History of regional economic development
The peasants of North Karelia were linked with monetary economy through tar distillation (burning) as early as the 17th century. The real economic boom came to the region in the 18th century with the construction of mills, sawmills and ironworks. When tar burning was no longer profitable in the 18th century, the value of forests was noticed and sawmills were established close to water routes. There were several sawmills in the region, such as in the village of Puhos, Kitee and in Värtsilä. In Joensuu there were three sawmills: in Utra, Hasanniemi and Penttilä, The sawmill in Hasanniemi was the first steam-powered sawmill in the region.
Timber was mainly floated along waterways. The golden time of water transportation along the canals of the River Pielisjoki took place at the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century. The rivers Pielisjoki and Koitajoki were famous for timber floating. Two movies about timber floating were made there: “Tukkijoella” in 1951 and “Kuningasjätkä” in 1998. One log-sorting and bundling plant for collective timber floating used to be situated upstream the Utra Canal at Ristisaari, Lehmo in the municipality of Kontiolahti. The memorial called Log Floaters (Ruuhkanpurkajat) set up on the island of Ilosaari, Joensuu, reminds us of the strong tradition of log floating in the region. This tradition is also presented in the Pielinen Museum in Lieksa, as well as in Utran Uittotupa, a restaurant for meetings and celebrations in Joensuu and in the café Savottakahvila Manta in Ilomantsi in summer.
The discovered deposits of minerals and stones accelerated the industrial development of the region in the 20th century. The processing of iron became one of the most important branches of industry. In the municipality of Värtsilä and in the village of Möhkö, Ilomantsi, blast-furnaces were introduced. In them lake ore was converted into cast iron. In Möhkö the ironworks operated from 1849 till 1907, and in the best times it employed up to 2000 workers. The ironworks had its own sawmill, brick-producing factory, a flour mill, a school, a village shop and a library with a reading hall.
In Nunnanlahti, Juuka there is a geological specialty: soapstone. Rock containing magnesium was pressed between tectonic plates 2 billion years ago when the continents were formed. Under the influence of high pressure and temperatures the minerals toughened during tens of millions of years and deposits of soapstone were formed. Soapstone is soft and easily workable. Stone Village of Nunnanlahti can be visited in summer.
Forestry and farming were the major sources of living in North Karelia even after the post-war time. Vast fields, mellow soil and the agricultural training school made Liperi famous for being a large bread parish. In Liperi there аre two open-air museum areas where you can look at rural buildings and working tools connected with dairy farming among other things.
The Old Mine and Mining Museum in Outokumpu has interesting information on the origin and development of modern mining industry. Mining industry in Outokumpu started in 1910 and after that the population of the village began to grow. Mining activity started in the so called old mine where a part of the mine shaft and buildings were left. In the 1970s the company closed down the old mine. Nowadays the genuine conditions of the museum tunnel, the fascinating exhibition of the museum and old buildings in the surroundings take the traveller into the world of mining history and the everyday life of a miner.
You can have information about the history of harnessing rapids to generate electric power in the Museum of Hydropower Plant in Saario, Tohmajarvi. After World War II more and more electric power was needed in Finland. Numerous rapids in the region were harnessed and hydropower plants were constructed like everywhere else in Finland. For instance, the flow of the Lower-Koitajoki River was diverted into the Pamilo tunnel power plant. Pamilo’s water height is 49 meters and the power plant building itself was designed by architect Alvar Aalto. Kaltimo, Pamilo, Kuurna in the River Pielisjoki, Puntarikoski and several smaller power plants, for example in the River Jänisjoki, generate electric power both for the regional and the national grid.