1825: Tahvo Putkonen, Finland’s last peacetime execution

Finland’s last peacetime execution occurred on this date in 1825: the instrument was an axe.

Farmhand Tahvo Putkonen, deep in a blue gap celebrating both Christmas and his December 26 name day in 1822, went off his rocker at the party he was hosting because of a guest’s actual or imagined transgression against good manners.

The drunken Putkonen suddenly attacked that guest, farmer Lasse Hirvonen, until this ill-tempered host got kicked out of his own house by the rest of the celebrants. Once he’d convinced everyone that he’d calmed down, he got back in the house and mortally bashed Hirvonen over the head with a firewood log.

Putkonen spent a long-for-the-time 2.5 years appealing against the legal proceedings before they finally struck off his head. So pedants take note: although he has the distinction of being the last peacetime execution, his was not the last peacetime crime that led to execution: one Abraham Kaipainen managed to commit murder (July 31, 1823) and reach the headsman’s block (October 30, 1824) all while Tahvo Putkonen was still fighting his sentence.

The very last executions in Finnish history took place in 1944, during the Continuation War — Finland’s local installment of World War II, fought against the Soviet Union.

Capital punishment is today formally abolished in Finland.

On this day..

One thought on “1825: Tahvo Putkonen, Finland’s last peacetime execution

  1. It must be observed that Finland at the time was a fairly autonomous Grandduchy but the Grandduke was the Czar. For a long time the Czars respected this autonomy and preserved the Swedish laws while the Finnish nobles of Swedish descent remained in power although sharing with the Finnish bourgoisie. Just at the end the Russian Church caused problems because the population was overwhelmingly Protestant. Only when Czar Nicholas was detroned Finland declared its independence. But way before that Finland was a quite liberal country, mimicking the Scandinavian countries.. That is why capital punishment was abolished so soon in history… For in Russian history only Czarina Elizabeth Petrovna had abolished the death penalty but it did not last. But that was way before the Czars received Finland..

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