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Ryti, Risto (1889 - 1956)

President of Finland

Risto Ryti
Photo: Hede Foto, Uusi Suomi Photo Archives

In the interwar years, Risto Ryti made a career as a politician in the field of economics and as an influential political background figure. He had a wide range of international contacts both in the world of banking and within the framework of the League of Nations. His work as a statesman was accomplished when he was prime minister during the Winter War and Interim Peace and president during the Continuation War. He was the main defendant in the Finnish 'war guilt' trials, and it took decades to rehabilitate his reputation.

Risto Ryti was a precocious figure amidst the dazzling whirl of business and politics in the young Republic of Finland. He was first elected to parliament at the age of 30, and over the following three years he was finance minister in two governments. He was appointed chairman of the board (governor) of the Bank of Finland at the age of only 33. In the interwar years, Ryti made a remarkable career both in financial politics and as an influential political background figure. He established a wide range of international contacts both in the world of banking and within the framework of the League of Nations. He did his real work as a statesman when he was prime minister during the Winter War and Interim Peace and president during the Continuation War. Ryti was above all steel-nerved man of crisis periods, and the highlights of his career involved the initial situation of the Winter War, the leading of Finland towards peace in March 1940, his uncompromising attitude in the face of Soviet demands after the Winter War and finally his sacrificing of himself in the situation of summer 1944 by his signing of the 'Ribbentrop agreement'.

A gifted child and youth

Ryti is so far the only one of Finland's presidents from a Satakunta background. He came from the village of Loima in the Huittinen district in the valley of the River Kokemäenjoki. In the 1925 presidential election, the Progressive Party (Edistyspuolue) touted him as "the son of a Finnish peasant". Despite his background, Ryti had very few of the traits that Finns normally associate with the term 'peasant'. From childhood onwards, he had a weak constitution, a sallow complexion and a greater interest in reading than in farm work. He had a serious-looking face with large eyes and high forehead, and he started going bald while still very young. When he came home on holiday from Pori Grammar School or the University of Helsinki, he hardly ever participated in the work on the farm, instead spending his time with books. Of seven sons, he was the only one to pass the university entrance examinations; the others received a middle-level schooling. By contrast, his three sisters matriculated.

Risto Ryti's slightly unsociable manner was perhaps partly due to his upbringing; he attended primary school only for a very short time before the director of an adult education institute, a university graduate named Knaapinen, was engaged as his home tutor. In addition to his mother, who was very close to Ryti, Knaapinen had the greatest influence on his development. His father Evert Ryti, the owner of a large farm, was a more distant figure. Risto was eager to fulfil the expectations of his mother and tutor. He wanted to be not only good at school but the best. However, Risto Ryti's success at school and distinctive traits have sometimes been exaggerated. He was certainly not the best history pupil at Pori Grammar School. His average mark for his final certificate was 9.4. And he was not a reclusive bookworm, either, though he naturally spent much time in the library. For almost all his time at school, his mark in gymnastics was a straight 10.

The student and young lawyer

Ryti dealt with his studies extremely quickly. He passed his university entrance examination in spring 1906 and enrolled in the same autumn in the Law Faculty of the Imperial Alexander University of Helsinki. At that time nearly all teaching was conducted in Swedish, and the textbooks were also in this language. The choice of the Law faculty was a natural one for Ryti. His family's set of values, which included practicality and respect for financial matters, no doubt contributed to his choice of a career. And as a lawyer, Ryti became neither a legal scholar nor a theoretician. He always kept in touch with practical life.

The studies begun in an atmosphere of freedom ended three years later in the autumn of 1909, when Finland had moved into the darker times of the second period of russification. But in this situation, the young Law graduate still had to think of the future. He decided to move back to Satakunta as a lawyer - to Rauma, which was still a lively trading and shipping town in the early 20th century. The move to Rauma meant an escape from the oppressive political atmosphere of the capital. Ryti was also often a visitor to his childhood home in Huittinen. During these trips he also dealt with lawsuits involving farmers from his home parish. The four years in Rauma were a happy period in Risto Ryti's life.

But the most important thing to happen during the time in Rauma was his meeting 'Finland's richest man', Alfred Kordelin. This meeting began a client relationship which with the passing of time grew into an association and finally into a profound friendship. Ryti had one remarkable feature that he was able to exploit as a young man: he appeared much older than he actually was. A relationship based on complete trust developed between the millionaire and the young lawyer.

Ryti undertook further studies and received his Master of Laws degree in 1912. In spring 1914, he went to Oxford with his friend Eric Serlachius to study maritime law. His studies were cut short by the outbreak of the First World War; but the trip resulted in Ryti's falling in love with Eric's sister Gerda Serlachius. This led to engagement and in 1916 to marriage. Gerda was several years older than her husband and had also seen more of life. Amongst other things, she had worked in both Germany and Britain.

An independent Finland and a change of career for Ryti

Finland's achievement of independence, with all its dramas, had a decisive influence on the development of Ryti's career. He had risen to an ever more important position in Kordelin's business undertakings and would in due course probably have become the general manager of these enterprises. However, this career was cut short when a Russian Bolshevik murdered Kordelin at Mommila in November 1917, before the eyes of Risto and Gerda Ryti. It was left to Ryti to execute Kordelin's will. A result was the Kordelin Foundation, still well known today.

Ryti did not actually participate in the Liberation War of 1918, since he was forced to stay in hiding with his family in Red-controlled Helsinki. When peace came, his period in the private sector was brief. The former Young Finn, now a Progressive and a staunch republican, was elected to parliament in 1919 as the second-youngest member. His political spiritual father and inspiring example, Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg, was elected as the first president of the Republic of Finland. Ryti was on the winning side and a member of a party that was doing well. His talents were noticed immediately, and he became chairman of the judiciary committee. During his career as a backbencher he served fully five times as a member of the finance committee and twice as its chairman. In April 1921, at the age of just 32, he was appointed finance minister in the government of Juho Vennola. In that decade he was twice finance minister. He was elected to parliament three times.

Ryti's most important achievements as an MP and minister are associated with public finances. As finance minister he succeeded in bringing order to the budget estimates. Although he was a Ståhlbergian, he opposed his spiritual father on one important issue: he did not approve of the pardoning of Red prisoners. In Ryti's opinion the Reds were criminals, and he refused to see the social background to the events of 1918.

The youthful director of the national bank

Ryti had served as finance minister in Kyösti Kallio's government for only two-and-a-half months when he was appointed by President Ståhlberg as chairman of the board (governor) of the Bank of Finland. He took up his duties only after Kallio's government resigned in January 1924. In an article written in 1956, Edwin Linkomies described Ryti's period as finance minister in the following words: "When he left his post [as finance minister] to become governor of the Bank of Finland, everything was in as good an order as it could be under such circumstances. There was a general trust in the State's ability to fulfil its financial tasks... Ryti's sure financial instinct and firm hand restored equilibrium and initiated a development which - after the difficulties of the Depression years - continued to be positive up to the war years."

Ryti has been viewed as an orthodox supporter of classical liberal economic theory. Already as finance minister and then as governor of the Bank of Finland, he made it his goal to tie the value of the Finnish markka to the gold standard. In Ryti's opinion, the gold standard was the world's best monetary system; he did not, however, display a rigid attitude but flexible realism concerning this issue. Unlike many other European countries, Finland did not choose a particularly deflationary solution under his leadership. Ryti firmly rejected the idea that Finland should try to return to the value of the old gold markka.

In 1926, Finland was ready to shift to the gold markka. The country did not adopt gold coinage as normal currency. Gold coins were indeed minted, but hardly any were circulated. The years after the middle of the 1920s witnessed strong economic growth. Construction work reached record proportions, and the country experienced a real boom, given the conditions of the period. The onset of depression in 1929 came as a severe blow to the rational Ryti. Irrational factors were concealed in the world economy, and they had their effects. Under the influence of the Great Depression, Finland was forced to abandon the gold standard after only five years, following the example of Great Britain.

The stuff of a president at an early age

Risto Ryti nearly became president of the Republic of Finland in the 1925 election at the age of only 36. In the second round of voting, he received the most support - 102 electoral-college members. However, the Swedish People's Party (Svenska Folkpartiet), which held the balance in the election, considered Ryti a more dangerous opponent than Lauri Kristian Relander of the Agrarian Party (Maalaisliitto).

As far back as autumn 1923, the incumbent president, Ståhlberg, had demonstrated an unprejudiced attitude in mentioning Ryti, then only 34, as one possible successor. And in a discussion with his wife in January 1925, right on the eve of the election, Ståhlberg stated: "They should take Ryti - he is independent and not influenced by popularity. He has a good and firm course." In the third round, however, Ryti lost to Relander by 109 votes to 172.

In the next election, held in 1931 and darkened by the shadow of the Lapua movement, the Progressive Party's candidate was again Ståhlberg. Just before the following election, the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper came out in favour of Ryti, but Ståhlberg was again chosen as candidate. It should be noted that back in 1925 and again twelve years later, the Social Democrats supported Ryti. Despite party differences, trust and even friendship had developed between Ryti and Väinö Tanner, who had already been chairman of parliament's banking committee back in the 1920s. Ryti's and Tanner's rather pragmatic political views ran along similar tracks.

The good years of the 1930s

Ryti's remedies for the Great Depression were painful. He proved to be fairly merciless in his recovery policies; with the wave of bankruptcy auctions in farming areas, his name almost became a swear word. Nor was Ryti socially-minded in his way of thinking. At meetings of the Helsinki City Council, he regularly opposed the organisation of work programmes for the unemployed and increased spending on assistance for the poor. Ryti's thinking represented a sort of social Darwinism: If someone does not succeed and cannot cope, it is his own fault. Private individuals should not be artificially supported any more than should unprofitable enterprises. The national economy is like a tree: some branches flourish and grow while others wither and die; and this is a good thing.

Ryti calculated that only by increasing its exports would Finland succeed in recovering from depression. And the country's competitiveness did in fact increase more quickly than that of others, since in Finland it was possible to reduce wage levels more than elsewhere. Success was thus achieved at the expense of the average citizen. On the other hand, once Finland had dealt with the Depression more swiftly than many other European countries, Ryti thought that the benefits should also be distributed evenly over the whole population, because it was ordinary people who had borne the heaviest burden. He did not want success, the streams of money, to be directed into the wallets of just a few Finns. Thus, despite everything, Ryti played an important part in creating the welfare of the late 1930s.

In the politics of the 1930s, Ryti was an important background figure, though not a highly visible one. His influence was proportionately much greater than the size of the Progressive Party. An important factor was collaboration - through Väinö Tanner - with the Social Democrats. As far as financial policy was concerned, the role of governor of the Bank of Finland was then more important and the opportunities to exert influence greater than they are today. In the 1920s, Ryti had already established important international contacts with the banking world of Scandinavia, particularly that of Sweden, and with Great Britain and the United States. With the improvement of telephone links to other European countries, he was sometimes even in daily contact with the management of the Bank of England. He also travelled a great deal in continental Europe, Britain and the United States. He participated in the activities of the League of Nations as a member of many committees dealing with economic questions and monetary policy.

Ryti was opposed to state intervention in business and industry. His line was that the more that state authorities influenced the economy, the greater were the negative effects. For this reason alone, socialist economic policies, and especially their Soviet forms, were repugnant to him. After the experiences of the russification period and the Civil War, he was uncompromisingly anti-Soviet. Nor did he approve of German national socialism; according to his ideas on economic theory, it was not a viable model. In other respects, too, German culture was alien to him. And in Finland, Ryti opposed the Lapua movement and right-wing extremism in all its forms. Above all, Ryti was a great admirer of British civilisation and culture and of American free enterprise.

Winter War prime minister

The appointment of Risto Ryti as the Winter War prime minister is not such a surprising event as many have thought. Since the end of his public political career, Ryti had throughout the 1930s been in a certain sense a political reservist, ready to assume responsibility for the nation's interests if required. In the situation of late autumn 1939, an especially important role was also played by the relations of trust with Ryti built up by Väinö Tanner and by Kyösti Kallio, who before he became president had served on the board of the Bank of Finland. Even though Ryti initially tried to turn down the post of prime minister when it was offered to him, Kallio and Tanner - well aware of Ryti's sense of responsibility - could rest assured of his ultimate agreement.

At the moment when war broke out, what outstanding quality made Ryti the obvious choice for the post of prime minister? The answer is easy - psychological strength. Not even at the most difficult of moments did he lose his powers of judgment - not under the pressure of the start and end of the Winter War; not in the Continuation War; not even in the purgatory of summer 1944 or during the 'war guilt' trials. This did not apply to everyone else. Rainer von Fieandt, finance minister in the previous government of Aimo Cajander and also in Ryti's new government, wrote in his memoirs: "When the war began, I was completely pessimistic. We were alone in a war against a great power. As was generally known, our defences had been badly neglected. The outcome of our unequal struggle could be only defeat for Finland. The question was merely how long we could go on defending ourselves and whether the new government would have the chance to make peace within this short time." In early December 1939, Ryti's attitude towards Finland's chances was quite different. His policy line consisted of a clear, rational assessment of the situation and of decision-making based on this assessment. "We must keep cool heads, avoid thinking based on emotions and hopes, build only upon facts", he stated. His December policy broadcast as prime minister radiated power, resoluteness and a preparedness for the greatest possible sacrifices.

The great advantage of both Ryti and Foreign Minister Tanner was the fact that they had close contacts with the Western powers, especially Britain. Both also spoke fluent English. Despite their Western contacts, both leading ministers took it as their basic idea that the war must be brought to an end as quickly as possible. It is in itself surprising that the Finnish government did not appeal directly to the League of Nations for support, in accordance with models that had been drawn up throughout the interwar period. However, the Finnish representative at the League of Nations, the former foreign minister Rudolf Holsti, did initiate measures to help Finland at the organisation. Aid from Sweden was not considered out of the question, but assistance from the Western powers was only a third possibility. However, moves towards peace were cut short right at the beginning of the war by the Soviet government's decision not to recognise the "Ryti-Tanner government". The only way forward was to rely on the fighting power of Finland's defence forces and thereby to gain time and freedom for diplomatic manoeuvring.

The armed forces did their duty in the defensive battles of December 1939 and during January 1940. Stalin was forced to drop the so-called 'Terijoki Government' of Otto-Wille Kuusinen that he had set up to facilitate an invasion. Ryti and Tanner immediately grasped the opportunity for negotiations that opened up. Contact with Moscow was established via Stockholm. In a broadcast speech held after the conclusion of the Moscow Peace Treaty, Ryti stated that it is often easier to start a war than to end one and that only for a fleeting moment do the interests of two warring parties coincide. In March 1940, Ryti decided to take advantage of such a situation, which had arisen thanks to the threat of Allied intervention. Although at no stage had Ryti's government officially asked the Western powers for help, even the possibility of this had an influence on decisions of the Soviet government. Battered but robustly alive, Finland survived the unequal struggle of the Winter War. And it can be regarded as an act of statesmanship on the part of Ryti that the Moscow Peace Treaty was signed on 13 March 1940. He had succeeded in winning over to the peace position the majority of the government, the president and above all the commander-in-chief of the defence forces, Marshal Gustaf Mannerheim. By signing the treaty, Ryti became a prime minister of peace in the eyes of the Russians as well, and thus an acceptable figure for the post of president of Finland in December 1940 when Kyösti Kallio resigned because of illness.

From prime minister to president

In contrast to his predecessor Cajander, Ryti proved to be a strong prime minister. His position as the political leader of Finland was highlighted by the fact that President Kallio was ill and also had no great experience in foreign policy; this area was taken care of mainly by the prime minister and Foreign Minister Tanner. Juho Kusti Paasikivi, who had been a minister, was also gradually pushed aside, especially after his appointment as envoy to Moscow. A dissident, the defence minister Juho Niukkanen, was dismissed from the government and replaced by General Rudolf Walden, a man who enjoyed the trust of Gustaf Mannerheim. Until he became ill in autumn 1944, Walden was to function as a sort of 'remote terminal' in the government for the commander-in-chief throughout the wartime period.

Politically speaking, the stances of the prime minister and the commander-in-chief during the Interim Peace were highly congruent. Once a Western orientation had proved impossible after the German conquest of Denmark and Norway, eyes turned ever more towards Sweden. Plans put forward in spring and again in autumn for a defence pact and even a personal union failed initially because of Soviet and then also German opposition. For Ryti as an individual, reliance upon Nazi Germany was repugnant, as that country represented a view of the world quite different from what he respected. Foreign policy and soon the whole political leadership of the country came ever more into Ryti's hands because of Kallio's illness. Even though a number of potential successors to the retiring president were put forward, Ryti ultimately won an overwhelming victory. In the situation, he was surely the best alternative. Kallio, who died on the day of his resignation, had expressed the hope that Ryti would be chosen as his successor, and Mannerheim had also given his influential backing to the prime minister.

In a private reminiscence, General Erik Heinrichs stated that initially relations between Mannerheim and Ryti were fairly good - in 1940, for example. They often sat together holding confidential discussions in a private room at the König restaurant. As the Continuation War dragged on (perhaps as early as the Karelia order of the day - the 'scabbard order of the day'), their relations became a little strained, and this problem gradually became more pronounced, even though formally their behaviour towards each other was entirely correct. The first tussle between the president and the commander-in-chief came in February 1941 when Mannerheim, pointing to the tense situation and supported by Walden, called for a partial mobilisation. When Ryti refused and the new prime minister Jukka Rangell supported him, Mannerheim resolved to resign as commander-in-chief. Defence Minister Walden had already written a similar letter of resignation. Ryti managed to persuade Mannerheim to withdraw his resignation. A crisis had been avoided for the time being.

Risto Ryti is the only Finnish president so far who never possessed all the powers of the head of state. He did not act for a single day as commander-in-chief of the armed forces. According to the constitution, Mannerheim should have handed back command to President Kallio when the Moscow Peace Treaty came into force. But Kallio wanted Mannerheim to continue in this capacity, because the general situation was difficult and a world war was still raging. As far as is known, Ryti had nothing against this arrangement, either. What is odd is that when Ryti was elected president on 19 December 1940, he was not given and did not assume the post of commander-in-chief. He could have immediately delegated these powers to Marshal Mannerheim. Mannerheim was now commander-in-chief thanks to a previous president. This arrangement increased and highlighted the power and independence of the commander-in-chief. As Väinö Tanner remarked a little acidly in his memoirs, there was now a "Mikkeli Government" in Finland in addition to the Helsinki Government.

First and second terms as president

In the spring and summer of 1941, Ryti's foreign policy decisions -- and Mannerheim's, too -- were based on the firm conviction that Germany would win in a possible war with the Soviet Union. This idea was reflected in the radio broadcast that Ryti made after the outbreak of the Continuation War; he was later held to account for this speech at the 'war guilt' trials. Ryti afterwards stated that even at this stage he did not believe that Germany would win the war as a whole but that it would defeat Russia.

The independence of the 'Mikkeli Government' is well illustrated by the fact that the attack on Soviet Karelia across the border established by the Treaty of Tartu (Dorpat) was based entirely on military considerations and that neither the national government nor the president had a say in the matter. During the autumn of 1941 Ryti and Tanner, a minister whom he supported, planned a broad-based, top-level meeting to discuss questions associated with the waging and leadership of war. The joint conference of the national political leadership, the most senior civil servants and the general staff was held on 28 November 1941. The meeting did reach some conclusions, but negotiations were negatively affected by the fact that Mannerheim did not deign to utter a single word! The meeting received a message from the prime minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill. Mannerheim's reply to this letter was harsher than Ryti would have wanted; the situation became extremely tense and led to a declaration of war against Finland by the whole British Commonwealth on 6 December 1941.

Ryti had been elected as president only until the end of Kallio's term - i.e. until 1943. In a situation of war, elections for a new electoral college were unthinkable, and thus the members of the 1937 college gathered to vote. This time, too, Ryti was elected by an overwhelming majority. However, the voting totals do not tell the whole truth about support for him, since Mannerheim also had strong support as a possible candidate, though he flatly denied this in public. Mannerheim might possibly have won by a few votes, but he did not want any close result; this would have simply divided the nation. In addition, members of several parties wanted to keep Mannerheim on hold for future duties.

Ryti was willing to continue as president, because he had been among those who led the country into war. He did not consider it morally correct to withdraw from responsibility when difficulties arose. In actual fact, both Ryti and Mannerheim had started having doubts back in early winter 1942 as to Germany's final success in the war. It had then at least become clear to both of them that a much longer struggle lay ahead than had been anticipated in summer 1941.

The rough road to peace

Ryti had wanted the government of Prime Minister Jukka Rangell to continue in office after the election. However, the political atmosphere had become unfavourable for this 'war government', and thus a 'peace government' led by the chairman of the National Coalition Party (Kokoomus), Professor Edwin Linkomies, was formed after long negotiations. Linkomies immediately began preparations aimed at achieving peace, though the situation was made difficult in Spring 1943 by Mannerheim's illness and his trip to Switzerland to recuperate.

Linkomies also initiated a judicial clarification of what scope a Finnish president possesses to make independent decisions binding upon the country and whether such decisions are binding upon a successor. In doing so, he actually anticipated a situation that occurred a good year later in summer 1944, when Ryti signed the 'Ribbentrop agreement'. As a model for action, the idea started to crystallise that Ryti could be sacrificed politically and replaced by Mannerheim, who remained politically cleaner. Under these political pressures, Ryti ended up bearing a heavy burden.

When the Soviet Union's large-scale offensive started on 9 June 1944, speculation about a change of both government and president immediately began. However, Mannerheim was unwilling to take on the job even of temporary prime minister, and tentative proposals for the formation of a Ramsay government also failed because of the opposition of the commander-in-chief. But Ryti kept his nerve even better than Mannerheim in the summer crisis. After the loss of Viipuri (Vyborg), Finland found itself in a real political crisis just before midsummer. The government tried to create a link for negotiations with the Soviet Union via Stockholm. Information was received from Stockholm that the Soviet government was indeed ready to negotiate, but only after it had been given an assurance, signed by the president and the foreign minister, that Finland would surrender unconditionally.

Opinions within the government were divided, with Ryti and Tanner in favour of replying to the Soviet Union. They remained in the minority, however; strongly supported by Mannerheim, Prime Minister Linkomies decided not to reply at all. At the same time, the German foreign minister, von Ribbentrop, arrived in Finland on a surprise visit. He called on the government to commit itself to continuing to fight. In return he promised Finland the military aid that it so sorely needed. After negotiations, Ryti agreed - under pressure from Mannerheim - to give his personal commitment to the continuation of the fight. Ryti had wanted parliament to decide on the matter. Mannerheim proposed merely the sending of a "private letter". Finally a compromise was reached whereby Ryti's 'letter' was dealt with at a meeting of the Council of State. The compromise also satisfied the Germans, enabling the continuation of military assistance.

Ryti knew that in signing the letter he was sacrificing himself. When the military situation had stabilised by mid July, thanks to defensive victories by Finland, procedures for a change of president began. It was initially planned to make Mannerheim regent, but at the last moment, at Mannerheim's request, the option was changed to that of a presidency. Ryti signed a letter of resignation in which, against his will, he referred amongst other things to health reasons. By a special law, parliament appointed Mannerheim president in early August 1944.

The last stages of a career

Many have considered that Ryti burned himself out in the purgatory of summer 1944. This was not the case. He was reappointed governor of the Bank of Finland after Jukka Rangell stepped aside of his own accord to clear the way for Ryti's expertise. In autumn 1944, Ryti intervened with tough measures in the nation's monetary policy. This time, too - just as in the early 1920s and during the Great Depression ten years later - Ryti's medicine was fairly bitter. His monetary policy was based on fighting inflation and improving the foreign-exchange situation by boosting exports. The postwar 'big three' government wanted swift actions, and these were inevitably leading to inflationary policies.

Ryti's hopes of achieving his goals were not realised: in spring 1945, foreign-policy pressures and the demands of the communists in Finland led to his arrest and that of others for 'war guilt'. Together with his defence lawyer, the former foreign minister Hjalmar J. Procopé, Ryti carefully prepared himself for this last test of strength in his career. Although Ryti was sentenced to ten years in prison, the 'war guilt' trials constituted a moral victory. The nation - with the exception of the communists - regarded those sentenced not as criminals but as scapegoats.

His health began to weaken during his years of incarceration, especially after the others had been released and Ryti, who had received the longest sentence, was left as the last prisoner. But his spiritual stamina remained unimpaired. He was helped in this respect by the strong religious belief in theosophy that he adopted over the course of time. Ryti shared this philosophy with his wife Gerda, who was a strong source of psychological support for her husband during these difficult years.

When he was pardoned by President Paasikivi in May 1949, Ryti was a tired and sick man. Contrary to what has often been claimed, conditions in prison had been tough. He never returned to public life, despite requests and inducements. But society did not forget him. The student body of the University of Helsinki and Ryti's own student society paid him high tributes. The Council of State commissioned a portrait, and in spring 1956, some six months before his death, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Social Sciences by the University of Helsinki. Ryti's funeral in November of the same year was turned into an ardent, patriotic ceremony of mourning at which his life's work was granted great recognition.

Martti Turtola

Translated by Roderick Fletcher


Risto Heikki Ryti, born 3.2.1889 Huittinen, died 25.10.1956 Helsinki. Parents: Kaarle Evert Ryti, farmer, and Ida Vivika Junttila. Wife: 1916 - 1956 Gerda Paula Serlachius, born 1886, died 1984, wife's parents: Professor Johan Julian Serlachius and Paula Emilia Söderhjelm. Children: Henrik, born 1916, professor; Niilo, born 1919, died 1997, professor; Eva (Saxén), born 1922, Licentiate of Medicine.

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