Rudolf Walden was born in Helsinki Finland on December 1, 1878. In his early teens, Walden enrolled in the Hamina Cadet School, and was commissioned as second lieutenant in 1900. However, Walden was released from his position in 1902 as a result of his staunch patriotism to Finland and his refusal to support the military’s dissolution by the Russian government.
As a civilian, Walden accepted an offer as a clerk in a Finnish paper mill in Russia. Several years later, Walden moved to St. Petersburg where he became office head and manager of a Finnish-owned printer. During his employment in St. Petersburg, he acquired his expert knowledge and interest in the paper industry. In 1911, Walden became an agent for Simpele Paper Mill in East Finland, soon working as agent for several other mills, as well, and earning a solid reputation. At the same time, Walden also became a shareholder at the Simpele mill.
Walden returned to Finland in the summer of 1917 with the outbreak of the Russian Revolution, and in 1918 joined Finnish troops in Bothnia fighting for his country’s independence from Russia. Walden became good friends with the war commander and general, Marshall C.G. Mannerheim. Walden served as minister of war from 1918-19, using his status to improve administration and finances in the Defense Forces. As a member of the Finnish Delegation, Walden was instrumental in negotiating a peace treaty with the Bolsheviks in 1920.
During his service as minister of war, Walden kept alive his interest in Finland’s paper industry. He founded the United Paper Mills in 1918 after merging the Simpele, Myllykoski, and Jamsankoski mills and served as chairman to both the United Paper mills and to the Walkiakoski company (which was later merged with UPM). Within a few years, the United Paper Mills company was Finland’s second largest paper company. However, with the country’s new independence from Russia, Finland’s paper companies lost all their Russian markets. Together with Gosta Serlachius and a few other industry leaders, Walden helped find new markets for Finnish paper products. The group’s efforts proved successful. Shortly before WWII, the Finnish paper industry was one of Europe’s largest. In addition, the group’s initial efforts to strengthen Finland’s paper market resulted in the organization of Finnpap and Finncell, two sales agents, as well as the organization of Finnish Woodworking industries.
As a leader in the Finnish paper industry, Walden both helped expand the paper market and modernize existing mills. His loyalties lay not only to the industry’s longevity, but also to his employees. Walden expressed noteworthy dedication to the wellbeing of his workers. On his sixtieth birthday, Walden claimed, “every working man and woman has the right to life-and to a worthwhile life. Whenever I have been able to see progress being made in this direction, it has given me great joy and satisfaction. The happy games of the children, the sports of the young people, and cozy homes that arise around the mills have been the greatest sources of happiness in my life.”
Walden proudly served as chairman of the United Paper Mills until 1940 when he was appointed as Finland’s Minister of Defense. He was replaced as CEO by his eldest son, Juuso.
Walden carried a heavy burden as Finland’s minister of defense during WWII and endured the loss of two of his sons to the war. In October of 1944, Walden suffered a paralytic stroke and died two years later on November 1, 1946.