Lapua Movement

Emblem of the Lapuan liike

The Lapua Movement (Finnish: Lapuan liike, Swedish: Lapporörelsen) was a Finnish radical nationalist and anti-communist political movement founded in and named after the town of Lapua. After radicalisation it turned towards far-right politics and was banned after a failed coup-d'état in 1932. Anti-communist activities of the movement continued in the parliamentarian Patriotic People's Movement.


The Lapua Movement started in 1929 and was initially dominated by 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 restorer of what was won in the Civil War, supporting Lutheranism, nationalism, and anti-communism.

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 Young Communist League of Finland arranged agitation, meetings and protests in Ostrobothnian Lapua. More specifically, they mocked God, the Lutheran Church, the "bourgeois" fatherland, the Finnish army and General Mannerheim.[1] This infuriated the locals, who violently made an end to the meeting. On December 1 the first anti-communist meeting was held, attracting more than 1,000 people demanding an end to all communist activities.


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 printing press 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 printing press 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."

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 and driven to Joensuu (i.e., not really to the Soviet border this time). After this, general support for the movement collapsed. Moderate people left the movement, and extremists took the stage.

Failed rebellion

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 event just escalated from actions of the local chapter and the national organization came aboard later.[2] 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 ban was implemented under the Protection of the Republic Act, which originally was dictated by the Lapua Movement.


In the Soviet Union, the actions of Lapuan liike were closely followed. Old deep-rooted misperceptions about Finland as a threat and as a continuation of the ancient tsarist régime were strengthened among ordinary Soviet citizens by the Bolshevist leadership. This 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 Finnish border were kept alive. Over that border, invasion armies had arrived right at the doorstep of the capital twice in the 18th century and again in 1918, immediately after Finland's independence, during the ongoing world war, due to Finland's grudging and unpopular alliance with Germany, who threatened to bring war to the civilians of Leningrad. Russian newspapers propagandized these fears, covering events in Finland and interviewing victims that had been deported to Russia by the Lapua Movement as examples of terror in capitalist countries. Nevertheless, this did not stop the Soviet government from executing many of the Finns deported by the Lapua Movement for "nationalism", in the course of Stalin's purges.[3]

See also


  1. (Niinistö, Jussi, Suomalaisia vapaustaistelijoita / Finnish Freedom Fighters, NIMOX KY/Ltd., 2003, pages 17–20; Siltala, Juha, Lapuan liike ja kyyditykset, Otava, 1985, pages 51–53; Virkkunen, Sakari, Suomen presidentit I / Finland's Presidents I, Otava, 1994, pages 192–193; Salokangas, Raimo, "Itsenäinen tasavalta" / "An Independent Republic," page 635 in Zetterberg, Seppo et al., eds., Suomen historian pikkujättiläinen / A Small Giant of the Finnish History, WSOY, 2003).
  2. Iltalehti Teema Historia: Lapuan liike, Alma Media, 2015, p. 4-7.
  3. Iltalehti Teema Historia: Lapuan liike, Alma Media, 2015, p. 34-35.
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