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The Lapua Movement (Finnish: Lapuan liike), named after the then municipality and modern days town of Lapua, was a political movement in Finland.

It started in 1929 and was initially dominated by ardent anti-communist nationalists, emphasizing the legacy of the nationalist activism, the White Guards and the Civil War in Finland. The movement saw itself as the badly needed restorator of what was won in the Civil War, supporting Lutheranism, nationalism, and anti-communism. It radicalized and was banned after a failed coup-d'état in 1932. The activities were then continued in IKL (Isänmaallinen Kansanliike).

The leaders of the Lapua Movement were Lapua man Vihtori Kosola and general Kurt Martti Wallenius.

Many politicians, and also high military officers, were initially sympathetic with the Lapua Movement, as anti-communism was the norm in the educated classes after the Civil War. However, excessive use of violence made the movement less popular within a few months.

In the Civil War Ostrobothnia was one of the most important strongholds and bases of the White army, and anti-Communist sentiments remained extremely strong in Ostrobothnia. Late in November 1929 the Communist Youth Movement arranged a happening in Ostrobothnian Lapua. This infuriated the locals, who violently made an end to the meeting. On December 1 an anti-communist meeting was held, attracting more than 1,000 people. A ban of all communist activities was demanded.

Marches and meetings were arranged throughout the country. On June 16, 1930, more than 3,000 men arrived in Oulu in order to destroy the print and office of the Communist newspaper Pohjan Voima. However, the last issue of Pohjan Voima had appeared on June 14. The same day, a Communist print in Vaasa was destroyed. A so-called "Peasant March" to Helsinki was a major show of power. More than 12,000 men arrived in Helsinki on July 7. The government yielded under the pressure, and communist newspapers were outlawed in a "Protection of the Republic Act."

After this, the Lapua Movement became even more extreme.

During its early stages the movement was also responsible for several murders. The movement's assassinations are considered the last political murders in Finland to this date.

Meetings held by leftist and labour groups were also interrupted, often violently. More than 400 meeting locals owned by the labour movement were closed by Lapua activists.

One common treatment was "muilutus", which started with kidnapping and beating. After that the subject was thrown into a car and driven to the border of the Soviet Union. On October 14, 1930, the popular ex-president Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg and his wife were kidnapped, beaten and driven to Joensuu (i.e., not really to the Soviet border this time). This was intended as a first stage of a coup d'état, but it backfired and the general support of the movement collapsed. Moderate people left the movement, and extremists took the stage.

Nevertheless, a few months later the Lapua Movement was capable of not only demanding "their man" appointed President of Finland by the Collegium of Electors, which only weeks before had been chosen in nation-wide voting, but a sufficient number of the electors followed the Lapua Movement's request, disregarding the intentions they had declared during the election campaign. The Movement's man, Pehr Evind Svinhufvud, was elected.

In February 1932 a Social Democrat meeting in Mäntsälä was violently interrupted by armed Lapua activists. The event escalated to an attempted coup d'état known as the Mäntsälä Rebellion (Mäntsälän kapina), led by the former Chief of Staff of Finland's army, General Wallenius. Despite the appeals of Wallenius, the army and the White Guards were largely loyal to the government. Many historians believe the main reason for the failure was poor planning. The rebellion ended after President Svinhufvud gave a radio speech to the rebels. After a trial, the Lapua Movement was banned on November 21, 1932. Wallenius and about 50 other leaders were sentenced to prison. Ironically, the banning was done under the Protection of the Republic Act, which originally was dictated by the Lapua Movement.


Finland's foreign relations and reputation were without doubt damaged by the broad support the Lapua Movement initially was shown by Finland's elite, and by the ties between the Movement, the White Guards and Finland's army. Particularly the democratic neighbours came to view Finland with suspicion added to the cautious assessment of the harsh treatment meted out to the losing side in the Civil War of 1918, when more people died in post-war concentration camps than had on the battlefield. The comparably lenient punishment for the Lapua activists came to further complicate Finland's relations with the democratic Great Powers, with the Soviet Union, and with the democratic neighbour countries.

In the Soviet Union, the Lapua Movement's actions were closely followed. Old deep-rooted perceptions of Finland as a threat and as a continuation of the ancient tsarist régime were enhanced — both among ordinary citizens and in the Bolshevist leadership — which further contributed to the conditions leading to the Winter War. In Leningrad, the old tsarist capital, the old concerns over the close proximity of the border were kept alive. Over that border, invasion armies had arrived right at the doorstep of the capital twice in the 1700s and again in 1918, immediately after Finland's independence, during the ongoing world war; the German enemy had been invited by Finland and threatened to bring the horrors of war to the civilians of Leningrad. Russian newspapers mirrored these fears, covering events in Finland and interviewing victims that had been deported to Russia by the Lapua Movement as telling examples of terror in capitalist countries.

See also




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