The Neste War 1970–1972: The First Victory of the Budding Finnish Environmental Movement


  • Mats Wickström Åbo Akademi University, Finland
  • Hanna Lindberg Åbo Akademi University, Finland
  • Matias Kaihovirta Åbo Akademi University, Finland


In this article the authors focus on the first major victory of the environmental movement in Finland—the so-called “Neste war,” 1970–1972. At the time, Neste was a state-run oil company planning a new refinery on the environmentally sensitive east coast of the Hanko Peninsula in Southern Finland. Neste’s project was forcefully opposed by a coalition of local and academic activists, and for the first time in Finnish history, a large-scale industry was seriously challenged by mass-mobilized environmentalism. The environmental conflict became politicized in an unprecedented way and ultimately ended the Finnish oil giant’s designs on the Hanko Peninsula.

Author Biographies

Mats Wickström, Åbo Akademi University, Finland

Mats Wickström is a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of History, Åbo Akademi University, Finland. His current research focuses on the interplay between ethnicity and class in the organizations and politics of the Swedish-speaking communists in Finland. His research interests include ethnic relations, activism and minority nationalism in postwar Finland and Scandinavia.

Hanna Lindberg, Åbo Akademi University, Finland

Hanna Lindberg holds a PhD in history from Åbo Akademi University, Finland. She is currently working as a post doc researcher and university teacher at Åbo Akademi University. Her dissertation (2014) was on the meanings of gender in academic social policy in Finland during the mid-twentieth century, and she has since then worked on a number of different projects, doing research on civic activism in late-twentieth century Finland.

Matias Kaihovirta, Åbo Akademi University, Finland

Matias Kaihovirta holds a PhD in Nordic history at Åbo Akademi University in Finland, and is currently a post-doc researcher at Åbo Akademi University. His dissertation is a micro-historical study of popular politics among the workers in an ironwork community in Finland in the years 1900–1920. His research interests are the history of the Finland-Swedish labor movement in the twentieth century, the intersection of class, gender and ethnicity in socialist politics, and contentious politics and political activism from below.