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Edwin Linkomies

Edwin Johan Hildegard Linkomies (Flinck until 1928)
Born 22 December, 1894, Viipuri. Died 8 September, 1963, Helsinki.

Master of Arts, 1913 (Latin and General History, Philosophy and Greek), Imperial Alexander University
Doctor of Philosophy, 1923, University of Helsinki
Honorary Doctor of Laws, 1963, University of Helsinki

Docent of Roman Philology, 1921–1923, University of Helsinki
Professor of Roman Letters, 1923–1963, Vice-rector 1932–1943, Rector 1956–1962, and Chancellor 1962–1963, University of Helsinki
Member of Parliament, 1933–1945, Deputy Speaker 1933–1943, Prime Minister 1943–1944

Held positions in the Helsinki City Council, Chair of the Sibelius Academy executive board and Chair of the National Coalition Party.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Written by Lauri Lönnström
Translated by John Calton

Testing times – Linkomies’ career in politics

Edwin Linkomies’ political career began in 1918 with the establishment of the National Coalition Party and he was appointed to the board of the Uusi Suomi newspaper, which backed the party. It was there that he got to know both the party’s and the newspaper’s ideological bent. His political views were shaped during this time and he came to view not only the communists but also the Social Democrats as a threat to the country’s security.

In the 1933 parliamentary elections Linkomies was the Coalition Party’s most popular candidate, securing almost 5,800 votes across the country. Even though he had earlier pursued rightwing policies and won the backing of the Lapua Movement, in the 1933/4 elections he strove to break away from the radical rightwing opinions of the Isänmaallinen kansanliike (‘The People’s Patriotic Movement’).

In 1936 Linkomies’ keen eye for politics brought him and his party a landslide victory. This time he got 7,200 votes, but in spite of electoral success leadership of the party was to elude him, partly because the outgoing chairman J. K. Paasikivi did not trust a man whose political allegiances were less than firm.

At the outbreak of the war in 1939 Linkomies once again proved popular at the polls and the National Coaltion Party did well. The Party was called upon to form a government, but once again remained in opposition. This probably inspired Linkomies’ distrust towards the Social Democrats. Nonetheless two independent ministers sympathetic to the National Coalition Party were appointed to the cabinet, one of them, Paasikivi, being Linkomies’ favoured candidate. During the Winter War Linkomies became to all intents and purposes party leader, but it was only with his appointment as prime minister that he became party chairman.

Linkomies sued for peace and before the inception of the Winter War believed in the possibility of a negotiated settlement. With war imminent he was ready to accept even harsh terms to avoid conflict. After the Winter War he was more realistic and lent his support to building alliances with Germany. By the time the Continuation War had broken out new overtures had been made to Germany, securing a powerful ally for the beleaguered nation. Thus emboldened, Linkomies aspired to the idea of Suur-Suomi, an eastwards extension of Finland’s borders to encroach on Soviet territory. Good relations were vital to Finland during the Continuation War, but both Linkomies and President Risto Ryti, who had got to know each other in Rauma in the 1910s as members of the Young Finns (Fin. Nuorsuomalaiset), strove to remain on reasonable terms with other states in the West. With the decline in Nazi Germany’s fortunes in 1942 and 1943, Linkomies and Ryti sought ways to extricate Finland from the war. Linkomies supported Ryti for re-election as president and Ryti in turn supported Linkomies in his successful prime ministerial bid of March 1943.

Soon after, the first decisive step towards settling the war with the Soviet Union was taken when negotiations, brokered by Sweden, got under way. The terms of the Peace Declaration were discussed in Moscow in 1944, but the result was a set of conditions that Linkomies and his cabinet could not possible accept. This led to a massive Soviet offensive in June 1944. By the end of the month, any attempts at peace were met with a harsh rebuttal: only unconditional surrender would be good enough for Moscow.

As a consequence Ryti and Linkomies decided to lay the grounds for an agreement with Germany whereby Ryti personally and then his cabinet would undertake to stand by Nazi Germany until the war had ended. The agreement guaranteed arms supplies to Finland, thanks to which the Soviet advance was halted and peace terms could be negotiated once more. After the war in 1946, Ryti, Linkomies and other signatories to the agreement were tried for war crimes and sent to prison. Linkomies was released in 1948 and granted a pardon in 1949.

As a parliamentarian Linkomies was a firm advocate of education, in addition to which he was able to secure the passage of legislation guaranteeing a state pension and in the lead-up to war increased military expenditure. As prime minister he was resolute in his rejection of unconditional surrender and harsh peace terms, saving Finland from occupation and preserving its independence.

Photo: Museovirasto.​
Photo: Museovirasto.​



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