Lämsä – a bundle of leashes or a limping walker
When new settlement began to arrive in Kuusamo in the early 1680s, the Maanselkä siida area was settled first. Along with the group, Hannu Lämsä, who founded the Muosalmi farm, arrived either from Ii or Kainuu.
According to the story, he arrived in the region pulled by a reindeer and stopped to rest at Muosalmi. While looking at his surroundings, he fell in love with the place and decided to stay in the area. The man took off the bundle of leashes (called lämsä) that was hanging on his shoulder, threw them on the ground and said, “Let this place be called Lämsä”. From that, Hannu got his surname and Lämsänkylä the village name. Hannu Lämsä’s descendants have since inhabited the villages of Heikkilä and Lämsä.
In 1689, Iikka Lämsä from Paltamo arrived in the Kitka siida area of Virranniemi as a settler. According to legend, he ran out of food, and he had to prepare a meal from his sled’s towing leashes, längsy, or lämsä. It is claimed that he would have started to be called Lämsä because of this, but in reality Iikka brought the name with him from Paltamo.
The third explanation for the birth of the Lämsä name is based on research data. According to Professor Jouko Vahtola, the name comes from the verb lämsätä, ‘to limp, to trudge’, and would probably have been given to a person with a limping or trudging gait.
The origin of the Lämsä family can be found on the Karelian Isthmus in Sakkola, where a house and village named Lämsä had already been located in the 16th century.
“At Lämsänkylä, even the sky is full of shit” used to be said about the village. Because of this kind of thinking, the villagers never directly said where they were from; “We came from there after a three-day rowing trip” they said when asked about their home village.
Establishment of a village committee
When the Maamiesseura activities began to fade, there was no one left to take care of the affairs of the remote villages. A village committee was established for small individual villages, but this was not a workable solution. In the direction of Lämsänkylä, the Lämsä-Kemilä village committee operated at first in 1984, but when all the corners of the villages wanted to join, it was decided to establish a village committee for the entire area along the road Lämsänkyläntie, which was named the Lämsänkyläntie villages. There are ten different village groups and house groups in the area.
The Winter War began in November 1939. Kuusamo’s border villages were emptied and burned to the ground, leaving only homes along the main roads. The civilian population was evacuated to the regions of Pudasjärvi and Ii. After the end of the war, the village of Kenttikylä and the Konttinen and Suoperä houses near Lämsänkylä had to be handed over to the Soviet Union. Although the civilians returned from the evacuation, the residents of the border villages still had to continue living in evacuation. The Continuation War began in the summer of 1941 and people began to gradually return to their homes when the temporary houses had been built.
In the fall of 1944, the second evacuation trip to the south side of Oulu began, from which people were able to return to their more or less destroyed home villages in the spring of 1945. This was the start of a fierce reconstruction period. The evacuation trip of the residents of Kenttikylä, which was handed over to the Soviet Union, took the longest. The villagers of Kenttikylä built their new homes in the village of Kemilä, which is why the part of the village they inhabited is still called the settlement area.
The trench railway
During the war years 1942–1944, German soldiers built a narrow-gauge trench railway from Hyrynsalmi via Taivalkoski to Kuusamo for the maintenance needs of the Kiestinki line. This 178,5 km long railway ran from the south of the Kuusamo church village to Sänkikangas, from where it continued approx. 7 km to the Vanttaja barge port. According to the original plan, the railway was supposed to extend to Kiestinki and from there to the Murman railway, but these plans were never realised.
In the summer of 1944, the trench railway employed 3 521 people. There were many nationalities among the builders, e.g., the German Todt forces, but the main part of the builders, i.e., approx. 2 000, were Russian prisoners of war, German convicts, and political prisoners. Discipline was harsh and the harsh conditions caused many deaths. The dead were buried in the railway bed, which is why the railway began to be called “Finland’s longest cemetery” and “Death’s railway”.
The trench railway was inaugurated on January 13th, 1944, but it only managed to operate for 242 days. Finns’ relations with Germany were broken on September 4th, 1944, and starting from September 15th, while retreating northward, the Germans destroyed trench railway equipment and track rails. According to the armistice agreement, the part spared from the destruction was to be handed over to the Soviet Union. The ruins of the Vanttajanjoki railway bridge are still visible near the Sänkikangas school. In autumn 1996, a memorial to the German soldiers who fought in the direction of Kiestinki was erected on the shore of Lake Kuusamojärvi in Lahtela.
Kortesalmi border guard station
Kuusamo’s border conditions after the Sámi villages were quite vague. The border of the Treaty of Teusina concluded in 1595 had remained unmarked on the terrain in Kuusamo (the border ran along the line Sarvitaival–Näränkävaara–Iivaara–Muojärvi’s Petäjäsaari–Kajavansalmi–Kurikkaperä–Kiveskoski) and as a result of field clearing during the 18th century, the border gradually moved towards the east. In the 1750s, a border guard was sent to Kuusamo by the Swedish crown, and in 1773 a border guard station was established in Lämsänkylä’s Kortesalmi.
A customs station had already been established at Kantoniemi in 1767, and when the customs building was completed in 1776, the crown’s grip on the area tightened even more. A local peasant army operated between the years 1788–1791, but the locals found it quite repulsive, so its maintenance was finally made easier. When Finland was annexed to Russia in 1809 and the eastern border was no longer the national border, the peasant army was disbanded. There was also a school in Kortesalmi since 1905, but the activity moved to Lämsänkylä in the 1910s after the completion of the new school building in the village.
In the Multila house, there was a guard post of a few men set up by the guardianship during the civil war 1918–1919. In the 1920s, the Lämsänkylä guardhouse was in Konttinen’s house on the shore of Lake Penninkiluomajärvi. In the 1930s, there were two border guard stations, one of which was located in Nuru house in Kenttikylä and the other in Pistojärvi. When the Winter War began, both stations were targeted by Russian forces. Because the locals were in a hurry to get away from the enemy, they didn’t have time to burn down the Kenttikylä border guard station. A guard station was built on the current site in 1947.
The Kuusamo border guard area is the northernmost part of the Kainuu Border Guard control area. The management of the border guard area is located in the town centre of Kuusamo and has three guard stations: Paljakka, Kortesalmi and Kurvinen. Of these, the Kortesalmi guard is the largest and is responsible for 45 km of the eastern border. In addition to border control, the guard is also responsible for border crossing control and passport control at the Kortesalmi border crossing.