Mauno Koivisto
Mauno Henrik Koivisto ˈmɑuno ˈhenrik ˈkoiʋisto (born November 25, 1923) is a Finnish
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

A politician, political leader, or political figure is an individual who is involved in influencing public policy and decision making...

 who served as the ninth President of Finland
President of Finland
The President of the Republic of Finland is the nation's head of state. Under the Finnish constitution, executive power is vested in the President and the government, with the President possessing extensive powers. The President is elected directly by the people of Finland for a term of six years....

 from 1982 to 1994. He also served as Prime Minister
Prime Minister of Finland
The Prime Minister is the Head of Government of Finland. The Prime Minister is appointed by the President, who is the Head of State. The current Prime Minister is Jyrki Katainen of the National Coalition Party.-Overview:...

 1968–1970 and 1979–1982. He was the first Social Democrat
Social Democratic Party of Finland
The Social Democratic Party of Finland is one of the three major political parties in Finland, along with the Centre Party and the National Coalition Party. Jutta Urpilainen is the current SDP leader. The party has been in the Finnish government cabinet for long periods and has set many...

 to be elected as President.

Early life

Koivisto was born in Turku
Turku is a city situated on the southwest coast of Finland at the mouth of the Aura River. It is located in the region of Finland Proper. It is believed that Turku came into existence during the end of the 13th century which makes it the oldest city in Finland...

, Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

, the second son of Juho Koivisto, a carpenter
A carpenter is a skilled craftsperson who works with timber to construct, install and maintain buildings, furniture, and other objects. The work, known as carpentry, may involve manual labor and work outdoors....

 at Crichton-Vulcan
Crichton-Vulcan is an abandoned shipyard in Turku, Finland that once formed the cornerstone of the Finnish shipbuilding industry. The shipyard is best known for the World War II coastal defence ships and submarines it produced....

Shipyards and dockyards are places which repair and build ships. These can be yachts, military vessels, cruise liners or other cargo or passenger ships. Dockyards are sometimes more associated with maintenance and basing activities than shipyards, which are sometimes associated more with initial...

, and Hymni Sofia Eskola, who died when he was 10. After attending primary school, Koivisto had a number of jobs, and at the beginning of the Winter War
Winter War
The Winter War was a military conflict between the Soviet Union and Finland. It began with a Soviet offensive on 30 November 1939 – three months after the start of World War II and the Soviet invasion of Poland – and ended on 13 March 1940 with the Moscow Peace Treaty...

 in 1939, when he was 16, he joined a field firefighting unit. During the Continuation War
Continuation War
The Continuation War was the second of two wars fought between Finland and the Soviet Union during World War II.At the time of the war, the Finnish side used the name to make clear its perceived relationship to the preceding Winter War...

, Koivisto served in the Infantry Detachment Törni, led by the famous Lauri Törni
Lauri Törni
Lauri Allan Törni was a Finnish Army captain who led an infantry company in the Finnish Winter and Continuation Wars and moved to the United States after World War II...

, which was a reconnaissance
Reconnaissance is the military term for exploring beyond the area occupied by friendly forces to gain information about enemy forces or features of the environment....

 detachment operating behind the enemy lines and open to selected volunteers only. During the war he received the Order of the Cross of Liberty
Order of the Cross of Liberty
There are three official orders in Finland: the Order of the Cross of Liberty , the Order of the White Rose of Finland and the Order of the Lion of Finland. The President of Finland is the Grand Master of the two orders, and usually of the Order of the Cross of Liberty as well, Grand Mastership of...

 (2nd class) and was promoted to the rank of lance corporal
Lance Corporal
Lance corporal is a military rank, used by many armed forces worldwide, and also by some police forces and other uniformed organizations. It is below the rank of corporal, and is typically the lowest non-commissioned officer, usually equivalent to the NATO Rank Grade OR-3.- Etymology :The presumed...

. He later referred to his experiences during the war by stating "When you have taken part in a game in which your own life is at stake, all other games are small after that experience".

After the war, he earned a living as a carpenter and became active in politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

, joining the Social Democratic party
Social Democratic Party of Finland
The Social Democratic Party of Finland is one of the three major political parties in Finland, along with the Centre Party and the National Coalition Party. Jutta Urpilainen is the current SDP leader. The party has been in the Finnish government cabinet for long periods and has set many...

. In autumn 1948, he obtained a job at Turku harbour, and in December of the same year, he was appointed manager of the Harbour Labour Office of Turku, a post he held until 1951. In 1949, trade union
Trade union
A trade union, trades union or labor union is an organization of workers that have banded together to achieve common goals such as better working conditions. The trade union, through its leadership, bargains with the employer on behalf of union members and negotiates labour contracts with...

s controlled by the communists
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 attempted to topple Karl-August Fagerholm
Karl-August Fagerholm
Karl-August Fagerholm was Speaker of Parliament and three times Prime Minister of Finland . Fagerholm became chairman of the Social Democrats after the armistice in the Continuation War...

's Social Democrat minority government, and the Social Democratic leadership of the Finnish Confederation of Trade Unions (SAK) declared the port of Hanko an "open site", urging port workers who supported legality to go to Hanko. Koivisto moved there to take charge of the harbour-master's office and recruit workers (break the strike), the government having banned strike action. The communists newspapers branded him as Finland's Enemy No.1 as Koivisto was a key figure in the struggle for control of the trade unions.

Banker and politician

In addition to his political activities and his working for a living, Koivisto returned to education, passing his intermediate examination in 1947 and his university entrance examination in 1949. In 1951 he became a primary school teacher and in 1952 he married Taimi Kankaanranta (born 1930) (they have a daughter, Assi Koivisto, born 1957). During this period, Koivisto also finished his studies, graduating from the University of Turku
University of Turku
The University of Turku , located in Turku in southwestern Finland, is the second largest university in the country as measured by student enrollment, after University of Helsinki. It was established in 1920 and also has faculties at Rauma, Pori and Salo...

 with a Master of Arts
Master of Arts (postgraduate)
A Master of Arts from the Latin Magister Artium, is a type of Master's degree awarded by universities in many countries. The M.A. is usually contrasted with the M.S. or M.Sc. degrees...

 degree and a Licentiate
Licentiate is the title of a person who holds an academic degree called a licence. The term may derive from the Latin licentia docendi, meaning permission to teach. The term may also derive from the Latin licentia ad practicandum, which signified someone who held a certificate of competence to...

 in 1953, intending to become a sociologist. Three years later he completed his doctoral thesis about social relations in the Turku dockyards. Koivisto also served as a Vocational Counselor of the City of Turku, and as a member of Turku City Council.

In 1957, he became a banker with the Helsinki Workers' Savings Bank, serving as General Manager from 1959 to 1968. In 1968 he was appointed as Chairman of the board of the Bank of Finland
Bank of Finland
The Bank of Finland is the central bank of Finland. It is the fourth oldest central bank in the world.-History:The Bank of Finland was established on 1 March in 1812 in the city of Turku by Alexander I of Russia. In 1819 it was relocated to Helsinki...

, a position he retained until 1982. During the 1960s, he had to witness intra-party schisms in the Social Democratic party. He tried to improve the party's connections to communists and to President Urho Kekkonen
Urho Kekkonen
Urho Kaleva Kekkonen , was a Finnish politician who served as Prime Minister of Finland and later as the eighth President of Finland . Kekkonen continued the “active neutrality” policy of his predecessor President Juho Kusti Paasikivi, a doctrine which came to be known as the “Paasikivi–Kekkonen...


The 1966 election victory of the Social Democrats saw the formation of a new government by Rafael Paasio
Rafael Paasio
Kustaa Rafael Paasio was a prominent Finnish politician and editor from Social Democratic Party. He served as Prime Minister of Finland twice ....

, with Koivisto, the party's expert on economic policy, appointed as Minister of Finance
Minister of Finance (Finland)
The Minister of Finance of Finland handles the Finance of Finland and all other matters covered by the Ministry of Finance...

. By the beginning of 1968, however, many people in the Social Democratic Party were unsatisfied with Paasio's leadership style, and Koivisto eventually emerged as the party's candidate to succeed Paasio as Prime Minister, which he did on March 22, 1968. He served as Prime Minister until the Parliamentary election of 1970, which saw the other parties in his coalition government suffer heavy losses, and led to his resignation.

In the 1970s, President Kekkonen seemed to regard Koivisto as his potential rival and supported his Social Democratic colleague, Kalevi Sorsa
Kalevi Sorsa
Taisto Kalevi Sorsa was a Finnish politician who was Prime Minister of Finland four times: 1972–1975, 1977–1979, 1982–1983 and 1983–1987 and at the date of his death still held the Finnish record of most days of incumbency as prime minister...

, instead. Koivisto remained as the Chairman of the Bank of Finland and, following the 1979 Parliamentary election, he was re-elected as Prime Minister. By 1979, there was an increasing dissatisfaction with the aging President Kekkonen, whose failing health was becoming difficult to conceal, and the lack of change. In this situation, Koivisto, as both Prime Minister and Chairman of the Bank of Finland, and with high ratings in opinion polls, was expected to be a future candidate for President.

In the first months of 1981, President Kekkonen began to regret Koivisto's appointment as Prime Minister and to lean towards the side of those who wanted to get rid of him. In spring 1981, members of the Centre Party, whose party was included in the government coalition, launched an attempt behind the scenes to bring down the cabinet with a parliamentary vote of no confidence, so that Koivisto would not be able to conduct a Presidential election campaign from the position of Prime Minister. At the critical moment, however, Koivisto received support from the Finnish People's Democratic League, and Kekkonen no longer had the energy to topple the government when Koivisto called the bluff by refusing to tender his resignation.

Finnish historians, political scientists and journalists still debate whether President Kekkonen really wanted to dismiss Prime Minister Koivisto or whether Kekkonen wanted to speed up Koivisto's slow and ponderous decision-making or whether this government crisis was just a part of the ruthless "presidential game" that top politicians, such as Koivisto, Foreign Minister Väyrynen, Social Democratic Chairman Sorsa, acting Governor of the Bank of Finland Karjalainen, and Parliamentary Speaker Virolainen, were playing (see, for example, Pekka Hyvärinen, "Finland's Man: Urho Kekkonen's Life" / Suomen mies. Urho Kekkosen elämä, Helsinki: Werner Söderström Publications Ltd., 2000; Juhani Suomi, "A Ski Trail Being Snowed In: Urho Kekkonen 1976-1981"/Umpeutuva latu. Urho Kekkonen 1976-1981, Helsinki: Otava Publications Ltd., 2000; Seppo Zetterberg and Allan Tiitta, "Finland Through the Ages"/Suomi kautta aikojen, Helsinki: Valitut Palat/Reader's Digest, 1992). Later that year, as Kekkonen became too ill to carry out his duties, Koivisto became acting President and was able to launch his Presidential election campaign from that position.

During the campaign, Koivisto was questioned on two issues in particular: the nature of his Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 and on relations with the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. For the nature of his socialism, he referred to Eduard Bernstein
Eduard Bernstein
Eduard Bernstein was a German social democratic theoretician and politician, a member of the SPD, and the founder of evolutionary socialism and revisionism.- Life :...

, an anti-Marxist, pro-capitalism Social Democrat, popularizing the motto: "The important thing is the movement, not the goal." To a journalist's question, intended to be a difficult one, on the issue of relations with Moscow, Koivisto replied that they were nothing to boast about, and this answer merely increased his popularity. Koivisto did not wish to be elected with the support of Moscow.

The voter turnout in the electoral college elections rose to 87% and his wife and daughter were the most popular electors in the electoral college
Electoral college
An electoral college is a set of electors who are selected to elect a candidate to a particular office. Often these represent different organizations or entities, with each organization or entity represented by a particular number of electors or with votes weighted in a particular way...

. Koivisto won 167 of the 301 votes in the electoral college on the first round against 58 for his nearest rival, the National Coalition Party candidate Harri Holkeri. Koivisto became the first Social Democrat to be elected as President.


As president, he kept a low profile and used less authoritarian leadership tactics than Kekkonen had, refraining from using some of his presidential powers and initiating a new era of parliamentarianism in Finland. On the other hand, he had a sometimes difficult relationship with journalist
A journalist collects and distributes news and other information. A journalist's work is referred to as journalism.A reporter is a type of journalist who researchs, writes, and reports on information to be presented in mass media, including print media , electronic media , and digital media A...

s, whom he famously called "lemming
Lemmings are small rodents, usually found in or near the Arctic, in tundra biomes. They are subniveal animals, and together with voles and muskrats, they make up the subfamily Arvicolinae , which forms part of the largest mammal radiation by far, the superfamily Muroidea, which also includes rats,...

s". One practical problem that quite a few reporters had with Koivisto's statements was their deeply pondering and philosophical nature.

Those statements were not often easy to interpret, unlike Kekkonen's blunt and sometimes harsh statements (see, for example, "The Republic's President 1956-1982"/Tasavallan presidentti 1956-1982, published in Finland in 1993-94; "The Republic's President 1982-1994"/Tasavallan presidentti 1982-1994, published in Finland in 1993-94; Mauno Koivisto, "Two Terms I: Memories and Notes, 1982-1994"/Kaksi kautta I. Muistikuvia ja merkintöjä 1982-1994, Helsinki: Kirjayhtymä Publishing Ltd., 1994). As the leader of Finland's foreign policies
Foreign relations of Finland
The foreign relations of Finland are the responsibility of President of Finland, who leads foreign policy in cooperation with the government. Implicitly the government is responsible for internal policy and decision making in the European Union...

 he initially continued Kekkonen's line until the collapse of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

. He also continued the established practice of returning Soviet defectors to the Soviet union, a custom nowadays considered a human rights violation.

In the critical moments in which the Soviet Union was collapsing, and the Baltic countries, particularly Estonia, were declaring themselves independent, Koivisto referred to the policy of neutrality and avoided publicly supporting the independence movement, but its members were allowed to work from inside Finland. Koivisto's Finland recognized the new Estonian government only after the major powers had done so.

Koivisto made two bold unilateral diplomatical moves that significantly changed the Finnish political position. In 1990, after the reunification of Germany, Koivisto unilaterally renounced the terms of Paris peace treaty which limited the strength and armament of the Finnish Defence Forces
Finnish Defence Forces
The Finnish Defence Forces are responsible for the defence of Finland. It is a cadre army of 15,000, of which 8,900 are professional soldiers , extended with conscripts and reservists such that the standard readiness strength is 34,700 people in uniform...

. The rationale was that after Germany had been given its full rights as a sovereign state, Finland could not remain bound by the antiquated treaty. The renunciation caused no official protest from Soviet Union or from Great Britain. The other major move was the renunciation of the Finno-Soviet Treaty of 1948 in 1991, concurrently with the fall of Soviet Union. The treaty, the military article of which had shaped Finnish foreign policy for decades, was substituted with a new treaty without military obligations in the next year.

In 1990, partly motivated by nationalism, partly by the fear of the declining work force, Koivisto proposed that any Soviet citizen with either Finnish or Ingrian
Ingrian Finns
The Ingrian Finns are the Finnish population of Ingria descending from Lutheran Finnish immigrants introduced to the area in the 17th century, when Finland and Ingria were both part of the Swedish Empire...

 ancestry be enabled to immigrate to Finland as a returnee. The proposal resulted in a modification of immigration law to this end even during the year.

In the 1988 presidential election, Koivisto was re-elected with 189 out of 301 votes in the electoral college on the second round. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, he supported more radical ideals like joining the European Union
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

. In 1992, Koivisto initiated the process of Finnish accession to then European Community
European Union
The European Union is an economic and political union of 27 independent member states which are located primarily in Europe. The EU traces its origins from the European Coal and Steel Community and the European Economic Community , formed by six countries in 1958...

. The final terms of membership agreement were finalised on the day when Koivisto left office. He was followed by President Martti Ahtisaari
Martti Ahtisaari
Martti Oiva Kalevi Ahtisaari is a Finnish politician, the tenth President of Finland , Nobel Peace Prize laureate and United Nations diplomat and mediator, noted for his international peace work....

, who was also a supporter of EU membership.

Koivisto's popularity sharply declined during Finland's economic depression of the early 1990s, because many unemployed, otherwise impoverished, and even employed citizens believed that he could have and even should have forced the centre-right government of Esko Aho to stimulate the economy and give many unemployed people temporary public-sector jobs

Koivisto's term ended in 1994. He has published his memoirs (four parts) and continued as a commentator on economics and both domestic and international politics.


In 2009, Koivisto declined to apologize to Estonia that his administration did not support the independence of Estonia.

He has been writing his memoirs and also plays volleyball
Volleyball is a team sport in which two teams of six players are separated by a net. Each team tries to score points by grounding a ball on the other team's court under organized rules.The complete rules are extensive...


In March 2010, he was hospitalized for cardiac dysrhythmia
Cardiac dysrhythmia
Cardiac dysrhythmia is any of a large and heterogeneous group of conditions in which there is abnormal electrical activity in the heart. The heart beat may be too fast or too slow, and may be regular or irregular.Some arrhythmias are life-threatening medical emergencies that can result in cardiac...

but was released less than a week later.
The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.