The Mint of Finland have launched the latest coin in their ongoing “Presidents of Finland” coin series. This collector coin—the seventh in the series—pays tribute to J.K. Paasikivi (1870–1956), who served as the seventh president of the Republic of Finland from 1946 to 1956. Succeeding the very charismatic Carl Gustaf Mannerheim after the country emerged from the tumultuous Second World War and the aftermath of territorial loss to the USSR, Paasikivi came to be considered one of Finland’s more conciliatory political figures.
The bi-metallic coin is designed by Tero Lounas. The inner disc features a portrait of President Paasikivi in three-quarter profile facing toward the right. The lower part of the bust extends onto the golden ring, on which the legend JUHO KUSTI PAASIKIVI 1870–1956 surrounds the primary design.
The reverse features a landscape of Finnish fields, framed by an open book depicting a constructed urban environment. Reading clockwise on the outer ring, from the left, are the words SUOMI FINLAND and the date of issue, 2017; at the bottom, the denomination 5 EURO. (All coins in the series share a common reverse.)
|€5||Bi-metallic||9.8 g||27.2 mm||Brilliant Unc.||30,000|
|€5||Bi-metallic||9.8 g||27.2 mm||Proof||6,000|
The series has been produced in conjunction with Finland’s centennial anniversary of independence, which is officially marked this year with several national celebrations. The Proof-quality coin is encapsulated and housed in a white folder specifically designed for the series and national anniversary. The remaining coin, honouring U.K. Kekkonen, will be released later in 2017, thus concluding the eight-coin series in its entirety. Advance orders for the Paasikivi collector coin may be placed in the online shop from the 1st August at 9 a.m. Please visit the Mint of Finland’s website for more information on this and other coins on offer.
The other coins in the “Presidents of Finland” series are as follows:
- Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg (president from 1919 to 1925)
- Lauri Kristian Relander (president from 1925 to 1931)
- Pehr Evind Svinhufvud af Qvalstad (president from 1931 to 1937)
- Kyösti Kallio (president from 1937 to 1940)
- Risto Ryti (president from 1940 to 1944)
- Urho Kekkonen (president from 1956 to 1982)
Finland’s Success Story: President and Architect of the “Paasikivi Line”
The life of Finland’s seventh president is something right out of the storybooks—the epitome of what perseverance and hard work can ultimately accomplish. Juho Kusti Paasikivi’s earlier life was not an easy one, nor was it privileged, but it certainly was one of promise and hope. He is, however, also remembered as the main architect of Finland’s post–World War II foreign policy of diplomatic caution: the Paasikivi Line. His public and political career spanned many years from the turn of the century to the end of his presidency and, ultimately, his life (he died in 1956). Paasikivi’s key political and economic decisions were extraordinarily wide-ranging. They have extended far beyond his years in office, and are still influencing the country many years after his administration.
Initially born as Johan Gustaf Hellsten on the 27th November 1870 at Hämeenkoski, Tavastia, in southern Finland, he was the son of a travelling merchant with Swedish roots. When he was four, Paasikivi’s mother died; his father died when he was 14, leaving the young teen in the care of his aunt. The next year the young Johan Gustaf Hellsten adopted the more Finnish-sounding name of Juho Kusti Paasikivi. It was during these years that Paasikivi cultivated his traits of independence to the point of obstinacy, later considered primary traits of Paasikivi’s personality as an adult. He is also remembered as honest and direct, a realist who could display caution and pessimism, but someone who could also show traits of a lively temperament.
Paasikivi began his secondary schooling in 1882, and it became quite evident that he had an inexhaustible enthusiasm for books. He proved to be an exemplary student for the duration of his years in school and easily passed his university entrance examination with excellent marks in 1890, concentrating primarily on history and Russian. After completing his arts studies in 1892 he decided that he would switch to law, which seemed a more practical subject—and certainly more financially stable. In 1897, he passed his examinations, acquiring his Master of Law degree; in that same year, Paasikivi married fellow student Anna Forsman (1869–1931), with whom he would have four children. He received a Doctor of Law degree in 1901 and was appointed an assistant professor of administrative law at the Imperial Alexander University of Helsinki in 1902; the position lasted for only one year. It was in 1903 that he moved to the Finnish State Treasury as director in chief, a position he would occupy until 1913. This position was his introduction into politics, which would become a great part in his life for the next five decades.
From the early years of his education, Paasikivi developed a conservative political worldview, so it wasn’t much of a surprise when he joined the conservative nationalist Finnish Party. His political views were greatly influenced by J.R. Danielson-Kalmari (1853–1933), a professor of history, state councillor, and future Finnish senator who advocated a trend of compliance as well a policy of appeasement in dealings between Finland and Russia. Danielson-Kalmari also stressed the importance of social reforms in domestic policy and in the betterment of financial conditions for the majority of Finland’s people. With Danielson-Kalmari’s influence, Paasikivi arrived at the conclusion that all groups within Finnish society—regardless of their linguistic, ethnic, or social backgrounds—must be prepared to defend and support Finnish autonomy and develop a future state that would be independent from Imperial Russia. This stance was particularly important as Russia had instigated further pressure for greater integration of Finland into Russian society.
Emergence into Political Life and Reform
As a contentious politician espousing compliance with Imperial Russian rule, Paasikivi thought, however reluctantly, that the Finnish state treasury—of which he was the appointed head— should diligently pay the annual sums determined by the Russian-influenced Finnish senate. These funds came to be commonly referred to as “the military millions” due to their patronage of the Russian military and their numerous campaigns. When the grand duchy of Finland’s parliamentary session convened in 1913 and approved a report which concluded that these payments were illegal, Paasikivi decided that he should resign his office and quit politics entirely. He resigned from his position as director in chief of the state treasury in 1914. He had also resigned from parliament at the end of the 1913 session, abdicating his position on the national committee of the Finnish Party. Paasikivi had hoped to join the Bank of Finland, but when he discovered that this was no longer an option to him as a former director in chief of the Finnish state treasury, he saw the need to move into the private sector for the first time in his career. He became chief general manager of the Kansallis-Osake-Pankki bank for the next two decades.
At the outbreak of the First World War, Paasikivi publicly demonstrated his party’s loyalty to the Russian Empire, but after years of oppressive Russification, there was no longer a presumed or moral allegiance. Consequently, Paasikivi came to the conclusion that the Finns should now keep their options open. When Germany demonstrated its strength in the spring of 1915, Paasikivi began to believe in the possibility that Kaiser Wilhelm II’s armies might crush Russia completely, thus defeating Finland’s mighty overlord once and for all.
The Tide Turns in Favour of Finland
The start of the Russian Revolution in the spring of 1917 began with the abdication of Czar Nicholas II, which left Russia without a czar for the first time in 300 years and ended just over a century of oppressive, sometimes harsh rule in Finland. The czar’s abdication elevated the liberals to prominence in the new Russian leadership under Aleksander Kerensky, chairman of the provisional government of Russia. Under these new circumstances, Paasikivi became a representative of the Finnish Party on the constitutional committee, chaired by K.J. Ståhlberg, who would become Finland’s first president after independence. The committee was responsible for drafting a new form of government that sought to increase Finland’s autonomy within Russia. Due to his command of the Russian language, Paasikivi took charge of the negotiations on this issue with the provisional government. Alongside other Finnish loyalists, he worked right up to the October Revolution to consolidate Finland’s autonomous status within the framework of a new Russian government.
It was the untimely rise of the Bolsheviks and their seizing of the provisional Russian government that prompted Paasikivi to discard his last vestments of loyalty to Russia. In his new view of events, the historic magnitude of the Bolsheviks on the world stage and the influence they would have on a new Soviet state allowed Finland the chance for total independence. In his view, it was like “a gift from heaven.” Paasikivi had even less respect for Finnish campaigners who showed support for the Bolsheviks, and he could not find words strong enough to condemn the socialist uprising in Finland. Soviet Russia had now recognised the rebel government, and Paasikivi believed that the achievement of independence was not enough in itself but also had to be further secured. It became evident to him that Russia, whether ruled by Reds or Whites, would eventually look to reconquer its lost territories to the west. During his tour of the Scandinavian countries in the winter of 1917–18, in an effort to elicit support of a new Finnish nation, Paasikivi realised that Swedish intervention on behalf of Finnish independence would not become a reality.
Aside from independence, a plan which involved joining eastern Karelia to Finland was discussed; in the spring of 1918, Paasikivi was one of the leading figures in Finland who solicited Germany’s support for his declared independent state. Pehr Evind Svinhufvud became a provisional head of state in May 1918 and invited Paasikivi to follow him in the capacity of deputy chairman of the senate’s economic department, a role that was essentially that of prime minister. Together, they pushed for a plan to entice the support of Kaiser Wilhelm II by proposing that a German prince would become Finland’s first king. Although a Hohenzollern king of Finland would almost guarantee Finland’s dependency on Germany, Paasikivi believed he was essentially trading one dependency, which already existed between Finland and Russia, for another, between Finland and Imperial Germany. Svinhufvud’s and Paasikivi’s project did not receive immediate support from Germany or the kaiser, and, as it turned out, by the late summer of 1918, Paasikivi began to have doubts about a favourable outcome for Germany in the Great War.
As events unfolded, German imperial forces surrendered to Allied forces in November 1918, and the foundations of the policy to which Paasikivi had adhered, with Svinhufvud’s support, met an unceremonious end, his government also being forced to resign. However, before his resignation took effect, Paasikivi’s senate made some important decisions in the areas of domestic and financial policy. The most significant of these was the “emancipation law,” enacted in November 1918, which affected tenant farmers and the largely landless agricultural population—the peasants. Its content was essentially based on the guidelines drawn up by the general land-settlement commission which convened from 1912 to 1914 and was headed by Paasikivi.
With the collapse of Germany, Russia was once again the deciding factor in Finnish policy, economically, politically, and socially. In order to neutralise the threat from the east, Paasikivi stressed the importance of developing a good relationship with the Russian Whites, who, it was hoped, would win the civil war still being waged in the country. However, the Bolsheviks proved to be victorious, and the need to conclude a peace treaty with Lenin’s new Soviet Union gained support. These negotiations were formulated in the spring of 1920 by the Paasikivi Committee, which consisted of representatives of all parliamentary parties. Aside from Finland, the Baltic states of Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—all emerging from previous Imperial Russian domination similar to Finland’s—were each negotiating their own treaties of peace and recognitions of independence. When the British fleet withdrew from the Baltics in 1921, Finland was left without firm military support from any quarter. Paasikivi began to formulate his policy that it was important to maintain at least tolerable relations with the new Soviet Union. Although the newly created League of Nations, with its principles of negotiation before military action, was fine in itself, Paasikivi felt that any real or substantial assistance from that organisation must be regarded as uncertain or ineffective, at least for the time being. During the 1920’s and ’30’s Paasikivi maintained a constant emphasis on the importance of Finland’s national defence forces.
After Finland adopted a Scandinavian approach to foreign policy in 1935, the post of Finnish ambassador to Stockholm became increasingly important. Paasikivi, who had just retired from his duties at the Kansallis-Osake-Pankki, had also re-married Alli Valve, and at this time was persuaded to accept the post of ambassador in 1936. This post would prove invaluable to Paasikivi in the years leading up to the Second World War, as well as during the hostilities which were to occur between Helsinki and Moscow once again.
War on the Horizon
In early October 1939, the Third Reich invaded Poland on the pretense of protecting their territorial integrity. In response, the Soviet Union proposed a discussion “on concrete political issues.” The Finnish government, headed by President Kyösti Kallio, chose Paasikivi as their chief negotiator due to his expertise on relations with the countries to the east. He undertook three visits to Moscow from October to November. Initially Paasikivi approved the government’s strict guidelines, which he had also been involved in formulating, knowing that, had any foreign assistance been available, he would have eagerly accepted it regardless of where it came from. As the negotiations in Moscow proceeded, it became perfectly clear that Stalin was determined to push through his basic demands and that Finland would ultimately be on their own. It was for this reason that Paasikivi deemed it essential that the Finns should be prepared for substantial concessions in order to prevent a war that would inevitably mean the destruction of the Finnish state.
Paasikivi believed that if Finland conceded to Stalin’s demands, they would be forced to both abandon their Scandinavian-style neutrality and enter the Soviet Union’s sphere of influence, perhaps economically and socially. Despite his grave concerns for the future of an independent Finland, Paasikivi considered this a better alternative than war.
When the Winter War broke out on the 30th November 1939 between Finland and the Soviet Union, Paasikivi was nominated as a minister without portfolio in a new government formed by Risto Ryti. By January 1940, Paasikivi concluded that a peace treaty with Russia would have to concede a base in the western section of the Gulf of Finland. Paasikivi was also still holding out hope for Western assistance, which was not forthcoming. Eventually, he was forced to accept the Soviet Union’s terms for peace, which were signed on the 13th March 1940.
It was in Helsinki in August 1940 that events were taking a very different turn. Paasikivi was aware from the very beginning of the reorientation of Finnish foreign diplomacy which was taking place during the late summer of 1940. The visit by a special envoy of Hermann Göring to Helsinki would result in a rapprochement between Germany and Finland which was taking place in secrecy and was known to only a very few members of the government—not including Paasikivi. The result of this secrecy prompted him to resign as envoy, citing as he reason the fact that he had been given inadequate information. He now considered himself an outside member of the inner circle.
When Paasikivi was finally informed of the political situation on his return to Finland, he had no choice but to adopt the government’s affirmative position towards Germany. At this point, he held a lesser importance in government, as he was officially retired since the summer of 1941 and was working on his memoirs. He continued to have informal discussions every few weeks with President Ryti, as he was considered an external member of the inner circle of government. This indirectly served to keep him well informed about political developments and the national leadership’s assessment of the situation—an assessment with which he agreed.
By the spring of 1944, Paasikivi was once again playing a key role in the many rounds of negotiations in Stockholm, Moscow, and Helsinki. After he returned from one such visit to Moscow, the differences between his and President Ryti’s political views were more evident and the two began to clash, which led to a cooling of their personal friendship. This cooling was also the reason for Paasikivi’s exclusion from the re-organisation of the government in the spring of 1944 under Finland’s new President Mannerheim. In July 1944, just before the conclusion of the Armistice Agreement, Paasikivi was following events from the resort town of Naantali. far from the political intrigue. He recorded his thoughts on the subject in his diary:
In Finland we have traditionally trusted in the power of justice and fairness. History does not seem to be giving us cause to do so. Reading history, one becomes pessimistic.
By the autumn of 1944, it became clear to all—including President Mannerheim—that satisfactory relations with the Soviet Union could not be achieved without Paasikivi’s input, as he was still regarded as one who’d historically rejected a policy of war. It was under these circumstances that President Mannerheim reluctantly asked Paasikivi to help form a government in November 1944.
Consolidating Power and Policy
Paasikivi’s Independence Day speech in 1944 included the new prime minister’s doctrine and political platform, which highlighted the unconditional fulfillment of the terms of the Armistice Agreement between Finland and the USSR. Paasikivi firmly believed that Finland’s fundamental and long-term interests would be best served by the achievement of a difficult but trusting relationship with the Soviet Union. Paasikivi and his government were forced to acquiesce to the interpretation of the Soviet-dominated Allied Control Commission after the conclusion of the war in Europe. This was especially true in the case of reparations and of the trial of wartime politicians, at which sentences were passed according to the demands of the Soviet Union. The stabilisation of the political situation was aided by the results of the parliamentary elections in March 1945; for the first time, the cabinet included a communist. After the elections, Paasikivi was able to reorganise his government on the basis of a cooperative agreement between three large parties: the Social Democrats, the communist-dominated Finnish People’s Democratic League, and the Agrarian Party. President Mannerheim, who relied heavily on the experienced prime minister, took long leaves of absence on medical grounds, and during these times it was the prime minister who ran the country in practice.
President of the Republic and Reconstruction
In 1946, Paasikivi was elected president to serve the remainder of Mannerheim’s period of office, which ran until 1950. Carl Mannerheim had resigned due to poor health, and Paasikivi seemed the most qualified to take the reins of leadership. By the time his first term ended, he was reluctant to participate in a new election, but he did so. When the results were announced in parliament, he had won with 171 of the 300 votes of the electoral college.
During his second term as president, domestic concerns were the main focus of Paasikivi’s attention. The reason for this was partly due to the direction of the opposition Social Democrats with the Agrarian Party as its head. Urho Kekkonen was himself looking at the 1956 presidential election. Aside from domestic matters, Paasikivi felt that it was his primary task as head of state to direct Finland’s foreign policy and reflect the country’s concerns about Soviet demands until peace allowed Finland greater freedom and leverage. With these crucial concessions, he managed to stabilise Finland’s position. This policy was remembered as the “Paasikivi Doctrine” and was adhered to for decades until the end of the Cold War.
A peace treaty with the victorious Allies was finally signed in Paris in February 1947. For Finland, this meant that the basic provisions of the Armistice Agreement signed with the USSR in 1944 remained in force: loss of territory and reparations to Moscow. In February 1948, General Secretary Stalin proposed a treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Mutual Assistance known as the FCMA (or YYA, in Finnish) treaty. President Paasikivi agreed to the general idea while at the same time trying to ensure that the treaty was drawn up on the basis of an outline authored by the Finns.
The lessening of tension in relations between Finland and the USSR resulted partly from the 1948 FCMA treaty and partly from the death of Stalin in 1953. This change and further normalisation in relations increased Paasikivi’s freedom of action in foreign policy towards the end of his presidency. Finland joined both the Nordic Council and the United Nations in 1955, but the climax of the president’s long career came in the autumn of the same year when Paasikivi visited Moscow and delivered back to Finland the military base at Porkkala. Paasikivi had indicated that he would have liked to facilitate minor modifications to the FCMA treaty but was wary of endangering the return of Porkkala, so no modifications had been suggested, and the treaty remained unchanged until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991.
Towards the end of Paasikivi’s second term in office, Finland had finally rid itself of almost all of the restrictions and emergency measures resulting from the war. Rationing was gradually being abolished, and more importantly, the government was credited with having paid war reparations in full. Paasikivi decided he did not want to stand again for president in 1956 but was, with his own consent, put forward as an improbable candidate. As expected, he did not gain sufficient support from the electoral college of parliamentarians during the decisive round of voting. Thus, on the 1st March 1956, at the age of 85, he formally resigned as Finland’s head of state. Now fully retired, he intended to finish writing the memoirs he had begun decades earlier. Sadly for Paasikivi, he died on Christmas Day in 1956. His memoirs were unfinished, but he had established a legacy of stable leadership. He was mourned with all honours accorded a president and laid to rest in the Hietaniemi cemetery. President Paasikivi was survived by only one of his four children and his second wife.
As a tribute to the president, he was portrayed on Finnish markkaa banknotes from 1955 until 1986. On the centennial anniversary of his birth in 1970, he was portrayed on a silver 10-markkaa coin.