Juho Kusti Paasikivi, who was born Johan Gustaf Hellsten (Koski, Grand Duchy of Finland, 27 November 1870 – Helsinki, Finland, 14 December 1956).
Lawyer, Diplomat and Political Leader, originally from Finland, historically recognized for his active role in defending his nation’s independence from the Soviet Republic, for which he implemented the political strategy, called Via Paasikivi, through of which he built friendly relations with the USSR, while building Finland’s neutral position, within the concert of nations, during the Cold War.
He became the seventh president of Finland, a position he held for ten years, between 1946 and 1956. He significantly influenced his country’s politics and economy for more than five decades.
Juho Kusti Paasikivi was born on November 27, 1870, in Koski, Grand Duchy of Finland, under the name Johan Gustaf Hellsten, to the marriage of the merchant Hellsten and his wife Karolina Wilhelina.
However, Johan Gustaf Hellsten lost his family at a very young age, his mother died when he was only four years old. Later, when he was fourteen, he lost his father, and a little later his stepsister. From that moment he passed under the care of his aunt Kaisa Hagman. Then, in 1885, at the age of fifteen, Johan Gustaf Hellsten changed his name to Juho Kusti Paasikivi.
He began his education at the high school in the town of Homeenlinna. From the early years of study, he showed great passion for reading and sports, becoming the best student of his degree. University education began at the University of Helsinki, where he entered in 1890, in order to study Russian and Literature, graduating in 1892.
The following year, he began a Master of Laws degree, which he expanded, graduating in 1902 as a Doctor of Law. While studying, Paasikivi relied financially on working as a teacher, giving lectures and sometimes serving as a judicial officer and private lawyer.
In 1894, he took his first steps in politics, being the first to get involved in the Fennoman student movement, where he became an active leader. In 1897, Juho Kusti Paasikivi married Anna Matilda Forsman, a Swedish national, with whom he had four children.
Beginnings in his political career
In 1902, he took up a teaching position at the University of Helsinki, where he became Associate Professor of Administrative Law. However, a year later he resigned from this position, to assume that of Chief Director of Treasury of the Grand Duchy of Finland, a position he held for eleven years, until 1914.
In parallel, Juho Kusti Paasikivi began to frequent his country’s political circle, being elected in 1907 as a member of the Eduskunta (Finnish Parliament). The following year he was appointed as Minister of Finance, a position he resigned from in 1909 to Finland’s russification measures, undertaken by the Russian government.
From then on, he took care of his personal business. In 1914 he was elected President of the National Bank of Finland, a position where he would remain for the next twenty years.
Similarly, after the end of World War II and the Independence of Finland, Juho Kusti Paasikivi was appointed as Prime Minister within the first cabinet of the nascent Republic.
His mandate was characterized by a group of actions aimed at seeking rapprochement with Germany. Another important post held by Paasikivi took place on 20 October 1920, when he led the Delegation of his country that signed the Peace of Tartu with the Soviet Union.
In 1936 he began his career as a diplomat, being sent to Sweden as Ambassador, remaining there for three years. By this point, he was already a wealthy and powerful businessman, as his businesses benefited highly during the post-war years.
In 1939 he was called to lead the Diplomatic Delegation, which was in charge of negotiating with the USSR, at the request of the USSR to add areas of Finland, of great strategic value, to its territory.
Prudently, Paasikivi advised his government to avoid confrontation. Despite its recommendations, the Russo-Finnish War took place that same year, which spanned a year, bringing tragic aftermath to Finland.
In 1940, Paasikivi was again appointed Secretary of the Russian-Finnish Peace Commission and commissioned to lead the negotiations, aimed at armistice. Negotiations paid off, sealing peace, in exchange for giving the Soviet Union about a tenth of Finland, in which some 500 thousand inhabitants lived.
Almost immediately, Paasikivi was appointed ambassador to Moscow, a position he had to leave quickly, in the face of the breakdown of relations between the Soviet Union and Nazi Germany, with whom Finland was aligned.
After three years of him being removed from political life, in 1944 he was called back to preside over peace negotiations between his country and the USSR.
During the talks, Germany’s defeat led to Paasikivi being re-elected Prime Minister of the National Salvation Cabinet, in the face of the fall of the Phyllonazi regime. His two-year term was characterized by continued Peace negotiations with the Soviet Union, culminating in the agreements signed during September 1944.
His political performance led to his election in 1946, President of the Republic, a position he held for a decade. His mandate was characterized as an independent regime, untethered to any specific political party.
Also, on foreign policy, he maintained good cooperation relations with the Soviet Union, in order to avoid any conflict that would lead Finland to lose the independence gained. A year before his term in office ended, he got Finland to retake the port of Porkkala. He died at the age of eighty-six, on 14 December 1956, in Helsinki, Finland.
Image source: kokoomus.fi
August 6, 2019