Interwar Finland

Finland was thus after the Great War a moderate republic, even if not every Finn was happy with this. Interwar Finland suffered several territorial disputes, over the Aland Islands with Sweden, and several border incidents with the new Great Power, the Soviet Union. Soviet relationships improved somewhat after the Treaty of Tartu in 1920, which arranged a mutually satisfactory border between the two nations. Finland gained the town of Petsamo on the north coast, and the Finns agreed to leave certain Karelian provinces to Russia, which at the time were occupied by Finnish troops.

Finland became a member of the League of Nations in 1920, and one of the League's success stories was the peaceful resolution of the status of the Aland Islands (they remained Finnish, but with more local autonomy). Finnish foreign policy was realistic, it was a small nation surrounded by great and potentially hostile powers and so had a generally internationalist view of things.

Nationalist sentiment in Finland led to the creation of the Lapua Movement in 1929 - a conservative group. It saw itself as the successor to the White Guards, and was quite strong in the north of Finland. Over time it radicalised and became more overtly Fascist. Virulent anticommunism was common, indeed in educated circles the norm, in Finland at the time, and initially at least the Lapua Movement enjoyed some sympathy, so a blind eye was turned to their violent harassment of Social Democrats and occasional beating of 'reds'. In 1932 however they staged a coup, and this was, after the coup failed, one step too far. The movement was banned, its senior members imprisoned, but the international reputation of Finland suffered nevertheless thanks to their activities. The fairly lenient punishment the Lapua activists suffered complicated Finnish relations with the democratic powers as well as the Soviet Union, which had been following Lapua activity with some interest. In Russia deeprooted perceptions of Finland as a threat and as a continuation of the ancient tsarist regime were fostered by the communists, in the city of Leningrad, right next to the Finnish border, concerns over the proximity of 'White Finland' were nurtured. Over that border invasion armies had arrived in the 1700s and again in 1918, as the Imperial German Army had been invited into Finland by the Whites. Russian newspapers played up these fears, and treated the Lapua Movement as a telling example of the terror found in capitalist countries.

These ominous portents went mostly unheeded by Finland. Apparently secure in the good graces of the League of Nations, believing that the Great War was truly the War to End All Wars, and with faith in the good will of the democratic nations, the Finnish leadership were secure in the knowledge that their continued independence was guaranteed. Even the betrayal of the Spanish Civil War had little effect - after all, Finland wasn't communist. But then neither was, initially, the Spanish Republic, for those who were there to see.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.5 License.