The city of Kemi was founded with a decree from His Imperial Majesty Alexander II on 5 th of March 1869.
The city also received staple rights, which in practice means that the city was entitled to conduct foreign
trade. Even before receiving city priviliges, wood processing industry had been established in the area, the
first facility being the steam-powered sawmill of Laitakari in 1863.
After being founded, the Kemi region grew quickly into one of the most significant concentrations of wood
processing industry in Finland. Kemi Oy (Kemi LLC) began operating in 1893, the sulphite cellulose factory of
Kemi Oy was started in 1919, Veitsiluoto Oy (Veitsiluoto LLC) began operating by establishing a sawmill in
the district of Veitsiluoto in 1922 and a cellulose factory in 1930. With the growth of the industry,
transportation infrastructures were also improved, the railroad was extended to Kemi in 1902 and the
airport was completed in 1939.
Until 1930 the industrial facilities and the areas where the working people lived were situated in the rural
municipality outside the city. In the beginning of 1931 the outskirts areas with their factories were attached
to the city and the city became an industrial and worker city. The land area of the city grew from 5.8 square
kilometres to 83.5 square kilometres. The population grew from 3 543 to 16 795. The current land area of
Kemi is 747 square kilometres.
During the Winter War and the Continuation War the city of Kemi was spared from bombings, however
during the Lapland War the Germans demolished the bridges of Kemijoki and also tried to explode the city
hall of Kemi on 7 th October 1944. However, the city hall of Kemi was exceptionally sturdy, and it was not
demolished. The city hall still functions today in its original task.
The era after the war was an uncertain time in Finland. The events of Kemi in 1949 began from a strike in a
timber rafting worksite in Kemijoki. The strikes ended with the deaths of two people during a
demonstration march which occurred on Thursday known in Finnish as the "Blood Thursday" on 18 th of
August during the 1949 Kemi strike.
Kemi is a cultural city with long traditions in municipal theatre, museum activity as well as in the field of
teaching music. The cultural centre was built in 1977-1990. It contains, among other things, the theatre, the
art museum, the historical museum, the library and a music college. Also the Kemi Comics Festival held
every year till the year 2016 and many other cultural events are part of the townscape.
The founding of the Kemi-Tornio University of Applied Sciences and the Meri-Lappi Institution in 1997 and
1998 strengthened the status of Kemi as the place of education for the sub-region. The technology centre
Digipolis began its activities in 1990. Digipolis has grown into a high-tech community of over 500 workers.
Since 1987 the city has invested strongly in the development of winter tourism. At that time thecity
acquired the tourism ice breaker Sampo. The amount of cruise guests from around the world has increased
every year. In 2016 there were over 16 500 guests who explored the wintery sea and ice breaking. The
biggest SnowCastle in the world was built in 1996. Over the course of 21 years there has been over 3
million visitors to the SnowCastle of Kemi. In addition to winter tourism, the attraction of Kemi can be seen
in maritime summer tourism. For example, there are the visits by the ocean liners, the archipelago cruises
during the summer and the diverse events.
The lumber industry of Kemi Oy since the 1980's
During the end of the 1980's, there was significant concentration in the Finnish lumber industry. As part of
this development the main stakeholders of Kemi Oy announced, that due to the concentration taking place
in the lumber industry, the company will be merged with Osuuskunta Metsäliitto, Metsä-Serla Oy and
Yhtyneet Paperitehtaat Oy. The resulting company will be the Oy Metsä-Botnia AB. Kemi Oy had activity in
the fields of mechanical and chemical wood processing.
The sawmill activity had been a part of the original operations of the merged company. The Kemihaara
sawmill continued its activities under the name of the Oy Botnia Wood Ab which was a part of the
corporation. Later the name of the company has changed several times.
In the year 1995 Botnia Wood was merged into the Metsä Timber Oy, in the year 2000 Metsä Timber was
further merged into the Finnforest Oyj. In the year 2006 Finnforest was further merged into Metsäliitto and
was named Metsäliiton Puutuoteteollisuus, which in the year 2012 finally became Metsä Wood Oy. The
sawmill activity was halted in Karihaara in the summer of 2009 and finally officially shut down in August of
Cellulose and paperboard industry has functioned under the name Metsä-Botnia since the merger. The
paperboard business was separated into its own company, the Kemiart Liners Oy in 2002. In the year 2012
Metsä-Botnia became Metsä Fibre along the harmonisation of the corporate brand. In the same instance
Kemiart Liners Oy became a part of the Metsä Board Oyj.
Today there are about 650 employees in the Metsä Fibre cellulose factory at Kemi and about 145
employees in the Metsä Board (formerly M-Real) paperboard factory.