Open main menu

Taisto Kalevi Sorsa (21 December 1930 – 16 December 2004) was a Finnish politician who served as Prime Minister of Finland three times: 1972–1975, 1977–1979 and 1982–1987. At the time of his death he still held the record for most days of incumbency as prime minister.[2] He was also a long-time leader of the Social Democratic Party of Finland.

Kalevi Sorsa
Kalevi-Sorsa-1975 (cropped).jpg
34th Prime Minister of Finland[1]
In office
19 February 1982 – 30 April 1987
PresidentMauno Koivisto
DeputyAhti Pekkala (1982–1983)
Paavo Väyrynen (1983–1987)
Preceded byMauno Koivisto
Succeeded byHarri Holkeri
In office
15 May 1977 – 26 May 1979
PresidentUrho Kekkonen
DeputyJohannes Virolainen
Preceded byMartti Miettunen
Succeeded byMauno Koivisto
In office
4 September 1972 – 13 June 1975
PresidentUrho Kekkonen
DeputyAhti Karjalainen
Preceded byRafael Paasio
Succeeded byKeijo Liinamaa
Personal details
Born(1930-12-21)21 December 1930
Keuruu, Finland
Died16 December 2004(2004-12-16) (aged 73)
Helsinki, Finland
NationalityFinnish
Political partySocial Democratic Party

Early yearsEdit

Sorsa attended school in Jyväskylä and Lappeenranta.

At the age of eighteen, Sorsa's involvement with the SDP started in Lappeenranta. In 1969, he was brought in from relative obscurity by Rafael Paasio, former Prime Minister of Finland, to assume the influential post of party secretary, despite not having much previous experience of national politics.

A 2008 book by historian Jukka Seppinen suggested that Sorsa was at this date already receiving support from Soviet backers in the KGB.[3] Prior to his political career, Sorsa worked in Paris for UNESCO from 1959-65, and served as Secretary-General of the Finnish UNESCO board from 1965-69. In the late-1960s, he also served as an official in the Ministry of Education.

Prime Minister and Foreign Minister (1972-1989)Edit

Sorsa and domestic politicsEdit

Sorsa was a leading political figure during the presidencies of Kekkonen and Koivisto.[4] He served as the chairman of the Social Democratic Party from 1975 to 1987 and was Prime Minister of Finland in four cabinets for a total of ten years (1972–1975, 1977–1979, 1982–1983, 1983–1987). He remains Finland's longest-serving prime minister.

After his premiership he served as the Speaker of the Finnish Parliament from 1989 to 1991. During his career he also served twice as Deputy Prime Minister, from 1975 to 1976 and from 1987 to 1989.[5] From 1987 to 1996, Sorsa served on the governing board of the Bank of Finland.[6][4]

Sorsa is regarded as one of Finland's most influential prime ministers, making major contributions to schools and health care, and increasing social security for families with children and pensioners. His governments strengthened the welfare state in Finland, by enacting many reforms—child care laws, longer maternity leave, the annual vacation benefit act, as well as the public health act.

In domestic politics, Sorsa had a particularly difficult relationship with Paavo Väyrynen, the strong-willed head of the Center Party. Another notable conflict was his rivalry with young rising politician Paavo Lipponen.

In June 1984, Sorsa gave a speech on "infocracy" (i.e. the power of the mass media) at the Social Democratic party convention. Infocracy challenges parliamentary democracy, is unintelligent and avoids discussing social problems, he said: it takes more interest in individual politicians than political issues and is never critical of its own actions.[7]

Sorsa and foreign affairsEdit

Three times Kalevi Sorsa served as Minister for Foreign Affairs (Finland): in 1972; in 1975-1976; and from 1987 to 1989.[8]

Sorsa supported the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe after its creation in 1975, as well as projects to bridge the gap between the world's richest and poorest countries. In the 1970s, despite opposition from far-left parties, he championed a hard-won, free-trade agreement with the European Economic Community (EEC), which boosted ties between Finland and the countries of Western Europe.

Sorsa was also active in the international social democratic movement, and in the mid-1970s was elected vice-president of the Socialist International.

In the late 1970s and in the 1980s the Socialist International had extensive contacts and discussion with the two leading powers of the Cold War period, the United States and the Soviet Union, on issues concerning East–West relations and arms control. The Socialist International supported détente and disarmament agreements, such as SALT II, START and INF. They had several meetings and discussion in Washington, D.C., with President Jimmy Carter and Vice-President George Bush and with CPSU Secretaries General Leonid Brezhnev and Mikhail Gorbachev in Moscow. Sorsa led the Socialist International's delegations to these discussions.[9]

Withdrawal from presidential raceEdit

 
Kalevi Sorsa in 1983

In 1993, Sorsa entered the Social Democratic Party's primary elections as a presidential candidate, but was forced to withdraw after revelations of his long-standing covert relations with the Soviet leadership.[10][11]

In 1992 Kalevi Sorsa announced that he would stand in the coming 1994 presidential elections. However, documents found in the CPSU Central Committee archive in Moscow during the trial of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union indicated that Sorsa had long maintained "confidential contacts" with the Soviet authorities.[12] When news of this information finally broke in the Finnish press,[13] Sorsa issued a public apology and withdrew his candidacy. Martti Ahtisaari took his place as the candidate of the Social Democratic Party and won the election.

He was replaced as SDP candidate by Martti Ahtisaari, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations from 1977 to 1981, who went on to become Finnish President. Ahtisaari was supported by a small but significant group of Finnish politicians who had long been hostile to Kaleva: Erkki Tuomioja, Lasse Lehtinen and Matti Ahde.

Later yearsEdit

Kalevi Sorsa continued to participate in discussions of social policy until the end of his life, his last column being published posthumously.

He died of cancer on 16 January 2004 at his home in Helsinki, aged 73.[4]He was survived by his wife; the couple had no children.[4]

The Kalevi Sorsa Foundation[14] is a social democratic think tank, established in 2005 and named in his honour.

As head of government and foreign ministryEdit

HonoursEdit

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ "Governments in chronological order". Finnish government (Valtioneuvosto). Retrieved 27 March 2017.
  2. ^ "Ministerikortisto". Valtioneuvosto. Archived from the original on 2009-05-03.
  3. ^ Ilta Sanomat, 23 October 2008, "The KGB prepared the way for Kalevi Sorsa in 1969".
  4. ^ a b c d Matti Huuhtanen:Finns hold state funeral for longest serving, Cold War prime minister (paywall) Associated Press 31 January, 2004, via High Beam, retrieved 28 March, 2013
  5. ^ "Edustajamatrikkeli". Eduskunta. Archived from the original on 2009-05-03.
  6. ^ "Board Members in the history of the Bank of Finland". Bank of Finland.
  7. ^ Kun Sorsa suuttui Ylelle Elävä arkisto. Yle. 19 October 2009. Retrieved 13 July 2017.
  8. ^ "Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland - Ministers of Foreign Affairs". Valtioneuvosto.fi. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  9. ^ Väänänen, Pentti (2012). Purppuraruusu ja samettinyrkki (in Finnish) (1st ed.). Kellastupa. pp. 192–194. ISBN 9789525787115.. Pentti Väänänen was secretary-general of the Socialist International, 1983-1989, and was earlier an adviser to Sorsa.
  10. ^ The Bukovsky Archives, 16 December 1980* (St 241/108), K. Sorsa's 50th birthday and his work for detente and disarmament.
  11. ^ Vladimir Bukovsky, Jugement a Moscou, Robert Laffont: Paris, 1995, pp. 14-16.
  12. ^ The Bukovsky Archives, 16 December 1980* (St 241/108), K. Sorsa's 50th birthday and his work for detente and disarmament.
  13. ^ ILTA-Sanomat, 10 July 1993, #157, "Nepin arkistot kertovat Sorsa miellytti Moskovaa" (Archives show that Sorsa had Moscow's special favour).
  14. ^ The Kalevi Sorsa Foundation.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i The International Who's Who. Europa Publications. 2004.
Political offices
Preceded by
Rafael Paasio
Prime Minister of Finland
1972–1975
Succeeded by
Keijo Liinamaa
Preceded by
Martti Miettunen
Prime Minister of Finland
1977–1979
Succeeded by
Mauno Koivisto
Preceded by
Mauno Koivisto
Prime Minister of Finland
1982–1987
Succeeded by
Harri Holkeri
Preceded by
Matti Ahde
Speaker of the Parliament of Finland
1989–1991
Succeeded by
Esko Aho