Service. The next major blow came in 1899, when Bobrikov presented a proclamation known as the February Manifesto to be signed by the Tzar. Under the February Manifesto, the Tzar could overrule Finnish laws at will by edict. Bobrikov was given unlimited powers to exercise absolute imperial rule in Finland. The Manifesto came as a complete surprise to Finnish Senators. After its publication, the members of the Senate and civil servants were faced with the dilemma when having to implement unlawful orders: should they resign or keep their posts and in this way stop Russians from replacing them. A half a million signatures protesting against the Manifesto were collected but, in the end, Nicholas II refused to grant audience to the delegation and the petition had no impact on the policies Russia was adopting.

However, the one advantage of the Manifesto was that it made large numbers of Finns from all social strata aware of the Finnish constitution and national politics. The national ethos, which swore by the constitution and rule of law, was powerfully reflected in the arts of the day. At the House of the Estates, a statue portraying the Maiden of Finland holds a shield with the inscription ‘Lex’. A similar undercurrent was evident in Finland’s appearances at the 1900 Paris Exposition and the Stockholm Summer Olympics in 1912. Foreign powers were convinced of the justification of Finland pursuing her legal rights. One of the most efficient propagandists for the Finnish cause was Leo Mechelin, Professor of Constitutional Law, Senator, and parliamentarian. Under Mechelin’s editorship, a book was published in 1893, entitled Finland in the 19th century. This was a Finnish- and Swedish-language book with high-quality content and illustrations that were to show Russia how the country could flourish and go from strength to strength under Russian rule as long as Finns were allowed to manage their own affairs. The book was a work of art, and translated into Russian, German, French, and English, and it would be used as a showcase of the educational and cultural milestones that Finland had achieved in a matter of a century under Russian rule with powers to autonomously decided on its internal matters.vii The high hopes for the impact of this publication sank with the new Governor-General, Bobrikov. In his proclamation of 1899, Bobrikov announced that the Russian Empire, as well as the authority of its Emperor, was one and indivisible. There were no two separate states, there was no personal union or divided crown.viii

Following the publication of the February Manifesto in March 1899, the Finnish political landscape was divided into two camps, the constitutionalists and the supporters of compliance. The vote on the publication of the Language Manifesto on 30 June 1900 led to wide-spread resignations. Waldemar Eneberg became the de facto leader of the Senate with the task of drafting the Senate’s response to the increasingly autocratic imperial policies against Finland. During the term of Governor-General F.L. Heiden, Finns had managed to curtail the Russification measures but once Bobrikov came to power, Finns were faced with a much more forceful opponent. Paasikivi stated in 1909 at the Finnish Party conference that the main advantage of the compliance policy had been that it helped keep Senate in existence as an institution beyond Bobrikov’s term. In Paasikivi’s view, the Senate was the largest obstacle in the way of incorporating Finland into the “Russian body politic.”ix

The defeats suffered by Russia in the Russo-Japanese War and the ensuing threat of revolution led to a temporary relaxation of the oppressive policies in Finland. A week-long general strike staged in Russia spread to Finland in October and November 1905. The main goal of the action was to reinstate the rule of law that had prevailed prior to Bobrikov’s term. The general strike in Finland persuaded Nicholas II to sign a declaration that partially annulled the February Manifesto. One purpose of the general strike was also to campaign for a number of social reforms. Towards the end of the strike, the unanimous agreement was that the Diet of the Estates had to be abolished and replaced by u unicameral house of representatives elected with universal suffrage.

The aftermath of the events lasted for a long time. Against each other were the Fennomans and the constitutionalists, the idealists and the realists. At this point, Paasikivi was a researcher of financial law and in his thirties. He already had the maturity to form his personal ideas and abandon the idealism of his youth. J.A. Lyly, who had been Paasikivi’s teacher at secondary school, criticised the leading newspapers for evading the duty to fight for the legal rights of the country. Bobrikov forced Lyly into exile, and in 1903, Lyly took his own life in Tiergarten in Berlin, unaware of the fate that awaited his fatherland. Paasikivi’s thinking was not this straightforward; he envied the lucky ones who could entertain such idealist views. Fennomans found no justification in history for actions such as these, and there were also consequences to consider. The decisions were difficult, as the great powers would never give up their privilege of acting as judges and enforcing their judgments upon others. According to Paasikivi, the country was still far from her ultimate ideal goal.x

Fennomans looked for guidance and direction from Snellman’s thoughts. Paasikivi found that Snellman had brought morality down to a concrete level from idealistic heights. Snellman taught a harsh Hegelian lesson: “World history is a court of judgment.” Everything that had happened in history, was inevitable and therefore rational. Paasikivi characterised Snellman as a strict realist or, more accurately, a power politician. He considered directness and ruthlessness the trademarks of Snellman, who could be plain-spoken and blunt to the extreme, whereas the Fennomans did not feel they could go as far. As an example, when Snellman’s biographer Th. Rein was asked in 1901, how Snellman, had he been alive, would have reacted to the Russification policies, he was not able to give a definitive answer. His audience, particularly J. R. Danielson-Kalmari, were taken by surprise, as they had in fresh memory Snellman’s various teachings on the historical duty of a statesman and the obligations of citizens. Later, Rein admitted that Snellman had indeed held that under certain circumstances, the love of one’s country could override the law.xi

What made the Fennoman’s compliance policy feasible was the Russians’ acceptance of Snellman’s nationalist ideas. The Minister-Secretary of State V. von Plehwe took the initiative on 17 December 1900 to translate Snellman’s biography into Russian, as this would benefit his aims of utilising the Fennoman movement in securing Russian interests in Finland. The initiative was inspired by M.M. Borodkin, who had studied Finnish history extensively and was a staunch opponent of Finland’s autonomous status. Borodkin had read the original biography in Swedish and written under the nom de plume Yrjö Turkulainen an article in a Russian literary magazine entitled “A Finnish patriot. ” Towards the end of 1903, a long two-part article “Snellman” was published in Novoje Vremja. The author of the article, ”L”, described how Snellman had developed the Finnish nationalist movement with the assistance of the Russians with the result of reducing Swedish influence in the country. A newer take on Snellmanian thought was to emphasise his monarchism. The conclusion was made that, as a visionary Finnish patriot, Snellman would be in support of adapting to reality instead of constantly voicing political discontent.xii

For Paasikivi, the important element in Snellman’s thinking was the principle according to which a nation had to make do with the conditions they were in. The Finnish nation had to understand its position as an annexed part of Russia and live by this truth. Snellman was critical of overstating the legal aspect of government: “We hear mighty politicians speak who seem to be of the mind that making political justifications is the same as presenting evidence in a court of law.” Having witnessed the defamation of the Russians in the press since the January Uprising in Poland, Snellman said he found consolation in that “would look after fools.” In Paasikivi’s view, Snellman was himself guilty of overstating the significance of a strong national confidence as a counterforce against the threat of a superior power. The strength of a nation as expressed through patriotism and education may be real if the disparity in physical power is not too wide. Paasikivi held that Snellman’s romantic ideals stemmed from living in a period when Finland’s constitutional position was not under a concerted attack.xiii

Paasikivi’s relationship with the Snellmanian legacy

Despite Russia’s unification policy, Finland developed into a modern state at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century. At the turn of the 20th century, Finland was not a ravaged and depleted peripheral province with all the riches looted by the motherland. What is often overlooked in historical writing, however, is the fact that the Russification measures and the ensuing Finnish response in defence of legality concurred with a rapid structural and economic transition with numerous modern innovations and discoveries. During this period, the countless administrative offices under the Senate quickly transformed into an efficient channel for adopting Finnish and international innovations in many areas of government. The best defence against Russification was the complex and hierarchical administration of the Grand-Duchy, which in practice could not be dissolved at once. In reality, the decentralised government served as a bulwark against Russification. Each office holder and government office in the Grand-Duchy were a statement in favour of Finland’s particular position and against the Russian unification policies.xiv

In 1905, when the Fennoman government with its compliance policies was found to be unsuited to lead the reform, a new so-called constitutional Senate was appointed led by Leo Mechelin, which completed the parliamentary reform. It was the most radical reform of the parliamentary system in the Europe of the early 1900s. To transform from a diet of estates to a unicameral parliament elected with universal suffrage was a formidable leap. Finnish women were the first in the world to be given the right to vote and to stand in elections. The nobility voluntarily relinquished their substantial privileges. The parliamentary reform also forced political parties to reorganise. Whereas parties had thus far been more like clubs formed around newspapers of particular leanings, they would now evolve into efficient election and campaign organisations. The Swedish-speakers established the Swedish People’s Party in 1906. The Agrarian League was founded in 1907. The Finnish Party and the Young Finnish Party remained separate entities. The winner of the first general election in Finland in 1906 was the Social Democratic Party, winning 80 seats. The Finnish party secured 59, the Young Finnish Party 26 and the Swedish People’s Party 24 seats.

Paasikivi, who remained committed to electing a king for Finland until the very end, was yet to reach the top echelons in politics, apart from a few isolated posts. In 1908, he was invited to join Edvard Hjelt’s Senate as the Minister of Finance, and he was elected as an MP for 1906, 1909 and 1910–1913 and he served as the Prime Minister from May to November 1918. Paasikivi had, however, resigned from the civil service in 1914 and joined Kansallis-Osake-Pankki as its Director, a position he held for the next 20 years. Attempts were made to lure him back to the State Treasury but as someone who looked to Snellman as a model, he noted: “In every resignation, there are at least two sides involved. A person requests more or less cordially for a dismissal – and the other one does or does not grant it, whatever takes their fancy, particularly when elected officials are in question.” His peers openly pitied him, seeing him taking care of day-to-day business at the bank: “Poor man, what have you got yourself into,” said Ernst Nevanlinna. Eino Sakari Yrjö-Koskinen, the son of Yrjö Sakari Yrjö-Koskinen and Paasikivi’s former teacher, travelled from Hämeenlinna to lecture Paasikivi for leaving civil service and the Parliament: ”And now you are wasting your energy for a private enterprise instead of working for the good of the country.” Paasikivi was, in fact, in low spirits, because since his early student days, he had considered contributing to the running of common affairs his ultimate duty. He had, after all, grown up on Snellman’s Study of the State: “Political pursuits elevate and ennoble the human mind. ”xv

Judging by Paasikivi’s diary entries from the 1920s and 1930s, Paasikivi never quite left the politics alone and would habitually write scornfully about the general lack of standard in argumentation with regard to current and topical affairs. He felt that Finland lacked the homogenous Finnish-speaking upper and middle classes who could sustain traditions and for whom nurturing historical thinking would be important. He pondered upon these questions within a small circle in 1925–1926, which consisted of the host U. Lehtonen, his father-in-law Danielson-Kalmari, Väinö Voionmaa, Väinö Tanner, K.R. Brotherus, Niilo Liakka, Oskari Mantere, Edvard Gylling and Martti Ruuth. The group established the Society of the Friends of History in April 1926, which led to a clash with the Finnish Historical Society. Paasikivi was calling for an idealistic, humanistic, and romantic spirit but, by the 1930s, would have to concede that the ideas of universal humanity and nationalism upheld by Snellman and Yrjö-Koskinen had not carried the day and that development had taken an entirely different course. The military and political signals of things to come were growing more ominous by the day, and Paasikivi adopted a more reserved view of the Snellmanian/Hegelian concept of the nation state. He wrote in his diary on 11 October 1932 that, having given the matter some thought, he had arrived at the conclusion that Snellman’s Study of the State had been built on the interest of great nations, whereas smaller nations did not really fit into Snellman’s theory of the state.xvi

Paasikivi’s worldview was challenged when the right-wing Lapua movement in Ostrobothnia began to reorganise on 12 March 1932. Its proponents wanted to preserve the movement to fight against socialism, despite the excesses that the organisation had of recent been guilty of. The real driving force of the reorganisation in Ostrobothnia was the President’s own son E. G. Svinhufvud, who communicated with the President when planning the future of the new popular movement. The goal was to keep the Mäntsälä chapter outside the organisation. Newspaper Vaasa wrote that the educated Finnish youth was strongly of the opinion that the Finnish language, culture, and identity should be given its rightful place and that kowtowing to the Swedish-speaking population should be abandoned once and for all. According to the newspaper, crystallising the Finnish cause had finally won its place as one of the main national interests. This sentiment was shared by the 80 persons who had convened at the townhall in Seinäjoki in Ostrobothnia, but there was a sense of caution in the air. Some stepped back and distanced themselves from the presidential meeting. Of the leaders of the Coalition Party, the most positive view of the Lapua Movement was taken by Paavo Virkkunen, who saw the movement’s objective to be the promotion of patriotic ambitions among people. The remit of the movement was to deepen people’s understanding of religious concepts, strengthen the national defence readiness and to campaign against the destructiveness of the class struggle. In May, the movement was renamed Isänmaallinen kansanliike IKL, ‘Patriotic People’s Movement’.xvi

The Lapua Movement was given a new lease of life when Reino Ala-Kulju, spoke to a 600-strong crowd that had gathered for the final meeting of the movement on 28 May 1932 following the ban of the organisation, referencing Snellman’s calls for national awakening and the achievements won through the Civil War, or the “war of liberation” as the Whites knew it. The reborn popular movement would aim high, with a strong nation state, Greater Finland, as its ultimate goal. IKL and the Finnish Party shared the Fennoman ideology, which was fully based on Snellman’s theory of the nation state: a state could be viable only when sustained by a nationalist spirit. While the Finnish language was one of its absolute values, it was not a movement for a single group of people and instead it strived to represent the entire nation. IKL aimed to continue the work of the Finnish Party and did not identify with either the political left or right. The movement only recognised one party: Finland. The movement considered itself a new ideology. The demand that parties should be abolished was an echo of Yrjö-Koskinen’s idea of a “national way of thinking”, according to which development should eventually lead to a situation where the entire nation would embrace the Fennoman ideology.xvii

Two years later, Paasikivi was forced to take a stand regarding IKL’s activities when he took charge of the Coalition Party in May 1934 in his capacity as the Chairman of the Party Council. Under his leadership, the party would distance itself from IKL and lay down a party programme that would profile the party as a conservative coalition party, separate from the state-socialist IKL. The latter had found allegiance with the German Nazis, whereas Paasikivi, steering the internal reconstruction within the Coalition Party, emphasised that conservatism did not mean opposing democracy or reformist policies and that the work had to be based on realities established by tradition and experience and not orchestrated upheavals. He was keen to refer to Snellman’s idea of “defending the rational development of the existing conditions”. Pointing out problems was not difficult, the challenge was in finding rational solutions to overcome them. The Coalition Party was therefore dutybound to act with great discretion while preserving what was useful and viable in society. Paasikivi maintained that political and national affairs should be left to the professionals. Fascism and national socialism, the methods of which were glorified by IKL, limited individual freedoms, which according to Snellman represented the pinnacle of human civilisation, and were inviolable.xviii

Paasikivi-Kekkonen doctrine and the Snellmanian legacy

The Social Democratic Party again won the 1936 general election with 83 seats. The Coalition Party increased the number of its seats to 20. IKL retained its position but its popularity had already peaked. Meanwhile, the Coalition Party had survived its internal crisis and come back with its own conservative programme. The credit for this resurrection was given to Paasikivi, given that under the old regime, the party would probably have broken into factions. Paasikivi was pleased with the outcome and ready to step down from daily politics and take on his next challenge as Finland’s ambassador in Stockholm.xix The 1936 general election spelled defeat for the nationalists, while the Social Democrats and the Swedish People’s Party gained the majority of the seats. Of the Coalition Party MPs, five were nationalists while among the Agrarian League’s 54 representatives, 19 supported the movement. Urho Kekkonen wanted to develop the Agrarian League as a culture-based party, which enabled it to take over Suomalaisuuden liitto (The Finnish Alliance), an influential association promoting Finnish culture and identity, which hence positioned itself close the party.xx

In 1938, after the rise of Hitler’s Germany and the German occupation of Czechoslovakia, Paasikivi, who at that point had served for two years as an ambassador in Stockholm, authored a 13-page memorandum at Prime Minister A. K. Cajander’s request in which he emphasised the importance of collaboration between 21 European small states, because “it would be curious if 143 million people stayed silent”. Paasikivi advocated the Nordic dimension. He closely followed the development of Nordic opinions regarding Finland’s foreign policy. He held that the Coalition Party and IKL overemphasised national self-interest in a Snellmanian spirit, which, taken to its extreme, would only be detrimental to small nations. He favoured a more critical reading of the national philosopher. In Paasikivi’s opinion, Snellman was correctly understood in that a nation should always rely upon itself and itself alone, but that was not always enough when fighting against a superpower. An inflated sense of power was in his opinion pure foolishness.xxi

Paasikivi and Kekkonen were both clearly entering the realm of realpolitik. As the international situation escalated, Kekkonen’s foreign policy thinking seemed to remain unchanged. Unlike Paasikivi, he was not interested in following the complicated twists and turns of international politics or in pondering the reasons behind such developments. Kekkonen’s views were guided by the ideals of his youth: the nation state and Snellman’s philosophy. Stationed in Stockholm and armed with a wealth of experience and knowledge of history, Paasikivi approached matters from a different perspective. However, both shared a sense of pessimism following the events in Munich: the great would be deciding the fate of the small. Shocked by the events in Czechoslovakia, Kekkonen warned about the threat that an armed conflict would pose to Finland’s neutrality in a situation where international treaties had collapsed like a house of cards. Since collaboration between small countries could not be relied upon, ultimately one had to rely upon oneself. Kekkonen emphasised in his address at the Independence Day festivities in 1938 that the independence of Finland would not be guaranteed by outside assistance and that it rested on the nation’s own will and sacrifices. He backed his views with Snellman’s ideas and evidence from Finland’s earlier history. Relying on one’s own power was not only an ideological but also a pragmatic choice that manifested itself as patriotism, which in Kekkonen’s opinion served as the foundation for ultimate survival. It formed the intellectual foundation on which material success would rest. Hence the themes of the 1938 election campaign were the reinforcement of the defence on the borders and the increasing of the resources of the defence forces and voluntary national defence organisations.xxii

Shortly before the Continuation War broke out, Paasikivi read Snellman’s collected works with keen interest. His diary entries include several quotations from Snellman and references to his ideas. At the end of March 1941, when resolving the question of the German access to the nickel deposits in Petsamo, Paasikivi had specifically examined Snellman’s Study of the State, taken notes on Snellman’s thoughts on the purpose of a nation: “Each nation is and must be selfish. A nation has no other purpose than to develop further than other nations to lead the development of mankind as part of the history of the world. However, no nation can ever succumb to the power of such leadership, therefore war is imminent.” Paasikivi understood that wars could be fought because of an ideology that a nation had embraced – had they not just witnessed the power of Bolshevism. Learning from the experience of the Winter War, Paasikivi concluded that the following argument no longer held: “The power of a nation depends not on the number of its men fit for war but on the patriotism, education and civic spirit of its people.” After another twenty quotes from Snellman, Paasikivi finally concluded: “Independence must be earned through one’s own effort, and not borrowed, depending on the external and coincidental conditions of a nation. This is the only way for a nation to autonomously and through its own cultivated spirit further the progress of mankind.”xxiii

In his diary entry of 18 June 1941, Paasikivi criticised Snellman’s idea according to which a nation should only rely upon itself. This was a doctrine that only served great powers, and for a small country such as Finland it would not suffice. Finland having to face an opponent as formidable as the Soviet Union necessitated assistance from a country such as Germany. On 22 June 1941,Paasikivi wrote in his diary: “A war has begun between Germany and the Soviet Union. Hitler mentions in his declaration that Finland and Romania are Germany’s allies.” The following day, Paasikivi wrote in his diary that the Winter War had not earned Finland any respect among the Soviets: “It was Hitler who saved us.” On 29 June 1941, at 1. 00 am, Mannerheim gave the famous Commander-in-Chief’s Order of the Day No 1: “Soldiers of Finland! Our glorious Winter War ended in bitter peace. – – I once invited you to join me in the holy war against the enemy of our nation!… Follow me for one last time – as the people of Karelia shall rise and a new day will dawn for Finland!xxiv

Following the hostilities during the summer and autumn in 1941, Paasikivi became increasingly convinced that Finland had underestimated the Soviet Union. Finland’s fate would depend on the outcome of the war between the great powers. When Väinö Hakkila, Speaker of the Parliament, stated in his speech in Tampere: “Again, the Finnish man stands to protect our freedom and fatherland,” the irate Paasikivi wrote in his diary: “He does no such thing. It is the German man, it all depends on him.” The resources of a small lone country would not last, even when stretched to the extreme, as indeed they were.xxv On 16 April 1942, Paasikivi wrote, again critical of Snellman, who in his May 1863 article “War or peace for Finland” had noted that if Finland were not part of the Russian Empire, the border would run along the Karelian Isthmus too close to St Petersburg. According to Paasikivi, it was the view held by the Bolsheviks as well as the Tzarist Russians. Paasikivi’s quote is inaccurate, because all Snellman actually said was that the division of Finland was inevitable as Russia would never agree to a Scandinavian boundary running only a few kilometres from their capital. In Napoleon’s words, a Scandinavian Finland would forever be a “geographic enemy” of Russia. Snellman maintained that a nation should not ask for or aspire to anything that was beyond its power to achieve and maintain.xxvi

The premise of Finland’s relations with the Soviet Union were clarified by Kekkonen in his speech given on 7 December 1943 at the Parliament House in Stockholm. The German allies had been given an ultimatum at the Casablanca Conference for unconditional surrender. The burning question for Finland was: Where to now? Kekkonen’s response was: “The prevailing view held by Finland is that the Soviet Union will come out of this war as one of the great powers. We cannot alter the fact that this great power is our neighbour, or that we are a neighbour of this great power, whichever way we look at it.” Kekkonen suggested that, instead of promulgating the revolution, an alternative basis for the cooperation could be neutrality, added with a sincere wish to engage in Scandinavian cooperation. Kekkonen assumed the role of a guarantor: if the relations between Finland and the Soviet Union were to be built on “fairness and Finland should retain its external and internal independence, the Finnish nation would be willing to maintain the appropriate and impeccable neighbourly peace”.xxvii

Kekkonen approached the question based on his experiences of the Second World War, while Paasikivi’s perspective stretched further back to the Russification period. At P.E. Svinhufvud’s funeral on 9 March 1944, Paasikivi stated that people no longer understood that times had completely changed from the days of combat. He found that ever since the time of Yrjö-Koskinen and Danielson-Kalmari, the output of the historians had been weak. Historians should be able to see that to make a declaration of independence at that point would be a completely different matter than in the old days. Historians were ignoring the fact the Russia was no longer weak and that Finland was facing a completely different kind of challenge. He criticised the hype created by the press about the legal rights of the Finnish nation and its right to exist in the light of the most recent view of history. At Svinhufvud’s memorial service on 10 March 1944, however, Matti Kuusi spoke on behalf of students who had fought in the war, saying that they trusted the leaders of the country to follow the straightforward motto subscribed to by Snellman, the Jäger movement and Svinhufvud: Stand firm – until the final victory. On the anniversary of Snellman’s birthday, AKS (the nationalist Academic Karelia Society) declared to the Finnish nation: “A nation must rely only upon itself. There lies the security that in the most desperate moments of the Winter War, times far more desperate than those in which we are currently living, saved us from destruction”. Paasikivi considered all this an obsolete illusion. As early as on 15 March 1944, Paasikivi had already noted that the Winter War was a precise example of where wishful thinking and fantasising could lead. It led Finland to its greatest tragedy. Paasikivi held that at that point there was a possibility to negotiate better terms for the peace than in 1940. His internal turmoil did not relax its grip, as he deliberated whether he had done all that could be done to prevent the war. In his defence, he refers to a memoir, in which the author stated that the representative of the government could hardly be blamed if the government failed to take his advice.xxviii

The Agreement of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance (YYA Treaty), which was signed between Finland and Russia in 1948, also has echoes of Snellman’s philosophy. The ideological and historical backdrop to the peaceful foreign policy towards Finland’s eastern neighbour is a sum of a multitude of factors, shaped by the contribution of numerous pioneers. According to Mikko Viitrala, it is possible to differentiate between those who forged the ideological foundation for this pragmatic policy and those who put it into practice. Snellman was once supported by Jacob Tengström’s circle, Paasikivi and Kekkonen by the peaceful opposition, and Paasikivi and Mannerheim by General Erik Heinrichs. The mothers and fathers of the widely endorsed eastern foreign policy were many: G. M. Sprengtporten was a realist and the first proponent of the idea of independence. Snellman helped establish and expand Finnish autonomy and laid the ideological foundations for Finland’s independence. Mannerheim removed Finland from the Second World War. Paasikivi created a realistic eastern foreign policy for an independent country, followed by Kekkonen, who consolidated the foreign policy doctrine. Mauri Ryömä was a founder of the Finland-Soviet Union Society, a friendship society that enjoyed the support of a wide majority of Finns. Hertta Kuusinen fended off pressures for change. Sylvi-Kyllikki Kilpi and Toivo Karvonen took the friendship activism between the two countries to a semi-official level.xxix Osmo Jussila has later described the historical evolution from a more distant perspective: “Hegelian historicism is an integral part of the intellectual legacy of our time. It was introduced by Snellman, and it grew and flourished in the work and thoughts of Yrjö-Koskinen, Danielson-Kalmari and their disciple Paasikivi.”xxx In a similar vein, Erkki Tuomioja has noted that “the roots of a security policy instrument such as the YYA Treaty go far beyond the existence of the Soviet Union.”xxxi

In his radio speech marking the signing of the YYA Treaty, Paasikivi explicitly distances himself from Snellman. According to Paasikivi, history had shown that small nations would not be spared in the conflicts between greater nations. This was a regrettable fact that small countries could not alter. It was something that had to be lived with if the intention was to live in reality and to survive through the quagmire of life. Paasikivi noted it was a view that long been held by many that small countries were better off staying out of treaties. While the teachings of the past should be honoured, holding on to old doctrines and conventions in a new historical situation could lead to a poor outcome. When the conditions have changed, new problem-solving methods must be discovered, which is precisely what this new treaty had delivered.xxxii

From the perspective of their respective realities as statesmen of a new era, Paasikivi and Kekkonen could not identify with Snellman’s abstract and metaphysical thought processes. What resonated with them more were practical examples of how a man who is faithful to his principles should act in similar conditions in their own time. Kekkonen’s first term as President, 1956 –1962, was marked by external and internal crises. Since the general strike of 1956, he had felt isolated, and he was met with a cold and unwelcoming attitude from all corners. Under such circumstances, his close, almost paternal relationship with Paasikivi proved invaluable. Paasikivi could transfer the knowledge capital of the previous generations to Kekkonen, who encouraged by the support gained confidence. And confidence is what he needed, as he was attacked by the leading newspapers of the country and accused of being a Soviet puppet. Following Paasikivi’s advice to a letter, however, Kekkonen made full use of section 33 of the constitution: the most important duty of the President of the Republic is to think correctly on behalf of the nation in the area of foreign policy. He constantly kept reminding the public that Finns should tirelessly seek ways to safeguard their freedom, independence, and international leverage. Like his mentor Paasikivi, Kekkonen had had to acknowledge the truth: even if a policy was dictated by necessity, it did not make it a bad policy. Kekkonen noted in his diary that independence was not something to boast about, it was something to live by. Towards the end of this first term, Kekkonen pinpointed the policy of neutrality as the decisive difference between his policies and the Paasikivi-Kekkonen doctrine. After winning the 1962 presidential election, he stated: “I believe, I trust in this nation. So many times during her history, she has been struck to the ground, and every time she has risen up and carried on reconstructing her society.”xxxiii

Kekkonen’s supporters adopted the slogan invented for the election, “the Paasikivi-Kekkonen doctrine”. The inventor of the concept has only recently been revealed to be Johannes Huumo, then the information secretary for the Agrarian Youth and one of the main campaigners in the 1956 presidential election. Another propagandist, Martti Särkelä, the educational secretary of the association, was inspired: “This campaign is complete, and the election has already been won.” The concept was revealed to the general public on 17 September 1955, the same day that the return of Porkkala was announced. Later, after Max Jacobson had claimed that the concept was invented by the Russians, Huumo submitted a memorandum to the archives of the UKK Society on 4 October 2004, which sheds light on the origins of the concept. The memorandum ends with the words: “It symbolises our existence as a nation.”xxxiv

The compliant and cooperative approach adopted by Kekkonen does not directly stem from Yrjö-Koskinen’s policy, which was based on the concept of a metaphysical national spirit introduced by Hegel and Snellman. The Finnish cause had also been influenced by natural science, Darwinism, and positivism, which was a central element of the ideological context in which Kekkonen developed his political thinking. The organic theory of the state was based on the idea of interdependencies between societies. While the Snellmanian nationalist programme ended with Yrjö-Koskinen, it is important to recognise that the influence of the collaborative ideal that began with bureaucratic nationalism persisted in the thinking of Paasikivi and, through him, that of Kekkonen. After 1944, Finland resumed an eastern foreign policy that had originally taken shape in the early 1800s. To all intents and purposes, Snellman’s and Yrjö-Koskinen’s pragmatism had incorporated the idea of peaceful coexistence. Kekkonen’s most profound statements regarding foreign policy are included in his speeches and notes from the critical years of 1943–1948 and 1958–1961. These opinions reveal a political thinker with intellectual connections to Paasikivi, Yrjö-Koskinen and Snellman. These outputs show the real depth of his statements as opposed to the later government jargon processed through the mangle of the foreign administration.xxxv

With regard to Snellman, while his role in Finland’s post-war foreign policy remained unclear, his image remained on Finnish banknotes after the reform of 1955. Back in January 1949, the Parliamentary Supervisory Council had approved the models created by the Wirkkala printing works as the basis for the new banknote design. However, Snellman was no longer the only image on the banknotes, as he would only adorn the 10,000 markka banknote, the highest denomination. After 1955, the 5,000 markka banknote featured Ståhlberg and the 1,000 markka banknote pictured Paasikivi, who, when asked for his consent, had responded: “If Ståhlberg agrees, so will I. ” The denominations were determined in 1952 and the designs were finalised in 1955. Snellman’s image was printed on handmade blueish paper, while the other banknotes were printed on machine-made paper. xxxvi

The 150th anniversary of Snellman’s birth aroused new-found interest in his legacy. Philosopher Eino Kaila penned an article celebrating Snellman’s work, published on 12 May 1956 in the newspaper Uusi Suomi: “How we should understand J.V. Snellman.” Snellman’s philosophical knowledge had not been idle book learning. Instead he had stepped out into the social and political space, where theory realises itself through human action. His goal had been to see the morning to which the nation would awaken, conscious of itself, a long-term prediction that he unwaveringly had believed in until the very end. In practice, however, as a man of action, he had operated in the existing conditions and critiqued matters from a short-term perspective. According to Kaila, regardless of what the outcome of future developments would be, the path that they would follow would continue to be the path marked by Snellman. xxxvii

Paasikivi’s successor as the President of the Republic, Kekkonen, also knew his Snellman. Kekkonen’s diaries include newspaper cuttings, such as the one from 1959, in which Uusi Suomi made a mockery of the Snellmanian roots of the Paasikivi-Kekkonen doctrine. The caption of a cartoon by Olavi Hurmerinta, entitled “The Paasikivi-Kekkonen and Snellman doctrine”, emphasised that it was Snellman who had said that a weaponless nation was a useless nation. This had come as a reaction to the opinion of the Chairman of the Finland Finland-Soviet Union Society published in the previous day’s paper, which had stated that the roots of the Paasikivi-Kekkonen doctrine went back to Snellman. In the newspaper Helsingin Sanomat of 16 September, Pauli Snellman wrote that if his forefather J.V. Snellman were still alive, he would fight tooth and nail against everything that the Paasikivi-Kekkonen doctrine stood for. xxxvii Kekkonen wrote in his diary on 17.12.: “It just occurred to me. If a Finn lives in the belief that the Soviet Union will swallow us and take away our independence, his life will be so marred with gloom that he had better move to Australia, where only his grandchildren will have to witness the victory of the yellow race. If we have faith that by using our own senses we will flourish and be able to cherish our independence, there will be plenty of work to do in this country for us all. ”xxxviii

Raimo Savolainen, D. Soc. Sc. , is an Adjunct Professor in Political History at the University of Helsinki. He is currently the editor-in-chief in the Leo Mechelin Project commissioned by the Prime Minister’s Office. He has previously served as the editor of the collected works of J. V. Snellman in the original language and in Finnish translation.


i See Raimo Savolainen, Suosikkisenaattorit. Venäjän keisarin suosio suomalaisten senaattoreiden menestyksen perustana. Hallintohistoriallisia tutkimuksia 14. Helsinki 1994.

ii See Raimo Savolainen, Sivistyksen voimalla. J. V. Snellmanin elämä. Helsinki 2006, 914–999.

iii Paasikiven muistelmia sortovuosilta I 1957, 27–28.

iv Yrjö Blomstedt, K. J. Ståhlberg. Valtiomieselämäkerta. Helsinki 1969, 25–27.

v Elisabeth Stubb, Rätt som argument. Leo Mechelin och finska frågan 1886-1912. Helsingfors 2012. See also Stubb 2018, 34–35.

vi Paasikiven muistelmia sortovuosilta 1957, 31.

vii Stubb 2018, 56.

viii Stubb 2018, 61.

ix Markku Tyynilä, Senaatti. Tutkimus hallituskonselji-senaatista 1809–1918. Hallintohistoriallisia tutkimuksia 5. Helsinki 1992, 238 and 299–301 and 308–309.

x Paasikiven muistelmia sortovuosilta 1957, 34–35.

xi K. M. Schybergsson, Johan Wilhelm Snellmanis senare lefnadsskeden skildrare af Th. Rein. Finsk Tidskrift 1901.

xii Osmo Jussila, J. V. Snellman venäläisten silmin – tosiasiat tunnustanut, viisas, suomalainen patriootti. K. V. Snellman ja sanomalehdistö. Helsinki 1981, 83–86. See also Rudolf Sykiäinen’s unpublished article “Snellman Venäjällä”. Snellman-instituutin kokoelmat.

xiii Paasikiven muistelmia sortovuosilta 1957, 73–75.

xiv See Raimo Savolainen, Keskusvirastolinnakkeita virastoarmeijaksi. Senaatin ja valtioneuvoston alainen keskushallinto Suomessa 1809–1995. Hallintohistoriallisia tutkimuksia 23. Helsinki 1996.

xv Paasikiven muistelmia sortovuosilta 1957, 214–215.

xvi Hannu Immonen, Historian ystävä teoksessa Tuomo Polvinen, J. K. Paasikivi. Valtiomiehen elämäntyö 2:1918–1939. Porvoo 1992, 372–373 and 385–386.

xvi Mikko Uola, Sinimusta veljeskunta. Isänmaallinen kansanliike 1932-1944. Helsinki 1982, 16–32.

xvii Uola 1982, 103–104.

xviii Polvinen 1992, 173–179.

xix Polvinen 1992, 198.

xx Pohls 1989, 43–44.

xxi Polvinen 1992, 472–485.

xxii Juhani Suomi, Urho Kekkonen 1936–1944. Myrrysmies. Helsinki 1986, 125–-28.

xxiii J. K. Paasikivi. Jatkosodan päiväkirjat, 26. 3. –29. 3. 1941, 17–19.

xxiv See Jatkosodan päiväkirjat.

xxv Tuomo Polvinen, J. K. Paasikivi. Valtiomiehen elämätyö 3: 1939–1944. Porvoo 1995, 296–297 and 424.

xxvi Raimo Savolainen (ed. ), J. V. Snellmanin kootut teokset VIII, 245. See also http://snellman. Kootut teokset. fi/fi/dokumentit/litteraturblad-nro-5-toukokuu-1863-sota-vai-rauha-suomelle

xxvii Osmo Apunen, Urho Kekkonen suomalainen rauhanpolitiikko. In Keijo Korhonen (ed.) Urho Kekkonen rauhanpolitiikko. Keuruu 1975, 36–39.

xxviii Paasikivi, Toimintani Moskovassa ja Suomessa 1939–1941, 116.

xxix Heikki Mikko Viitala, SN-seura, kansalaisyhteisö ja Yya. In Heikki Viitala (ed.) Suomi ja YYA. Snellman-instituutin julkaisuja 12. Jyväskylä 1990, 54–55.

xxx Viitala 1999, 8. See Helsingin Sanomat 25. 3. 1990.

xxxi Viitala 1999, 8. See Helsingin sanomat 21. 12. 1989.

xxxii Puhe radiossa ystävyys- ja avunantosopimuksen allekirjoittamisen johdosta 9. 4. 1948. Teoksessa Paasikiven linja. Puheita vuosilta 1944–1956. Porvoo 1966, 116–117.

xxxiii See Urho Kekkosen ensimmäisestä presidenttikaudesta in Kekkosen päiväkirjat I: 1958–62. Ed. Juhani Suomi. Keuruu 2001, 17–26.

xxxiv Satu Takala, ”Kyllä se oli Huumo”. Paasikivi-Kekkosen linjan keksijä viiden vuosikymmenen jälkeen. Ilkka 5. 10. 2004.

xxxv Osmo Apunen, Tilintekoa Kekkosen aikaan. Ulkopoliittinen valta ja vallankäyttö Suomessa. Helsinki 1984, 165–-171.

xxxvi Tuukka Talvio, Suomen rahat. Jyväskylä 1993. 144.

xxxvii Eino Kaila, ”Kuinka Snellman on ymmärrettävä” Uusi Suomi 12. 5. 1956. See Kalle Sorainen, Snellman och Höffding. FT 1944.

xxxvii Urho Kekkosen päiväkirjat 1, 261 ja 271.

xxxviii Urho Kekkosen päiväkirjat 1, 295.