Urho Kekkonen

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Urho Kekkonen, 1977 KekkonenUrhoSignature.png

Urho Kaleva Kekkonen  [ ˈurhɔ ˈkɛkːɔnɛn ] (born September 3, 1900 in Pielavesi , † August 31, 1986 in Helsinki ) was a Finnish politician of the Center Party . After six years as Prime Minister , he was elected President in 1956 . He held the office for more than 25 years, making him the longest-serving head of state in a democratically elected republic. Kekkonen continued the neutrality policy of his predecessor Juho Kusti Paasikivi , which was known as the Paasikivi-Kekkonen line. Please click to listen!Play


Kekkonen's birthplace in Pielavesi
Kekkonen in the 1930s

Origin and occupation

Kekkonen grew up in simple circumstances in northeastern Finland. As a young man, the son of a forest worker was active in sports. In 1924 he became Finnish champion in standing vault . As a 100 m runner, he achieved a remarkable best time of 11.0 seconds.

In the Finnish Civil War of 1917/18 he participated as a reporter on the side of the White Guards . After independence, Kekkonen worked as a secret police and journalist. In 1921 he moved to Helsinki , where he studied law and graduated in 1928 (dissertation in 1936). According to other sources, he began this course in 1919. From 1927 to 1931 he was employed by the Association of Finnish Rural Communities, and from 1933 to 1936 in the Ministry of Agriculture. He then turned to politics and in 1936 became a member of the Reichstag for the rural federation . He held this mandate until 1956. In addition, he headed the sports association from 1931 to 1947 and chaired the National Olympic Committee from 1938 to 1946.

Political career

On October 7, 1936, Kekkonen was appointed Minister of Justice. In the following 20 years he took over ministerial posts in numerous cabinets (Justice 1936–37 and 1944–46, Interior 1937–39 and 1950–51, Exterior 1952–53 and 1954). After the German attack on the Soviet Union in June 1941, Kekkonen spoke out against Finland's entry into the war . In 1950 Kekkonen lost the presidential election, but was appointed Prime Minister by President Juho Kusti Paasikivi . He led the government until 1953 and again from 1954 to 1956. In the cabinet, he emphasized his goal of creating a friendly relationship with the Soviet Union . Such a resilient political line towards the Soviet Union gave rise to the negatively connoted catchphrase Finlandization in the West during the Cold War .


In the 1956 presidential election , Kekkonen was able to win 88 out of 300 voters. This made his supporters the largest group in the election meeting. After dramatic negotiations, Kekkonen was elected President on February 15, 1956. He prevailed in the third ballot with 151 to 149 votes against the Social Democrat Karl-August Fagerholm . At first he had most of the parties against him. Apart from his own party (from 1965 under the new name Center Party ) only the socialist people 's democrats supported his policy of reconciliation with the Soviet Union. From this situation his often criticized authoritarian leadership style developed. Kekkonen managed to convince the two superpowers of the reliability of the Finnish course of neutrality. A special event in this context was the banknote crisis of 1961. Kekkonen was educated in many ways and often quoted Goethe and Bismarck in conversations and speeches . In old age, his power-conscious management style became increasingly grumpy.

He ensured Finland's neutrality in 1975 through the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe , which took place in Helsinki . The diplomatic success is seen as the political climax of Kekkonen's tenure.

In the later years of his tenure, Kekkonen's health deteriorated. His health collapsed while fishing in Iceland. On October 26, 1981, he had to hand over the official business to Prime Minister Mauno Koivisto . Koivisto became President on January 27, 1982.


Kekkonen's grave in Hietaniemi Cemetery in Helsinki.

Kekkonen was loved by all strata of Finnish society throughout its life and is still revered by most Finns today. Many “typically Finnish” characteristics have been attributed to him, which Finnish society attaches great importance to. He brought prosperity and stability to the country. Last but not least, Finland's enormous social and economic rise was a decisive factor in its popularity.

On the domestic political stage he had no equal opponent, especially in his later years, as his services to Finland were beyond doubt. This explains why he was repeatedly re-elected by a large majority. For example, in 1978 he was re-elected with 259 votes out of 300 in the electoral assembly, with the support of all major parties.

Appreciation in public

Postage stamp for Kekkonen's 80th birthday in 1980

Kekkonen's importance was so great in Finland that his image was shown on the Finnish 500- mark banknote while he was still alive and during his tenure as President . This series in circulation at the time was the penultimate series before the introduction of the euro.

On the occasion of his 100th birthday on September 3, 2000, a monument was inaugurated in Helsinki in the immediate vicinity of the Finlandia Hall .

  • 1960 postage stamp
  • 1975 commemorative coin worth 10 Markkaa on the occasion of his 75th birthday
  • 1980 postage stamp on the occasion of his 80th birthday
  • 1981 commemorative coin worth 50 Markkaa on the occasion of his 25th presidency
  • 1986 commemorative stamp on the occasion of his death
  • the Urho Kekkonen National Park was named after him

See also


  • Thoughts of a president. Finland's location in the world . Econ Verlag, Düsseldorf / Vienna 1981, ISBN 3-430-15296-8 .


  • Lotta Lounasmeri, Jukka Kortti: Campaigning between East and West: Finland and the Cold War in the presidential campaign films of Urho Kekkonen . In: Cold War History , 20 (2020), 3, pp. 329–348 ( https://doi.org/10.1080/14682745.2018.1532996 ).

Web links

Commons : Urho Kekkonen  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Hans-Dieter Klein in Biographies on World History , VEB Deutscher Verlag der Wissenschaften, Berlin 1989, pp. 289f
  2. Urho Kekkonen - the "Finnish Machiavelli". deutschlandfunk.de, July 24, 2018
  3. Finlands Most Beautiful Banknote Chosen