University of Oulu

Alenius, Kari (2021) “Kyllä” yhteistyölle, “Ei” liittoutumiselle : Latvia Suomen ulkopolitiikassa maailmansotien välisenä aikana. Kari Alenius, Valters Ščerbinskis (toim.) Studia historica septentrionalia 84, Näkökulmia latvialaissuomalaisiin suhteisiin 1900-luvun alkuvuosikymmeninä : Perspectives on Latvian-Finnish Relations in the Early 20th Century. (pp. 125-143). Rovaniemi: Pohjois-suomen historiallinen yhdistys.

“Kyllä” yhteistyölle, “Ei” liittoutumiselle : Latvia Suomen ulkopolitiikassa maailmansotien välisenä aikana

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Author: Alenius, Kari
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: embargoed
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Language: Finnish
Published: Pohjois-Suomen historiallinen yhdistys, 2021
Publish Date: 2022-11-16


“Yes” to cooperation, “No” to alliance : Latvia in Finnish foreign policy, 1918–1939

This article’s aim is to explain how Finland’s relations with Latvia developed in the context of Finnish foreign policy and wider international relations in the Baltic Sea region between the World Wars. Its focus is on what factors influenced the formation of Finland’s policy towards Latvia. The development of relations can be divided into four periods according to how international relations in the Baltic Sea region developed in general and how Finland reacted to them.

The years 1918–1920 formed the first period. Latvia was occupied by Germany until November 1918, so there was no government in Latvia during Finland’s first year of independence with which it would have been possible to discuss relations between the countries. The Latvian national government declared the country’s independence on November 18, 1918, but immediately after that a war broke out in Latvia involving not only the parties to the Russian Civil War but also several foreign powers. That war did not end until February 1920, when the Latvian national government succeeded in consolidating its position. Finland avoided interfering in the situation during the war and rejected Latvia’s requests to recognize its independence. Only when the victorious powers of World War I and the most important regional power for Finland, Poland, had recognized Latvia’s independence in January 1921 did Finland do the same.

The second short but intensive period lasted from January 1921 to May 1922. Finland participated in several conferences during this period aimed at creating an alliance between the so-called Border States that had seceded from Russia. Finnish Foreign Minister Rudolf Holsti signed an agreement in March 1922 that would have created an alliance between Finland, Latvia, Estonia, and Poland. The majority of the Finnish Parliament, however, refused to ratify the agreement because most parties considered the agreement too risky for Finland. Parliament’s rejection of the agreement also led to Foreign Minister Holsti’s resignation with the result that the person who had most strongly supported close co-operation with Latvia had to step aside from Finland’s foreign policy leadership.

The third period covered the decade 1922–1932. The Border States continued to hold joint conferences to seek alternative treaty options until 1927. Finland actually participated in them mainly as an observer, because the majority of the Finnish parties maintained their position that concluding political or military agreements with Latvia and the other Border States was out of the question. Finland nevertheless concluded a bilateral trade agreement with Latvia in 1924 that promoted economic relations between the two countries.

The fourth period lasted from 1933 to 1939. Finland had been oriented towards the League of Nations and had declared neutrality during the previous ten years. However, the League of Nations had proved incapable of securing peace and reconciling conflicts by 1933, and the international political climate had begun to deteriorate in many ways. The Finnish foreign policy leadership considered various options for increasing Finland’s security in 1933–1934. Finland also approached Latvia and suggested increasing co-operation in connection with this. The ideas remained at an abstract level, however, because Finland was still not ready for any binding agreements with Latvia or the other Border States. Finland instead declared in 1935 that it was seeking an alliance with the Scandinavian countries (in practice Sweden). It was the final blow to the convergence of Finnish and Latvian security policies before World War.

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Series: Studia historica septentrionalia
ISSN: 0356-8199
ISSN-L: 0356-8199
ISBN Print: 978-952-9888-68-9
Issue: 84
Pages: 125 - 143
Host publication: Näkökulmia latvialaissuomalaisiin suhteisiin 1900-luvun alkuvuosikymmeninä : perspectives on Latvian-Finnish Relations in the Early 20th Century
Host publication editor: Alenius, Kari
Ščerbinskis, Valters
Type of Publication: A3 Book chapter
Field of Science: 615 History and archaeology
Copyright information: © Tekijät ja Pohjois-Suomen Historiallinen Yhdistys ry.