Kohtla-Järve is a city and municipality in Ida-Viru County,
Estonia. Located in northeastern Estonia, close to the
Tallinn-Narva-Petersburg highway and the Tallinn-Narva railway line.
The area is 68 km2. It is the fifth largest city in Estonia in terms
of area and population. It consists of five separate parts of the
city: Ahtme, Jarve, Kukruse, Oru, Sompa. Before the administrative
reform of local governments, the city also included Viivikonna and
Sirgala as a separate part of the city (after the reform, Viivikonna
and Sirgal became villages in Narva-Jõesuu, Ida-Virumaa county). The
Akhtme part of the city is located south of the county center and
consists of Central Akhtme, New Akhtme, Stary Akhtme, Puru, Iidla,
Tammiku and Pargitaguze. Large industrial enterprises (CHP, VKG,
Nitrofert) are located in the north-west of the Järve part of the
city. The residential area Idla is located between Stary Akhtme and
the town of Jõhvi. Part of the town of Järve includes the Käva area.
In the vicinity of Kohtla-Järve, there are deposits of oil shale, the extraction and processing of which are the main industrial activities in the city.
As of January 1, 2020, 33,197 people lived in Kohtla-Järve. The
largest parts of the city as of January 1, 2020 are Akhtme (15,506
people) and Järve (15,297 people). This is followed by Oru (1031
people), Sompa (820 people), Kukruse (500 people). As of the same
date, the share of the population over 65 in the total structure of
the city's population was 24.9% (8255 people), the share of
residents under 14 years old was 13.7% (4556 people).
Approximately 14,700 of the townspeople are pensioners. Representatives of almost four dozen nationalities live in the city. Approximately four-fifths are Russian and Russian-speaking residents who came here during the Soviet era, a fifth of the population is Estonians. Thus, the city, like the neighboring Narva, Jõhvi and Sillamäe, is predominantly Russian-speaking.
The toponym Kohtla-Järve arose from the unification of the settlements of Kohtla and Järve. The maps of the 20th century mention the river Kohtla (Kohtel), the name of which is associated with the Estonian word koht ("place"). Järve means lake in the Baltic-Finnish languages.
Kohtla-Järve received city status
in 1946. However, settlements on its territory existed for a long
time. Thus, the first mention of the village of Järve in the Danish
Land Register dates back to 1241 (where it is referred to as
Jeruius). The current part of the city of Kukruse was first
mentioned also in 1241 (Kukarus), and Sompa - in 1420 (Soenpe).
Probably, on the site of the present Kohtla-Järve, the city would never have arisen, if not for the oil shale, the deposits of which are quite significant in the local area. Figuratively speaking, oil shale is “solid oil”. The locals had known for a long time that this stone could burn. There are legends describing how this was noticed. According to one of them, once upon a time, shepherds, lighting fires, used to lay out a ring of stones around them. Usually limestone was used for this, but once they used yellowish-brown stones, which turned out to be a lot in that place. It was hard for the shepherds to believe their eyes when they saw how hot these stones burn together with the wood. According to another legend, a certain peasant built himself a bathhouse from oil shale. As soon as it melted, the walls caught fire - to the great amazement of the peasant and all the neighbors.
However, for a long time, oil shale remained in the eyes of the local population just a strange curiosity that had no practical significance. There was no need to use it as fuel, because there were enough forests around. In addition, burning shale produces too much soot.
They became seriously interested in oil shale in the second decade of the 20th century. It is known that in 1916, a batch of Estonian oil shale was sent to Petrograd to study its properties. Studies have shown that oil shale is a valuable mineral that can be used both as a fuel and as a raw material for the chemical industry.
In 1919, the State Oil Shale Industry Association was established in the Republic of Estonia. Slate was mined both underground, in mines, and in the open way, that is, in shale open-pit mines. Settlements grew near mines and open-pit mines. In 1924, a shale oil plant was built near the Kohtla railway station. A working settlement named Kohtla-Järve began to grow next to it. In the mid-1930s, it included several workers' quarters - Käva, Vaheküla, Pavanda.
During the Second World War, the importance of the Estonian shale basin increased: Germany considered it as a source of fuel. However, the Germans did not have time to start full-scale exploitation of the field.
After the war, oil shale was required in increasing quantities for the northwestern part of the Soviet Union. The main settlement of the shale basin received city status on June 15, 1946.
The project of the new city was developed in 1946 in the Leningrad branch of the Gorstroyproekt by architects E. Vitenberg, I. Davydov, F. Kirtsideli, I. Pisarev, L. Timofeev, A. Shutov, V. Yaroshchuk, etc. According to it, all industrial enterprises were located in the western part of the city, and residential areas in the eastern. Gaps of 2.4 km were made between the industry and the residential area. These breaks were realized through the organization of a park of culture and recreation and a forest park, connecting with the recreation area at the Gulf of Finland.
Since 1946, for almost twenty years, there has been a process of
administrative unification of the surrounding settlements within the
framework of Kohtla-Järve. In 1949 the villages of Kohtla and
Kukruse were included in Kohtla-Järve. In 1960, it included the
cities of Jõhvi and Ahtme, as well as the village of Sompa. In 1964,
the city of Kiviõli, the village of Oru, Püssi and Viivikonna came
under the control of Kohtla-Järve. Thus, Kohtla-Järve expanded
greatly, turning into a city with a unique layout, since its parts
remained widely scattered “islands” lying among forests,
agricultural land and oil shale mining.
In 1991, the number of Kohtla-Järve units decreased, Jõhvi, Kiviõli and Püssi left its structure, becoming independent cities, as well as Kohtla, which received the right of a settlement. Currently, Kohtla-Järve consists of six (or more precisely, eight) parts: Järve (the region also includes the Käva autonomous region), Sompa, Kukruse, Akhtme, Oru and Viivikonna (the district also includes the village of Sirgala). The layout of the city remains very distinctive. The number of its inhabitants is slightly less than 50 thousand, but two people, one in Sirgal and the other in Järve - that is, both on the territory of Kohtla-Järve - can be separated by a distance of more than 30 kilometers.
In the 1990s, the volume of extraction and processing of oil shale decreased, but the prospects for the continued existence of the oil shale industry remain, especially if it is possible to modernize it to the level of the most modern technologies. In addition, the industrial culture and skills accumulated over the decades, the industrial intellectual potential of the residents of Kohtla-Järve provide ample opportunities for the development of other enterprises, not related to oil shale, in the city. [Source not specified 880 days]
As of September 1, 2013, the Estonia mine, the Ojamaa mine and one Narva open pit were in operation.