The Tale of Joensuu

The Joensuu region has been inhabited since the Stone Age, but official history dates back to 1848, when Emperor Nicholas I confirmed Joensuu's status as a city. As its name implies, Joensuu was built on the Pielisjoki river estuary, and the stream that crosses the city has played an important role in the growth of the locality. With the Saimaa Canal, connections to St. Petersburg and Central Europe were opened, and at the end of the 19th century, Joensuu became one of Finland's most important port cities. The water connection increased both trade and the sawmill industry. In 1918, the largest sawmill in the Nordic countries, Penttilän Saha, was completed in Joensuu, which came to an end in a tragic fire in 1996.

Despite the lively trade, Joensuu was still a small agrarian town at the beginning of the 20th century. The growth of the city into its current prosperity can be seen in the establishment of the University of Joensuu in 1969. The current University of Eastern Finland has acted as a spiritual locomotive that has pushed Joensuu to strive for a position among the world's metropolitan areas.

In addition to the university, the youth movement at the turn of the 1960s and 1970s has been significant for Joensuu's identity. With the activity of young people who demanded live music, the rock festival Ilosaarirock, which currently enjoys a solid international reputation, was born in Joensuu. Numerous bands were formed in the same rush, of which the Hassisen Kone, led by Ismo Alanko, shaped the city's reputation as a nest of peculiar popular music and culture.

The new millennium has marked a strong period of growth for Joensuu. A considerable amount of wood has been used in the new buildings, which is in keeping with the nature of the European Forest Institute's hometown. Also spectacular is Finland's largest wooden office building, the Metla House, which features the stunning smell of tar that comes off as the sun warms the building's façade.

Joensuu in the new millennium is also represented by the fully decorated Ilosaari and the Aittaranta residential areas along the river, which has invested heavily in art. The look of the city center is also enlivened by a block next to the Mehtimäki area, decorated with giant murals.

Since the Nikolai's time, Joensuu has grown from a small village of a few hundred inhabitants into a virile home for almost 80,000 people, the 12th largest city in Finland and the regional center of North Karelia. The pride and joy of Eastern Finland is a modern student city, whose attraction is constantly growing and the direction of development is eagerly upwards. Young adults brought to the city by the university and polytechnic push the area to stay moving and keeping an eye on the future.

Joensuu is known for...

When young adults are asked about Joensuu, Ilosaarirock comes to mind first. The festival, which turned fifty years old in 2021, is the most famous event in the active city of culture, organized by the non-profit live music association founded by young activists in their time. In addition to Ilosaarirock, there are plenty of events in Joensuu for every liking and the city's live music offer is one of the busiest in Finland in relation to the population.

In addition to culture, Joensuu is known as an active sports city. Large clubs such as Kataja and Kalevan Rasti have a strong tradition and Joensuu has invested heavily in sports venues. In recent years, the city has celebrated Finnish championships in baseball and basketball, among other things, and several competitions and major sporting events have been organized in the Joensuu region.

And if you know just one little thing about Joensuu, then its the characteristic dialect! The speech, filled with double consonants and vowel twists, pulps from the mouths of the townspeople like a song. Whatever the content of the words, there is always a smile in the language.

What you do not know about Joensuu

Among the aging Finnish population, it is a surprise how young the people of Joensuu are! According to statistics, one in three people in Joensuu is under 30 years old. Numerous educational institutions from the university to the polytechnic can be thanked for this. Thanks to the young townspeople, Joensuu has remained fresh and open, innovative and enthusiastic.

In its history, Joensuu has also served as a stage for several films. In particular, directors Markku Pölönen and Perttu Leppä have filmed life in the area, but in Joensuu, a real Hollywood atmosphere has also been felt! In the 1960s, Joensuu landcape played the part of Siberia in the filming of Dr. Ẑivago, which won five Oscars. The city could not be awarded, but the people of Joensuu were able to admire Omar Sharif and other stars of the movie walking on the city sidewalks.

The character quality of Joensuu

The Joensuu region has been located between East and West throughout history. At times the people of Joensuu have been taxed by the Russian bailiffs, or by the messengers of the king of Sweden. Churches in the East and West have raked souls from heaps of forest, and the area has been populated by Lutheran residents of Savo and Orthodox Karelians. Perhaps it is precisely the winds of history that has shaped the people of Joensuu with a unique character, which is a combination of melancholy and joy. Although the times have been tough, the people of Joensuu have not stayed and sat on their sorrows. On the contrary, Joensuu has been happy and sung whenever the slightest reason has arisen.

The position of the underdog in the middle of the great powers has created a unique sense of humor for the people of Joensuu, where they are always ready to belittle their own merits and laugh at themselves. Even in their provincial song, the people of Joensuu speak of miserable Karelia, which has no wealth and no fertile land. While words sound like low self-esteem and jokes belittle oneself, it’s not about humiliation.

Karelian hospitality lives strong in Joensuu. Traditionally, the doors have always been open to guests and coffee has been brewed for the passers-by. For the people of Joensuu, the well-being of the guests is still a matter of pride and a self-evident approach. The cheerful reception is encountered in almost every service situation, from the checkouts of the shops to the taxi drivers.

Joensuu, my dearest

The Helsinki-born songwriter Gösta Sundqvist realized something profound about love of the homeland in Joensuu when he wrote his evergreen hit Pohjois-Karjala. Perhaps Gösta was one of the thousands who had come across a former Joensuu resident longing for his homeland in North Karelia. Joensuu does not simply leave a person, even if the person leaves Joensuu. For Joensuu and those happy, whimsical and infinitely kind people from there can only be loved.

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