Democracy on test

As a part of the Finnish Parliament's centennial celebration, it published a 12-part book series on the history of the Parliament. I've been reading what to me seemed like the most interesting part of the series, Kansanvalta koetuksella ("Democracy on Test"). The book is divided into three sections: Vesa Vares deals with the years 1907-1919, from the birth of the unicameral parliament to birth of the republican constitution, encompassing the second period of Russification and the Civil War. Mikko Uola writes about the 1920s and 1930s, focusing on political extremism from the left and the right. Mikko Majander writes about the so-called "Long Parliament" of the war years and the first post-wars election. It would have been nice to include another chapter on the post-wars years that would have assessed the impact of Soviet influence and addressed all the Kekkonen-centric wrangling.

I recommend the book if you're interested in the topic and can read the language. The authors are fair and informative and despite the Parliament-commissioned nature of the publication, they don't shy away from controversial topics. I also appreciated the numerous large historical photographs and other illustrations. For example, the reproduction of a 1919 drawing of Mannerheim in full military regalia riding the lion from the coat of arms (page 133) is pretty wonderful. Note carefully the lion's happy expression. The National Coalition Party's and Patriotic People's Movement's joint election poster from 1930 on page 225 is also some kind of a classic. ("Remember: Socialism is communism's brother.") I'm also partial to the 1920 photograph on page 157 in which Kullervo Manner, Yrjö Sirola, the Rahja brothers, and a few other Finnish communists in Moscow are studying a big map of Finland.

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