Finnish Government and Politics of the 1920’s and 1930's
As mentioned briely in an earlier Post, after the Civil War the Finnish Parliament, controlled by the Whites, voted to establish a constitutional monarchy to be called the Kingdom of Finland, with a a German prince as king. However, Germany's defeat in November 1918 made the plan impossible. Finland’s brief alignment with Germany had initially somewhat soured relations with the victorious Allies and Mannerheim, the ex-Tsarist Finnish military commander-in-chief during the Civil War (who had opposed German aid and alignment with Germany) was appointed Regent of Finland.
After Germany had been forced to surrender in November 1918, General Mannerheim was elected Regent of Finland (from 12 December, 1918, till 27 July, 1919)
As Regent, Mannerheim travelled in Finland and abroad to support Finland’s interests. He also favored supporting the White Russian cause in the Russian Civil War that followed the Bolshevik Revolution. However, the white Russians were still aiming at maintaining the frontiers of the old Russian Empire and Mannerheim played a cautious game, unwilling to commit Finland to intervention without the support of the Allies and recognition of Finland’s independence from the White Russians. In foreign policy, he had to attend to Finnish interests in the tense situation caused by the Russian Civil War. He held to the view that Finland should participate in the occupation of St Petersburg and establish good relations with the government that might replace the Bolshevik Regime. On the other hand, he could not commit himself to the plans of the Russian anti-revolutionaries unless they were able to reorganize their ranks and recognize the right of Finland to independence. He even went as far as to consider leaving the law on the Republic form of government unratified in July 1919, a kind of coup d´etat.
Mannerheim as Regent, with his Cabinet
The constitution of Finland decreed that the President of the Republic was to be elected by 200 presidential electors, chosen by the people in a general and universal election. The first president would, however, be elected by the parliament. In spring 1919 the principal candidates for the presidency were K.J. Ståhlberg, president of the Supreme Court, backed by the Republican-aligned groups (Progressive Party, Agrarian Party and Social Democrats), and General Mannerheim, backed by the monarchists (the Coalition Party and the Swedish National Party). The so-called Suojeluskuntas circles backed Mannerheim. A delegation of Jägers even went as far as to try and persuade Ståhlberg to withdraw his candidacy. However, in the event, Mannerheim’s support was insufficient - in the presidential election on 25 July, 1919, Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg got 143 votes, Mannerheim 50 votes, L.K. Relander one vote and Väinö Tanner one vote. Those who had voted for Ståhlberg regarded his election as a victory of Finnish nationalism and as a guarantee of peace. It was a bitter disappointment for the supporters of Mannerheim, and Ståhlberg found it difficult to find a suitable ADC among the officers.
Mannerheim as a Civilian
For his part, Mannerheim did not wish to withdraw into retirement, but finding a suitable new career was not an easy task. He spent some time travelling outside the country, and in Finland, Mannerheim’s skills and abilities were made use of in a number of confidential posts. He was Chairman of the Finnish Red Cross 1922-1951, and with his authority and support contributed to the establishment of the Mannerheim Child Welfare Association in 1920. Mannerheim regarded socio-political work for the benefit of the nation as the best policy of defence. Similarly, he emphasized that "the youthful strength and belief of the scouts were the best safeguards of our freedom and hopes for the future."
In 1921 Mannerheim accepted the chairmanship of the Finnish Red Cross. The request was put forward by Richard Faltin, Mannerheim’s school-fellow who had been a military surgeon in the Russo-Japanese War, in the First World War and in the Finnish War of Independence of 1918, and was fully familiar with the work the International Red Cross did during the wars to impartially alleviate pain and suffering. It was Faltin who had cured Mannerheim’s fever after the battle of Mukden in 1905. Mannerheim’s sister Sophie was the head nurse in the same hospital with Faltin and was very active in the Finnish Red Cross. One of the reasons for accepting this post may have been, as it has been said, that Mannerheim wanted to emphasize the unpolitical nature of his person in a situation when he was being an object of dispute among the Civil Guards. Mannerheim worked actively in the office of the Red Cross in the 1920s and 1930s, when, for example, an ambulance was equipped to be sent to the Abyssinian War. He also reached a prominent position in the International Red Cross. In the 1940s Mannerheim had little time to participate actively in the work of the Red Cross but he remained chairman till his death.
Mannerheim at a Finnish Red Cross Function
Mannerheim was invited to be the first honorary scout of the Finnish Scout Association on 16 August, 1919. He had great regard for the scouts’ ideals of chivalry and self-sacrifice, and was of the opinion that these ideals would help them "to win over their more underprivileged brothers into the service of the good and the noble." On 15 February, 1920, he donated to the scouts the so-called Mannerheim badge to be awarded for merit in scout activities. The badge was designed by Akseli Gallen-Kallela. Mannerheim remained a supporter of the scout movement, and in 1936 he was chosen honorary chairman of the Finnish Boy Scouts. Reciprocally, the scouts participated in the Flag Day parade in 1919 and were prominently represented – altogether 11,000 young scouts – at Mannerheim’s funeral.
Mannerheim meeting Finnish Boy Scouts
After the world war, a group of people, including Mannerheim’s sister Sophie, who was the head nurse in the Surgical Hospital of Helsinki, Arvo Ylppö, assistant professor of pediatrics, and Erik Mandelin, began to consider ways of increasing the efficiency of child protection and welfare in Finland. Their objective was to diminish the rate of infant mortality and to help young people at the threshold of adulthood. Mannerheim contributed to these activities by placing his name and home at the disposal of the child protectors. When General Mannerheim’s Association of Child Welfare was established on 4 October, 1920, in Mannerheim’s home, the general became its honorary chairman. He supported various campaigns, for example the extension of the activities of agricultural clubs, and the organization of the activities of child sponsors. Mannerheim’s authority and reputation was useful to assist with the organization of various initiatives, to settle disagreements and to maintain foreign contacts. The association still functions today in Finland under the name of the Mannerheim Child Welfare Association.
In 1919 a national collection was organized to donate Mannerheim money as a present from the citizens. This collection yielded 7.5 million marks, and from these funds Mannerheim donated resources to support the pension societies of officers and widows of war, to fight the so-called Spanish Inflienza disease, and to help war orphans. He wanted to alleviate the misery of the poorer citizens and reduce the bitterness between the different social classes.
Also in 1920, Mannerheim was elected Chairman of the central Board of Governors of the newly formed Union Bank of Finland (formed when three smaller Banks merged). The fusion was an attempt to alleviate some of the impacts if the depression experienced at the end of the First World War as Finland’s exports to Russia (formerly its major market for exports) shrank to nothing.Mannerheim continued as chairman of the Board of Governors of Union Bank Inc and from 1931 on held the same post in the Bank of Helsinki. Due to his activities in various other confidential posts, Mannerheim, however, gave up his Banking appointments in the early 1930’s. Despite new arrangements, Mannerheim continued as chairman of the Board of Governors of Union Bank Inc, established in 1924, and from 1931 on in the same post in the Incorporated Bank of Helsinki. In the 1930s economical conditions gradually stabilized. Due to his activities in various other confidential posts, Mannerheim, however, gave up his mission in the bank.
Mannerheim as a civilian Banker
Mannerheim’s experience as Chairman of the Union Bank gave him business and financial experience and contacts which proved valuable in the mid to late 1920’s as he initiated the Maritime Initiative we have previously looked at, sparking of the rapid growth of the Finnish Maritime Industrial Complex with beneficial effects for both business and workers. Mannerheim also initially supported the aims of the anti-communist Lapua movement, but declined a post in its leadership. Previously, we have mentioned the 1930 Rapproachment that Mannerheim was instrumental in organizing between the Social Democratic Party and the Suojeluskuntas. This was a seminal event in Finnish history, leading as it did to reconciliation between the two major opposing forces of the Finnish Civil War, and as such, is worth readdressing to ensure the importance of the event and of the part played by Mannerheim in engineering the reconciliation is emphasized.
Much of the politicking around the maritime initiative and associated legislation that Mannerheim had been largely instrumental in orchestrating “behind-the-scenes” took place from 1926 to 1930, and for the first two years of this period, 1926-27, the government was a Social Democratic Party minority government headed by Vaino Tanner. Mannerheim, ably assisted by Rudolph Walden (more on him later), successfully negotiated all-party support for the initiative and worked closely with Vaino Tanner to do so. This working relationship led to the slow building of respect and what was to prove to be a lasting professional and personal relationship between the three. It was not an amicable relationship at all times – the political gulf between Tanner on the one hand and Mannerheim and Walden on the other was wide – but there was a slow building of respect for each others capabilities and a deep mutual trust built that had lasting ramifications.
And one of these ramifications was the rapproachment between the Social Democrats and the Suojeluskunta in 1930. This came directly from the working relationship that Mannerheim, Walden and Tanner slowly built. Walden and Risto Ryti were often dinner guests of Mannerheim’s, and as their working relationship grew closer, Tanner was added to the small and informal dinners. Mannerheim and Tanner in particular were eager to heal the wounds of the Civil War, and the SDP was also involved in an ongoing and bitter struggle for control of the Trade Union movement with the Communists. And while Walden strongly opposed Unions, he was even more opposed to the Communists. And Tanner and the SDP in general were concerned about the influence of the far-right within the Suojeluskuntas – a fear that was grounded in the hostility of the Lapua Movement to both the SDP and to Trade Unions in general. Out of discussions on these issues among others came the suggestion that a rapproachment be engineered between the Suojeluskuntas and the SDP, de-politicising the Suojeluskuntas and allowing SDP members to join and actively play a part in the defence of Finland.
Through the 1920’s, the Suojeluskunta and the Social Democrats had largely seen each other through the prism of the Civil War, in which many Social Democrats had fought as Red Guards. After the Civil War, the hostility had continued, although the Social Democrats had to a certain extent moved away from the Communists. There were still, particularly in the industrial city of Tampere, running brawls between the so-called Lahtarit (the Butchers) and the Punikit (the Reddies). Mannerheim and Tanner saw a rapproachment as step towards healing the wounds of the Civil War and building national unity while at the same time helping to take some of the heat out of the ill-feelings that the Lapua Movements actions were creating. While hot-heads at both extremes of the political spectrum agitated towards a replay of the Civil War, Mannerheim and Tanner were moving in the opposite direction, wanting to coll things down and draw the extremes closer together.
The rapproachment itself was largely orchestrated behind the scenes by Vaino Tanner and Mannerheim and its public announcement was one of the more epochal moments in Finland’s history (and not incidentally, one that also happened to subsequently remove a major obstacle to increased defence spending in reducing the opposition within the SDP to spending on the military). In February of 1930, at the urging of Tanner, and with the active support of Mannerheim, the SDP party committee had first made private contact with the Suojeluskunta leadership, and the two organisations found common ground very fast. When, in March 1930, Mannerheim, Major-General Malmberg (the head of the Suojeluskuntas, Lotta-General Fanny Luukkonen and SDP Leader Vaino Tanner publicly and jointly announced in both press releases and on a live radio broadcast (that was listened to by more than half Finland’s population at that time – in other words, everyone with access to a radio) that the Suojeluskunta and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) shared a common vision of the need for a spirit of national unity within Finland, jointly saw the dangers of the rising move towards totalitarianism in Europe and encouraged Finnish citizens of all political persuausions to join the Suojeluskunta or Lotta Svärd, this was a momentuous and earth-shattering political event that captured headlines across Finland.
Tanner had done his behind-the-scenes prepartions within the Social Democrat organisation well, and Mannerheim’s allies and supporters within the Suojeluskunta and the rightist political parties had also done their groundwork. There was little publicly voiced opposition in the Press, indeed the Press generally hailed the rapproachment in the spirit with which it was made. The Communists reviled the move, but they were on the verge of becoming an illegal and underground movement, and the actions of the Lapua Movement in destroying their printing presses and publications had ensured that they were unable to voice their opposition publicly although the Unions they controlled or influenced were quick to make their opposition known. Within the Suojeluskunta, members were ready to take the first step in removing hostility between the SDP and the Sk-organization. A formal event welcoming both Social Democrats into the Suojeluskunta, and Sk-members into the SDP was held on the 15th of March1930. The symbolic significance was large, but the actual results for members of both organizations were not immediately so. By the 10th of April 1930, only about 1,000 Social Democrats had joined the Suojeluskunta. However, with Mannerheim, Vaino Tanner, other SDP politicians and party leaders and Suojeluskunta leaders working together to emphasis the need for Finland’s defences to be strengthened, and continually emphasizing that the Suojeluskunta was a “Finnish” organisation, and not a “political” organisation, membership of the Suojeluskunta began to grow significantly from 1931 on. An added incentive were the new financial incentives for Suojeluskunta training included within the State Budget from 1931 on, as well as the support offered by both state-owned and private businesses for Suojeluskunta membership. While there was still Union opposition, it became ever more muted over time as more and more Union members joined.
The Appointment of Mannerheim as Chairman of the Defence Council in 1931
After being elected President, P.E. Svinhufvud asked Mannerheim to take the post of the chairman of the Defence Council (1931-1939). Mannerheim accepted after negotiating various conditions, including the appointment by parliamentary consensus of Rudolph Walden as Defence Minister, securing control over all Defense Spending for the Chairman of the Defence Council, negotiating increased levels of defense spending for 1931 and yearly increases thereafter and also giving him command authority over the Armed Forces, allowing him to implement changes and reforms as he saw fit. It is relevant to note at this point that the support of the Social Democratic Party, and of Vaino Tanner in particular, was a crucial factor in the granting of the powers requested by Mannerheim and the meeting of the conditions requested (such as the appointment of Rudolph Walden as Defence Minister, a post he held by an all-party consensus from 1931 to the end of the Second World War). With the close personal relationship and trust between Mannerheim and Vaino Tanner that had been built up during the negotiations leading to the Maritime Initiative legislation and the Rapproachment between the Social Democratic Party and the Suojeluskuntas, it is doubtful that the SDP would have agreed to the awarding of what was in effect complete control of the military and of all military spending to Mannerheim.
As we will see in later Posts, under Mannerheims’ chairmanship, and working hand-in-glove with the Defense Minister, Rudolph Walden (1931-1944 – appointed as Defense Minister in 1931 by an all-party consensus at Mannerheim’s request, concurrent with his accepting the position of chairman of the Defence Council) and with the Commander-in-Chief of the Military, the Defence Council steered and managed the expansion of the Finnish military industry and the ongoing expansion of capabilities of the Finnish Armed Forces. In this position, Mannerheim also organized campaigns to strengthen the positive attitudes of the general public towards matters of defence, supported the Scandinavian trend in foreign policy and sought close cooperation with Sweden, for example in matters concerning the defence of Åland and the development of arms production. The strengthening of the defence-relationship with Sweden did not, however, entirely proceed in the direction Mannerheim had hoped for (this, and foreign policy in general, will be covered shortly in a further post).
At this point, a brief introduction to Rudolph Walden is in order given that he served continuously as Defence Minister from 1931-44 under different governments and working closely with Mannerheim, Vaino Tanner and Risto Ryti throughtout this entire period. While Mannerheim can be seen as the great architect, strategist and war-time commander of the Finnish military and Risto Ryti can be seen as the financier who worked monetary magic to make the necessary funding available, Walden was the guiding hand behind the development of the Finnish military-industrial complex from 1931 to 1944, a positon from which he worked miracles in driving research, development and productionalisation of the Finnish armaments and munitions industry on a limited budget. It was Walden who ensured that the Finnish military were equipped with sufficient weapons and ammunition to fight first the Russians, and then the Germans. It was Walden who drove the design and introduction into the military of some of the more innovative Finnish weapons (as we will see when we look at the Finnish military-industrial complex, it’s development and the weapons produced in a later post). It was Walden who ensured the Ilmavoimat had a locally-based construction capability which ensured that through the length of the Winter War, the Ilmavoimats aircraft could be maintained and repaired, as well as new aircraft continuing to be constructed.
(December 1, 1878, Helsinki – October 25, 1946) was born the second eldest son of the Ähtäri District Court Judge Walfrid Walden and his wife, Mathilda Christina nee the Sommelius family. He started school at Jyväskylä Lyceum, but had poor success at school. Every summer he failed to pass his classes in Finnish and Swedish language. His father then made a decision; both of the younger sons, Rudolf and Nils, were sent to the Hamina Cadet School in 1890. The Finnish Hamina Cadet School then had seven grades, four general and three special. The former corresponded with the upper grades of Secondary School, and led to the Matriculation Examination, while the special grades prepared officers for the military. Rudolf was 11 years when he arrived at Hamina. He transformed himself into a diligent student, and before long he was the best in his class. His talent expressed itself in mathematics and military sciences, and he became ambitious. After having completed the general grades, Rudolf continued into the special grades, having decided to become an officer. The teachers and his circle of friends educated the youngster in a positive manner.
As the Cadet Sergeant Major and the best of his Cadet course, he would have been entitled to get into a Russian elite regiment, but because of Russification measures being taken in Finland he refused, and joined the Finnish Guard as an officer with the rank of Junior Lieutenant in August 1900. In the summer of 1901, the military force of the Grand Duchy of Finland was abolished, with the exception of the Guard's Battalion. Being loyal to the military of the Grand Duchy of Finland, Walden submitted his resignation, but it was not approved, and he was ordered to serve as a military member of the Kuopio Conscription Board. Walden refused and was threatened with punishment, with the case eing processed in the Military Supreme Court. Thus his case became part of the legality battle of the so-called Years of Oppression, and this is also how Walden viewed it. Walden was condemned to lose his post and also to lose the salary benefits associated with it. His short military career ended and s long career as an industrialist began.
In the village of Borskoye Tatarovo in Russia there was a paper mill owned by Finns, where an accountant and office clerk was needed. Walden was neither, but the maverick convicted and sacked Junior Lieutenant decided to take the position as there was a post and an offer of a salary. He bought a textbook on accounting and boarded a train. Within a year the company went bankrupt. The superintendent of the Jämsänkoski Factories then offered Walden the post of Office Chief of the Slovo Company in St Petersburg. The new Office Chief quickly noticed that the economy of the company was in the red, the workers stole company property, and there was a sluggish rate of work at the printing press and the agency. Walden returned discipline, and soon the company was succeeding. Within a couple of years, Walden was the CEO of Slovo. Business went well and customers trusted him.
Patalankosken paperitehdas ja hiomo Jämsänkoskella 1900-luvun alussa / Patalankoski paper mill - early 20th century
In 1911 he took a further position as the representative of the Simpele Paper Mill, the products of which he also began to sell in the Russian market. He also bought some of the company's shares and was elected as a Board Member of Simpele in 1910. The value of the shares began to quickly rise as WW1 went on – and Walden bought all available shares. By 1918 he owned about 28 per cent of the stock of Simpele. At the end of the same year, he bought a good third of the stock of Myllykoski Träsliperi Co. and in May 1919 was elected to the Board of Myllykoski and made its Chairman. At this time, co-operation within the Finnish paper industry between the families of Björnberg and Walden began, a co-operation which continued until 1952, when Myllykoski split off the United Paper Mills.
Walden's third move was due to both Simpele and Myllykoski needing a cellulose factory of there own. It turned out that the majority of shares of the Jämsänköski Company was available and a deal was made in November 1919, with the company transferred to the joint ownership of Simpele and Myllykoski, with Walden again as the Chairman of the Board. In the summer of 1920, Simpele, Myllykoski, and Jämsänkoski were merged into one conglomerate, Yhtyneet Paperitehtaat Oy (United Paper Mills), with Walden as the Chairman of the Board and owning a good quarter of the stock. Walden's fourth lucky strike took place in Valkeakoski in the Sääksmäki parish, where a minor paper mill and wood grinding plant had been built in the 1870's. The industry had later been expanded with the construction of the first suphate cellulose factory in Finland. Aktiebolag Walkiakoski was owned by Helsingin Osakepankki Bank in the early 1920's, and the bank was looking for an industrialist who could get the company back on its feet again. Walden was chosen to head Valkeakoski in 1925. After many negotiations, United Paper Mills acquired the majority of Valkeakoski shares in 1929, and the formal merger took place in 1934. From interests in forests, rapids, sulphite and sulphate cellulose and paper factories there developed a logical and economical entity. The history of the company remembers the Jämsänkoski "million-summer" of 1920, which was a remarkable bloodletting, as a great deal of money was spent on grandiose renovations that proved useless. When Walden returned from the Dorpat (Tartu) peace negotiations and familiarized himself with the situation, a radical reform of management followed; more than 30 men left Jämsänkoski.
On 27 January 1918 Mannerheim ordered his troops to disarm the Bolshevik troops in Ostrobothnia. On the same day Rudolf Walden returned to Helsinki from St Petersburg. On the next day, Kullervo Manner ordered the mobilization of the Red Guards. The Finnish Civil War had begun. Within a week Walden had reported to the service of the White Army in Seinäjoki, when he met Mannerheim for the first time. Walden knew what sort of a man Mannerheim was, but Mannerheim only knew that Walden was a businessman who spoke Russian like a native, had gone to Cadet School and had served briefly as a Lieutenant but was now aged 39 years. After their meeting, Walden was ordered to serve as an assistant to the Commander-in-Chief (Mannerheim) in the General Headquarters, and two weeks later he was promoted to Major. Long hours were worked at the General Headquarters, as there was more to do than here were men to do the work. This suited Walden, who had always slept poorly and worked effectively at night. Among his first tasks was achieving a reconciliation between the views of Mannerheim and of the Jägers. The dispute in views was escalating to the point where the White Army was about to lose either its Supreme Commander or the Jägers. Walden worked out a solution to the situation, which had far-reaching consequences for the whole war.
Because of his organizing skills, Walden was then assigned to act as the Commandant of Seinäjoki, the District Chief of Vaasa and the Chief of Depot Command. Major Walden's job description included among others handling issues related to foodstuffs, horses, vehicles, material, hospitals, railroad transport, postal and police matters. The businessman had the task of creating from the logistical capabilities of the White Army from nothing and in this he achieved outstanding success. After the capture of Tampere, Walden was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and awarded the Liberty Cross, Second Class. After the war, Mannerheim and Walden submitted their applications for resignation. Mannerheim approved Walden's resignation one day before Regent P. E. Svinhufvud accepted Mannerheim's resignation. Mannerheim thanked his men, but forgot about Walden's promotion. The new Supreme Commander, Major General Karl Fredrik Wilkman, announced after a few weeks that Walden was entitled to wear a uniform and had been promoted to Colonel.
After the Civil War, Walden returned to managing his industrial interests and satisfactory results were soon achieved. Trade with Russia, where most of exports had gone until 1917, had ended in 1918. Germany had surrendered in the autumn of 1918. Britain and the United States still lived in war economy. Finnish paper producers tried to get trade started, but they had no information on how to conduct successful trade with Western countries as prior to WW1 there primary market had been within Russia. Walden saw that the weak economic basis of the country had to be strengthened quickly: industry must get up and running, exports must get going, and money must move. With Gösta Serlachius, he quickly created the Finnish paper mills association, took its chairmanship in July 1918, and thus rose to the number one position within the Finnish paper industry.
However, even before the year ended, Mannerheim and Walden were again carriers of state responsibility as the Regent and the War Minister respectively. One of Walden’s first tasks as War Minister, acting also as the Supreme Commander in command of the troops, was to escort the German soldiers in the country outside the national borders. From the beginning of 1919 the Supreme Command was transferred to the Regent Mannerheim, and the Chief of the Army with command tasks became Major General Wilkama. Along with the creation of the Finnish military, Conscription was instituted, the Law on Conscription and the Decree on the Suojeluskuntas were passed and the Officer School (Kadettikoulu) and Staff College (Sotakorkeakoulu) were established. The country had an energetic and precise War Minister who did not tolerate procrastination. When he gave an order, a report on how the matter had been dealt with had to be ready in short order. As a businessman, Walden took Army purchasing under his personal control. The status of the imprisoned Reds after the battles of 1918, now in camps, also had to be solved. Walden's view was that those imprisoned must be set free and people allowed to return to their families and back to work. Also Mannerheim had spoken at length about this, and in the spring of 1919 a decree was passed to end the action of the Courts of State Crimes and award a general amnesty. In 1919, on the first anniversary of the capture of Tampere, Walden was promoted to Major-General, thus he had risen from Lieutenant to General in 14 months.
While Walden was War Minister, Finnish troops were involved in the Aunus Campaign when Britain intervened, demanding that the Finnish soldiers in Repola return to Finland. The Cabinet decided that relations with London should not be put at risk. Action to assist the Karelians was forbidden, but individual initiative was permitted. According to the foreign press at the time, Finland was preparing to march an Army of 40-50 000 men on St Petersburg. Britain and Finland denied the rumor vigorously but the damage had already been done and Soviet Russia sent a protest note to Finland. In June 1919. eleven municipalities in Viipuri Province were declared to be in a state of war. Certain domestic pressure groups bombarded the War Ministry with demands to send troops to Aunus and Admiral Kolchak, who had set out from Siberia to march on Moscow, telegraphed direct to Mannerheim requesting him to join in a pincer movement against St Petersburg. The Chief of the Army Wilkama resigned and Walden submitted his own resignation. When the Cabinet announced that no commitments had been made to Kolchak and there was no planned campaign against St Petersburg, Walden took back his request for resignation.
After having lost the Presidential elections to K. J. Ståhlberg, Mannerheim had retreated into private life. After the Dorpat (Tartu) peace treaty had been signed in 1920, Walden also retired from politics and moved back to business. At the same time however, Walden thought about the international status of Finland, the rise of bolshevism in the East, the internal disputes within Finland and especially the status of Finland’s military forces. In Walden's opinion, Mannerheim had to be returned to lead the military and he pushed this opinion forcefully and with all the sizable influence at his disposal. After Svinhufvud became President, the Defence Council was reorganized, Mannerheim became its Chairman, and Walden became both Defense Minister and also, at Mannerheim’s demand, a member of the Defense Council.
Foreign diplomats sent dispatches: “Finland has an out-of-Parliament Cabinet ready, should the country get into a state of emergency”. Mannerheim and Walen almost immediately found themselves in the midst of internal rows within the Army Headquarters over the massive shortcomings in armament and equipment. Mannerheim and Walden worked closely with Risto Ryti, J. K. Paasikivi and Väinö Tanner to determine on a course of action. Paasikivi was the first to agree, Ryti worked on various financial alternatives to fund increased defense spending while Tanner agreed with the defence initiatives in general while demanding improvements in the status of the labor class simultaneously with arms acquisition. With the support of the rightist parties as well as the SDP, defence spending increased significantly in 1931 and therafter, every year saw further increases in the budgetary allocations (something we will examine in detail, together with the development of the military-industrial complex) in a subsequent post.
In the middle of these early problems the Mäntsälä rebellion took place. Walden had supported the Lapua movement in its early stages but now its leaders demanded the President dissolve the Sunila Cabinet and nominate “Walden's Cabinet” instead. Walden was emphatic and vocal in his public condemnation of the Mäntsälä rebellion and its proposals, publicly stating his complete support for Svinhufvud and the current Cabinet and government and his statements helped seal the collapse of the rebellion. We will follow Walden’s career, the development of the Finnish military industrial complex and the specifics of Finnish armaments in a later post (as mentioned earlier). Suffice it to say that through the 1930’s, Walden and Mannerheim followed the development of events in Germany and Hitler's consolidation of power with concern, whist simultaneously doing their best to hasten the building up of Finland’s armaments and military strength. At the same time they tried to engineer closer relations with the other Nordic countries, especially Sweden. There was some response, even though the language row caused difficulties. Walden was annoyed by the dispute, but one target for the blame for feeding the language row was the newspaper Uusi Suomi, the board of which Walden was a member of.
Walden held a conservative view on the politics of the labor market. Labor organizing themselves into trade unions and collective agreements on wages were like a red rag to a bull for him. His view was that on wages and conditions of employment, the employer should have the right to agree directly with the employee without the interference of any outsider. The solutions should also be personal: a good worker must get more pay than a poorer one. For their level, the wages were very low for a long time, so much so that in August 1933 his son Juuso, who was a chief clerk at Valkeakoski, wrote his father a long letter advocating a general pay rise for the labor force. Walden’s reply letter to his son was as long, as he explained the grounds for his most important decisions. Mild pay rises were now allowed, however, with some considerations. Walden's view was that only a Suojeluskuntas member was a good worker irritated many workmen and the labor movement. This battle was spearheaded by a columnist of the Suomen Sosialidemokraatti (The Finnish Social Democrat), Sasu Punanen (the alias of Yrjö Räisänen), whose columns specifically criticized Walden among others.
Yrjö Räisänen, a left-wing columnist who wrote under the alias of Sasu Punanen:
The insults angered others as well, and the Central League of the Wood Refining Industry contacted Tanner to ask him to calm down the columnist’s bad mouthing. As Defense Minister and a member of the Defence Council, Walden found himself working almost on a daily basis with Vaino Tanner and this and the rapid growth in SDP members joining the Suojeluskuntas following the 1930 Rapproachment all combined to influence Walden into accepting the justification for organized labor and an egalitarian contracting mechanism in the mid-1930’s. The fatherhood of the idea of "the engagement of January 1934" between the STK (Suomen Työnantajain Keskusliitto: The Central League of Finland's Employers) and the SAK (Suomen Ammattijärjestöjen Keskusliitto: The Central League of Finland's Labor Unions) is generally ascribed to K. A. Fagerholm. Colonel Lehmus has later claimed he owns notes that prove Mannerheim and Walden playing key roles behind this engagement. The idea and the preparatory work were Fagerholm's, but without the duo of Mannerheim and Walden backing the initiative, the agreement would never have got the signatures of the STK leaders.
As Defence Minister through the decade of the 1930’s, Walden also commited his own industries to supporting the ongoing improvements in Finnish defence. Workers were encouraged to join the Suojeluskuntas, with paid leave for attendance on training courses and annual exercises and preference was given to hiring Suojeluskuntas members. In the early days, before the Maavoimat provided individual weapons to the Suojeluskuntas, Walden’s companies paid for Rifles for his employees who wished to join and contributed financially to the local units to which they belonged. Walden also made significant financial contribitions to the Lotta Svard organisation and encouraged female employees and the wifes and daughters of employees to join the Lottas. Walden’s companies made substantial purchases of Finnish Defence Bonds annually, and encouraged workers to contribute via matching employer contributions. Following the decision to purchase modern artillery for the Finnish Army in the mid-1930s, Walden established at his own expense a shell lathe plant with five lathes at the Valkeakoski Mill. Initial production was 300 shells per day, but this was soon increased to 500 shells and then, following the Munich Crisis, a further five lathes were installed and production was increased to 1,000 shells per day. At the same time, an additional ten lathes were purchased and installed as a “war preparation contingency measure” but were not brought on to use until August 1939.
At this time, when negotiations with the Soviet Union were not going well, these additional lathes were brought into production and by running triple shifts with the lathes running day and night, 7 days a week production soared to some 5,000 shells per day. Over the three months prior to the Winter War breaking out, this measure alone resulted in some 450,000 additional artillery shells being added to the war reserve (at a not insignificant personal cost to Walden’s company as this was undertaken on Walden’s personal initiative and was not funded by the Defence Budget in any way, although it must be added that after war broke out, Walden was reimbursed at cost). At Walden’s urging, other companies undertook similar initiatives, largely from the mid-1930’s on – the larger companies following Walden’s example and establishing these at their own expense while smaller companies did so at cost, forgoing any profit margins to contribute towards Finland’s defence. In the late 1930’s as the threat of war loomed ever larger, Walden also ordered the United Paper Mills to order and stockpile foreign raw materials much in excess of need as a war preparation measure. In his position as Defense Minister, he had regulations passed requiring other large industrial organisations to undertake similar measures.
Rudolph Walden – Finnish Industralist (picture from 1929). Walden was known as a tough and cool negotiator. He represented Finland in the negotiation of all peace treaties between Finland and Soviet Union: The Treaty of Tartu of 1920 and the Moscow Peace Treaty of September 1940; also in the Norwegian Neutrality Agreement with Germany (November 1940); he represented Finland in the 1943 Tehran Conference where it was agreed that Finland would enter the war on the Allied side and again at the February 1945 Yalta Conference where Europe’s post-war reorganization was discussed between Churchill, Roosevelt and Malenkov, who had emerged as the political leader of the Soviet Union after Stalin’s death.
The wars demanded a heavy sacrifice from Walden. He lost his son Rudi in October 1941 from an accident in Eastern Karelia as he was returning on leave. In August 1944 his youngest son, Lieutenant (posthumously promoted to Captain) Lauri Walden fell fighting with the Jaeger Airborne Division as the Finnish Army fought desperately to break through to relieve the besieged Polish Home Army in the battle of Warsaw. Defence Minister and Infantry General Rudolf Walden was paralyzed in November 1944 at his Helsinki home, the Marble Palace of Kaivopuisto, and he died at the Rapala Estate in Sysmä on 25 October 1946. He was buried at the Hietaniemi Cemetery of Helsinki. After Karl Rudolf Walden died, Marshal Mannerheim wrote to his widow: "I will preserve his faithful friendship with gratitude in my memory. It bound us together always from the very moment, when our roads joined on the darkest days of the War of Liberty. Not the smallest cloud has shadowed it. His experience as a large scale industrialist, his imagination, when it was a question of creating the Army organization from entirely nothing, they were the factors that Finland needed right then. As a Minister of Defense hrough both peace and war and as the grand scale constructor of our war industry our country has never had anyone like him".
During his military and civilian career, Walden had received several domestic and foreign honors and awards. For his actions during and after the War of Liberty (the Civil War), Walden received the Cross of Liberty, 1st Class with a grand star. He also received the Iron Cross of Imperial Germany in 1918. In 1919 he was made Commander of the Order of the White Rose of Finland. Later he received the Grand Cross of the Order. In peace time in the 1920's Walden became a Knight of the Swedish Order of the North Star and in 1928 he was awarded the Danish Grand Cross of the Order of the Dannebrog personally from King Kristian X. The King also thanked Walden for the sacrifices for Denmark of his maternal grandfather. As the Minister of Defense during the Winter War and later, during Finnish involvement in the Second World War, Walden received several additional high decorations including the Swedish Grand Cross of the Royal Order of the Sword and on 2 December 1944, the Mannerheim Cross of the Order of the Cross of Liberty.
When you’re an industrial magnate, you live like an industrial magnate. This is the so-called Marble Palace in Kaivopuisto, Helsinki, where Rudolf Walden lived from1937 to his death in 1946. It was originally built for the Swedish-born factory owner and art collector August Keirkner in 1918 – he was killed in the Finnish Civil War and his widow sold the house to Walden in 1937. After Walden's death, in 1947 the State of Finland rented the building. The Marble Palace was transferred to State ownership in 1949, and currently it is used by the Labour Court. The building was designed by the architect Eliel Saarinen (1873-1950), and it is protected as a significant building of Finnish architecture and cultural history. The Marble Palace is located about 300 m from Mannerheim's house, where Walden was often invited as a dinner guest.
And a look at the “Marble Palace” from the other side
Returning Now to the Politics of the 1920’s
In the Interwar Period the politically important parties in Finland were:
Suomen Sosialidemokrattinen Puolue / Finnish Social Democratic Party (SDP) founded in 1899: Political Stance – emphasized Social Welfare and State Socialism
Kansallinen Kokoomuspuolue / National Coalition Party (KOK ) founded in 1918: Political Stance – conservative
Kansallinen Edistyspuolue / National Progressive Party (ED) founded in 1918: Political Stance – Liberal and Republican
Maalaisliitto / Agrarian (ML): Political Stance – represented the interests of farmers and the rural population in general
Suomen Kommusnistinen Puolue / Communist Party of Finland (SKP) founded in 1918: Political Stance: Communism and alliance with the Soviet Union (illegal from 1931 to after WW2)
Isänmaallinen Kansanliike / Patriotic People's Movement (IKL): Political Stance: Fascist, far-right
Suomen Pienviljelijäin Puolue / Smallholders Party of Finland ( ) founded in 1929: Political Stance – communist front organisation
Suomen ruotsalainen kansanpuolue / Swedish People’s Party of Finland (SFP) founded in 1906: Poltical Stance – represented the interests of Swedish speaking Finns
Generally speaking, the main parties were the SDP, National Coalition (Kokoomus), National Progressive (Edistys), Agrarian (Maalaisliitto) with the SFP (Swedish People’s Party) consistently representing the Swedish-speaking minority. In the early 1930’s, the IKL emerged as a further and far-right minority party. Governments throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s were generally either a left-centre coalition or a centre-right coalition made up of various party groupings. Of the 19 governments that were in office in the 21 years between independance and the Winter War, 14 were minority or caretaker governments. Even the majority governments generally only lasted for a short while in office. An exception in the series of short-lived governments was T.M. Kivimäki's minority government consisting of the centre parties which stayed in office for nearly four years between 1932 and 1936. In this period it was usually the non-socialist centre and right parties who formed governments.
After the defeat of the left in the civil war and the departure of radical elements from its ranks, the SDP had been reconstituted in the same year under the leadership of the moderate Vainö Tanner, an opponent of the use of violence for political ends. Although still the country's largest political party, the SDP first entered the government in 1926-27 when the party assumed office alone as a minority government formed by Tanner. The SDP were not included in a governing coalition again until 1937, when it joined the Agrarian Party (Maalaisliitto-ML) in forming the first of the so-called Red-Earth governments (OTL - the most common and important coalition pattern for the next fifty years of Finnish political history). At that time, a tempering of SDP policy on the place of the small farmer in Finnish society permitted political cooperation with the Agrarians, although the party retained its program of a planned economy and the socialization of the means of production.
It was in 1937 that the SDP first began to demand the right of collective bargaining, and the party remained closely connected to organized labor. In 1930, for example, it had formed the Confederation of Finnish Trade Unions (Suomen Ammattiyhdistysten Keskusliitto--SAK) in an attempt to counter communist influence in the labor movement while at the same time negotiating the Rapproachment with the Suojeluskuntas. Throughout the decade of the 1930’s, the Winter War and through the length of the Second World War, the SDP contributed significantly to national unity, while resisting both far-rightist dreams of a Greater Finland and an alliance with Nazi Germany on the one hand and the desires of others on the far-left for an early truce and the surrender of Finnish territory to the Soviet Union.
Given the many different governments, it’s pointless to examine these individually. Instead, we will take a quick and very high level look at some of the major initiatives that were undertaken through the 1920’s. Agrarian Reform was a key initiative. Large scale agrarian reform in the 1920s involved breaking up the large estates controlled by the old nobility and selling the land to peasants and tenant-farmers. As a result, the farmers became strong supporters of the government. Prohibition was introduced in 1919 with the same results that other countries who tried this measure experienced. Alcohol abuse had a long history in Finland, especially binge drinking and public intoxication, which became a crime in 1733. In the 19th century the punishments became stiffer and stiffer, but the problem persisted. A strong abstinence movement emerged that cut consumption in half from the 1880s to the 1910s, and gave Finland the lowest drinking rate in Europe. Four attempts at instituting the complete prohibition of alcohol during the Grand Duchy period were rejected by the Tsar; with the Tsar gone Finland enacted Prohibition from 1919. Smuggling emerged and enforcement was slipshod. Criminal convictions for drunkenness went up by 500%, and violence and crime rates soared. Public opinion turned against the Prohibition law, and a national plebiscite resulted in 70% voting for repeal of the legislation, consequently prohibition was ended in early 1932.
While a separate Post will examine Finland’s foreign relations and the ongoing attempts to build defensive alliances, one issue that we should mention within the context of internal politics is the serious dispute over the Åland Islands, which were overwhelmingly Swedish-speaking and sought to secede to Sweden shortly after independance. As Finland was not willing to cede the islands, they were offered an autonomous status. Nevertheless, the residents did not approve the offer, and the dispute over the islands was submitted to the League of Nations. The League decided that Finland should retain sovereignty over the Åland Islands, but they should be made an autonomous province. Thus Finland was under an obligation to ensure the residents of the Åland Islands had a right to maintain the Swedish language, as well as their own culture and local traditions. At the same time, an international treaty was concluded on the neutral status of Åland, under which it was prohibited to place military forces on the islands or establish fortifications.
In an earlier Post, we looked at the development of the Maritime Industrial Cluster and the rapid growth of Finland’s economy through the later 1920’s and the decade of the 1930’s. We will not go into this in any further detail, but suffice it to say that Finland’s economy through this period experienced perhaps the greatest percentage growth rate in Europe – approximately 7% annual growth through this period – with the Great Depression having only a minor impact. The rapid growth of the economy resulted in a steadily increasing government revenue from taxation, and the establishment and rapid growth of a number of state-owned enterprises also contributed significant revenue steams. While prior to 1938, defence spending was never a large percentage of the State Budget, it did increase steadily as the financial position of the state improved.