The Mint of Finland’s third coin in its popular and historically appealing “Presidents of Finland” series features the country’s third President, Pehr Evind Svinhufvud af Qvalstad (1861 – 1944), who served as Finland’s head of state from 1931 to 1937.
Svinhufvud has the distinction of being the only nobleman elected to the presidency, as well as being the man who declared Finland’s independence to its senate in December of 1917. Svinhufvud also met with Vladimir Lenin in St. Petersburg to secure the recognition of Finnish independence from the Bolshevik government, which had toppled the Russian provisional government one month prior.
Svinhufvud’s place in Finnish history is both colorful and significant to the development post-Russian-Revolution Finland. Born into a noble family whose roots were from Dalarna, Sweden, his family lived in the southwestern village of Sääksmäki, on a homestead called Rapola, where the family had lived for five generations.
His father Pehr Gustaf Svinhufvud af Qvalstad was a sea captain who tragically died in 1863 at the age of just 27 while in Greece when Pehr Evind was only two years old. The boy was raised by both his mother, Olga von Becker, and his grandfather, Pehr Gustaf Svinhufvud af Qvalstad, who served as the provincial treasurer of Häme in the historical province of Tavastia. The family had been ennobled by King Charles XII of Sweden in 1574, and were introduced into the Finnish House of Nobility in 1818.
Fate took a turn for the worse for the Svinhufvud family when in 1866 his grandfather shot and killed himself, resulting in the sale of the family home and a move to Helsinki for Pehr Evind, his mother, and his sister. The move did have positive results, however,as Svinhufvud was able to enroll in the Imperial Alexander University of Helsinki at the age of sixteen, eventually earning a bachelor’s degree in 1881 in the subject of Scandinavian and Russian history; he gained a Master of Arts degree in 1882.
Svinhufvud then enrolled in law studies and graduated with a Master of Laws degree in 1886. He showed great promise in his chosen field at an early stage, serving as a deputy judge at the Turku Court of Appeal, and in 1892 he was appointed as a member of the Finnish Senate’s law-drafting committee at just 31 years of age. As the senior head of his family, Svinhufvud was also active in the Estates of Nobles in the Finnish Senate in 1894, and again from 1899 to 1906.
During his political career, Svinhufvud was repeatedly pressured to “Finnicize” the name of his 500-year-old Swedish noble house and name, which he refused to do. He became a member of the Young Finnish Party, a liberal and nationalist political faction formed in 1894. He was elected to Finland’s parliament in 1906, eventually serving on four additional occasions during elections in 1907, 1908, 1917, and finally in 1930. At the time of his first election, Finland was still a part of the Russian Empire, gaining the status of a Grand Duchy in 1866 as decreed by Czar Alexander II.
Having been duly elected as Speaker of the Parliament in 1907, Svinhufvud’s opening parliamentary speech emphasized legality. His comments and positions prompted the Czar to dissolve Finland’s sitting Parliament in 1909 and again 1910. However, despite his positions on the rule of law and legality in a country with an autocratic head of state, Svinhufvud served as Speaker until 1912.
The outbreak of the Great War would have dangerous consequences for Svinhufvud as a result of his defiance of the Russian Procurator, whom he considered to have no legitimacy in Finland. As a result, Svinhufvud was removed from office and exiled to Siberia in November of 1914, a typical punishment for those defying the authority of the state in Czarist Russia and its territories. However, events in Russia had taken a turn for the worse in terms of the Imperial government holding onto its grip of authority.
In early 1917, the February Revolution had broken out and Svinhufvud found a new lifeline in the instability and protests of the Russian people in St. Petersburg, who had revolted against both the war and the autocratic government of the Czar. What resulted was both historic and surprising to the world: the Czar abdicated, ending the 300-year-old dynasty and a thousand years of the empire and crown. Learning of this, Svinhufvud simply walked to the police station in the town of Tomsk where he had been held and declared to its police chief, “The person who sent me here has been arrested. Now I’m going home.”
This was a bold and perhaps even dangerous move, but it paid off. Upon Svinhufvud’s return to Helsinki, he was greeted as a national hero and appointed the chairman of the Senate. It is with a sense of irony that Svinhufvud would eventually deliver the proclamation of the country’s independence to this chamber on December 6, 1917.
With this declaration delivered, Svinhufvud was once again in the eye of Russian authorities who were looking again to place him under arrest. A civil war had begun in the country, with those loyal to the new provisional Russian government fighting those who supported independence from any Russian state.
Svinhufvud removed himself from public attention and pleaded for German and Swedish assistance from a covert location. As chairman of the Senate, he was the de facto Finnish head of state; having followed the government to exile in Vaasa, Sweden, he escaped the country via Berlin. It was while in Berlin that Svinhufvud advocated to Kaiser Wilhelm II that his second son, Prince Oscar, be appointed as Finland’s new king and a monarchy be established to ensure stability of the new government.
Ultimately, it was Prince Frederick Charles Louis Constantine of Hesse (1868 – 1940), a son in law of the Kaiser who was nominated and subsequently elected by the Finnish parliament to the newly established Finnish throne on October 9, 1918. Svinhufvud had become Protector of State or Regent on May 18; while still retaining his post as head of state, he resigned as chairman of the Senate on May 27.
Svinhufvud’s support for both a constitutional Monarchy in Finland and the election of a German prince resulted in a significant decrease in his popularity. With the fortunes of Germany taking a considerable turn for the worse toward the end of 1918, they were soundly defeated by Allied forces of Great Britain, France, and the newly emerging world power of the United States. Having never reigned, Prince Frederick renounced his title and position as King of Finland, and Finland resumed a path of establishing a Republic.
Svinhufvud mostly retired from public life, but this self-imposed isolation would not last long. He stood for the office of President during the elections of 1925, but was not successful. Instead, the newly elected President, Lauri Kristian Relander, appointed Svinhufvud as Prime Minister, a move which was supported by both sides of the aisle of parliament and seen as a conciliatory move to the opposition and emerging anti-communist movements.
Svinhufvud again offered himself as a candidate for the office of president again in 1931 and was successful this time; he became the country’s third head of state after independence. During his presidency, a crisis erupted in February of 1932 involving the anti-communist Lapua Movement, which sought to overthrow the Finnish government. As a result of their activities, all communist members of parliament were arrested, with Lapua demanding the resignation of the President’s cabinet altogether.
President Svinhufvud appealed by radio to the supporters of the rebellion to return to their homes and urged them not to travel to Mäntsälä, where the rebels had set up a pseudo-alternative seat of government. The crisis had also hit very close to home, as Svinhufvud had to quell the rebellion not only in the country but in his own family; his son Eino Svinhufvud (1896–1938) had announced its intention to support the men of Mäntsälä, whose movement lasted until March of the same year.
The conservative element of parliament worked to gain greater executive powers for the president, but Svinhufvud soundly rejected the notion, declaring that the Finnish president already had enough powers to govern. He tried to balance the influence of the social democrats during his tenure, but as this party had an overall greater number of representatives, it was difficult for him.
Toward the close of his presidency, Svinhufvud was faced with the growing strength of Nazi Germany and the expansion of fascism in Europe. He was succeeded by Kyösti Kallio in 1937, but continued to play a part in guaranteeing Finnish independence against the Soviet Union, who had invaded Finland in November 1939, just weeks after the Nazi invasion of Poland in September of the same year.
He sought an audience with Hitler or Mussolini but was unsuccessful. Ultimately Finland allied itself with Germany as a consequence of fighting with the USSR, and Svinhufvud died in February of 1944 while trying to negotiate a peace with Moscow. He was survived by his wife, Alma Timgren, and four of their six children.
The coin is designed by Tero Lounas and includes a three-quarter facing portrait of Pehr Evind Svinhufvud af Qvalstad, along with the text PEHR EVIND SVINHUFVUD 1861 – 1944, the years of his birth and death.
The reverse design features a landscape of Finnish fields, framed by an open book depicting a constructed urban environment. All coins in the series will share the same reverse.
|5 €URO||Bi-metallic||9.8 Grams||27.2 mm.||BU||30,000 pieces|
|5 €URO||Bi-metallic||9.8 Grams||27.2 mm.||Proof||6000 pieces|
Collector coins in the “Presidents of Finland” series will feature in the “Finland 100” program celebrating the centennial of Finland’s independence. The issue featuring Kyösti Kallio will be launched later in 2016, with the coins of Risto Ryti, C.G.E. Mannerheim, J.K. Paasikivi, and U.K. Kekkonen due for release in 2017.
For more information on this and other coins offered by the Mint of Finland, please visit their Web site. International sales will be dispatched where applicable.