URHO KEKKONEN Biography - Theater, Opera and Movie personalities


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Urho Kaleva Kekkonen (September 3, 1900 - August 31, 1986) was a Finnish politician who served as Prime Minister of Finland from 1950 to 1956, and as the most long-standing president of Finland from 1956 to 1981. Kekkonen continued the neutrality policy of President Paasikivi, which came to be known as the Paasikivi-Kekkonen line.


Early life


Famous Quotations Urho Kekkonen was born in Pielavesi in the Savo region of Finland, but he lived his childhood in Kainuu. His family were farmers (though not poor tenant farmers, as his supporters claimed). His school years did not go smoothly. During the Finnish Civil War, he fought on the White side and led an execution squad in Hamina.


In independent Finland, Kekkonen worked as a policeman and a journalist. He moved to Helsinki in 1921 to study law, graduating as a Master of Laws in 1926. In 1927, he became a lawyer, but had to resign due to his abrasive comments. Politically, he was a nationalist, and close to right-wing radicalism. He was also an active athlete and columnist.


Early political career


In 1933, Kekkonen joined the Agrarian Party (later Centre Party). He was in Germany from 1932 to 1933. His second try to get elected into parliament succeeded in 1936 and he became Interior Minister. Kekkonen also served as Minister of Justice from 1937 to 1939. He was not a member of the cabinets during the Winter War or the Continuation War. In 1945, he again became Minister of Justice and had to deal with the war-responsibility trials . He also served as Speaker of the Eduskunta from 1948 to 1950.


In 1950, Kekkonen lost the presidential election, but Juho Kusti Paasikivi selected him as a prime minister. In all his four cabinets he emphasized his role to create and maintain friendly relations with the Soviet Union. This was called in foreign countries “Finlandization.” He was authoritarian and embarrassed his opponents in public. He was ousted in 1953, although he returned as Prime Minister from 1954 to 1956.
Term as president


In the presidential election of 1956, Kekkonen defeated the Social Democrat Karl-August Fagerholm by two votes in the electoral college and was elected as president. As president, Kekkonen continued the neutrality policy of president Paasikivi, which came to be known as the Paasikivi-Kekkonen line. From the beginning he ruled with the assumption that the Soviet Union accepted only him; the country at the time was some times called Kekkoslovakia.


In 1961, the Soviet Union demanded negotiations based on the military treaty, which helped Kekkonen oust his potential presidential rival Olavi Honka . Kekkonen’s opposition disappeared when he accepted only cooperative cabinets.


Throughout his time as president, Kekkonen did his best to keep political rivals at check. The Center Party’s rival, National Coalition Party (Finland) was kept in opposition despite good performance in elections. In a few occasions, the parliament was dissolved as the political composition did not please Kekkonen. Too prominent Center-partists often found themselves sidelined, as Kekkonen negotiated directly with the lower lever. The “Mill Letters” of Kekkonen were a continuous stream of directives to high officials, politicians, journalists etc.


Kekkonen was re-elected normally in 1968. In 1973, he was re-elected by emergency law. In 1978 there were no serious rivals left.


The authoritarian behaviour of Kekkonen during his presidential term is one of the main reasons for the reforms of the Finnish Constitution in 1984-2003. In these reforms, the power of parliament and prime minister was increased at the expense of president. Several of these changes have been initiated by Kekkonen’s successors.


The terms of president were limited to two
Presidents role in cabinet building was restricted
President is elected directly, not by an electoral college
President may no longer dissolve the Parliament without the support of the Prime Minister
Prime minister’s role in shaping Finland’s foreign policy was enhanced


Such was his impact on the Finnish political scene that his face was on the 500 Markkaa note during his term as president.


Later life


In 1981, Kekkonen begun to suffer from undisclosed disease that seemed to affect his brain functions. In the same year, Mauno Koivisto had already defied Kekkonen, but he still refused to resign. In September, Kekkonen left for sick leave, and in October he resigned. There is no public report about his illness.


Kekkonen died 1986 and was buried with full honors. His heirs restricted access to his diaries. An “authorized” biography was commissioned from Juhani Suomi , who subsequently defended the interpretation of history therein and denigrated most other interpretations.