Oskari Tokoi

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Oskari Tokoi
Tokoi Albert Gebhard 1915.jpg
Chairman of the Senate of Finland
In office
March 26, 1917 – September 8, 1917
Preceded by Mihail Borovitinov
Succeeded by Eemil Nestor Setälä
Personal details
Born May 15, 1873
Kannus, Finland
Died April 4, 1963(1963-04-04) (aged 89)
Leominster, Massachusetts, United States
Nationality Finnish
Political party Social Democratic Party

Antti Oskari Tokoi, known by his middle name, (May 15, 1873 – April 4, 1963) was a Finnish socialist who served as a leader of the Social Democratic Party of Finland. During the short-lived Revolution of 1918, Tokoi participated as a leading figure in the revolutionary government.[1] Tokoi later emigrated to the United States of America, where he served as the long-time editor of Raivaaja (The Pioneer), the newspaper of the Finnish Socialist Federation.

Life and Politics

Early years

Oskari Tokoi was born as Oskari Hirvi in Yliviirre parish, Kannus in the Central Ostrobothnia region of Finland on May 15, 1873. His father, Kalle Hirvi, was a farmer.[2]

After he emigrated to America in 1891, Tokoi worked as a miner in the Western state of Wyoming[2] and was a member of the radical Western Federation of Miners. Loss of employment in the mines later forced him to travel the Midwest in search of work, however.[2]

Tokoi returned to Finland in 1900, where he worked as a farmer and a merchant.

Political career

Tokoi became politically active in 1901, participating in the popular movement against the Russification of Finland.[2] His activity led him to be elected as chairman of the workers' association of Kannus in 1905.[2]

In 1907 Tokoi was elected to the parliament (Eduskunta) as a representative of the Social Democrats. From 1912 to 1917 he was the chairman of Finnish Trade Union Federation. In 1913 Tokoi was elected as the speaker of the Eduskunta, and in 1917 as the head of the Senate of Finland. On 1 March 1918, a treaty between the socialist governments of Russia and Finland was signed in St Petersburg. The Treaty was signed by Vladimir Lenin and Joseph Stalin from the Russian side and by Council of Peoples Representatives of Finland Edvard Gylling and Oskari Tokoi.[3][4]

During the Finnish Civil War Tokoi sided with the Reds and worked as "comissar in charge of provisions". After the war, fearing punishment from the victorious Whites, he fled to Russia.

During 1919 and 1920, he worked as a political advisor to the Murmansk Legion which was organized by the British to fight the Bolsheviks, working to recruit former Finnish Red fighters into a Finnish Legion under British control.[2] Despite his switch of allegiance, Tokoi remained barred from a return to Finland due to his prominent involvement as a Red in the Finnish Civil War, however.

Tokoi traveled first to England and from there to Canada, where he remained one year. On November 21, 1921, Tokoi returned again to the United States via Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan on his passport issued in England.[5]

He made his way to the Finnish-American colony at Fitchburg, Massachusetts, where he was briefly incarcerated as a suspected anarchist.[5] Held for forced repatriation to Finland, the deportation warrant was ultimately cancelled by the Department of Labor in April 1922, thereby allowing Tokoi to remain in America.[6]

Upon his release, Tokoi became an editor at the Finnish language newspaper Raivaaja (The Pioneer).[4]

During the Winter War of 1939-1940, Tokoi was an active public voice for the cause of Finland.[2]

Oskari Tokoi as he appeared in his later years.

In 1944 the Finnish Parliament passed the so-called Lex Tokoi, by which Tokoi was exonerated of all charges related to the Finnish Civil War.[2] After World War II he organized help for Finland among the Finnish-Americans. He visited Finland in 1957 for the 50th anniversary of the Eduskunta.[7]

Death and legacy

Oskari Tokoi died on April 4, 1963, and thus independent Finland's first head of government is buried in the Forest Hill Cemetery, in Fitchburg, MA. Finland's President Kekkonen visited Forest Hill Cemetery in July 1970, pausing at the grave of the late Oskari Tokoi, first Prime Minister of Finland.

Political offices


  • Tokoinranta, a quay in Helsinki, is named after him.
  • The Oskari Tokoi Memorial is located in the Finnish Center at Saima Park in Fitchburg, MA
  • Tokoi was honored with a Wäinö Aaltonen sculpture at Social Democratic Party headquarters in Helsinki.
  • On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of his birth, Oskari Tokoi was honored with a memorial in Kannus, Finland.


  1. Antti Oskari Tokoi (University of Tampere, Finland )
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 2.7 David Kirby, "Antti Oskari Tokoi," in A. Thomas Lane (ed.), Biographical Dictionary of European Labor Leaders: M-Z. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1995; pp. 968-969.
  3. Vying Foreign Services (Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Finland)
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Edustajamatrikkeli". Suomen Eduskunta. Finlands Riksdag. line feed character in |publisher= at position 18 (help)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  5. 5.0 5.1 "Tokoi Arrested in Fitchburg as 'Anarchist,'" New York Call, v. 15, no. 2 (January 2, 1922), pg. 1.
  6. "Finn Socialist Can Stay in US: Tokoi Deport Warrant Has Been Cancelled," The New Age [Buffalo, NY], vol. 10, whole no. 505 (April 27, 1922) pg. 5.
  7. June Ilona Rantanen, Antti Oskari Tokoi, The Finnish Center at Saima Park, www.saima-park.org/

Selected works

  • Sisu: Even Through a Stone Wall (The Autobiography of Oskari Tokoi) (Robert Speller & Sons. 1957)
  • Keski-Pohjanmaan Maakuntaliitto (Keski-Pohjanmaan Maakuntaliitto. 1953)

Further reading

  • O. Aaltonen, "Antti Oskari Tokoi," in Hannu Soikkanen (ed.), Tiennäyttäjät (Leading the Way). Helsinki: Tammi, 1967.
  • Cotter, Arthur The Finns (New York: The National Council, Department of Missions and Church Extension, 1923) [1]

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Pehr Evind Svinhufvud
Speaker of the Parliament of Finland
Succeeded by
Kaarlo Juho Ståhlberg