Santeri Nuorteva

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Santeri Nuorteva as he appeared in 1911 at the time of his emigration to the United States.

Santeri "Santtu" Nuorteva (29 June 1881 – 31 March 1929), born Alexander Nyberg, was a Finnish-born Soviet journalist and one of the first members of the Finnish parliament. Nuorteva served in the Finnish parliament as a member of the Social Democratic Party from 1907–1908 and 1909–1910. Nuorteva emigrated to the United States in 1911 and played a leading role in the sizable Finnish-language socialist movement in America, editing at various times he edited the magazines Säkeniä ("The Spark") and the newspapers Toveri ("The Comrade") and Raivaaja ("The Pioneer"). He was the official spokesman in America for the Finnish Socialist Revolutionary government of 1918 and, after its overthrow, was influential in the official affairs of the government of Soviet Russia in the United States. In 1920 he was deported to Soviet Russia.


Early years[edit]

Santeri was named Alexander Nyberg when he was born in Viipuri, Grand Duchy of Finland on June 29, 1881. His father Claes Fredrik Nyberg was a telegraph officer and his mother was Russian Jewish-born Anna Aleksandrovna Saharova. Even before graduating from high school Santeri was working in a shop and as a seaman and boilerman. After graduating high school in 1904 he started to work as a teacher and journalist in Forssa. He was a language teacher at Forssa primary school in 1904–1907 and editor of the Forssa News in 1904–1906.

After leaving Forssa, Nuorteva worked as journalist for the magazine Socialist in Turku in 1908 and then as editor of the magazine Kansan in Tampere in 1909-11. Nuorteva was imprisoned because of Lèse majesté in 1909.

Political career[edit]

Nyberg took the pseudonym Santeri Nuorteva in 1906, during the period of the Revolution of 1905 in the Russian empire, of which Finland was a part.[1] He became a member of the Finnish parliament in 1907 and served until 1910.

Nuorteva immigrated to the United States in 1911 where he instantly became a leading member of the Finnish Socialist Federation in America and one of its most prominent spokesmen. He worked as editor of the daily newspaper Toveri ("The Comrade") in Astoria, Oregon in the Pacific Northwest from 1912 to 1913, before leaving for the East coast to edit the monthly magazine Säkeniä ("The Spark") and working on the editorial staff of Raivaaja ("The Pioneer").

During the Finnish Civil War, Nuorteva was the chargé d'affaires of the Finnish Socialist Workers' Republic in Washington, D.C. in 1918-19. On May 10, 1918, when the government Nuorteva represented had been overthrown, an audience of Socialists filled New York City's Carnegie Hall to hear him denounce the Finnish anti-Bolsheviks as allies of the German Junker class and not friends of America and its allies as they claimed. Implicitly defending the recent Treaty of Brest-Litovsk which marked Soviet Russia's exit from the war against Germany, he hailed the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia as the greatest threat to Germany: "Today the Socialist Republic flag of Russia floats over a Socialist embassy in Berlin, a terrible symbol of the greatest menace to the German rulers, for this flag represents the power of a great popular idea that involves the complete destruction of kaiserism and junkerdom and all their works."[2] He campaigned for U.S. diplomatic recognition of the Soviet government.[3]

On September 21, 1918, the New York Evening Post charged that he was the author and fabricator of the Sisson Documents, a controversial set of Russian-language papers that, if genuine, proved that the German General Staff had financed the Russian Revolution and that Lenin and Trotsky were both German agents.[4][5] Eventually he became the information chief of the Russian Information Bureau, the de facto embassy of the Russian government, in 1919-20, as assistant to Ludwig Martens, the unrecognized Soviet ambassador and a controversial figure in America.[6]

In 1918, he also collaborated on a translation into English of Lenin's "Letter to American Workers."[7]

In 1920, Nuorteva left the United States, traveling first to Canada and then to England where he was deported after 10 days to Soviet Russia, the destination he requested rather than a return to the U.S.[6]

Soviet years[edit]

Back in Soviet Russia Nuorteva was made the head of the Anglo-American Division of the People's Commissariat of Foreign Affairs.[8]

In the Soviet Union Nuorteva was again briefly arrested and jailed in 1921–22.[5] After his release, he worked as the manager in the Karelian Autonomous Soviet Socialist Republic in Petroskoi in 1922.

After he returned to Moscow, Nuorteva worked as a journalist and as the commissar of Anglo-American department in Moscow in 1923-24. In 1924, Rosta, the Soviet news agency, sent Nuorteva for a short time to Stockholm as their representative. After working in Stockholm, Nuorteva became the chairman of the Soviet Karelian Central Committee in 1924-1927.

Death and legacy[edit]

Nuorteva died on March 31, 1929 in Leningrad while working for the editor of the Soviet dictionary.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ The Finnish word nuorten means "young."
  2. ^ New York Times: "Sees Kaiser's Doom on Eastern Front, May 11, 1918, accessed February 25, 2010; a critic of Nuorteva wrote the Times a few days later and said: "Santeri Nuorteva is a fluent and effective speaker, but his eloquence is far more notable than his strict addiction to the truth." New York Times: Herman Montagu Donner, "The Germans in Finland," May 14, 1918, accessed February 25, 2010
  3. ^ New York Times: "Russian Agent Here Aids the Bolsheviki," June 11, 1918, accessed February 25, 2010
  4. ^ Encyclopedia of Espionage, Intelligence, and Security: Martin J. Manning, "Document Forgery", accessed February 24, 2010.
  5. ^ a b For Nuorteva to participate in such an attempt to discredit the Russian Revolution would give credence to later suggestions that he was an anti-Bolshevik. New York Times: "Nuorteva Reported an Anti-Soviet Spy," May 24, 1921, accessed February 25, 2010.
  6. ^ a b New York Times: "British Deport Nuorteva" July 17, 1920, accessed February 25, 2010
  7. ^ New York Times: "Red Editor Here Dies," January 7, 1941, accessed February 25, 2010
  8. ^ "Says Nuorteva Gave Life for Working Class," The Daily Worker, vol. 6, no. 30 (April 10, 1930), pp. 1, 3.

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