Repentant leader, manslaughter and nazi march – Year 2016 for Finland’s Nordic Resistance Movement

First published by anti-fascist network Varis in Finnish on 07.05.2017. English version of sources used when available.

The killing of Jimi Karttunen in September 2016 was the gravest bloody deed in Finland so far of the nazi organisation Nordic Resistance Movement (Pohjoismainen vastarintaliike, PVL). Photo from the memorial site, September 2016.

Since the start of the year 2016, the erstwhile Finnish Resistance Movement (Suomen vastarintaliike, SVL) started using the name “Nordic Resistance Movement – Finland” (“Pohjoismainen Vastarintaliike – Suomi”, ). PVL is a national socialist organisation founded and led from Sweden (Swedish name: Nordiska motståndsrörelsen, NMR), and active in Sweden, Finland, and Norway. As stated by the NMR’s highest leader Simon Lindberg at the 2016 “Future-days” event of the Finnish organisation: “We are one and the same movement, although we operate in different countries”. In this article we take a look at the Finnish department’s activities over the year 2016. In this text, the PVL acronym stands for the Finnish department of the organisation, unless stated otherwise.

2016’s most significant events for the Finnish organisation founded in 2008 were the killing of Jimi Karttunen in September; the first public national-socialist demonstration in the organisation’s history, in Helsinki on Independence day; and near the end of the year, the National Police Board’s announcement of intending to appeal for outlawing the organisation. In 2016, the organisation had “activist groups” in eight cities: Helsinki, Turku, Tampere, Jyväskylä, Oulu, Lahti, Pori, and Lappeenranta. In Helsinki, the group is split in two, South and North.

In the autumn of 2015, migrants arrived in Finland in larger numbers than usual. The hysteria fed by politicians, the police and the media served the purposes of the fascist movement, and gave Finland’s fascists of the 2010’s a unique opportunity to initiate open activity on the streets, hatemonger and commit violent attacks, and recruit new members into the fascist movement, which for a couple of years had been stagnating. Early in the following year, PVL themselves complained on their website that people stop participating in racist and anti-migrant demonstrations if the media doesn’t continually keep the subject at the forefront. Mika Ranta, founder of the Nazi club Soldiers of Odin (SoO) which in the winter of 2015-2016 was harassing people on the streets, admitted publicly to be a national-socialist and a (support) member of PVL. Usually no other groups co-operate publicly with PVL, but PVL activists made a promotion video for SoO, sporting a logo derived from PVL’s Tyr-rune which drew the attention of many. The video’s creators took it offline when its details started attracting too much scrutiny; it was however republished by people who had downloaded it, as proof of the connections between the two organisations.

Video promoting both the Nordic Resistance Movement and Soldiers of Odin, which was taken off Youtube after it attracted too much scrutiny.

Besides supporting new groupings, PVL repeatedly took part in street activism in several cities in which they had local active members or to which their members traveled to participate. PVL themselves write that they actively distributed their own materials in the “Close the Borders” demonstrations (Finnish: “Rajat Kiinni”) and other anti-migrant demonstrations, and tried to recruit participants in racist demos into the Nazi movement and in particular into PVL. Additionally, they actively strived to network with other racists and fascists by participating in various events.

Antti Niemi (cap, sunglasses), chairman of the Finnish board of the Nordic Resistance Movement, at a “Close the borders” -demo in Tampere on October 10th, 2015.

Racist demonstrations, street events, and the “Future-days”

In other words, in early 2016 PVL was actively participating in the wave of anti-migrant demonstrations which ran out of steam later in the spring. For example, they had coffee with the “Close the Borders” actives in Turku. In the Spring PVL continued with their usual activities, which include primarily stickering and flooding people’s mailboxes with nazi propaganda, as well as occasional shouting in megaphones in different city centers. It’s noteworthy that a very small core of activists from a few cities go from place to place to spread Nazi propaganda and to do street performances. With this they are deliberately trying to make an impression of the organisation larger than its actual size in order to lower the bar for new people to approach a small group of Nazis. The active people of the Finnish department are estimated to number 30-50 in the whole country, and the movement has about the same number of passive support members who support the movement with small sums of money and rarely take part in street activism. In a 2016 newspiece from Yle it was estimated that the organisation “now has 60-70 activists, members and supporter members”. An exceptional external supporter is Conservative Laestadian millionaire Juha Kärkkäinen, founder of the conspiracy-theory filled paper and web publication Magneettimedia, which he in practice has bequeathed to PVL.

As in previous years, in the Spring during the Week Against Racism, PVL organised a “Week against White genocide”, the purpose of which is to turn the week’s anti-racist message on its head and confuse people. Similar “anti-anti-racism” is practised by PVL eg. on the Holocaust Remembrance Day, when they distributed large volumes of disinformation denying the Holocaust and other blatantly antisemitist material on the streets and internet. During 2016 PVL did indeed clearly start to increase their output of antisemitist material and to put greater emphasis on Hitlerism, which can be seen in the large number of anti-jewish articles and the propanganda produced by the movement: “Jewish lobbyists”, “international jewry” and other antisemitic conspiracy theories abound in PVL’s writings. PVL cooperates with numerous different racist, nationalist, and fascist groups and publication outlets. PVL’s “newspieces” stuffed with nazi propaganda are distributed, in addition to the organisation’s own media, in particular via the putinist fake-news site “MV-lehti” founded by Ilja Janitskin, and Magneettimedia, nowadays edited by PVL itself.

Antti Niemi (glasses), part of the official leadership of the Nordic Resistance Movement, at the front of the nazi march on 1st of May 2016. This evocative newspaper photo of an opponent of nazis spread around the world.

For Mayday 2016, a largeish group of PVL’s Finnish activists travelled to Sweden to participate in the Nordic Resistance Movement’s common demonstration in Borlänge. Antti Niemi, member of the Nordic leadership board, was prominent at the front of the march at the side of other Nordic nazi leaders. Janne Moilanen, PVL Helsinki group active, held a speech as a representative of the Finnish department. During 2016 Moilanen has taken a very visible role within PVL; he has among other things acted as chant-leader and speaker at many PVL street events, eg. as one of the two speakers at the Independence Day nazi demonstration.

Janne Moilanen speaking at PVL’s demonstration on Independence day, December 6th, 2016, in Helsinki. Moilanen is part of PVL’s Helsinki activist group.
Janne Moilanen speaking in PVL’s street event in Helsinki, March 19th, 2016.

In June 2016, PVL organised an event named Tulevaisuuspäivät (“Future-days”) in Jyväskylä, for their members and people close to the organisation. Originally named Aktivistipäivät (“Activist days”), the closed event has been organised annually since 2009. The event consists of listening to speeches and presentations hyping national socialism, and practising fighting sports. In the event report written by longtime PVL member Paavo Laitinen, people are mentioned who have been active already for years in the organisation: Antti Niemi, Janne Kujala, Sebastian Lämsä and Otto Rutanen, and as newest active, Oulu group leader Santeri Juhani Keränen. In photos, many other PVL activists can be seen, such as Jesse Torniainen and Tomi Tiihonen. Sebastian Lämsä, absent from the public activities of the organisation for a year or so, held one of the many speeches of the event. Lämsä and Laitinen took part in the Jyväskylä library stabbing incident in 2013. On the basis of pictures and videos published by PVL, the event had circa 40 participants. Also Swedish and Norwegian members were present, and possibly Nazis from other countries as well.

Tomi Tiihonen and Arttu Pylkkänen, longtime members of the Nordic Resistance Movement, raise the flag during PVL’s closed event in June, 2016. Pylkkänen is convicted of the gas attack on the Helsinki Pride parade in 2011. During a police home search at Tiihonen’s place, a self-made shotgun was found.

In the radio-recording of the Future-days, Keränen sums up PVL’s strategy in Finland:

“Our short-term goal is to start activist groups around Finland to educate a number of patriotic civic activists of as high caliber and capability for action as possible. Additionally we wish to affect the political climate of the country with public nationalist and elite-pressuring activity, like for example the Lapua movement did in the 1930’s.

Our longterm goal is to build a nationalistic parallel society inside Finland. When joining the Resistance Movement, longterm commitment is very important. With this we create reliability in the growth and activity of the organisation. We have seen how other, numerous organisations have emerged, but then disappeared, because they didn’t manage to build up an organised and committed membership around themselves.”

This is of course just the strategy spouted in public, which doesn’t mention the Nazi movement’s dark and violent side. The founder and former leader of PVL, Esa Henrik Holappa, writes in his autobiography that PVL is very precise about what kind of information it tells about itself and what kind of image the organisation tries to give of itself in public. Like the Lapua movement in the 1930’s, PVL tries to present their activity as more socially acceptable than its true nature, and call it “civic participation”. In reality, violent attacks are a vital part of the activism of the new fascists of the 2010′s, just like it was for the fascists of the 1930’s. PVL also strives to build an image of “anti-elite” activism, despite in reality acting against immigrants and the labour movement, supporting the extreme austerity- and border-control politics of the real Finnish political elite.

The repentant ex-führer and the current leaders

On the 15th of May, 2016, a newsbomb shook the Finnish nazi movement: PVL’s founder and first official leader Esa Henrik Holappa went public about his former activities in the nazi movement, renounced nazism, and announced himself as an opponent of racism. Part of the coming-out was the publication of his autobiography “I founded a neonazi organisation – memoirs of the ex-leader of the Finnish Resistance Movement”, and a broad series of interviews published in Yle’s investigative journalism program Spotlight and in Yle News [some of thea articles in English here and here see also A neo-Nazi leader no more] This was the first time a former member of PVL-Finland publicly denounced the organisation, the broader nazi movement, and the nazi ideology.

In his biography Holappa tells how he in his teens ended up in nazi bonehead circles, but was dissatisfied with their level of organisation. In 2007, at the behest of USA Nazi Richard Scutari, he contacted Magnus Söderman and Kristian Nordvall of the Swedish NMR. Together with Mikko Haapakoski, native of Oulu but residing in Helsinki, Holappa started planning the founding of the Finnish Resistance Movement (now Pohjoismainen Vastarintaliike – Suomi). While Holappa was in the US, Haapakoski received permission from Söderman, Nordvall and Klaus Lund to found a Finnish department for the organisation. Holappa writes in his biography about how Haapakoski who has evaded publicity was the organisation’s real founder:

“However, the new leadership, which consisted of Haapakoski and Helsinki residents Otto Rutanen and Ali Kaurila, saw that I could still continue as the nominal leader. Instead of leading, a role as website administrator and active publicist had been planned for me. Activism and the activities of the movement would be handled by the aforementioned trio.”

In his book and in an Yle interview Holappa explains how PVL strives to take advantage of the polarised public discourse and to attract new members by softening their hard image. Instead of “Nazis”, the members call themselves “nationalists” and “patriotic”. The organisation works towards the explicit goal of “uniting Finnish far right, nationalist and racist groups”. A practical example and a project which in two years has become important to Finnish fascism is the 612 torch parade on Independence day. Holappa tells that the PVL, then still SVL, showed initiative in the organising of the torch march: “The SVL activists also created and maintained the event’s website. Almost all the members and supporter members attended the march, but with low profile. The longterm plan was that PVL would become the invisible umbrella organisation of the whole Finnish extreme right. Holappa says that the movement didn’t want to scare away potential participants by openly having the SVL as an organiser. Therefore the official version was that the torch parade was an apolitical event.” This confirmed what antifascists had written about the march already in 2014.

Documentary in English. Independence Day: Neo-Fascists Take Finland takes place during Finland’s independence day 6.12.2015.

Holappa was the public leader of the Finnish Resistance Movement from 2008 to 2012, after which the organisation was led by Juuso Tahvanainen 2012-2015. At the end of 2015, the one-leader model was dropped, and the Finnish board founded to lead the organisation. In 2016, the Finnish department of PVL was led by a board which consisted of representants of every city’s activist groups, and four special positions of responsibility. The four special commissars were recruiting and publication responsibles Antti Lehto and Paavo Laitinen, Antti Niemi as responsible for activism and “finlander-help” and also as the chairman of the board, and international relations responsible Otto Rutanen. The ensemble remains the same at the time of writing in April 2017.

Niemi and Rutanen also represent the Finnish department in the Nordic board leading the whole Nordic Resistance Movement. The Swedish department is represented by Emil Hagberg and Simon Lindberg, and the Norwegian department by Haakon Forwald and Tommy Olsen.

Some of Finnish PVL’s leading personas have always tried to avoid the public spotlight. These include Ali Kaurila, living in the Turku area and a central ideologue of the movement, and Helsinki resident and founding member Mikko Haapakoski. According to Holappa, Kaurila has wide connections to other fascist groups, such as Suomen Sisu.

Ali Kaurila, one of the founders of the Finnish PVL, at the fascists’ common 612-march on 12th of December 2014.

Having left the nazi movement in 2014, Holappa had to rebuild his life from scratch. Nowadays the former nazi leader regrets his activities in the nazi movement and speaks publicly against racism and nazism.

Culture, Sports, and Manslaughter

Part of the cult-like yearly activities of PVL are different memorial events for known nationalists and fascists. In 2016 the organisation held different memorial events eg. for fascist priest Elias Simojoki, Simo Häyhä, nazi Germany’s martyr Horst Wessel, Adolf Hitler, Eugen Schauman, fascist and IKL parliament member Paavo Susitaival, and national poet J.L. Runeberg.

In PVL’s activism at least equally important are so-called internal activities, which serve to build fascist (sub)culture and community. In their early years PVL strived to some degree to publicly distance themselves from the mainly bonehead-shaped Finnish nazi movement of the 90’s and its remnants in the 00’s. In recent years however, the nazi organisation has increasingly put effort into social activities consisting of sports and culture.

PVL organises sport activities for its members, emphasising especially strength sports and fighting disciplines, as well as nature hiking. On the culture front, the organisation has a web radio, with a program focused on fascist music. Many of PVL’s members also play in different bands which prozelytise the fascist message, and actively arrange different concerts. The political purpose of subcultural fascism is to make the organisation easier to approach for outsiders, and to provide common activities for those who are already members.

September 2016 was a pivotal moment in the year of Finnish PVL and in the whole history of the organisation. Numerous violent assaults finally led to what many had feared for years. Helsinki active Jesse Torniainen assaulted Jimi Karttunen during a nazi street event on September 10th, from which injuries Karttunen died on September 16th. This was the first political killing in Finland in decades. We immediately wrote that Karttunen’s assaulter was Jesse Eppu Torniainen, who has been one of PVL Helsinki group’s core members for all of this decade. On November 10th, PVL was confirmed as responsible for Karttunen’s death. Torniainen was sentenced on December 30th to incommutable two years of prison for grave assault, despite him and PVL as organisation being clearly responsible for the death. In January 2017, Jesse Torniainen, Otto Rutanen and Antti Niemi traveled together to a nazi gathering in Sweden, where Swedish NMR leader Simon Lindberg awarded Torniainen for his “deeds” for the good of the movement.

The killing of Karttunen also got international attention, and several antifascist groups displayed solidarity with people opposing the nazi organisation in Finland. In Sweden demonstrations were organised in several cities, and a speech written by Varis network was read aloud. We collected a list of international displays of support we got knowledge of. German magazine Antifa Infobladet also contacted Varis network published in German an article written by us, which addressed the killing of Jimi Karttunen, the Nordic Resistance Movement and the fascist movement in Finland.

Marches in Stockholm and Helsinki

PVL rarely organises marches and spends most of its time doing street propaganda, recruitment, and organisation-building. On Mayday 2016, a demonstration was organised in Sweden, in which several PVL members from Finland participated. Additionally Swedish NMR organised a demo in Stockholm on November 12th, in which again also Finnish nazis took part. PVL also has members in Norway, but the Swedish and Finnish members make up the main part of the organisation working for “a National Socialist North”. Shortly after the Stockholm march PVL announced that they would organise a demonstration also in Finland a few weeks later, on Independence day. This was the first public demonstration of the Finnish PVL founded in 2008.

PVL was involved in starting the 612-march in 2014, but seems nowadays to have detached itself from the active organising of the event, since in 2016 the organisation organised their own “publicly political” national socialist demonstration. Grotesquely named “Towards Freedom” (“Kohti vapautta”), the nazi march was held 6th of December 2016 in Helsinki. According to PVL it was the biggest national socialist demonstration in Finland since the 1930’s. The demonstration gathered circa 150 nazis from Finland, Sweden, and individual persons from several other countries. Members Janne Moilanen from Helsinki and Santeri Juhani Keränen from Oulu held speeches at the demonstration.

Janne Moilanen (left) and Santeri Keränen were the speakers at the Nordic Resistance Movement’s demonstration in Helsinki on December 6th, 2016. Antti Rinne, chairman of the movement’s Finnish board, holds the megaphone.

Varis network, Helsinki Left Party youth, and anarchist group A-ryhmä organised an antifascist Helsinki Without Nazis -counterdemonstration against PVL’s march, which gathered an estimated 3000 participants. A member of Varis network held a in the Helsinki Without Nazis demonstration.

The criminalization appeal and the sentence of Torniainen

PVL’s year 2016 ended in very uncertain signs, for on December 22th, the National Police Board announced that they would raise an appeal for the banning of PVL. The appeal for the outlawing of Finnish PVL was submitted on 2nd of March, 2017. This was a consequence of the Finnish public discussion all throughout the autumn. Similar discussion has been going on also in Great Britain, about the organisation National Action, which was finally banned and put on the terrorist list in December 2016.

Jimi Karttunen’s killer Jesse Torniainen in the courthouse of Helsinki on December 21st, 2016.

In addition to this, Jesse Torniainen, accused of the manslaughter of Karttunen, was put on trial on December 30th. Torniainen was sentenced for grave assault to two years of incommutable prison, but the prosecutor intends to take the sentence to the Court of Appeal. The result of the Court of Appeal will be seen in 2017.

In early 2017 PVL has continued their activities as in previous years. However in January/February the organisation faced a hard setback, when the rent contract of their clubhouse was terminated after Varis network discovered and published its location and landlord. It remains to be seen what impact the National Police Board’s criminalisation appeal will have on the soon 9 years old nazi organisation. Regardless of the result, grassroots antifascist work will be needed also in the future.

See also:

Snitches, weak leadership and degradation of racial theories – Finnish Resistance movement in 2015

Finnish nazi group killed bypasser during their street event

Fascist and conservative views on gender

Interview with a director of The Antifascists

Review of The Antifascists documentary, 2017