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The International Kainuu

A contradiction in terms – the international Kainuu? Not at all, and let me tell you why.

We, as inhabitants of Kainuu, tend to think our home province is far away from everywhere, and – by nature – purely and originally Finnish. This is partly true, and we’re for a good reason proud of our national cultural heritage. The Finnish national epic Kalevala was created here, and in the 19th century this area was one of the dreamlands of national romantic authors and painters.

But – in truth – Kainuu has always been international. And there’s always been international trade going on here.

In ancient times, tradesmen travelled through Kainuu area in their way from the Northern Scandinavia to the White Sea and vice versa. Furs and even river pearls found here were valuable export items.

Later on, the Swedish state get interested in this area and a castle was built in the beginning of the 17th century – the only stone castle in these latitudes. A writer of the first modern history of Sweden wrote his book here, as a prisoner. This fellow, Johannes Messenius by name, lived in the Kajaani castle almost twenty years (1616-1635) with his Polish wife, who was a daughter of a tutor to future King of Poland, Sigismund IX.

A hundred years later, the castle was exploded by Russians, who invaded Kainuu as well as the rest of Finland. One more hundred years, and Kainuu, like the whole Finland, was part of a Russian Empire. Tar was the main export product of Kainuu, because ships made of timber needed lots of tar for impregnation. Near the end of the 19th century, the importance of forests and timber, sometimes referred to as the green gold of Finland, grew quickly – and a range of different lumber industry products have been exported from here up to day. Besides, the influence of Saint Petersburg, the capital of Russian Empire, was felt also in Kainuu – the rapid Pajakkakoski in Kuhmo was famous for its crabs which were regularly taken to Saint Petersburg to be enjoyed in the parties of its gourmands.

In the beginning of the 20th century, lumber industry developed and the new railway connection linked Kainuu more closely with the Southern parts of Finland. Finland wanted to be independent and adventurous young men travelled secret routes via Kainuu to Germany to be trained as soldiers there.

International tourism took its first steps in Kainuu, when British ’salmon lords’ came here for fly fishing in the rapids of Kajaaninjoki and Oulujoki.

After the Second World War, and up to the 1970’s, Kainuu was probably more exclusively Finnish than ever before or after. The Russian border was closed, and the international influences rare. But the green gold from the forests of Kainuu kept on going out in the form of paper or cellulose fibre. In the summers, families gone to more industrialised Sweden for work came back to meet their relatives here. And in the 1970’s we’d Kostamus in the Russian Karelia, just about 30 kilometres from the Finnish border: a big mine and the whole town constructed for the miners, mostly by Finns.

Now, in the beginning of the 21st century, Kainuu is a part of the global economy, in good as in bad. Paper mills in Tihisenniemi have been closed but other industrial sectors have more than replaced them – and nowadays prominent data center cluster as well as digital game industry and mining sector are by nature international.

We have here also e.g. a large all year round -holiday centre in Vuokatti, and Asian tourists are a more and more frequent sight in the wilderness of Kainuu. Besides, we’ve here some very nice incomers who are at the forefront in promoting the possibilities of Kainuu region. One of them is surely Carl Wideman from the municipal development company Kainuun Etu. Am I right, Carl?

Eeva Mäntymäki

Head of Comm., Regional Council of Kainuu and Kainuu Social and Health Care Joint Authority

P.S. In this blog we promote Kainuu region as a good choice in investing, making business, living a good life and rearing your children – or just travelling. Writers come e.g. from regional Council of Kainuu and the municipal development company Kainuun Etu.

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