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  • The continental glacier formed during the Ice Age began to melt. As the ice melted, the downward warp in the Earth’s crust turned into uplift and the meltwater caused the formation of the Oulanka and River Kitkajoki canyons. 

    Families from the east began to come to Kuusamo to hunt, fish and gather food from nature. They used tools and spearheads made of stone. 

  • 4200–2500 BCC 

    Families moved from place to place in search of fish and game. Food was stored in pots made of stone or clay, and meat was cut with flint knives. 

    Humans used red paint to draw pictures of animals and human figures in rocks. Even today, the rock paintings of Julma-Ölkky and Hossa Värikallio are still visible on the stone surfaces. 


    1600–100 BCC 

    Families captured reindeer and kept them as domestic animals. Skis were made from wood, and the reindeer pulled sleighs. 

    People traded with people living far away in Viena Karelia, for example, to buy objects made of flint. The Sámi were skilled at making objects of wood, bone, and leather. They rarely used metal. 

  • 600 CE 

    Iron axes and spearheads were brought to the area through trade and by groups of soldiers. In Kuusamo, this period is called the Sámi Iron Age. 


    1000 CE 

    Families lived alternately in winter and summer villages. 

    The Lämsä treasure was hidden or lost in the woods by someone. The treasure included a lot of jewellery. One piece of silver jewellery was a large, axe-shaped pendant, which was later named the Axe of Kuusamo. In Pyhälahti, 409 silver coins were hidden in the woods.  

  • 1500s–1700s 

    A total of 25 families lived in the Lappish villages of Kitka and Maanselkä in Kuusamo. 

    A witch who had been the leader of the Lappish village of Kitka was buried in Lehtoniemi. A tin bird, coins, and a Sámi drum hammer were also placed in the grave. 

    The old name of Kuusamo was Kemi Lappmark. The King of Sweden urged families to move there. Matti Hiltunen moved from Pudasjärvi to the shore of Lake Iijärvi in Kuusamo, and so did many other Finnish families, particularly from the Kainuu area. People were given land, they built farms and cultivated land by burn-beating.

    A priest working on-site had started in Kuusamo, and a church was built in Toranki. The name of the parish was changed into Kuusamo Lappmark. In the tower of the church, built on the site of the present-day church, there was not a cross but a rooster.

    A rural police chief was in charge of law enforcement. 

    Many Sámi people starved to death and the Lappish villages began to disintegrate.

    There were 3,000 inhabitants in Kuusamo. Only a few of them were Lappish.

    In accordance with an agreement between the state and the people of Kuusamo, the people of Kuusamo controlled the Russian border and were promised the parish lands. The land was redistributed, i.e., the Great Partition was implemented, almost two hundred years later.

  • 1809
    After the war between Sweden and Russia, Finland and Kuusamo were annexed to Russia. There were fewer restrictions for trading to the east.

    The main road between Kuusamo and Oulu was completed. In the 1800s, the first roads in the Kuusamo rural community led to the villages of Haataja, Alakitka, Poussu and Paanajärvi.

    Many people are without jobs or food, and many began to move to Russia or America.

    Forest felling started, and timber was felled for sale. The area became a municipality called Kuusamo.

    There were 3,000 cows, 600 horses, and 5,000 reindeer in Kuusamo.

    The first schoolhouse was built near the church, on the site of the present Kirkkoketo School.

    Midwife Hanna Aaltonen jumped on her bike at Kätilönmutka (Midwife’s Bend). A local family was about to have a baby.

  • 1907
    The hospital was completed. The Kuusamo Co-op is building a shop at the Four-way Crossroads in the village centre.

    There were 10,500 inhabitants in Kuusamo.

    Young people got to learn different skills and gain new knowledge at the Kuusamo Folk High School. The Folk High School was founded on the initiative of the Viena Karelians.

    Is it a good whetstone year in Kuusamo?  In Jyrkänkoski, whetstones were manufactured for tool sharpening. Sharpening stones made in Kuusamo were sold all over the world.

    Many people from Kuusamo worked in Russia building the Murman Railway.

    Paavo Ahava became the first person in Kuusamo to own a passenger car.

    As World War I was coming to its end, Finland became independent and, once again, the eastern border of Kuusamo became the frontier between Finland and Russia. In 1918, there were some border skirmishes between the Russian Reds and the Finns on the eastern border of Kuusamo.

  • 1920
    Hundreds of Viena Karelian refugees who had lost their homes came to Kuusamo.

    Lempi Kinnunen founded Kuusamon Kuvaamo, a photography shop and studio. Lempi photographed schoolchildren and families, celebrations and funerals. For the next 80 years, many events and everyday life in Kuusamo were recorded in the photos of Kinnusen kuvaamo.

    Leontei, a boy from Viena Karelia, had a tame crane as a pet, and Baker Haataja baked doughnuts called ’sparrows’. Books could be borrowed from the library. The choir Rajan Laulu and the Folk High School theatre group performed at public festivals. Children went swimming at the Kelanranta shore.

    There were 1,700 schoolchildren and 67 teachers in Kuusamo.

    During the Winter War, everyone had to leave their homes and evacuate from Kuusamo, to flee from the war.

  • 1940
    Paanajärvi and Tavajärvi, an area of Kuusamo, had to be ceded to the Soviet Union.

    Large boulders were set in a row to stop the enemy tanks. The defence line was called the Salpa Line. In addition, bunkers and dugouts were built in Lahtela and Tuovila for the protection of soldiers.

    More than a third of children under the age of one died of diseases and lack of food. A decision was made to build a children’s hospital in Porkkatörmä.

    Farmer Eetu Määttä and almost 20 other locals died in the attacks of Soviet soldiers, aka desants. Everyone was afraid. Seized by the Soviets, Eetu’s wife Reeta Määttä cried out, “I’m a Finn, I’m a prisoner of desants!” Reeta was rescued by a Finnish patrol.

    Kenttärata, the German Army field railway, was built from Hyrynsalmi all the way to the Lahtela fortification in Kuusamo.

    For a second time, families had to leave their homes and evacuate from Kuusamo. The Soviet Union (now Russia) demanded the Finns drive the German soldiers out of Lapland.

    When they were leaving, the German soldiers set fire to the Kuusamo parish village.

    Most homes had been burnt down. Mothers baked bread in ovens that had been left standing. Families lived in cellars and dugouts and built new houses. The areas of East Kuusamo that had been lost in the Winter War were lost again.

    The whole of Kuusamo had to be rebuilt. This era is called the reconstruction period.

    Kuusamon Näyttämö theatre group performed the play Gabriel, tule takaisin (Gabriel, Come Back) by Mika Waltari.

  • 1950
    The new church was completed.

    Writer Reino Rinne established the newspaper Koillissanomat. Rinne became the defender of Kuusamo nature.

    Kuusamon Osuusmeijeri co-operative dairy was founded, and trucks collected milk from milk platforms. On the dairy pay day, there were lots of people at the parish village.

    The Oulanka National Park was established and the hiking route Karhunkierros / The Bear Trail was created.

    High school was founded in Kuusamo. The first ski lift was built in Ruka.

    There was a dispute over rapids in Kuusamo. Some people wanted to build power plants to rapids and others wanted to keep the rapids flowing freely. The dispute was called The Rapids War of Kuusamo. In the 1960s, the Kuusamo municipal council took a stand for the protection of the rapids. The 1987 Rapids Protection Act determined the Kuusamo rapids permanently as part of the national park.

    Pupils started school at the new Nilo School building.

    Ski jumpers got to jump from the Large Hill at Ruka.

    Many families moved to Sweden. Fathers and mothers went to work in a car factory.

    Kuusamo was a favourite place for fishermen. Kuusamon Uistin, a factory that makes fishing gear and lures, was established.

    A large sawmill called Pölkky was established.

    Susi-Kalle (Kalle the Wolf), Kalevi Oikarainen from Kuusamo, was the world champion in men’s 50 km cross-country skiing.

    Kuusamo could be reached by plane. At first, air traffic started between Kuusamo and Oulu.

    Hannu Hautala, a mechanic who had become a nature photographer, moved to Kuusamo.

    Customers could listen to music and fairy tales through headphones in the children’s section of the new main library.

  • 1993
    Toranki School was opened.

    Sulo Karjalainen fed the orphan bear Vyöti from a feeding bottle. Erik S. Nyholm established the Kuusamo Large Carnivore Center at Sulo’s home.

    Kuusamo Nature Photo Festival brought nature photographers to the new Kuusamo Hall.

    Kuusamo municipality became a town.

    Nature in Kuusamo is very much loved, and it is important for many. Therefore, Kuusamo was declared a nature town. People like Kuusamo, because the nature here is clean and beautiful. It is safe to live and grow up in Kuusamo. 

    1. What was hidden in the woods in Pyhälahti? 
    2. Which newspaper was established by Reino Rinne? 
    3. When did Kuusamo become a town? 
    4. What is the name of the hiking trail in Oulanka? 
    5. What does evacuation mean? 
    6. How many reindeer were there in Kuusamo in 1880?

    Answers here

Riina Puurunen, Writer
Pertti Ervasti, MSc (Econ) 

Jonna Lohi, MA, Pivot Translations