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Otto Wilhelm (Wille) Kuusinen (1881-1964)


Finnish politician, socialist theorist, literature historian, and poet, who escaped to Russia after the defeat of the Reds in the Finnish Civil War (1917-18). In his new home country, Kuusinen became an influential official in the administration of the state. He was among others a member of the Politburo, the highest Soviet organ, and Stalin's ideological adviser and ghost writer. Kuusinen also continued his career during the reign of Nikita Khrushchev (1953-1964). Nobody knows why Kuusinen was one of the few Communist leaders near Stalin, who survived the great purges, although his family members and close friends were arrested.

Ma synnyin veljien käsissä pajan synkimmän,
sain sisääni voimaa villiä pyhän Venäjän.
Oli ladattu, tähdätty julminta meren hirmua sydämeen,
käsi taikurin painoi ponninta, minä alle veen.

(from 'Torpeedo' in Vallankumousrunoja, 1928)

Otto Wilhelm (Wille) Kuusinen was born in Laukaa, the son of Otto Kuusinen, a poor village tailor, and Sofia Puttonen; she died soon after his birth. In 1883 his father moved to Jyväskylä, where he married Maria Sofia Sillman; he died in 1896. In 1892 Kuusinen entered the lycée of Jyväskylä, where he met the Gylling brothers – later they became important figures in the Social Democratic Party. Edvard Gylling perished in Stalin's terror. Kuusinen's early writings appeared in the school magazine Oras. They were patriotic and expressed hopes for a better future and freedom – Finland was at that time part of Russia, but national feelings were growing.

After graduation in 1900, Kuusinen moved to Helsinki, where he began to study aesthetics, philosophy, and art history. Kuusinen contibuted to the student magazine Hälläpyörä, but otherwise he was not especially active in student organizations in his spare time – he had to finance his studies by loans. In 1901 Kuusinen was a shopkeeper in Laukaa and then he was a journalist at the newspaper Suomalainen. In 1902 he married Saima Pauliina Dahlström; they had six children. After graduating in 1905, Kuusinen abandoned his promising academic career, and chose instead politics.

Kuusinen had joined at the age of 24 the Finnish workers' association. From 1906 his articles began to appear in the magazine Sosialistinen Aikakauslehti. These included 'The Russian Revolution and Finland', Anarchy and Revolution', and 'Socialism and Freedom of Individuals'. He also wrote for the newspaper Työmies (1906-1917).

As an aesthetician Kuusinen did not first follow an ideological class line, but gradually his views hardened. Kuusinen's most famous poem, 'Torpeedo', was pure and straightforward call to crush Capitalism, the symbolic vehicle of destruction is a torpedo, full of wild power of holy Russia. The poem was published in 1920 in the magazine Työläisnuoriso, and has been reprinted since its first appearance.

In his letters to the young poet Elmer Diktonius, Kuusinen applied crudely Hegel's dialectic into analysis of poetry. "A work of art is the same as an artistic composition. Composition is a process. There are three stages in the perfect process – thesis, antithesis, and synthesis." Kuusinen writes that all life and art follows this triadic process. He uses the Hegelian or Marxist doctrine also in his essay on the Finnish national epic Kalevala, 'Kalevala ja sen luojat' (1956). The main theme in Kalevala, according to Kuusinen, is the antagonism between the people of Kaleva and Pohjola (Northland). In the center of the story is Sampo, the magic mill. The enchantress Louhi, who rules Northland, wants to keep it as her private property. The heroes of Kalevala think that it is wrong – Sampo belongs to all. (Kuusinen doesn't write that Sampo should be socialized, but his message is clear.) "Sampo-kuvan olemus on Kalevalassa esitetty epäselvästi, mutta on huomioitava, ettei muinaisaikojen kansa osannut ilmentää toiveitaan loogisesti kehittyneemmässä muodossa. Mutta merkillistä ei tässä suinkaan ole mikään Sammon "arvoituksellisuus", joka on vain vanhoillisten oppineiden konstruoima, vaan se todella hämmästyttävä tosiasia, että aikana, jolloin kansalla ei ollut vielä tietoa mistään koneista, se jo runoili sellaisen tuotantokoneiston luomisesta, joka tekisi mahdolliseksi ihmisten vapauttamisen ylimääräisen työn rasituksesta ja jonka avulla voitaisiin tuottaa riittävästi mitä kansa hyvin vointia varten tarvitaan, "syötäviä, myötäviä" ja vieläpä "kotipitoja". (from 'Kalevala ja sen luojat')

From 1908 to 1913 and in 1917 Kuusinen was a member of the Parliament and from 1911 to 1917 he was chairman of the Social Democratic Party. During the Civil War (1917-18) he was minister of education of the Red government, called People's delegation. When the Red's lost the war, he escaped to Russia. Kuusinen knew that as one of the leaders of the Red insurrection, he would be imprisoned and condemned to death. In 1918 he became one of the founding members of the Finnish Communist Party. Rumors spread in 1920 that Kuusinen had been killed – one police officer claimed that he had shot Kuusinen on the ice of Gulf of Bothnia. At that time Kuusinen was visiting secretly Finland – disguised as a woman – and helped to found The Socialist Worker's Party. Kuusinen proposed a programme which basically differed from Trotsky's theory of the Permanent Revolution. Kuusinen supported the ideas of the peaceful transition and of different roads to socialism in different countries. For Sosialistinen Aikakauslehti he wrote under the pseudonyms 'Usko Sotamies' or 'Sukulainen'. Kuusinen's private life was also busy: he met his wife, but had also an affair with Aino Sarola, and felt attraction to Lydia Stahl, who in turn was interested in John Reed.

In 1920 Kuusinen spent some time in Stockholm, Sweden, and returned the next year to the Soviet Union. He participated in the founding of the Comintern (Communist International), and worked from 1921 there as Secretary General. At the initiative of of V.I. Lenin he wrote the oganization theses for the third congress of the Comintern. Lenin valued highly Kuusinen – "He thinks,'" Lenin once said. Kuusinen's assistant in the Comintern, Arvo Tuominen, portrayed him as a highly skillful writer of libels, whose talents Stalin needed in his purges. After 1934 one of Kuusinen's close associates in the Cominstern was the Bulgarian Communist leader Georgi Dimitrov (1882-1949), whose friend Blagoi Popov was married for a short time to Kuusinen's daughter Riika.

Kuusinen had left behind his wife, who did not follow him to exile. However, three of his daughters and his son Esa moved to Moscow. In 1922 Kuusinen married Aino (Sarola) Turtiainen; she had met Kuusinen earlier in Helsinki, and settled later in Moscow to work for Comintern. They separated in mid-1930s and Kuusinen married in 1936 Maria Amiragova. Aino Kuusinen was arrested first time in 1938. She spent 15 years in the forced labor camps and prisons, without receiving any help from her former husband. These bitter years she recalled in her book of memoir, Jumala syöksee enkelinsä (1972). According to her account, Kuusinen hated Finland, even the Finnish language, and wanted to submit the country under the Soviet rule. In Karelia hundreds of Kuusinen's Finnish comrades had perished in the great purges, among them his brother-in-law Einari Laaksovirta. His son Esa survived the labour camps, but succumbed to tuberculosis. When his daughter Hella returned from Moscow to Finland, she was arrested. Kuusinen's letter to her after he had heard the news did not show deep affection. He was more worried about rumors that she was a traitor. Moreover, Kuusinen did not have many close friends and he avoided spotlights. His only small personal vices were coffee, cigars, and women – Kuusinen did not drink, and some of his acquaintances claimed did not have a sense of humor. Kuusinen could be a generous host, who ate and drank well with his guests, but he always spoke very slowly and chose his words carefully.

Before the outbreak of WW II, Kuusinen said: "Hitler does not want to start a war against everyone at the same time." During the Winter War (1939-40) between Finland and the Soviet Union, Kuusinen was the head of the Terijoki government. Among its other members were Tuure Lehén, who was married to Kuusinen's daughter Hertta between the world wars, and Armas Äikiä – both returned later to Finland after many years in exile. The "People's Government" was created to help Stalin's political and military goals in his attempt to conquer Finland. In this war Kuusinen and C.G. Mannerheim, the commander of Finnish forces and former general in the czar's army, were again on opposite sides – the first time was in 1917 when Mannerheim led the White army and drove the Communists out of the country. If Kuusinen believed that the conflict would open the wounds of the Civil War he was wrong – the Soviet aggression united the nation. Soon the Terijoki government turned out to be a political blunder and Stalin opened peace negotiations with hard terms. In 1944, during the Continuation War (1941-44), a second massive Soviet offensive was stopped, and Finland was saved from occupation.

In 1940 Kuusinen was elected Chairman of the Presidium of the Karelian-Finnish Soviet Republic. "He really deserved it," said the foreign minister Molotov, knowing that Kuusinen was more interested in international politics than the backward Karelia. In 1941 Kuusinen was elected a member of the Politburo, the Central Committee of the Communist Party. He continued in high offices in the 1950s and 1960s. Kuusinen became in 1952 a member of the Presidium of Supreme Soviet of the U.S.S.R. Surviving the political changes after Stalin's death and during Nikita Khrushchev's reforms, he was elected in 1957 again member of the Presidium.

At the turn of the 1950s and 1960s, he edited with others The Fundamentals in Marxism-Leninism (1963), which was considered one of the basic works on dialectical materialism and the whole Communist ideology. The first edition of the book was published in 1959. In 1958 Kuusinen was elected member of the Soviet Academy of Sciences. At the board of the magazine Novoje vremja he was an unofficial but important opinion leader. In Kremlin politics he was considered "liberal", and it has been said that Kuusinen was one of the forefathers of perestroika. Before he was displaced, Kuusinen participated in the writing of the new party programme for rapid agricultural, industrial, and technological development. For the horror of the conservative ideologist, Kuusinen wanted to give up the concept of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" in the contemporary Soviet Union. In this he was supported by Khrushchev.

Kuusinen died in Moscow on May 17, 1964. According to Aino Kuusinen, his last secret mission was to negotiate with Mao Tse-tung and reconcile the broken relations between China and the Soviet Union. Kuusinen's ashes were buried in the Kremlin wall. His selected works appeared in 1966. Hertta Kuusinen, who greatly admird his father, became a respected Communist politician in Finland. Later in life Hertta Kuusinen was a close friend of the writer Olavi Paavolainen (1903-1964). Through his daughter, O.W. Kuusinen also influenced Communist political maneuvering in Finland, which also president Paasiviki well realized. Diplomatically, Kuusinen himself was a "persona non grata" in Finland.

For further reading: Sirpin ja vasaran tie by Arvo Tuominen (1956); Kremlin kellot by Arvo Tuominen (1956); Communism in Finland by John H. Hodgson (1967); 'Usko Sotamies ' O.W. Kuusinen' by Erkki Salomaa in Tiennäyttäjät 3, ed. by Hannu Soikkanen (1968); Nuori Otto Ville Kuusinen, ed. by Vesa Salminen (1970); Otto Ville Kuusinen. Suomalainen internationalisti, ed. by Marja-Leena Mikkola (1971); Otto Wille Kuusinen by U. Vikström (1972)); Jumala syöksee enkelinsä by Aino Kuusinen (1972), Escape to Russia. A Political Biography of Otto. W. Kuusinen by John H. Hodgson (1974); Edward Gylling ja Otto Wille Kuusinen by John H. Hodgson (1974); Vuoden aikain myrskyt by Hertta Kuusinen (1975); Suomalaisen kommunismin synty 1918-1923 by Tauno Saarela (1996); O.W. Kuusinen ja taistelu Stalinin perinnöstä, ed. by Timo Vihavainen (2003)

Selected works:

  • 'Sosialismin käsite ja maailmankatsomus', 1905 (in Työväen joulualbumi)
  • 'Sosialismi ja yksilön vapaus', 1906 (in Sosialistinen aikakauslehti)
  • 'Anarkia ja vallakumous', 1906 (in Sosialistinen aikakauslehti)
  • Älkää koskeko painovapauteen!, 1906
  • 'Sananen sivistyskysymyksestä ja meidän sosialistisesta kirjallisuudestamme', 1906 (in Sosialistinen aikakauslehti)
  • 'Venäjän vallankumousliike ja Suomen sosialidemokratia', 1906 (in Sosialistinen aikakauslehti)
  • (translator) Leo Tolstoi: Viinasta se kaikki lähtee, 1915
  • (editor with J. Laherma) Lasten kirja: Suomen sosialidemokratisen naisliittotoimikunnan julkaisema, 1916
  • Suomen vallankumouksesta. Itsekritiikkiä, 1918 - Finska revolutionen : självkritik (övers. 1918) - Finnish Revolution: a Self-Criticism (tr. 1918)
  • Kansanvallasta, 1919
  • Työmiehen talousoppia: lyhyt kurssi maxilaisuuden taloudellisessa historiassa, 1921 - Ekonomiska begrepp: kortfattad kurs i marxismens ekonomiska teori (3 uppl. 1927)
  • Teesit kommunististen puolueiden rakenteesta ja järjestötoiminnasta, 1921
  • Suomen työväen tulikoe, 1923 (with Yrjö Sirola)
  • Neudavšeesia izobrazenie "Nemetskogo oktiabria" po povodu "Urokov oktiabria" t. Troskogo, 1924
  • 'A Misleading Description of the 'German October', 1925 (in International Press Correspondence 5.1. 1925)
  • Kommunistisen internationalen ja sen osastojen tehtävistä, 1932
  • Kansainvälinen asema ja Kominternin osastojen tehtävät, 1933
  • NKP(b):n XVII edistajakokous: Fasismi, sodanvaara ja kompuolueiden tehtävät, 1934
  • Nuorisoliike ja sen taistelu fasismia ja sodanvaaraa vastaan Kominternin VII maailmankongressissa elokuun 17. päivänä 1935 pidetty puhe, 1935
  • Yrjö Sirola 1867-1936. Puhe Yrjö Sirolan haudalla, 1936
  • (editor) Suomenkielen alkeisopas, 1940
  • Suomi ilman naamiota, 1944 - Finland Unmasked: (25 years of anti-Soviet policy; foreword by Ivor Montagu, 1944)
  • 'Runon taiteellisesta eloyhteydestä', 1946
  • 'Euroopan kansojen holhoojiksi pyrkijöistä', 19.2.1947 (Pravda)
  • Suomen tie rauhaan ja demokratiaan, 1947
  • Right-wing social-democrats today, 1947
  • Suomen työväenliikkeen opetuksia, 1949
  • 'Kalevalan runoutta', 1949
  • Kansainvälisiä kysymyksiä, 1951
  • 'Warmongers' international', August 27, 1951 (Pravda)
  • Kalevala: karelo-finskij narodnyj èpos, 1956 (sobral i obrabotal Elias Lönnrot; perevod L. Bel'skogo; illjustracii M. Meceva ; vstupitel'naja stat'ja O. Kuusinena)
  • 'Kalevala ja sen luojat', 1956 (in Kalevala -karjalais-suomalainen kansaneepos, printed in Petroskoi)
  • Puhe NKP:n XX edustajakokouksessa helmikuun 18 p:nä, 1956
  • Suuri vuosisatamme, 1961
  • (ed. with others.) The Fundamentals in Marxism-Leninism, 1963 - Marxismin-leninismin perusteet: oppikirja (2. suomenkielinen painos 1961)
  • Otto Vil'gel'movitš Kuusinen. Izbranne proizvedenia, 1966
  • Valitut teokset: 1918-1964, 1968 (ed. by N. I. Ivanov)
  • Suomalainen internationalisti, 1971 (ed. by Marja-Leena Mikkola)
  • Asian periaatteellinen puoli. Valittuja kirjoituksia ja puheita vuosilta 1905-1918, 1981 (ed. by Juha Ukkonen)

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