Go Back

Juha Siltala

Juha Heikki Siltala
Born November 25, 1957

Master of Arts 1982 (general history) and PhD 1985 (Finnish history), University of Helsinki
Docent in History 1990–, University of Helsinki
Docent in cultural history 1995–, University of Turku

Professor of Finnish history 1997–, University of Helsinki
Research fellow 1985–97, Academy of Finland

Publications, research projects and other academic activity

Membership of scholarly societies:
The Finnish Historical Society
Finnish Academy of Science and Letters
Association for Psychoanalytic Study of Culture & Society
International Society for Political Psychology
European Human Behavior and Evolution Association, Capitalism, State and Society research network

Awards and special achievements:
State Award for Public Information 1993
MTV 3 Award for Culture 1993
Researcher of the Year 1998
Väinö Tanner Foundation award 2000
Award of the Finnish Evangelical-Lutheran Church 2004
Award of the Finnish Social Forum 2005
Women Journalists in Finland award 2005
Membership of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters 2014

Photo: Eetu Sillanpää, WSOY
Written by Juha Siltala (Riitta-Ilona Hurmerinta, ed.)
Translated by Matthew Billington

A scholar’s path from political history to psychohistory

My doctoral dissertation, Lapuan liike ja kyyditykset ( ‘The Lapua Movement and the violence and abductions’ 1985), investigated, on the basis of archive sources, historical events in the Lapua Movement (a radical nationalist, anti-communist movement) between 1929 and 1930, the number of abductions, the people who organised them and their connections with one another. There was no need for hidden archives, as the information was largely available in public archives, once the knowledge they contained was combined. An investigation of events became an analysis of the post-Civil War system of Finnish governance, which lacked a functioning parliamentary majority and where the security apparatus (the army, the White Guard and the police) did not necessarily obey the government. The violence of the Lapua Movement was aimed at restoring the hegemony of the Whites, but it had the opposite effect, as it resulted in a functioning parliamentary majority rising up to oppose it, first as the laillisuusrintama (‘rule of law grouping’) and finally in the form of cooperation between leftist and centrist politicians.

The integration of Finnish society already led at that stage to the theme of social trust. The final part of the book dealt with the creation of cultural uniformity as the answer to social fragmentation. After finishing my doctoral dissertation, it no longer felt interesting to grind on about right-left phenomena using political terminology, as in the wake of late-1980s politics, with an ever increasing emphasis on the individual, they no longer seemed to refer to what was important to people. We lived in a time of the Finnish welfare state and the end of the cold war, so the emotionally charged atmosphere of the 1970s and 1930s felt alien. The difficulty of empathy led to an anthropological epiphany about human behaviour, and Klaus Theweleit’s Male Fantasies, lent to me by Martti Ahti, helped me to connect familiar extremist political phenomena within a psychological framework. As a visiting scholar at the University of Marburg in 1987, I was able for the first time to deepen my reading in a theoretical direction.

Go Back