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Axel Lille

Axel Johan Lille
Born March 28, 1848, Helsinki. Died June 28, 1921, Helsinki

Bachelor of Arts 1872 and Master of Arts 1873, Bachelor of Civil and Canon Law 1879, Licentiate and PhD 1882, Imperial Alexander University
Studies in Strasbourg a Leipzig 1879–1880

Permanent assistant 1919–1921, Åbo Underrättelser
Press attaché 1918–1919, Stockholm
Executive director 1917–1918, Kaupunkien yleinen paloapuyhtiö (fire insurance company)
Editor-in-chief 1914–1917, assistant 1917–1921, Dagens Press
Journalist 1902–1905, Stockholms-Tidningen
Editor-in-chief 1900–1901, Dagligt Allehanda
Editor-in-chief 1882–1900 and 1906–1914, Nya Pressen
Journalist 1873, Wiborgs Tidning
Journalist 1870–1874, Vikingen

Founder and chairman 1906–1917, Swedish People’s Party in Finland
Member of Parliament 1917, Swedish People’s Party in Finland
Representative of the Burgher Estate in the Diet of Finland 1884–1900
Trustee, 1879 Nyländska afdelningen (Uusimaa Student Nation)

Honours and eponymously named awards
The Axel Lille Medal 1956–, The highest honorary medal awarded by the Swedish People’s Party in Finland.
Honorary member 1888, Nyländska afdelningen (Uusimaa Student Nation)

Picture : K. E. Ståhlberg / Helsinki City Museum
Written by Tomas Sjöblom
Translated by Matthew Billington

A new party for Swedish-speaking Finns

Axel Lille, already known as a pro-Swedish agitator, returned to Finland from political exile at the turn of 1906. His first act was to re-establish the newspaper Nya Pressen, which had been closed down due to political censorship. He formulated a programme for the paper that was simultaneously a programme for political unification of the pro-Swedish movement. The Swedish Party had been plagued by internal divisions for years, and Lille had also organised a party conference 10 years earlier with the aim of bringing the movement together.

This time, as a result of Lille’s energetic work, a party conference was held at the centre of the pro-Swedish movement, the Nyländska afdelningen student nation building, on May 20–21 1906. The negotiations were difficult, but ultimately the various sides found agreement. Nevertheless, it had been necessary to remove social questions from the agenda, and the only remaining issue of real substance was the issue of language. Lille’s proposal for the name of the new party was successful, and Svenska Folkpartiet (The Swedish People’s Party in Finland) was founded.

Lille was chosen as the new party’s chairman, and he also received a place on the party’s interim governing body. The reorganisation of the party was largely the work of Lille, and he already had extensive experience of politics. Lille had participated in the Diet of Finland as a representative of the Burger Estate from 1885–1900 and had been a political agitator in the Finnish press since the 1870s.

A 1907 election campaign advertisement for the Swedish People’s Party designed by Alex Federley. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

Axel worked as the party’s chairman between 1906 and 1917. Under his leadership, the Swedish People’s Party was the first Finnish political party to take a clear stance in favour of Finnish independence in the spring of 1917, a topic that Lille had already raised himself 15 years earlier. At the end of 1917, the year of the Russian revolution, Lille nevertheless withdrew from politics, declaring himself disappointed that the party’s policies had not developed in the direction he had wished


Geo Stenius’s documentary film Mannen med flaggan, made in connection with the 100th anniversary of the Swedish People’s Party of Finland, describes the party’s history. It also reflects on the future of the party, bilingualism and the challenges of modernisation.


  • Max Hanemann, Axel Lille. En levnadsteckning (A Biography’), Helsinki 1931
  • G. von Bonsdorff, Svenska Folkpartiet. Bakgrund, tillblivelse och utveckling till 1917, Helsinki 1956.
  • Lars-Folke Landgrén, ‘Lille, Axel Johan’, Biografiskt lexikon för Finland (online publication). Accessed November 2, 2015.
  • ‘Axel Lille’, Wikipedia. Accessed November 2, 2015.
  • ‘Lille, Axel’, Uppslagsverket Finland (online publication). Accessed November 2, 2015.


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