Juho Kusti Paasikivi [IPA: juho kusti pɑ:sikiʋi] (November 27, 1870 – December 14, 1956) was the 7th President of Finland (1946–1956). He also served as Prime Minister of Finland (1918 and 1944–1946), and was generally an influential figure in Finnish economics and politics for over fifty years. He is particularly remembered as a main architect of Finland's foreign policy after the Second World War.
He was born as Johan Gustaf Hellsten in 1870 at Koski in Häme Province, Finland, the son of August Hellsten, a merchant, and Karolina Wilhelmina Selin. He Finnicized his name to Juho Kusti Paasikivi in 1885.
Paasikivi was orphaned at the age of 14 and was raised by his aunt. The young Paasikivi was an enthusiastic athlete and gymnast. He received most of his elementary education in Hämeenlinna, where he exhibited an early appetite for reading, and was the best pupil in his class. He entered the University of Helsinki in 1890, graduating with a Bachelor's degree in 1892, and as a lawyer in 1897. That year he married his first wife, Anna Matilda Forsman (1869-1931). They had four children, Annikki (1898–1950), Wellamo (1900–1966), Juhani (1901-1942), and Varma (1903-1941). In 1901, Paasikivi became a Doctor of Law, and was associate professor of Administrative Law at Helsinki University 1902-1903.
He left this post to become Director-in-Chief of Treasury of the Grand Duchy of Finland, a position he retained until 1914. For practically all of his adult life, Paasikivi moved in the inner circles of Finland's politics. He supported greater autonomy and an independent Cabinet (Senate) for Finland, and resisted Russia's panslavic intentions to make Russian the only official language everywhere in the Russian Empire. He belonged, however, to the more complying Fennoman or Old Finn Party, opposing radical and potentially counter-productive steps which could be perceived as aggressive by the Russians. Paasikivi served as a Finnish Party member of Parliament 1907-1909 and 1910-1913. He served as a member of the Senate 1908-1909, as Head of the Finance Division.
After the February Revolution in Russia 1917, Paasikivi was appointed to committee that began to formulate new legislation for a modernized Grand Duchy. Initially he supported increased autonomy within the Russian Empire, in opposition to the Social Democrats in the coalition-Senate, who in vain strived for more far-reaching autonomy; but after the Bolshevik October Revolution Paasikivi championed full independence — albeit in the form of constitutional monarchy.
During the Civil War in Finland Paasikivi was firmly on the side of the White government. As Prime Minister May-November 1918 he strived for continued constitutional monarchy with Frederick Charles of Hesse (a German Prince) as king, intending to ensure Finland of German support against Bolshevist Russia. However, as Germany lost the World War, monarchy had to be scrapped for a Republic more in the taste of the victorious Entente. Paasikivi's Senate resigned, and he returned to the KOP bank.
Paasikivi, as politically conservative, was a firm opponent of Social Democrats in the cabinet, or Communists in the Parliament. Tentatively he supported the semi-fascist Lapua movement which requested radical measures against the political Left. But eventually the Lapua movement radicalized further, assaulting also Ståhlberg, the Liberal former President of Finland, and Paasikivi like many other supporters turned away from the radical Right. In 1934 he became chairman for the Conservative Kokoomus party, as a champion of democracy, and achieved the party's rehabilitation after its suspicious closeness to the Lapua movement and the failed coup d'état, the Mäntsälä Rebellion.
In Stockholm Paasikivi strived for Swedish defence guarantees, alternatively a defensive alliance or a defensive union between Finland and Sweden. Since the Civil War the relations between Swedes and Finns had been frosty. The revolutionary turmoil at the end of the World War had in Sweden led to Parliamentarism, increased democracy, and a dominant role for the Swedish Social Democrats. In Finland, however, the result had been a disastrous Civil War and a total defeat for Socialism. At the same time as when Paasikivi arrived in Stockholm, it became known that President Svinhufvud retained his aversion for Parliamentarism and (after pressure from Paasikivi's Conservative Party) had declined to appoint a Cabinet with Social Democrats as Ministers. This didn't improve Paasikivi's reputation among the Swedish Social Democrats dominating the government, who were sufficiently suspicious due to his association with Finland's Monarchist orientation in 1918, and the failed Lapua coup in 1932.
Things actually improved, partly due to Paasikivi's efforts, partly since President Kallio had been elected. As President, Kallio approved of Parliamentarism and appointed Social Democrats to the Cabinet. But the suspicions between Finland and Sweden were too strong: During the Winter War Sweden's support for Finland was considerable, but short of one critical feature: Sweden neither declared war on the Soviet Union nor send regular troops to Finland's defense. This made many Finns, including Paasikivi himself, judge his mission in Stockholm to have been a failure.
Immediately after the war, Mannerheim appointed Paasikivi Prime Minister. For the first time in Finland a Communist, Yrjö Leino, was included in the Cabinet. Paasikivi's policies were realist, but radically different than those of the previous 25 years. His main effort was to prove that Finland would present no threat to the Soviet Union, and that both countries would gain from confident peaceful relations. He had to comply with many Soviet demands, including the War Crimes trial. When Mannerheim resigned, Parliament selected Paasikivi to succeed him as President of the Republic. Paasikivi was then aged seventy five.
As President, Paasikivi kept Finland's foreign relations in the foreground, trying to ensure a stable peace and wider freedom of action. Paasikivi concluded that, all the fine rhetoric aside, Finland had to adapt to superpower politics and sign treaties with the Soviet Union to avoid a worse fate. Thus he managed to stabilize Finland's position. This "Paasikivi doctrine" was adhered to for decades, and was named Finlandization in the 1970s.
Paasikivi stood for re-election in the Presidential election of 1950, where he won 171 out of the 300 electoral college votes. The priorities of his second term were centred largely on domestic politics, in contrast to his first term. Stalin's death made Paasikivi's job easier. As a lover of sports, and a former athlete and gymnast, Paasikivi had the pleasure, during his second term of office, of opening the 1952 Summer Olympics held in Helsinki.
By the end of Paasikivi's second six-year term, Finland had gotten rid of the most urgent political problems resulting from the lost war. The Karelian refugees had been resettled, the war reparations had been paid, rationing had ended and in 1955 the Soviet Union removed its troops from Porkkala marine base at Helsinki.
He did not actively seek re-election when his second term ended in 1956, ending his term on March 1, 1956, at the age of eighty five. He died in December, not yet having finished his memoirs.