Väinö Tanner

Väinö Alfred Tanner (Finnish pronunciation: [ˈʋæi̯nø ˈalfred ˈtɑnːer]; 12 March 1881 – 19 April 1966; surname until 1895 Thomasson) was a leading figure in the Social Democratic Party of Finland, and a pioneer and leader of the cooperative movement in Finland. He was Prime Minister of Finland in 1926–1927.[1]

Väinö Tanner
Väinö Tanner.jpg
10th Prime Minister of Finland
In office
13 December 1926 – 17 December 1927
PresidentLauri K. Relander
Preceded byKyösti Kallio
Succeeded byJuho Sunila
Minister of Foreign Affairs
In office
1 December 1936 – 27 March 1937
Prime MinisterRisto Ryti
Preceded byEljas Erkko
Succeeded byRolf Witting
Minister of Finance
In office
22 May 1942 – 8 August 1944
Prime MinisterJohan W. Rangell
Edwin Linkomies
Preceded byMauno Pekkala
Succeeded byOnni Hiltunen
In office
12 March 1937 – 1 December 1939
Prime MinisterAimo Cajander
Preceded byJuho Niukkanen
Succeeded byMauno Pekkala
Minister of Trade and Industry
In office
3 July 1941 – 22 May 1942
Prime MinisterJohan W. Rangell
Preceded byToivo Salmino
Succeeded byUuno Takki
Personal details
Born(1881-03-12)12 March 1881
Helsinki, Russian Empire
Died19 April 1966(1966-04-19) (aged 85)
Helsinki, Finland
Political partySocial Democratic

Tanner was born in Helsinki as the son of a railway brakesman of modest means. After matriculating in 1900, he studied at the business college Suomen Liikemiesten Kauppaopisto (one of two predecessors of the present-day Business College Helsinki). He also studied law, graduating as a jurist in 1911.

Tanner started work as a trainee at the Großeinkaufs-Gesellschaft Deutscher Consumvereine (GEG) in Hamburg, Germany, while still a student, and in 1903, after returning to Finland, became manager of Turun Vähäväkisten Osuusliike, then the largest cooperative retail society in Finland.[2] He was later appointed to the supervisory board of the Helsinki-based cooperative Elanto in 1907, and also became chairman of Suomen Osuuskauppojen Keskuskunta (SOK) in 1909 and CEO of Elanto in 1915. He also served as president of the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) from 1927 until 1945.

He did not participate in the Finnish Civil War, maintaining a neutral attitude. When the war ended he became Finland's leading Social Democratic Party (SDP) politician, and a strong proponent of the parliamentary system. His main achievement was the rehabilitation of the SDP after the Civil War. Väinö Tanner served as Prime Minister (1926–1927), Minister of Finance (1937–1939), Minister of Foreign Affairs (1939–1940),[3] and after the Winter War Minister of Trade and Industry (1941–1942)[4] and Minister of Finance (1942–1944).[5]

Väinö Tanner's legacy is in his directing the Finnish working class from their extremist ideology towards pragmatic progress through the democratic process. Under his leadership the Social Democrats were trusted to form a minority government already less than 10 years after the bloody civil war. Tanner's minority socialist government passed a series of important social reforms during its time in office, which included a liberal amnesty law, reduced duties on imported foods, and pension and health insurance laws.[6]

During President Relander's brief illness Tanner, who held the post of prime minister, was even the acting president and Commander-In-Chief. In this role he even received the parade of the White guards on the 10th anniversary of the White victory. This was perceived as a remarkable development at the time. During the 1930s and 1940s, the Social Democrats formed several coalition governments with the Agrarian party.[7] In the Winter War Väinö Tanner was the foreign minister. Väinö Tanner's leadership was very important in forming the grounds and creating the Spirit of the Winter War which united the nation.

After the end of the Continuation War, Tanner was tried for responsibility for the war in February 1946, and sentenced to five years and six months in prison.[8]

After the Continuation War, and while still in prison, Tanner became the virtual leader of a faction of the SDP which had strong support from the USA. This faction eventually came out on top after a great deal of internal party strife lasting for much of the 1940s. Tanner criticised Finland's post-war doctrine known as Paasikivi-Kekkonen doctrine, in which Finnish foreign affairs were kept strictly neutral and friendly with the USSR. Tanner managed to return to the Finnish parliament as a representative in the 1951 parliamentary elections. The acting foreign minister at the time, Åke Gartz insisted that the head of the Finnish Social Democratic Party Emil Skog should try to keep Tanner away from the party. Tanner would go on to win the 1957 SDP chairman election. Tanner won the race by 1 vote. The party was internally divided due to Tanner's controversial past and eventually some representatives seceded and formed a new party called the Social Democratic Union of Workers and Smallholders aka TPSL. TPSL eventually reunited with SDP in December 1972.



  • The Winter War: Finland against Russia 1939–1940 by Väinö Tanner (1957, Stanford University Press, California; also London)
  1. ^ "Ministerin tiedot, Tanner, Väinö Alfred".
  2. ^ "Etusivu".
  3. ^ "Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland - Ministers of Foreign Affairs". Valtioneuvosto.fi. Archived from the original on 16 July 2011. Retrieved 30 January 2018.
  4. ^ "Finnish Government - Ministers of Trade and Industry". Valtioneuvosto.fi. Archived from the original on 2018-06-12. Retrieved 30 March 2018.
  5. ^ "Council of State - Ministers of Finance". Valtioneuvosto.fi. Retrieved 12 January 2018.
  6. ^ Democratic socialism: a global survey by Donald F. Busky
  7. ^ Seppo Zetterberg et al., eds., Suomen historian pikkujättiläinen, Helsinki: WSOY, 2003
  8. ^ Political Paavo, Time, December 6, 1948

External linksEdit

  Media related to Väinö Tanner at Wikimedia Commons

Political offices
Preceded by Prime Minister of Finland
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Finance (Finland)
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Foreign Affairs (Finland)
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Supply (Finland)
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Trade and Industry (Finland)
Succeeded by
Preceded by Minister of Finance (Finland)
Succeeded by
Non-profit organization positions
Preceded by
G. J. D. C. Goedhart
President of the International Co-operative Alliance
1927 – 1945
Succeeded by