In addition to beautiful nature, Kemijärvi also has a rich history. Water has attracted people to live in Kemijärvi since the Stone Age. The Luusua village in Kemijärvi has been inhabited since prehistoric times. The objects found in the Stone and Iron Age living grounds at the Neitiharju hill indicate that the area was inhabited even before the Common Era. The many layers and “iron foundries” of the living grounds prove that the prehistoric settlements continued until the Iron Age, around the 12th century. Ancient iron blades, knives and arrowheads made of lake ore have been found at the site.
In addition, an ancient settlement from the late Middle Ages has been discovered in the Soppela village of Kemijärvi. Pieces of skis, an iron axe and old Sami settlements have been found in the old Lapinkylä of Soppela. Visit the Ämmänvaara nature trail, an old sacred site of the Sami people.
When you hike through the forest, it is quite possible that you will come across ancient cairns or even old fishing grounds of the Lappish people. These old sites have remained popular places to live for the people of Kemijärvi to this day.
The population of the Kemijärvi region became established in the 1700s. The old method of building in the Kemijärvi region stems from various factors. The most significant part of it comes from the traditions that the settlers of the river valley brought with them from their former home regions. The traditions of the home region usually lasted only as long as the settlers built their own cottages. The style aspirations and reforms of each time period arrived quickly from central locations right into the heart of wilderness with the traffic of the Kemijoki river. A relatively uniform architecture of Northern Ostrobothnia emerged in the Kemijoki river valley. You can still take a look at old cottage buildings in the Juujärvi village or while visiting the Kemijärvi Museum of Local History.
Water has played an important role in the spread of settlements to Kemijärvi, and has later been of higher value in the formation of transport connections and growing industry.
Ship traffic on the Kemijoki river began in the early 1900s when large logging sites stimulated trade and traffic. Supply lines and travel routes were needed, and since the road network was insufficient, waterways constituted a natural passage for travellers. Learn the history of the Kemijärvi waterway on a cruise on M/S AHTI.
During the Winter War, the 1st Battalion of the 596th Infantry Regiment of the Soviet army was given the task of flanking through the terrain and cutting off the Salla-Kemijärvi road from the west side of Joutsijärvi. The battalion had travelled on foot to the rear of the Finns, but the Finnish 17th Separate Battalion, who were resting, detected the enemy and engaged in battle. The advance of the Soviet soldiers was intercepted in the battle. In Mäntyvaara, there is a monument erected by the Finns, a memorial stone for the Soviet soldiers who fell in the battle as well as mass graves.
During the Interim Peace, the northernmost chain of the Salpa Line battle positions was built in the village of Joutsijärvi. It consists of five bunkers. One of the Joutsijärvi bunkers is now used for tourism activities, and it can be visited all year round.
According to the armistice signed in September 1944, Finland was required to disarm and expel the German troops in Northern Finland; by force, if necessary. For this reason, an order was given in early September to evacuate Northern Finland’s civilian population and movable property to safer areas. Kemijärvi was burned by German troops retreating from Salla. The soldiers in the area had placed notes on the doors of certain houses, advising not to burn the marked buildings. The bell tower of the Kemijärvi church from 1774 was one of such buildings.
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