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Steingrímur Hermannsson

In office
28 May 1983 – 8 July 1987
President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir
Preceded by Gunnar Thoroddsen
Succeeded by Þorsteinn Pálsson
In office
28 September 1988 – 30 April 1991
President Vigdís Finnbogadóttir
Preceded by Þorsteinn Pálsson
Succeeded by Davíð Oddsson

Born 22 June 1928(1928-06-22)
Reykjavík, Iceland
Died 1 February 2010 (aged 81)[1]
Political party Progressive Party

Steingrímur Hermannsson (pronounced [ˈsteinkrimur ˈhɛrmanˌsɔn]) (22 June 1928 - 1 February 2010)[1] was the Prime Minister of Iceland.


Early childhood

Steingrímur's father was Hermann Jónasson, another former Prime Minister. Being the son a prominent official, Steingrímur enjoyed a relatively care-free upbringing in a country stricken by the Great Depression. As a young boy he had an exceptional proximity to Iceland's World War II politics, overhearing state affairs being discussed in his father's living room.


Not wanting to follow his father's footsteps into politics, Steingrímur went to the U.S. in 1948, studying engineering in Chicago, and later at Caltech. After returning to his native country and experiencing troubles both in his private life and business career, he eventually entered politics in the 1960s. He was elected to the Althing (Icelandic Parliament) for the Progressive Party in 1971. He became party chairman in 1979.


Steingrímur served as Prime Minister from 1983 to 1987 and again from 1988 to 1991. He also served for a time as Minister of Justice, Ecclesiastical Affairs and Agriculture (1978–79), Minister of Fisheries and Communications (1980–83) and Minister of Foreign Affairs (1987–88). He was chairman of the Progressive Party from 1979 to 1994. After that he was manager of the Central Bank of Iceland until his retirement in 1998.

His legacy as Prime Minister is somewhat controversial, with many considering him the last representative of "the old system" in Icelandic politics, which was allegedly plagued by political favoritism and corruption[citation needed]. That system was gradually dismantled by the successive governments lead by Davíð Oddsson, who implemented huge economic and administrative reforms. Steingrímur's supporters however, state that he did a good job of coping in the difficult economic circumstances in the 1980s and early 1990s.


International affairs

Internationally, his greatest moment as Prime Minister came in 1986, when he hosted the Reykjavik Summit of Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev and US President Ronald Reagan. Although not considered a success at the time, the summit paved the way for the ending of the Cold War, and the Icelandic government's management of the event was widely commended. In 1991, during the January Events in Lithuania, Steingrímur expressed strong support for Vytautas Landsbergis, Chairman of Lithuanian Parliament. Shortly after, Iceland was the first country to recognize the independence of Lithuania from Soviet Union [2].

Steingrímur first kept a low profile in his retirement, rarely voicing his opinion of current affairs. He was however a founding member of Heimssýn, an organization opposed to Iceland's entry of the European Union, and became increasingly critical of the Progressive Party's policies. He gave public support to "The Iceland Movement", an ad hoc environmental movement which ran (unsuccessfully) in the 2007 Althing elections, appearing in campaign advertisements on TV. As a result of these activities, he mostly lost the informal status of the Progressive party's "Grand Old Man", that many had expected him to play.

In his last years Steingrímur was a well liked and respected elder statesman, and was considered as a potential candidate for the 1996 presidential elections. But he quickly declined that honour, stating his intention to retire at the age of 70. His memoirs, published in three volumes in 1998–2000, became bestsellers.


Steingrímur was twice married and had six children. His youngest son, Guðmundur Steingrímsson is currently active in Icelandic politics. He first ran for the Althing in the 2007 elections, for the Social Democratic Alliance. In early 2009, however, he switched sides and joined his grandfather's and father's Progressive Party.


Political offices
Preceded by
Kjartan Jóhannsson
Minister of Fisheries
1980 – 1983
Succeeded by
Halldór Ásgrímsson
Preceded by
Gunnar Thoroddsen
Prime Minister of Iceland
(first term)

1983 – 1987
Succeeded by
Þorsteinn Pálsson
Preceded by
Matthías Mathiesen
Minister of Foreign Affairs
1987 – 1988
Succeeded by
Jón Baldvin Hannibalsson
Preceded by
Þorsteinn Pálsson
Prime Minister of Iceland
(second term)

1988 – 1991
Succeeded by
Davíð Oddsson
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ólafur Jóhannesson
Chairman of the Progressive Party
1979 – 1994
Succeeded by
Halldór Ásgrímsson


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