Why did Finland remain a democracy between the two World Wars, whereas the Baltic States developed authoritarian regimes?

Essay by boodybooA+, January 2004

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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 ,