Sinikka Wunsch, Minister for
Foreign Affairs and his newspaper. Interplay between Eljas Erkko and
Helsingin Sanomat during Erkko’s ministry. Johtaja ja kansa. Studia
Historica Septentrionalia 51 (2006), 91–106.
My article deals with cooperation between
Minister for Foreign Affairs Eljas Erkko and Helsingin Sanomat during
Erkko’s ministry, which began December 12, 1938 and ended when the
Winter War began. Leading foreign policy and influencing public
opinion through the newspapers merged in the role of the Minister for
Foreign Affairs in a manner that was rare in Finland’s circumstances.
I also examine training of propagandists
and establishment of crisis period information organizations in
Finland in 1939.
Although the primary newspaper is Helsingin Sanomat (HS), at times I
also refer to newspapers that were the main organs of their respective
political parties. As reference material I use the New York Times
(NYT) and the Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter (DN).
Before Erkko was appointed Minister for
Foreign Affairs in December 1938, Helsingin Sanomat had often written
critically about the government’s foreign policy. The further the year
1939 progressed, the clearer it became that the replacement of the
Minister for Foreign Affairs had brought the government the support of
the nation’s largest newspaper. This seamless cooperation continued
until the end of Erkko’s ministry, i.e. the beginning of the Winter
In contemplating the events leading to
the Winter War, it is naturally necessary to consider the allegation
presented later, that the Winter War was ”Erkko’s war”, brought about
by the Minister for Foreign Affairs’ poor sense of reality.
It was a question of an incurred war in
the respect that Finland could have avoided it by assenting to the
Soviet Union’s demands. But, the fact that not only Erkko, but also a
majority of the government, above all Prime Minister A. C. Cajander
and Minister of Defence Juho Niukkanen, supported an unyielding policy
has received less public attention. Public opinion in Finland also
remained unyielding, but it was influenced at the same time by
organized maneuvering of opinions.
Successful implementation of propaganda
is nevertheless not the whole truth. One can look for the reasons
behind the unyielding attitude far back in the history of conflicts
between Finland and Russia and in the picture of Russia as the enemy
that was created in Finland. Neither should one forget that, by the
late 1930s, the Finns had already often witnessed that assenting to
the demands of greater powers did not save small nations from harsh
Studia Historica Septentrionalia 51