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Pehr Evind Svinhufvud

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Pehr Evind Svinhufvud af Qvalstad (December 15, 1861February 29, 1944) was the President of Finland from 1931 to 1937. Serving as a judge for the Russian Grand Duchy of Finland, he played a major part in the movement for Finnish independence and was banished (19141917) to Siberia.

Svinhufvud was the head of a Swedophone family tracing its nobility back to 15th century Dalecarlia. His father and his grandfather both died in his early childhood, and he and his mother moved to Helsinki when he was five.

He was a lawyer by training and profession. In 1892, as a deputy judge at the Turku Court of Appeal, he joined the Senate of Finland's law-drafting Board, initially to redraft taxation laws.

Svinhufvud stayed mainly in the background until 1899, when Imperial Russia initiated a russification policy for the autonomous Grand Duchy. The Finnish answer was mainly legislative and constitutional resistance, of which Svinhufvud became a central figure being a judge in the Court of Appeals. After the Russian Governor had sacked him in 1903, he joined the kagal organization devoted to passive resistance while working as a lawyer in Helsinki. After increased fame following a political process in 1905, he became Member of the Parliament of Finland, and 19071912 Speaker of the Parliament. Meanwhile he worked as district judge on the country side 19061914.

During the First World War, when Russia replaced various Finnish officials with Russians, Svinhufvud was arrested, removed from his office as judge due to his active resistance, and sent to Siberia. In Siberian Kolyvan he spent his time hunting and mending his clothes, still keeping secret contact with the independence movement. After the February Revolution in Russia, he simply left for home.

Svinhufvud lead the Senate that declared independence in 1917. He also personally went to Saint Petersburg to meet Lenin, who somewhat hesitatingly gave his official recognition of the independence. Svinhufvud's Senate also authorized General Mannerheim to form a new Finnish army on the basis on White Guard, the (chiefly Rightist) volunteer militia called the Suojeluskunta, thereby igniting the Civil War in Finland.

During the Civil War Svinhufvud went underground in Helsinki and sent pleas for intervention to Germany and Sweden. The conflict also turned him into an active monarchist, thought not a royalist. In March he managed to escape via Berlin-Stockholm to the Senate, now relocated to Vaasa, where he resumed the function as Head of Government.

He became the first pre-presidential Head of State in independent Finland, as the chairman of the senate. In this role he pardoned 36,000 Red prisoners in the autumn of 1918.

After Germany's defeat in World War I, and the thereby failed attempt to turn Finland into a Monarchy under Väinö I of Finland, Svinhufvud withdrew from the public life and was active only in the Rightist Suojeluskunta-militia. In 1925 he was presidential candidate for the conservative Kokoomus party, but was not elected. After the emerge of the semi-Fascist Lapua Movement, President Relander appointed him as a Prime Minister of Finland on the Lapua Movement's insistence. Svinhufvud was elected president in 1931, and appointed Mannerheim as head of the government's Council of Defence, not the least as an answer to the Lapua movement's fear of having fought the Civil War in vain.

He resisted both Communist agitation and the Lapua Movement's violent, illegal exploits. All Communist members of parliament were arrested. In February 1932 there was a so-called Mäntsälä Rebellion, when the Suojeluskunta-Militia and the Lapua Movement demanded the Cabinet's resignation. In his radio speech Svinhufvud condemned the illegal activity and in his authority stopped the rebellion before anything serious happened.

Svinhufvud was not a supporter of Parliamentarism. He believed it to be better for Finland if the Social Democrats could be kept outside of the Cabinet, because of which in the presidential election of 1937 the Social Democrats and the Agrarian party voted against him. He was not re-elected.

At the end of Winter War, he unsuccessfully sought audience with both Hitler and Mussolini but met only Pope Pius XII. During the Continuation War he supported the idea of an expansionistic war.

Svinhufvud died in 1944, while Finland was seeking peace with the Soviet Union.

He refused to finnicize his 500 years old surname (maybe because its literal meaning is swinehead).


Preceded by:
Lauri Kristian Relander
President of Finland
1931–1937
Succeeded by:
Kyösti Kallio
Preceded by:
First after Independence
Prime Minister of Finland
1917–1918
Succeeded by:
Juho Kusti Paasikivi
Preceded by:
Kyösti Kallio
Prime Minister of Finland
1930–1931
Succeeded by:
Juho Sunila

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See also

es:Pehr Evind Svinhufvud pl:Pehr Evind Svinhufvud fi:Pehr Evind Svinhufvud sv:Pehr Evind Svinhufvud

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