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n the 1930s, activists fought for the protection of civil rights in the Republic of Finland, expanding the notion of rights to include also categories of people who had been previously excluded, such as political prisoners, the mentally ill, and foreign refugees. Two of these activists were the editor of the journal Tulenkantajat, Erkki Vala, and the chair of the League of Human Rights in Finland, Väinö Lassila. Their usage of the concept ‘human rights’, drawing from the traditions of liberal humanism, Christian anarchism and the socialist labour movement, is analysed in the national and international context of the interwar era. During the 1930s, Erkki Vala increasingly used the concept ‘human rights’ in ways that seem to predate the so-called starting point of modern human rights discourse in the 1940s. He met with compact resistance from the authorities, which contributed to his political marginalisation and radicalisation. This article shows that the notion of universal human rights was not unthinkable before the end of the Second World War, but it was heavily politicised and controversial even in a democratic country such as the Republic of Finland.
- 615 Historia och arkeologi