Kalevi Sorsa

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Kalevi Sorsa
Kalevi Sorsa.jpg
Prime Minister of Finland
In office
February 19, 1982 – April 30, 1987
Deputy Ahti Pekkala (1982–1983)
Paavo Väyrynen (1983–1987)
Preceded by Mauno Koivisto
Succeeded by Harri Holkeri
In office
May 15, 1977 – May 26, 1979
Deputy Johannes Virolainen
Preceded by Martti Miettunen
Succeeded by Mauno Koivisto
In office
September 4, 1972 – June 13, 1975
Deputy Ahti Karjalainen
Preceded by Rafael Paasio
Succeeded by Keijo Liinamaa
Personal details
Born (1930-12-21)December 21, 1930
Keuruu, Finland
Died January 16, 2004(2004-01-16) (aged 73)
Helsinki, Finland
Political party Social Democratic Party

Taisto Kalevi Sorsa (December 21, 1930 – January 16, 2004) was a Finnish politician who was the Prime Minister of Finland four times: 1972–1975, 1977–1979, 1982–1983 and 1983–1987 and at the date of his death still held the Finnish record for most days of incumbency as prime minister.[1] He was also a long-time leader of the Social Democratic Party of Finland.

Kalevi Sorsa went to school in Jyväskylä and Lappeenranta. Sorsa started participating in SDP politics in Lappeenranta 1948. In 1969, Sorsa was brought in from relative obscurity by Rafael Paasio to assume the influential post of party secretary without much previous experience of national politics.

Before his political career Sorsa worked for UNESCO in Paris 1959–1965, and was the Secretary-General of Finnish UNESCO board 1965–1969, and official in the Ministry of Education 1967–1969.

Prime minister[edit]

Sorsa was one of the major political figures during presidencies of Kekkonen and Koivisto.[2] Sorsa was the chairman of Social Democratic Party from 1975 to 1987 and Prime Minister of Finland of four cabinets for about 10 years total (1972–1975, 1977–1979, 1982–1983, 1983–1987). He still holds the record of the longest-serving prime minister. He was the Speaker of Parliament from 1989 to 1991, and Deputy Prime Minister 1975–1976 and 1987–1989.[3]

Sorsa is regarded as one of the most influential prime ministers of Finland. Sorsa's contribution was important both for public services such as schools and health care reforms, as well as the strengthening of social security for both families with children and pensioners. His governments took a number of domestic policy reforms (including the law on child care, the extension of maternity leave, the annual vacation benefit act, as well as the public health act). Sorsa's governments strengthened the Finnish welfare state.

Sorsa also participated actively in the international social democratic movement. He supported the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe process, as well as the projects to bridge the gap between world's rich and poor countries. Despite the opposition of far-left parties, Sorsa supported the European Economic Community (EEC) free trade agreement in the 1970s, which would have made the ties between Finland and EEC countries closer. The agreement eventually got confirmed. Of the politicians of his era, he had the most difficult relationship with Paavo Väyrynen, an equally strongwilled opponent at the helm of the Center Party. Another notable prolonged conflict was a rivalry with the young Paavo Lipponen on his way up.

He met Soviet Premier Nikolai Tikhonov during his state visit to the Soviet Union in 1984.

Later years and death[edit]

After his retirement from the parliament, he served on the governing board of the Bank of Finland until 1996.[2]

In later years of his career, Sorsa went into his Social Democratic Party's primary elections as candidate for president in 1993, but was defeated in a humiliating way by the relatively unknown international civil servant Martti Ahtisaari. Sorsa had collected inside his party a small, but significant amount of enemies over the years. They were among others Erkki Tuomioja, Lasse Lehtinen and Matti Ahde. They all became influential forces behind Martti Ahtisaari campaign.

Kalevi Sorsa died of cancer on January 16, 2004 at his home in Helsinki.[2]He participated in discussion of social politics until his last days. His last column was published posthumously. He was survived by his wife. The couple had no children.[2]

The Kalevi Sorsa Foundation is a social democratic think tank named in his honour.


  1. ^ "Ministerikortisto". Valtioneuvosto. 
  2. ^ a b c d Matti Huuhtanen:Finns hold state funeral for longest serving, Cold War prime minister (paywall) Associated Press 31 January, 2004, via High Beam, retrieved 28 March, 2013
  3. ^ "Edustajamatrikkeli". Eduskunta. 
Political offices
Preceded by
Rafael Paasio
Prime Minister of Finland
Succeeded by
Keijo Liinamaa
Preceded by
Martti Miettunen
Prime Minister of Finland
Succeeded by
Mauno Koivisto
Preceded by
Mauno Koivisto
Prime Minister of Finland
Succeeded by
Harri Holkeri
Preceded by
Matti Ahde
Speaker of the Parliament of Finland
Succeeded by
Esko Aho

See also[edit]