Leo Mechelin

Leo Mechelin

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Leopold Henrik Stanislaus Mechelin (born November 24, 1839, Hamina
Hamina
Hamina is a town and a municipality of Finland. It is located in the province of Southern Finland and is part of the Kymenlaakso region. The town has a population of and covers an area of ofwhich is water. The population density is...

 — January 26, 1914, Helsinki
Helsinki
Helsinki is the capital and largest city in Finland. It is in the region of Uusimaa, located in southern Finland, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, an arm of the Baltic Sea. The population of the city of Helsinki is , making it by far the most populous municipality in Finland. Helsinki is...

) was a Finnish
Finland
Finland , officially the Republic of Finland, is a Nordic country situated in the Fennoscandian region of Northern Europe. It is bordered by Sweden in the west, Norway in the north and Russia in the east, while Estonia lies to its south across the Gulf of Finland.Around 5.4 million people reside...

 professor, statesman, senator and liberal
Liberalism
Liberalism is the belief in the importance of liberty and equal rights. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but generally, liberals support ideas such as constitutionalism, liberal democracy, free and fair elections, human rights,...

 reformer. A leading defender of the autonomy
Autonomy
Autonomy is a concept found in moral, political and bioethical philosophy. Within these contexts, it is the capacity of a rational individual to make an informed, un-coerced decision...

 of the Grand Duchy of Finland
Grand Duchy of Finland
The Grand Duchy of Finland was the predecessor state of modern Finland. It existed 1809–1917 as part of the Russian Empire and was ruled by the Russian czar as Grand Prince.- History :...

, and of the rights of women and minorities, Mechelin's 1905–1908 government
("Mechelin's Senate") made Finland the first nation in the world with the universal right to vote
Universal suffrage
Universal suffrage consists of the extension of the right to vote to adult citizens as a whole, though it may also mean extending said right to minors and non-citizens...

 and to be elected. His period in office also saw the introduction of the freedom of expression, the press, and of assembly
Freedom of assembly
Freedom of assembly, sometimes used interchangeably with the freedom of association, is the individual right to come together and collectively express, promote, pursue and defend common interests...

.

He also founded the Liberal Party of Finland (1880–1885), wrote its program, founded the Nokia Company
Nokia
Nokia Corporation is a Finnish multinational communications corporation that is headquartered in Keilaniemi, Espoo, a city neighbouring Finland's capital Helsinki...

 (1871) with Fredrik Idestam
Fredrik Idestam
Knut Fredrik Idestam was a Finnish mining engineer and businessman, best known as a founder of Nokia....

, was the first chairman of the town council
Town council
A town council is a democratically elected form of government for small municipalities or civil parishes. A council may serve as both the representative and executive branch....

 of Helsinki
Helsinki
Helsinki is the capital and largest city in Finland. It is in the region of Uusimaa, located in southern Finland, on the shore of the Gulf of Finland, an arm of the Baltic Sea. The population of the city of Helsinki is , making it by far the most populous municipality in Finland. Helsinki is...

 (1875–1876 and 1892–1899) and an internationally respected expert on politology and member of peace movement.

Mechelin led the passive resistance in Finland during the first period of oppression
Russification of Finland
The policy of Russification of Finland was a governmental policy of the Russian Empire aimed at limiting the special status of the Grand Duchy of Finland and possibly the termination of its political autonomy and cultural uniqueness...

 (1899–1905) until and even after his banishment (1903), from which officials had to let him return as a member of parliament (1904), welcomed by a celebrating crowd of ten thousand people. In a secret meeting of the Kagaali, Mechelin had written a petition against the draft of Finns to the Russian army, which collected almost 500,000 signatures. His coalition, the Constitutionals, finally managed to end the draft through boycott.

Born in Hamina
Hamina
Hamina is a town and a municipality of Finland. It is located in the province of Southern Finland and is part of the Kymenlaakso region. The town has a population of and covers an area of ofwhich is water. The population density is...

 in 1839, the son of Gustaf Johan Mechelin and Amanda Gustava Costiander, Leo Mechelin studied at the University of Helsinki
University of Helsinki
The University of Helsinki is a university located in Helsinki, Finland since 1829, but was founded in the city of Turku in 1640 as The Royal Academy of Turku, at that time part of the Swedish Empire. It is the oldest and largest university in Finland with the widest range of disciplines available...

, gaining his Bachelor's
Bachelor's degree
A bachelor's degree is usually an academic degree awarded for an undergraduate course or major that generally lasts for three or four years, but can range anywhere from two to six years depending on the region of the world...

 and Master's
Master's degree
A master's is an academic degree granted to individuals who have undergone study demonstrating a mastery or high-order overview of a specific field of study or area of professional practice...

 degree's in Philosophy
Philosophy
Philosophy is the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language. Philosophy is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational...

 in 1860, a Bachelor's degree in law in 1864, and a License
Licentiate
Licentiate is the title of a person who holds an academic degree called a licence. The term may derive from the Latin licentia docendi, meaning permission to teach. The term may also derive from the Latin licentia ad practicandum, which signified someone who held a certificate of competence to...

 and Doctorate
Doctorate
A doctorate is an academic degree or professional degree that in most countries refers to a class of degrees which qualify the holder to teach in a specific field, A doctorate is an academic degree or professional degree that in most countries refers to a class of degrees which qualify the holder...

 in 1873.

As Professor of jurisdiction and politology, Mechelin had argued that the tsars were bound by the old constitutional laws
Swedish Constitution of 1772
Sweden's Constitution of 1772 took effect through a bloodless coup d'état carried out by King Gustav III, who had become king in 1771, establishing a brief absolute monarchy in Sweden. This was a response to perceived harm wrought upon Sweden by a half-century of parliamentarism during the...

 from the time of the Swedish
Sweden
Sweden , officially the Kingdom of Sweden , is a Nordic country on the Scandinavian Peninsula in Northern Europe. Sweden borders with Norway and Finland and is connected to Denmark by a bridge-tunnel across the Öresund....

 rule of Finland (before 1809), and hence affirmed that Finland was a separate, constitutional state, which the tsar could only rule by law, whereas in Russia he had absolute power. During the periods of oppression, the tsar tried to impose unconstitutional laws, which Mechelin opposed. The unrests in Russia
Russian Revolution of 1905
The 1905 Russian Revolution was a wave of mass political and social unrest that spread through vast areas of the Russian Empire. Some of it was directed against the government, while some was undirected. It included worker strikes, peasant unrest, and military mutinies...

 and Finland (1905) finally compelled the tsar to comply with the November Manifesto written by Mechelin. This allowed Mechelin to form a government (1905–1908) and to transform Finland into what was in many respects the first liberal democracy
Liberal democracy
Liberal democracy, also known as constitutional democracy, is a common form of representative democracy. According to the principles of liberal democracy, elections should be free and fair, and the political process should be competitive...

 (e.g., in New Zealand
New Zealand
New Zealand is an island country in the south-western Pacific Ocean comprising two main landmasses and numerous smaller islands. The country is situated some east of Australia across the Tasman Sea, and roughly south of the Pacific island nations of New Caledonia, Fiji, and Tonga...

 women already had the right to vote but not to be voted; in Australia
Australia
Australia , officially the Commonwealth of Australia, is a country in the Southern Hemisphere comprising the mainland of the Australian continent, the island of Tasmania, and numerous smaller islands in the Indian and Pacific Oceans. It is the world's sixth-largest country by total area...

 only white people had those rights) in 1906. In 1907, the first universal elections to the one-chamber parliament
Parliament of Finland
The Eduskunta , is the parliament of Finland. The unicameral parliament has 200 members and meets in the Parliament House in Helsinki. The latest election to the parliament took place on April 17, 2011.- Constitution :...

 ("eduskunta") were held, and 19 of its 200 first members were women. However, the constitutionals of all parties did not obtain the majority of seats, and the tsar realized that he could carry on with the oppression, starting the second period of oppression (1908–1917). After Mechelin's death (in 1914), the two revolutions in Russia allowed Finland to declare its independence (1917) and Mechelin's younger co-workers were able to complete his work.

Nokia
Nokia
Nokia Corporation is a Finnish multinational communications corporation that is headquartered in Keilaniemi, Espoo, a city neighbouring Finland's capital Helsinki...

, nowadays a world-leading mobile phone
Mobile phone
A mobile phone is a device which can make and receive telephone calls over a radio link whilst moving around a wide geographic area. It does so by connecting to a cellular network provided by a mobile network operator...

 corporation, was originally founded by Mechelin and his student days' roommate Fredrik Idestam
Fredrik Idestam
Knut Fredrik Idestam was a Finnish mining engineer and businessman, best known as a founder of Nokia....

 as a forestry
Forestry
Forestry is the interdisciplinary profession embracing the science, art, and craft of creating, managing, using, and conserving forests and associated resources in a sustainable manner to meet desired goals, needs, and values for human benefit. Forestry is practiced in plantations and natural stands...

 company. Later Mechelin's wish to expand into the electricity
Electricity
Electricity is a general term encompassing a variety of phenomena resulting from the presence and flow of electric charge. These include many easily recognizable phenomena, such as lightning, static electricity, and the flow of electrical current in an electrical wire...

 business were at first thwarted by Idestam's opposition, but Mechelin managed to convince most shareholders of his plans and became the company chairman (1898–1914), thus being able to realize his visions.

Mechelin was also active in civil society
Civil society
Civil society is composed of the totality of many voluntary social relationships, civic and social organizations, and institutions that form the basis of a functioning society, as distinct from the force-backed structures of a state , the commercial institutions of the market, and private criminal...

 and President of the current University of Art and Design Helsinki
University of Art and Design Helsinki
Aalto University School of Art and Design , known commonly as TaiK, is the largest art university in the Nordic countries, and was founded in 1871. Media Centre Lume – the National Research and Development Center of audiovisual media – is also located in the university...

 and of the Finnish Art Society. As a politician he was always highly respected among all parties and citizens, although after the dissolution of the Liberal Party (1885) he never joined any other party.