Kalevi Sorsa

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Kalevi Sorsa
Kalevi-Sorsa-1975 (cropped).jpg
34th Prime Minister of Finland[1]
In office
February 19, 1982 – April 30, 1987
President Mauno Koivisto
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
President Urho Kekkonen
Deputy Johannes Virolainen
Preceded by Martti Miettunen
Succeeded by Mauno Koivisto
In office
September 4, 1972 – June 13, 1975
President Urho Kekkonen
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
Nationality Finnish
Political party Social Democratic Party

Taisto Kalevi Sorsa (December 21, 1930 – January 16, 2004) was a Finnish politician who served as Prime Minister of Finland three times: 1972–1975, 1977–1979 and 1982–1987. At the time of his death he still held the record for most days of incumbency as prime minister.[2] He was also a long-time leader of the Social Democratic Party of Finland.

Kalevi Sorsa went to school in Jyväskylä and Lappeenranta. Sorsa's involvement with SDP politics started in Lappeenranta in 1948. In 1969, he was brought in from relative obscurity by Rafael Paasio to assume the influential post of party secretary, despite not having much previous experience of national politics. (A 2008 book by historian Jukka Seppinen suggested that Sorsa was at this date already receiving support from Soviet backers in the KGB).[3]

Prior to his political career, Sorsa worked in Paris for UNESCO from 1959 to 1965, and served as Secretary-General of the Finnish UNESCO board from 1965 to 1969. In the late 1960s he also served as an official in the Ministry of Education.

In 1992 Kalevi Sorsa announced that he would stand in the coming 1994 presidential elections. Documents found in the CPSU Central Committee archive in Moscow during the trial of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, however, indicated that Sorsa had long maintained "confidential contacts" with the Soviet authorities.[4] When news of this information finally broke in the Finnish press,[5] Sorsa issued a public apology and withdrew his candidacy. Martti Ahtisaari took his place as the candidate of the Social Democratic Party.

Prime minister[edit]

Sorsa was a leading political figure during the presidencies of Kekkonen and Koivisto.[6] He served as the chairman of the Social Democratic Party from 1975 to 1987 and was Prime Minister of Finland in four cabinets for a total of ten years (1972–1975, 1977–1979, 1982–1983, 1983–1987). He remains Finland's longest-serving prime minister. After his premiership he served as the Speaker of the Finnish Parliament from 1989 to 1991. During his career he also served twice as Deputy Prime Minister, from 1975 to 1976 and from 1987 to 1989.[7]

Sorsa is regarded as one of the most influential prime ministers of Finland. His contributions were important for public services, such as schools and health care, and strengthened social security for families with children and pensioners. His governments made numerous important reforms in domestic policy, such as child care laws, the extension of maternity leave, the annual vacation benefit act, as well as the public health act. His governments are seen to have strengthened the Finnish welfare state.

Sorsa was also an active participant in the international social democratic movement. He supported the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, as well as projects to bridge the gap between the world's richest and poorest 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 the EEC countries closer. This agreement was eventually confirmed. Sorsa had a particularly difficult relationship with Paavo Väyrynen, an equally strongwilled opponent at the head of the Center Party. Another notable conflict was a rivalry with young rising politician Paavo Lipponen.

In June 1984, Sorsa gave a speech on "infocracy" (i.e. the power of the mass media) at the Social Democratic party convention. He stated that infocracy challenges parliamentary democracy, is unintelligent, avoids discussing social problems, is more interested in individual politicians than political issues and is never critical of its own actions.[8]

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

Later years and death[edit]

Kalevi Sorsa in 1983

Sorsa served in the governing board of the Bank of Finland from 1987 to 1996.[9][6]

In 1993, Sorsa entered the Social Democratic Party's primary elections as a presidential candidate, but was defeated in a humiliating way by Martti Ahtisaari, then a relatively unknown civil servant. During Sorsa's political career, a small but significant group of politicians hostile to him had built up over time, which included Erkki Tuomioja, Lasse Lehtinen and Matti Ahde. These figures became influential forces behind Martti Ahtisaari's campaign.

Kalevi Sorsa died of cancer on January 16, 2004 at his home in Helsinki.[6] He participated in discussion of social politics until the end of his life. His last column was published posthumously. He was survived by his wife; the couple had no children.[6]

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



See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Governments in chronological order". Finnish government (Valtioneuvosto). Retrieved 27 March 2017. 
  2. ^ "Ministerikortisto". Valtioneuvosto. 
  3. ^ Ilta Sanomat, 23 October 2008, "The KGB prepared the way for Kalevi Sorsa in 1969".
  4. ^ The Bukovsky Archives, 16 December 1980* (St 241/108), K. Sorsa's 50th birthday and his work for detente and disarmament.
  5. ^ ILTA-Sanomat, 10 July 1993, #157, "Nepin arkistot kertovat Sorsa miellytti Moskovaa" (Archives show that Sorsa had Moscow's special favour).
  6. ^ 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
  7. ^ "Edustajamatrikkeli". Eduskunta. 
  8. ^ Kun Sorsa suuttui Ylelle Elävä arkisto. Yle. 19 October 2009. Retrieved 13 July 2017.
  9. ^ "Board Members in the history of the Bank of Finland". Bank of Finland. 
  10. ^ a b c d e f g h i The International Who's Who. Europa Publications. 2004. 
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