From forest researcher to Prime Minister

Few forestry scientists have left as lasting a mark on Finland and Finns as the professor of forestry science and the prime minister, A. K. Cajander.

The Finnish government fell in the late spring of 1922. President of the Republic Ståhlberg appointed an interim government of civil servants to manage the affairs of the fledgling state. He invited A. K. Cajander, a distinguished civil servant and researcher, to serve as Prime Minister. How did Professor Cajander, a doctor of botany, end up at the centre of politics? 

Finland industrialised rapidly at the end of the 19th century, and the utilisation of forests was central to this transformation. Fearing that foreign conglomerates would take over the country’s forests, Finland decided to develop its domestic industry through cooperation between the state and companies. To safeguard the country’s green gold, the forest industry needed more and better forest managers, as well as scientific and administrative expertise. 

Before being appointed Prime Minister, Cajander was not particularly active in politics. With the encouragement of his teachers, he had qualified as a researcher and teacher, as well as a competent administrator and promoter of national expertise. Cajander reformed forestry education and was appointed professor at the age of just 32. In his dissertation, completed in 1903, Cajander developed a ground-breaking theory of forest types that would shape Finnish forest research for decades to come. He was soon responsible for managing the state forestry agency (Metsähallitus), in addition to his professorship in forestry science. 

Cajander launched a development project between Metsähallitus and the industry, which involved centralising huge forest areas under state control. At the same time forest companies, Veitsiluoto Oy was founded, and Enso-Gutzeit, a large company in financial difficulties, was nationalised. Cajander served for many years in the administrations of many forest industry companies and organisations, alongside his official and academic duties. He was also one of President Ståhlberg’s trusted advisers.  

Aimo Kaarlo Cajander (1879-1943) was Professor of Forestry Science in 1911–1934, Acting Professor of Forest Mensuration in 1913–1927, and Prime Minister of the Republic of Finland in 1922, 1924, and 1937–1939. Five professors from the University of Helsinki have served as Prime Minister. 

Online sources

Uola, Mikko & Matti Leikola. Cajander, Aimo Kaarlo (1879 - 1943). Kansallisbiografia. SKS, 2000. 

A. K. Cajander. Entiset kansanedustajat, Suomen eduskunta. 

8. Cajander | 2.6.1922 - 14.11.1922. Valtioneuvosto. Noudettu 21.2.2023. 

22. Cajander III | 12.3.1937 - 1.12.1939. Valtioneuvosto. Noudettu 21.2.2023. 


Source literature

Halonen, Tero. Maasta ja puusta pidemmälle: Helsingin yliopiston maatalous-metsätieteellisen tiedekunnan historia. Osa 1, Hyödyn aikakaudesta vuoteen 1945. Helsingin yliopisto, maatalous-metsätieteellinen tiedekunta, 2008.