Former President Mauno Koivisto, who in the 1980s and 1990s guided Finland from the shadow of the crumbling Soviet Union and into the European Union, has died at a hospital in Helsinki. He was 93.
The office of the Finnish presidency announced the death early Saturday. Koivisto’s wife, Tellervo, said earlier this year that he suffered from Alzheimer’s disease.
The son of a ship’s carpenter, Koivisto, a Social Democrat, served two six-year presidential terms between 1982 and 1994, a tumultuous period that followed the 25-year presidential reign of Urho Kekkonen. He earlier served twice as prime minister, from 1968 to 1970 and 1979 to 1982.
Koivisto is widely credited as president with strengthening the role of parliament, after his nationalist predecessor consolidated much political power within the office of the presidency.
Koivisto is also broadly acknowledged for building strong ties with the last Soviet president, Mikhail Gorbachev, while also establishing rapport with U.S. President George H.W. Bush as Europe began in the late 1980s to witness the beginning of the end of communism. He also maintained strong ties with Bush’s predecessor, Ronald Reagan.
In a statement Saturday, President Sauli Niinisto described Koivisto as a leader in “the generation that took part in wars and [the] following rebuilding, and which guided Finland to the path of current success and well-being.”
In his last interview four years ago, Koivisto was asked by the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper to summarize what he viewed as important in life.
“In life, it is generally wise to trust that everything will go well. It often pays off, even if you wouldn’t have believed” it would, he said.