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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

‘Finland’s most significant journalist’

Axel Lille had already worked as a journalist during his student days at the student nation and, at the beginning of the 1870s, at the Svecoman newspaper Vikingen. The newspaper was forced to close due to financial difficulties, but in the autumn of 1882, Lille was involved in founding a new newspaper, Nya Pressen, where he was to exert an influence for the following 30 years. Nya Pressen became the new voice of pro-Swedish activists, and Lille, who was known for his expertise as a journalist and as a passionate advocate of Swedish speaking Finns, was chosen as the editor-in-chief. Founding the newspaper was part of Svekoman attempts to consolidate their support at the beginning of the 1880s. In the same year, Svenska folkskolans vänner, a Swedish language public education society, was founded, also with the aim of uniting the Swedish speaking section of the population as supporters of the same movement.

Nya Pressen, which described itself as a political, trade and industry newspaper, appeared for the first time in November 1883. Picture: The National Library’s digital collections

In the same year that Nya Pressen was founded, Lille published what was perhaps the most important pro-Swedish pamphlet of the 19th century, Nationalitetsprincipen och dess tillämpning på förhållandena i Finland (1882). The aim was to inform the nation, particularly pro-Swedes and those Swedish speaking Finns uncertain of their stance, of the position and aims of Lille and other champions of Swedish heritage on the question of nationality.

Nya Pressen, of which Lille was the editor-in-chief, began appearing seven day a week at the end of 1882. Under Lille’s command it became one of the country’s most important newspapers. Its circulation covered the entire country, and it became one of the most important institutions of the Svecoman movement. In the first year of publication 1500 copies were printed, six years later the figure had already risen to 4500 copies. When Nya Pressen was closed down by Russian censors in June 1900, its circulation had already exceeded 10 000.

As the figurehead of opposition to the politics of Russification, Lille spent 1902–05 in voluntary exile in Sweden. When he returned to Sweden at the turn of 1906, after Russification had abated, Nya Pressen was re-established, with Lille as its editor-in-chief. This time the newspaper suffered from poor profitability, and in 1909 it was bought by a company led by the owner of the newspaper Hufvudstadsbladet, Arthur Reinhold Frenckell. Lille nevertheless continued until 1917 as editor-in-chief of the paper, which in 1914 combined with Dagens Tidning to form a new newspaper, Dagens Press. At that point Lille decided to resign, due to high levels of censorship during the Finnish Civil War.

While in political exile in Sweden, Lille worked, among others, as editor of the political-cultural magazine Nordisk Revy. Source: Internet Archive.

Lille continued to publish during his last years of life. In June 1918, after the end of the civil war, he published the book Till den svenska arbetaren, in which he presented his own views on the causes of the war. His most significant single publication can be considered his 1000-page monograph Den svenska nationalitetens i Finland samlingsrörelse (1921), which describes the various stages of the pro-Swedish movement. Lille’s most significant work was nevertheless at Nya Pressen, and his contemporaries, especially pro-Swedes, dubbed him ‘Finland’s most significant journalist.’


  • Max Hanemann, Axel Lille. En levnadsteckning (A Biography’), Helsinki 1931
  • 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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