Notable persons

The site presents prominent figures who have played a key role in Finnish independence and Finnish culture at different times.

Key Finns during the early years of independence, 1917–1920, include P. E. Svinhufvud, Santeri Alkio, Kullervo Manner, C. G. Mannerheim and Jean Sibelius.

Svinhufvud, a lawyer by profession, was the very embodiment of the Finnish legal battle and passive resistance against the so-called Russification of Finland. He was twice dismissed from office as a judge and was deported to Siberia for two years and four months in 1914–1917. He was the first Speaker of the unicameral parliament in 1907–1913 and became Prime Minister (Senate Chairman) of the government that declared Finland independent. He also defeated the rebellion of 1917–1918, after which he became the first head of state (“holder of the supreme power”) of independent Finland, a post which he retained from May to December 1918. Svinhufvud served as Prime Minister in 1930–1931 and as President in 1931–1937. By defeating a revolt organized by right-wing radicals in February 1932, he saved Finnish democracy and steered the country towards the Nordic community.

Writer and journalist Santeri Alkio was the leader of a new political party called the Agrarian League (Maalaisliitto) and a prominent figure in the Youth Movement, which emphasised cultural and educational values. In the political scene of 1917, he sought national consensus between the conservatives and socialists, until in November 1917 he sided with the conservatives in favour of a speedy independence process without the support of the socialists. In the dispute over the form of government 1918–1919, he and his party were republicans and did not want a monarchy.

Kullervo Manner, a journalist, was Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Finland and Speaker of the parliament in 1917. He led his fellow socialists on to a revolutionary path and served as Chairman of the Finnish People’s Delegation, which governed the “Red Finland” from January to April 1918. He and most of the other Red leaders fled to Soviet Russia, where they formed the Finnish Communist Party in summer 1918.

General C. G. Mannerheim served in the Russian Army for 30 years until he returned to Finland in December 1917. He was commander-in-chief of the government troops in the 1918 War of Independence and civil war and the second head of state of independent Finland from December 1918 to July 1919. He served as commander-in-chief of the Finnish Armed Forces in 1939–1945 and as President in 1944–1946.

Jean Sibelius, the composer, strengthened the Finnish people’s cultural self-esteem and helped to make the country internationally known already in the late 19th century. Sibelius’s Finlandia (1899) and Jäger March (1917) are among the most famous Finnish compositions of the pre-independence era. As a composer, Sibelius gained world-wide fame.