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Why Did Finland Remain A Democracy Between The Two World Wars, Whereas The Baltic States Developed Authoritarian Regimes?

3199 words - 13 pages

Between the First and Second World Wars, Finland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania all experienced political turmoil. In all four countries parliamentary democracy was threatened and only in Finland did it survive. The purpose of this essay is to look at the reasons why parliamentary democracy continued in Finland, while the Baltic States saw authoritarian regimes established. To do so it will first look at political developments in Finland between the wars, focussing particularly on the right wing Lapua movement. It will then focus on the Baltic States, in particular Estonia and Latvia, looking at their two most right wing groups, the Veterans League and the Thunder Cross and how the authoritarian regimes were set up in these two countries. Lithuania is largely excluded, as it is a distinct case from the other two Baltic countries. Not only was an authoritarian regime set up in 1926, eight years before those of Estonia and Latvia, but it was also formed not to counter a threat from the right, but through a military coup d'etat against a leftist government. Also, Lithuania's fascist movement, the Iron Wolf, was set up after the fall of democracy while the Thunder Cross and Veteran's League were prohibited by the men that brought about the demise of democracy in Latvia and Estonia. The essay will then conclude with a look at the differences between the Finnish and Baltic situations that can account for the different results of their political problems.In Finland, the main threat to parliamentary democracy between the two wars came from an extreme right wing movement named after the town of Lapua, where the forceful breaking up of a communist demonstration had led to widespread anti-communist riots . The hostility between socialists and non-socialists in Finland had been amplified by a bloody civil war , and during the 1920's there was a growing mistrust of communists in Finland. The trials and prosecutions of Finnish communists for espionage only served to intensify the feeling that the extreme left in Finland was working with orders from Moscow . Despite this, the left was still well represented in the Eduskunta, with the Social Democrats and the more extreme Socialist Workers Party winning a considerable number of seats, though not enough to be able to form a government. However, the depression which hit Finland in 1928 saw the communists used as a scapegoat for the countries troubles and the intensification of anti-communist feeling gave rise to the Lapua movement, whose only supposed aim to begin with was the abolition of communism in Finland. It initially gained widespread support from farmers, the civil guard, the armed forces and the clergy, while politically the movement enjoyed the backing of all the bourgeois parties .As Nordstrom says, " Lapua's activities, which included kidnapping, beating and dumping their opponents across the Soviet border, influenced elections, the choice of governments and policies for several years" . By far their...

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