Risto Ryti
Risto Heikki Ryti was the fifth 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 1940 to 1944. Ryti started his career as a politician in the field of economics
Economics is the social science that analyzes the production, distribution, and consumption of goods and services. The term economics comes from the Ancient Greek from + , hence "rules of the house"...

 and as a political background figure during the interwar period
Interwar period
Interwar period can refer to any period between two wars. The Interbellum is understood to be the period between the end of the Great War or First World War and the beginning of the Second World War in Europe....

. He made a wide range of international contacts in the world of banking and within the framework of the League of Nations
League of Nations
The League of Nations was an intergovernmental organization founded as a result of the Paris Peace Conference that ended the First World War. It was the first permanent international organization whose principal mission was to maintain world peace...

. Ryti 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:...

 during 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...

 and the Interim Peace
Interim Peace
The Interim Peace was a short period in the history of Finland during the Second World War. The term is used for the time between the Winter War and the Continuation War, lasting a little over a year, from 13 March 1940 to 24 June 1941...

. Later he served as President 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...

. After the war, Ryti was the main defendant in the Finnish War-responsibility trials
War-responsibility trials in Finland
The war-responsibility trials in Finland was a trial of the Finnish wartime leaders held responsible for "definitely influencing Finland in getting into a war with the Soviet Union and United Kingdom in 1941 or preventing peace" during the Continuation War, 1941-1944. Unlike other World War II...


Early Life and Career

Risto Ryti was born in Huittinen
Huittinen is a town and municipality of Finland.It is located in the Satakunta region. The town has a population of and covers an area of of which is water...

, Satakunta
Satakunta (region)
Satakunta is a region of Finland, part of the former Western Finland Province. It borders the regions of Finland Proper, Pirkanmaa, Southern Ostrobothnia and Ostrobothnia. The main city of the region is Pori. The name of the region literally means Hundred...

, one of seven sons. His parents were Kaarle Evert Ryti, a farmer, and Ida Vivika Junttila. Although he came from a peasant farming background, during his childhood Ryti hardly participated in work on the family's large farm, being a bookish and academically inclined boy. He was educated briefly at Pori
Pori is a city and municipality on the west coast of Finland. The city is located some from the Gulf of Bothnia, on the estuary of the Kokemäenjoki river, which is the largest in Finland. Pori is the most important town in the Satakunta region....

 Grammar School, and was then tutored at home, before enrolling in the University of Helsinki
University of Helsinki
The University of Helsinki is a university located in Helsinki, Finland since 1829, but was founded in the city of Turku in 1640 as The Royal Academy of Turku, at that time part of the Swedish Empire. It is the oldest and largest university in Finland with the widest range of disciplines available...

 in 1906 to study law
Law is a system of rules and guidelines which are enforced through social institutions to govern behavior, wherever possible. It shapes politics, economics and society in numerous ways and serves as a social mediator of relations between people. Contract law regulates everything from buying a bus...

. Ryti was the only one of seven sons to pass the university entrance examination
Entrance examination
An entrance examination is an examination that many educational institutions use to select students for admission. These exams may be administered at any level of education, from primary to higher education, although they are more common at higher levels....

; however his three sisters also matriculated
Matriculation, in the broadest sense, means to be registered or added to a list, from the Latin matricula – little list. In Scottish heraldry, for instance, a matriculation is a registration of armorial bearings...


Ryti graduated in autumn 1909 as Finland was moving into the second period of Russification
Russification of Finland
The policy of Russification of Finland was a governmental policy of the Russian Empire aimed at limiting the special status of the Grand Duchy of Finland and possibly the termination of its political autonomy and cultural uniqueness...

. Escaping an oppressive political atmosphere in the capital, Ryti returned to his roots in Satakunta, where he established himself as a lawyer in Rauma
Rauma, Finland
Rauma is a town and municipality of ca. inhabitants on the west coast of Finland, north of Turku, and south of Pori. Granted town privileges on May 17, 1442 , Rauma is known of its high quality lace , and of the old wooden architecture of its centre , which is a Unesco world heritage...

. During this period he became acquainted with Alfred Kordelin
Alfred Kordelin
Alfred Kordelin was a Finnish industrialist, businessman, entrepreneur, and a major philanthropist. Kordelin was one of the richest Finnish entrepreneurs of his time....

, one of Finland's richest men. Ryti became Kordelin's lawyer, and eventually the two men became close friends. During this period Ryti also undertook further studies, becoming a Master of Laws
Master of Laws
The Master of Laws is an advanced academic degree, pursued by those holding a professional law degree, and is commonly abbreviated LL.M. from its Latin name, Legum Magister. The University of Oxford names its taught masters of laws B.C.L...

 in 1912. In the spring of 1914 he moved to Oxford
The city of Oxford is the county town of Oxfordshire, England. The city, made prominent by its medieval university, has a population of just under 165,000, with 153,900 living within the district boundary. It lies about 50 miles north-west of London. The rivers Cherwell and Thames run through...

 to study maritime law, but the outbreak of World War I forced him to return to Finland. In 1916 he married Gerda Paula Serlachius (1886–1984). They had three children, Henrik (* 1916), Niilo (1919–1997), and Eva (1922–2009).

In the period after the outbreak of World War I, before Finland achieved its independence, Ryti's business relationship with Kordelin grew even closer, and it appeared likely that Kordelin would ask Ryti to become general manager of his numerous business enterprises. However, in November 1917 Ryti and his wife witnessed the murder of Kordelin at the hands of a Russian Bolshevik
The Bolsheviks, originally also Bolshevists , derived from bol'shinstvo, "majority") were a faction of the Marxist Russian Social Democratic Labour Party which split apart from the Menshevik faction at the Second Party Congress in 1903....


Member of parliament and finance minister

During the Finnish Civil War Ryti played no active part, remaining in hiding with his family in red-dominated Helsinki
Helsinki is the capital and largest city in Finland. It is in the region of Uusimaa, located in southern Finland, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, an arm of the Baltic Sea. The population of the city of Helsinki is , making it by far the most populous municipality in Finland. Helsinki is...

. Afterwards, however, he would become deeply involved in politics, being elected a National Progressive member of Parliament
Parliament of Finland
The Eduskunta , is the parliament of Finland. The unicameral parliament has 200 members and meets in the Parliament House in Helsinki. The latest election to the parliament took place on April 17, 2011.- Constitution :...

 in 1919, at the age of thirty the second youngest member. At the same year, the party candidate, an admirer of Ryti, Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg
Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg
Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg was a Finnish jurist and academic, who played a central role in the drafting of the Constitution of Finland in 1919. He was the first President of Finland and a nationalist liberal.-Early life:...

, was elected the first President of Finland. Ryti served as a member of Parliament from 1919 to 1924 and from 1927 to 1929. During his first few years in Parliament, Ryti served as chairman of the judiciary committee, and later the finance committee. He also served as a member of Helsinki City Council from 1924 to 1927.

According to the Finnish historian Martti Turtola, Ryti succeeded in politics in the first few years after the Finnish Civil War because his liberal, democratic, and republican ideals were popular then. Moreover, Ryti's personal political success continued even after his liberal-oriented National Progressive Party shrank to a fringe party, because he was considered an expert especially in economic policy and, very importantly, an impartial servant of the fatherland who refused to play partisan politics (see Martti Turtola, "Risto Ryti: A Life for the Fatherland").

In 1921, the thirty-two-year-old Ryti was appointed Finance Minister
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...

 in the government of Juho Vennola
Juho Vennola
Juho Heikki Vennola was Professor of National Economics at the University of Helsinki, a member of the Parliament of Finland, and a politician from the National Progressive Party, who served as Prime Minister of Finland for three times.Vennola's first government was from August 15, 1919 to March...

. He served in that position twice until 1924. In 1923 President Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg appointed him chairman 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 post he remained in until he became prime minister in 1939. Ryti only began to exercise his duties as chairman of the Bank of Finland after he resigned as finance minister in January 1924. During his early years in parliament, Ryti succeed in bringing order to the government budget
Government budget
A government budget is a legal document that is often passed by the legislature, and approved by the chief executive-or president. For example, only certain types of revenue may be imposed and collected...

. Although he was a Ståhlbergian, Ryti did not approve of pardoning Red
Red Guards (Finland)
The Red Guards formed the army of Red Finland during the Finnish Civil War in 1918. The combined strength of the Red Guard was about 30,000 at the beginning of the Civil War, and peaked at 90,000-120,000 during the course of the conflict....

 prisoners. In his opinion, the Reds were criminals. Ryti refused to see the social background of the Finnish Civil War.

Director of the National Bank

In 1925 Ryti was also nominated as a presidential candidate at the age of 36. In the second round of voting, he received the most support. However, in the third round the Swedish People's Party, which held the balance, moved their votes to Lauri Kristian Relander
Lauri Kristian Relander
Lauri Kristian Relander was the second President of Finland . A prominent member of the Agrarian League, he served as a member of Parliament, and as Speaker, before his election as President....

, and Ryti lost to Relander 109 votes to 172. Ryti's support increased over the years but was never enough in elections. During the 1930s he withdrew from daily politics, but influenced economic policies. Ryti was an orthodox supporter of classical liberal
Classical liberalism
Classical liberalism is the philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets....

 economics. He made his goal to tie the value of Finnish markka to the gold standard
Gold standard
The gold standard is a monetary system in which the standard economic unit of account is a fixed mass of gold. There are distinct kinds of gold standard...

. Unlike many other European countries, Finland did not choose deflationary solutions under his leadership; and in 1926 the country shifted to the gold markka. However, after the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

 in 1929, Finland was forced to abandon the gold standard following the example of Great Britain.

In the 1920s, Ryti established international contacts with the banking world of Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

, and with Great Britain and the United States. The Wall Street Journal recognized his success. In 1934 he was awarded a British honour, being created a Knight Commander of the Royal Victorian Order
Royal Victorian Order
The Royal Victorian Order is a dynastic order of knighthood and a house order of chivalry recognising distinguished personal service to the order's Sovereign, the reigning monarch of the Commonwealth realms, any members of her family, or any of her viceroys...

 (KCVO) due to his great merits in Anglo-Finnish relations. It must also be noted that he had excellent relations with the leaders of the Bank of England
Bank of England
The Bank of England is the central bank of the United Kingdom and the model on which most modern central banks have been based. Established in 1694, it is the second oldest central bank in the world...

, due to his similar economic policies, such as the belief in the gold standard until the Great Depression
Great Depression
The Great Depression was a severe worldwide economic depression in the decade preceding World War II. The timing of the Great Depression varied across nations, but in most countries it started in about 1929 and lasted until the late 1930s or early 1940s...

, and due to his excellent command of English. In fact, Ryti could regularly telephone the Bank of England's leaders when he wanted to discuss economic or financial policies with them (see Martti Turtola, "Risto Ryti: A Life for the Fatherland"). Ryti participated in the activities of the League of Nations as a member of many committees dealing with economic questions and monetary policy
Monetary policy
Monetary policy is the process by which the monetary authority of a country controls the supply of money, often targeting a rate of interest for the purpose of promoting economic growth and stability. The official goals usually include relatively stable prices and low unemployment...


In the politics of the 1930s, Ryti was an important background figure. His social policy was two-minded. Ryti opposed work programmes for the unemployed and spending on assistance for poor. On the other hand, he thought that the benefits of the strong economics should be distributed evenly over the whole population, not just a few. Ryti played an important part in creating the social welfare
Welfare refers to a broad discourse which may hold certain implications regarding the provision of a minimal level of wellbeing and social support for all citizens without the stigma of charity. This is termed "social solidarity"...

 of the late 1930s. In generally, Ryti was opposed to state intervention in business and industry. He opposed Socialist economics
Socialist economics
Socialist economics are the economic theories and practices of hypothetical and existing socialist economic systems.A socialist economy is based on public ownership or independent cooperative ownership of the means of production, wherein production is carried out to directly produce use-value,...

 and especially Soviet forms. Furthermore, Ryti had experienced the Russification period and the Civil War, making him anti-Soviet. Ryti approved of neither German national socialism
Nazism, the common short form name of National Socialism was the ideology and practice of the Nazi Party and of Nazi Germany...

 nor right-wing extremism, and he also opposed the Lapua movement
Lapua Movement
The Lapua Movement , was a Finnish radical nationalist and anti-communist political movement founded in and named after the town of Lapua. After radicalisation it turned towards far-right politics and was banned after a failed coup-d'état in 1932...

. Ryti was an admirer of British civilisation and culture
Culture of the United Kingdom
The culture of the United Kingdom refers to the patterns of human activity and symbolism associated with the United Kingdom and its people. It is informed by the UK's history as a developed island country, major power, and its composition of four countries—England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and...

 and of American free enterprise
Free enterprise
-Transport:* Free Enterprise I, a ferry in service with European Ferries between 1962 and 1980.* Free Enterprise II, a ferry in service with European Ferries between 1965 and 1982....


Ryti–Tanner government during the Winter War

Ryti had built up relations of trust with leading 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...

 politician Väinö Tanner
Väinö Tanner
Väinö Tanner was a pioneer and leader in the cooperative movement in Finland, and Prime Minister of Finland from 1926 to 1927....

 and President Kyösti Kallio
Kyösti Kallio
Kyösti Kallio was the fourth President of Finland . He was a prominent leader of the Agrarian League, and served as Prime Minister four times and Speaker of the Parliament six times.-Early life:...

. In late autumn 1939, Ryti was offered the post of prime minister, but he tried to turn down the offer. However, when 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...

 broke out on 30 November, Ryti agreed. He took his post on 1 December. Ryti concentrated on a realistic analysis of the situation, instead of pessimism or over-optimism. He and foreign minister Tanner agreed that the war must be brought to an end as quickly as possible. They both spoke fluent English and had close contact with the Western powers.

At the beginning of the war, the Soviet Union formed a puppet government and cut connections with the Ryti–Tanner government. The Finnish army fought defensively in battles during December 1939 and January 1940. This gained time and freedom for diplomatic manoeuvering. The Soviet Union was forced to drop the Terijoki Government and accept negotiations via Stockholm
Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden and constitutes the most populated urban area in Scandinavia. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden, with a population of 851,155 in the municipality , 1.37 million in the urban area , and around 2.1 million in the metropolitan area...

. The Western allies planned intervention
Franco-British plans for intervention in the Winter War
During the early stages of World War II, the British and French Allies made a series of proposals to send troops to fight against the Soviet Union, which had invaded Finland as a consequence of the Nazi-Soviet Pact...

 influenced the Soviet government to seek an agreement. Ryti persuaded the rest of the cabinet to settle for peace and signed the Moscow Peace Treaty
Moscow Peace Treaty (1940)
The Moscow Peace Treaty was signed by Finland and the Soviet Union on 12 March 1940, and the ratifications were exchanged on 21 March. It marked the end of the 105-day Winter War. The treaty ceded parts of Finland to the Soviet Union. However, it preserved Finland's independence, ending the Soviet...

 on 13 March 1940. The peace agreement, in which Finland lost large land areas and faced the burden of resettling 400,000 refugees, was generally considered crushing.

From Prime Minister to President

Ryti had proved to be a strong prime minister, in contrast to his predecessor Aimo Cajander
Aimo Cajander
Aimo Kaarlo Cajander was, outside of botany, best known as Prime Minister of Finland up to the Winter War....

. President Kallio suffered a stroke
A stroke, previously known medically as a cerebrovascular accident , is the rapidly developing loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain. This can be due to ischemia caused by blockage , or a hemorrhage...

 in August, and also he had no great experience in foreign policy, so the heavy responsibilities of state leadership were shared by Ryti, Field Marshal C.G.E. Mannerheim
Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim
Baron Carl Gustaf Emil Mannerheim was the military leader of the Whites in the Finnish Civil War, Commander-in-Chief of Finland's Defence Forces during World War II, Marshal of Finland, and a Finnish statesman. He was Regent of Finland and the sixth President of Finland...

, industrialist and general Rudolf Walden
Rudolf Walden
Karl Rudolf Walden was a Finnish industrialist and general.He received his military education in Hamina Cadet School 1892–1900....

, and Tanner. Considering this and the fact Ryti had signed the peace treaty, Ryti became an acceptable figure for the post of president in December 1940 when Kallio resigned.

The exceptional circumstances, such as the lack of a permanent place of residence for many Karelian refugees (see Turtola, "Risto Ryti: A Life for the Fatherland" and Virkkunen, "The Finnish Presidents II"), prevented the election of presidential electors, so a constitutional amendment was enacted by the Parliament of Finland
Parliament of Finland
The Eduskunta , is the parliament of Finland. The unicameral parliament has 200 members and meets in the Parliament House in Helsinki. The latest election to the parliament took place on April 17, 2011.- Constitution :...

 to enable the electors of 1937 to elect a successor to Kallio. Ryti was chosen with 288 votes out of 300.

On the day of his retirement, 19 December 1940, Kallio suffered a second, lethal stroke during a farewell gathering.

Towards German Orientation

Finland's changed policy from a Scandinavia
Scandinavia is a cultural, historical and ethno-linguistic region in northern Europe that includes the three kingdoms of Denmark, Norway and Sweden, characterized by their common ethno-cultural heritage and language. Modern Norway and Sweden proper are situated on the Scandinavian Peninsula,...

n orientation up to, and during, the Winter War, to a German orientation after the Winter War, was not in the least pursued by the convinced Anglophile Risto Ryti. He had no illusions about the true nature of Germany. Traditionally Finland had been associated with Britain by stronger commercial ties, but as the Baltic Sea
Baltic Sea
The Baltic Sea is a brackish mediterranean sea located in Northern Europe, from 53°N to 66°N latitude and from 20°E to 26°E longitude. It is bounded by the Scandinavian Peninsula, the mainland of Europe, and the Danish islands. It drains into the Kattegat by way of the Øresund, the Great Belt and...

 was dominated by the Germans and Soviets, lost markets had to be found elsewhere, and the Germans were willing to trade.

The relatively limited space given to Nazi German propaganda and ideology, or their domestic sympathizer fringe groups in Finland, can probably be seen as one of the many important joint contributions of Ryti, Tanner, and Mannerheim. Ryti's government must also be credited for the fact that Finland remained a genuine democracy unlike any other continental European country that participated in World War II.

In August 1940 Ryti also agreed to secret military cooperation with Germany, in order to strengthen Finland's position vis-à-vis the threatening Soviet Union. Over time it became increasingly likely that the peace between the two great totalitarian powers would end, and the experts' opinion - even among the enemies of Germany - was that in case of invasion the Soviets could not stop the German war machine. Ryti apparently turned, step by step, to being in favour of seizing the opportunity to secure Finnish claims to areas he saw to be in the country's interests, in case the great realignment of ownership of East European territory by force would materialize.

Thus the cooperation begun in late 1940 ultimately developed in 1941 into preparations for re-annexation of the territories lost after the Winter War, in case Nazi Germany would realize the rumoured plans for an assault on the Soviet Union. The Continuation War, when it commenced, would also come to include occupation of East Karelia
East Karelia
East Karelia , also rendered as Eastern Karelia or Russian Karelia, is a name for the part of Karelia that since the Treaty of Stolbova in 1617 has remained Christian Orthodox under Russian supremacy. It is separated from the western part of Karelia, called Finnish Karelia or historically Swedish...

, which nationalist circles had championed since the 1910s.

Early success and second term

When Germany's assault
Operation Barbarossa
Operation Barbarossa was the code name for Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union during World War II that began on 22 June 1941. Over 4.5 million troops of the Axis powers invaded the USSR along a front., the largest invasion in the history of warfare...

 on the Soviet Union began in June 1941, Finland remained formally neutral until Soviet air raids gave an expected reason to fulfill the invasion plans some days later. Ryti made a radio speech after the outbreak of the Continuation War where he announced that Germany would win the war against the Soviet Union. The speech was later used against him at the War-responsibility trials. Afterwards Ryti stated he did not believe Germany would win as a whole but that its forces would defeat the Soviet Union.

Finnish troops soon regained the territory lost in the Winter War and a substantial buffer zone beyond. A considerable number of members of parliament were not excited by the idea of crossing the old borders, but obviously Ryti convinced Tanner and the Social Democrats to remain in the cabinet despite their opposition to the conquest of East Karelia
Finnish military administration in Eastern Karelia, 1941–1944
Finnish military administration in Eastern Karelia was an interim administrative system established in those areas of the Karelo-Finnish Soviet Socialist Republic of the Soviet Union which were occupied by the Finnish army during the Continuation War. The military administration was set up on July...

. Ryti's ability to thus maintain a broad coalition government strongly contributed to morale and perceived national unity. In fact, from January 1941 to March 1943, even the far-right Patriotic People's Movement
Patriotic People's Movement (Finland)
Patriotic People's Movement, abbreviated to IKL), was a Finnish nationalist and anti-communist political party. IKL was the successor of the previously banned Lapuan liike...

 (IKL) participated in the government (see, for example, Martti Turtola, "Risto Ryti: A Life for the Fatherland", Sakari Virkkunen, "The Finnish Presidents II", and "The Republic's Presidents 1940-1956" / Tasavallan presidentit 1940-1956).

Ryti's mandate as president was intended to extend only through the rest of Kallio's term, i.e., to 1943, but as the government could not organize elections during the Continuation War, the electors from 1937 gathered to re-elect him. This exceptional procedure was mandated by a constitutional amendment passed by the Parliament of Finland. Ryti was elected by an overwhelming majority. Ryti was willing to continue as president because he was among those who led Finland into the war, even though during the winter of 1942, both Ryti and Mannerheim had their doubts about German victory.

Attempts at Peace Negotiations

Ryti wanted the government of Jukka Rangell to continue in office. However, the time had arrived for a "peace government", and it was formed after long negotiations by the chairman of the National Coalition Party, Professor Edwin Linkomies
Edwin Linkomies
Edwin Johannes Hildegard Linkomies was Prime Minister of Finland March 1943 to August 1944, and one of the seven politicians sentenced to 5½ years in prison as allegedly responsible for the Continuation War, on the demand of the Soviet Union...

. He started preparations aimed at achieving peace with the Soviet Union in spring 1943. The Patriotic People's Movement was excluded from the government. The Soviet Union's major counter-offensive began on 9 June 1944, in a situation when Finland's relations with Germany were strained due to Finland's earlier attempts to secure a separate peace
Separate peace
The phrase "separate peace" refers to a nation's agreement to cease military hostilities with another, even though the former country had previously entered into a military alliance with other states that remain at war with the latter country...

. There were speculations that a change of both government and president would ensue, but Marshal Mannerheim was unwilling to take the job of post-war prime minister even temporarily. Soon, Viipuri, the second biggest city of Finland, fell to the Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 on 20 June.

The Finnish government tried to create a link for negotiations via Stockholm
Stockholm is the capital and the largest city of Sweden and constitutes the most populated urban area in Scandinavia. Stockholm is the most populous city in Sweden, with a population of 851,155 in the municipality , 1.37 million in the urban area , and around 2.1 million in the metropolitan area...

. The Soviet government replied that it was ready to negotiate, but only after an assurance that Finland would surrender unconditionally
Unconditional surrender
Unconditional surrender is a surrender without conditions, in which no guarantees are given to the surrendering party. In modern times unconditional surrenders most often include guarantees provided by international law. Announcing that only unconditional surrender is acceptable puts psychological...

. The demand divided the Finnish government as Ryti and Tanner were in favour of replying, but Mannerheim and Linkomies opposed it. The situation was tense, as Finland was in dire need of food as well as weapons and ammunition.

Ryti–Ribbentrop Agreement

At the same time, the German foreign minister, Joachim von Ribbentrop
Joachim von Ribbentrop
Ulrich Friedrich Wilhelm Joachim von Ribbentrop was Foreign Minister of Germany from 1938 until 1945. He was later hanged for war crimes after the Nuremberg Trials.-Early life:...

 arrived in Finland on an unexpected visit. He called the Finnish government to commit itself to continue to fight against the Soviet Union. In return he promised military aid
Military aid
Military aid is aid which is used to assist an ally in its defense efforts, or to assist a poor country in maintaining control over its own territory. Many countries receive military aid to help with counter-insurgency efforts...

. Ryti had wanted parliament to decide on the matter. Mannerheim proposed the sending of a private letter. Finally, Ryti and Mannerheim compromised. The creation of a private letter from Ryti of the kind Mannerheim had envisioned was dealt with at a meeting of the Council of State
Finnish Council of State
The Cabinet of Finland is the body that directs the Government of Finland. However, in governmental translations to English, the distinction is often blurred between cabinet and government in the wider sense...

. The compromise satisfied the Germans, and they expanded their military and food assistance. The military assistance helped the Finns stop the Red Army in the battle of Tali-Ihantala
Battle of Tali-Ihantala
The Battle of Tali-Ihantala was part of the Continuation War , which occurred during World War II. The battle was fought between Finnish forces—using war material provided by Germany—and Soviet forces...

. Afterwards, the letter was named the Ryti–Ribbentrop Agreement.

By mid-July the front situation was stabilized. Ryti signed a letter of resignation in which, against his will, he referred among other things to health reasons. The letter was presented to the cabinet; and it went into effect 1 August 1944. The Finnish parliament appointed Mannerheim president in early August 1944. Peace negotiations could begin again, this time from a stronger position although most territorial gains had been lost by this time. Probably neither Hitler nor any other German authorities had read Ryti's previous letter carefully enough, because Finland's decision at the start of September 1944 to end its informal military alliance or "brotherhood-in-arms" with Germany surprised and angered the Germans. None of them probably thought that Ryti would resign any time soon, and thus give his successor a free hand to break ties with Germany and to start peace negotiations with the Soviet Union (see Martti Turtola, "Risto Ryti: A Life for the Fatherland", Sakari Virkkunen, "The Finnish Presidents II" and Seppo Zetterberg et al., ed., "A Small Giant of the Finnish History").

War-Guilt Trials

After Ryti resigned from the presidency, he was reappointed governor of the Bank of Finland. Jukka Rangell stepped aside to clear the way for Ryti. In autumn 1944, Ryti used tough measures, as he had done during the Great Depression ten years earlier, in the nation's monetary policy. The policy was to fight inflation
In economics, inflation is a rise in the general level of prices of goods and services in an economy over a period of time.When the general price level rises, each unit of currency buys fewer goods and services. Consequently, inflation also reflects an erosion in the purchasing power of money – a...

 and boost export
The term export is derived from the conceptual meaning as to ship the goods and services out of the port of a country. The seller of such goods and services is referred to as an "exporter" who is based in the country of export whereas the overseas based buyer is referred to as an "importer"...

s. However, in spring 1945 Finnish communists and the Soviet Union demanded he be tried as "responsible for the war". This came as a shock to the Finnish people who held Ryti in high esteem. His defence
Defense (legal)
In civil proceedings and criminal prosecutions under the common law, a defendant may raise a defense in an attempt to avoid criminal or civil liability...

A lawyer, according to Black's Law Dictionary, is "a person learned in the law; as an attorney, counsel or solicitor; a person who is practicing law." Law is the system of rules of conduct established by the sovereign government of a society to correct wrongs, maintain the stability of political...

 was the former foreign minister Hjalmar Procopé
Hjalmar Procopé
Hjalmar Johan Fredrik Procopé was a Finnish politician and a diplomat from the Swedish People's Party. Procopé was a minister in several cabinets in the 1920s and 1930s....


After considerable pressure from the Soviet Union, Ryti was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment, in a trial widely held to be illegitimate and a miscarriage of justice from the Finnish perspective
Finlandization is a term used to describe the influence that one powerful country may have on the policies of a smaller neighboring country.It is generally considered to be pejorative, originating in West German political debate of the late 1960s and 1970s...

. Along with Ryti, seven other high officials were sentenced to prison, although for shorter terms. The group was convicted using an ex post facto law, which had been instituted for the purpose by the Parliament of Finland
Parliament of Finland
The Eduskunta , is the parliament of Finland. The unicameral parliament has 200 members and meets in the Parliament House in Helsinki. The latest election to the parliament took place on April 17, 2011.- Constitution :...

. Although the Finnish constitution
Constitution of Finland
The Constitution of Finland is the supreme source of national law of Finland. It defines the basis, structures and organisation of government, the relationship between the different constitutional organs, and lays out the fundamental rights of Finnish citizens...

 prohibited such legislation, the act in question was passed as a constitutional amendment, with a qualified majority in the parliament. Both the court and the parliament faced severe pressure from the Soviet Union and the United Kingdom during the process. Despite Ryti and his fellow convicts not being treated particularly badly in prison, Ryti's health failed during his sentence. Most of his stomach had to be removed due to some tumour or other disease; in addition, he developed arthritis during his first winter of imprisonment. By 1949, all the other convicts of the war-responsibility trials had been released on parole
Parole may have different meanings depending on the field and judiciary system. All of the meanings originated from the French parole . Following its use in late-resurrected Anglo-French chivalric practice, the term became associated with the release of prisoners based on prisoners giving their...

, while Ryti was hospitalized. He was pardoned by President Juho Kusti Paasikivi
Juho Kusti Paasikivi
Juho Kusti Paasikivi was the seventh President of Finland . Representing the Finnish Party and the National Coalition Party, he also served as Prime Minister of Finland , and was generally an influential figure in Finnish economics and politics for over fifty years...

 that year.

Final years

Freed, Ryti did not return to public life. He concentrated on writing his memoirs but was not successful due to ill health. In 1952, he attended a university students' celebration where he accepted a badge of honour. Although he refused to return to politics, Ryti voted regularly in parliamentary and presidential elections. In May 1956, just five months before his death, he received an honorary doctorate in political science from the Helsinki University (see Martti Turtola, "Risto Ryti: A Life for the Fatherland"). Risto Ryti died in October 1956 and was buried with full presidential honors.


After the Soviet Union collapsed, Ryti's reputation was publicly, but not officially, restored. The government's position on the propositions for the rehabilitation of Ryti and his fellow convicts has been that an official rehabilitation is unnecessary as the honour of the convicted has never been lost. The idea of annulling the sentences or the act retroactively has been considered to be unnecessary and contrary to Finnish judicial practice.

In 1994, a statue of Ryti was unveiled near the Parliament House. In 2004, in the YLE TV-series Suuret Suomalaiset
Suuret suomalaiset
Suuret suomalaiset was a 2004 television show broadcast in Finland by YLE , which determined the 100 greatest Finns of all time according to the opinions of its viewers. The viewers were able to vote during a programme which lasted from October to December 2004...

 (Great Finns) Risto Ryti got the second highest number of votes.

Risto Ryti was a Freemason
Freemasonry is a fraternal organisation that arose from obscure origins in the late 16th to early 17th century. Freemasonry now exists in various forms all over the world, with a membership estimated at around six million, including approximately 150,000 under the jurisdictions of the Grand Lodge...

, but after his prison sentence, was required to give up membership in his lodge, as convicts were barred from membership. He had become a Freemason in 1924, but according to the Finnish Lodge's assistant grand scribe Reijo Ahtokari, he did not very actively participate in Masonic activities. Historians are still skeptical as to whether Ryti's Freemasonry influenced his political actions. In January 1941, for example, he appointed a fellow Freemason, Jukka W. Rangell, as prime minister only after his secretary Lauri Puntila suggested that he do so.

Ryti did, according to some of his friends and acquaintances, strongly believe in fate. After a dinner in the 1930s at the home of a friend, Alvar Renqvist, in Helsinki, Ryti told the other guests, according to Heikki A. Reenpää, Alvar Renqvist's grandson: "In my life, fate has been the ruling force. If it had not been benevolent, I would not sit here now." One of Finland's most famous clairvoyants
The term clairvoyance is used to refer to the ability to gain information about an object, person, location or physical event through means other than the known human senses, a form of extra-sensory perception...

, Aino Kassinen, recalled in her memoirs that she met Ryti in the 1930s in Helsinki, and got the understanding that Ryti strongly believed in people's being guided by the higher divine powers, and that he strongly believed in God, and had studied theosophy
Theosophy, in its modern presentation, is a spiritual philosophy developed since the late 19th century. Its major themes were originally described mainly by Helena Blavatsky , co-founder of the Theosophical Society...

 and anthroposophy
Anthroposophy, a philosophy founded by Rudolf Steiner, postulates the existence of an objective, intellectually comprehensible spiritual world accessible to direct experience through inner development...

. Ryti's wife Gerda was a much more active spiritualist
Spiritualism is a belief system or religion, postulating the belief that spirits of the dead residing in the spirit world have both the ability and the inclination to communicate with the living...

 and theosophist than Ryti himself; she even claimed to have a spirit guide.

External links

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