Ähtäri, formerly Ätsäri (Swedish: Etseri) is a Finnish city located in the province of Southern Ostrobothnia. The city has a population of 5,576 and covers an area of 910.88 km², of which 105.05 km² are water bodies. The population density is 6.92 inhabitants / km². Ähtäri's neighboring municipalities are Alajärvi, Alavus, Keuruu, Multia, Saarijärvi, Soini and Virrat. The municipality is also home to the famous Ähtäri Zoo, where two giant pandas were brought in 2018.



Prehistory and the name of Ähtäri
Stone Age settlements have been found in the Ähtäri area in Lopet and Akkosaari. Before 2016, there were a total of 95 objects from Ähtäri in the registers of the National Board of Antiquities;

The name Ähtäri probably originates between the Stone Age and the settlement-era settlement. At that time, a small Sámi population roamed the area, which has a clear impact on the Ähtäri nomenclature. However, the name of the Great Lake and later the entire municipality may not be of Sámi origin, although there is a suitable counterpart in Sodankylä, Ätsärijoki. Consensus on the origin of the name has not been reached. The intersections have been seen with the Estonian word ace ‘flower, inflorescence’ (which the annoyance also reminds of the keeper’s coat of arms) and the Swedish word ed ‘taival’ (of which edsjö → Etseri). The sound connection has also been noticed in the quality words grumpy and fierce, a connection also known from Äetsä. What Ätsäjärvi, Ätsäri has meant, Ähtäri is originally the name of the water body in any case.

Wilderness period and settlement of Ähtäri
The Ähtäri region had no permanent settlement before the late Middle Ages. The wilderness was divided for hunting, fishing and birch burning to peasants from Satakunta and Häme. They cultivated the land in their homeland in the summer, but made fishing trips to these wilderness areas in the winter. The system was dismantled in 1552 by a batch reduction. After that, the barren Suomenselä also began to become permanent settlements: in addition to the owners of the forest rights in Pirkkala, Savoans and, most recently, Ostrobothnians.

The first mention of settlement in Ähtäri is in the 1589 land inspection book. Alastaipale was village-like, and there were also settlements in Peränte, Ouluvesi, Hankavesi and Vehu. The settlers of Ähtäri were farmers who quickly cleared the arable land into fields. Instead, tar was burned only for domestic use. The important tar economy in Southern Ostrobothnia did not strengthen in Ähtäri until the 19th century.

Ähtäri belonged to the parish of Ruovesi, founded in 1565. The journey to the church was a long one. The founding document of our own church dates from 1651. The first chapel was built on Hankolanmäki, where the current, fourth church building from 1937 also stands.

At first, the Ähtäri chapel consisted of only 27 houses. The chapel boundaries were arranged according to how the church people walked along the waterways.

the time of the Swedish rule
Ähtäri remained very sparsely populated throughout the time it belonged to Sweden. This was influenced by repeated roof years and famines during the cold period of the 1570s, known as the Little Ice Age, the year 1601 remembered as the Great Straw Year, the 18th century roof years 1633, 1648-50, 1657 and especially 1666-68 (Lauri's frost years). more than a quarter of a million people and still 1697 (a great year of death).

Instability was also caused by constant warfare. The great power Sweden invaded Germany once, the Baltic. The Thirty Years' War was fought from 1618 to 1648. In the Great Northern War, Sweden's superpower status collapsed.

After Charles XII was defeated in the Battle of Poltava in 1709. Russia's military operations were directed at Finland, and Russian danger reached Ostrobothnia. The occupation period began, great anger. Ähtäri was a remote place out of reach of significant road connections. After the Battle of Pälkäne in 1713, when the escape of Swedish troops began, Ähtäri also showed fleeing soldiers. However, the retaliation also indirectly affected Ähtäri. To quell the resistance, the Russians imprisoned almost all the officials. Only one priest, the collector of Ähtäri, Johannes Collinus, remained in the entire large congregation.

Ähtäri was also involved in the 1700 second half of the century wars, but they were not in the place of the very significant. Instead, the Finnish War of 1808–1809 also directly affected Ähtäri. The Battle of the Myllymäki War Corps took place in the municipality on August 20, 1808. The clash of Myllymäki was a sequel to the Battle of Alavus (August 18). The Russians retreating from the lower reaches Keuruu via Ähtäri and Myllymäki. The Finnish department sent after them first accompanied the fugitives in Inha, at the Nääsi Strait and again in the Myllymäki war ear. Skeletons, cannonballs and stabs have since been found in the terrain of Sotakorvi, but no actual excavations have been made in the area. A sword was found along the Talvitie in Keuruu, which is kept in the Ähtäri Homeland Museum.

Reforms of the period of autonomy

The large division, which took place in 1776–1822, mainly meant the creation of new farms in Ähtäri, as the lands of the old farms had not been fragmented even during the tab division.

The judges of the new district formed in 1841, Jacob Henrik Gadd, Erik Gustaf Roschier and Walfrid Emanuel Waldén, have been significant influencers of Ähtäri's development.

The reform of local government in 1865 forced the establishment of secular local government units alongside parishes. In Ähtäri, the establishment of the municipality was decided on the day of the death in 1867, after church expenditures, in a municipal meeting led by peasants (Obadias Tempakka and Heikki Ruha) without major celebrations.

After the primary school decree issued in 1866, schools were also established in the countryside: Niemisvesi in 1868 and a municipal school in the church village in 1883. Myllymäki did not get its own school until 1892.

The people of Ähtäri had had a district doctor in Turku since 1754, but due to the long distance, medical care was practically left to home technicians and folk healers. After 1819, the doctor was admitted first to Saarijärvi, then to Kuortane and finally to Alavus. The first own municipal doctor was hired in 1912.

Population development during self-government
The population of Ähtäri almost quadrupled during the 19th century, from 748 at the beginning of self-government to close to 3,000. The increase was due to a high birth rate that clearly exceeded mortality despite the disease epidemic. Until the beginning of the 1880s, more people moved from Ähtäri than to Ähtäri, but as the economic structure diversified and especially after the construction of the railway, more people moved to Ähtäri than from there. At that time, birch and tar farming came to an end, but forestry brought money and jobs to the countryside.

The years 1870–1930 were "a time of great American migration" in Ostrobothnia, when Finns were invited to fill the labor shortage in North America. The majority of those who left were young, unmarried men. By 1910, 1,020 immigrants left Ähtäri for America, most of them in the first decade of the 20th century.

The railway was of interest to people everywhere, including Ähtäri. In 1872 it seemed that the transverse track would come to Ähtäri, but the longitudinal tracks would be drawn to Ilmajoki, where the intersection station would come. The importance of transport connections was already understood at that time: in order to speed up the matter, the peasants handed over land for the construction of the railway free of charge by decision of the municipal assembly. The alignment of the Haapamäki – Seinäjoki line was made in 1877–1878 and work began in 1879. The maximum number of track works was more than a thousand men. The first train ran from end to end on October 27, 1882. The average speed was 27 km / h. After the turn of the century, the rails were replaced with heavier ones, and by 1911 the average speed was already 50 km / h.

The most important station was Myllymäki. There were 20 railway workers working there, but the transport links attracted dozens of trade and service entrepreneurs, including industry. In 1883, another position was obtained, Etseri (now Inha). A switch in 1886, Alberg's bill of exchange, was established at the present center of Ähtäri. It became an actual railway station, Ostola in 1896.

A characteristic feature of the municipality of Ähtäri has been relatively strong industrialization. Ähtäri has the reputation of an ironworks operator. The first industrial entrepreneurs in the area were Erik Roschier and Peter Malm, who established a water sawmill in Vääräkoski, Inhajoki. The sawmill was granted rights on November 23, 1833. A sawmill, mill and workshop were built in the area. A community was born, which in 1835 was already inhabited by 41 people.

Inha Rautaruukki was established in the area a little later, only in 1841. Dissatisfied with the operation, Roschier sold his business rights to Gustav Wasastjerna in 1842. Ruukki used the locality's own lake ore, which is why the iron produced was of poor quality. The owners change many times, and sometimes the ingot and wrought iron workshop came to a complete halt in 1776–1881. When the railway came in 1883, Ruukki employed only 9 people.

The real developer of Ruukki was the patron August Nilsson Keirkner (1856–1917). He started importing iron ore from Sweden and scrap iron from Finland. A bolt and rivet nail factory was established. A steam power saw was built to replace the water saw. The community grew. My own school was built in 1889, and the neo-Gothic cartridge castle, Pytinki, 1898–99. Ruukki became the property of Fiskars Oy in 1918.

Other industry grew alongside Ruukki. The railway was a decisive factor in the establishment of many industrial companies. Johan Johansson and Kustaa Emil Lönnqvist founded the Ostola steam sawmill in 1898. It supplied wood to England. There were also two paper mills in Ähtäri: the Ryötö paper mill (J. A. Johansson 1896) and the Vääräkoski board mill (G. A. Lönnqvist 1900).


However, the municipality's real industrial and especially trade center was Myllymäki. There were two tar and turpentine factories (Hagertin and Myllymäki), an electrical limited company (1912) and a dozen specialty and retail stores, including a large bakery and two shoemakers. Several stores were engaged in wholesale (Finnilä, Wiri, Lassila & Tikanoja, later also Osuuskauppa). Myllymäki also had street lights and an illuminated ice rink.

The first wave of tourism in Ähtäri was experienced on both sides of the turn of the century. Ähtäri was one of the municipalities to which the representatives of the golden age of Finnish art nationalism went to seek inspiration and vacation. The artists stayed on farms, mostly in Peränte, but also partly in Niemisvesi and Ähtärinranta. The Järnefelt spent their summers in Suihko and Sibelius Jaakkola. In Jaakkola, Eugen Schauman also practiced pistol shooting at the barn wall. Peränteen Sarkola remained Hugo Simberg's place of death. There were also scholarly guests in Ohraniemi, Männikö and Niemisveden Kauppalä in Ähtärinranta. Wilho Sjöström recorded the landscapes of Ähtärä, especially in Inha. There was also a major art collector, Ruukki's patron Keirkner.

Periods of oppression and civil war
During the period of Finnish self-government, the development was interrupted by the oppressions of the turn of the century. The first period of oppression with conscription strikes was also visible in Ähtäri. The second period of oppression also left visible traces in the landscape: the reigns that were carried out in 1916–1917. They were built to support St. Petersburg’s defense. Three circular fortress chains were made, one of which runs at Ähtäri.

The fortification project was considerable on a global scale as well. In Ähtäri alone, it employed hundreds of builders. The supervisors were officers, the diggers were soldiers but also civilian workers. Initially, trenches were excavated in the vicinity of the main passageways, later the excavations were supplemented by the actual fortification. Traces can still be seen in many parts of the parish, for example on the chewing track in Törönmäki and next to the secondary school in Kampinmäki. There are similar excavations in Peränte, Vääräkoski, Inha, Mekkokallio, Rämälä, etc. Governments were never used in hostilities. The revolutions of 1917 in Russia put an end to the fortification project. The period of oppression ended and Finland gained independence from Russia in December 1917.

The explosive situation of independence was also felt in Ähtäri. The industrial tradition of the keeper was strong. Inha, Myllymäki and Ostola were working-class villages. Myllymäki came from Edvard Valpas-Hänninen, a well-known socialist leader, chairman of the SDP and a journalist. He owned a property inhabited by his father in Myllymäki. The SDP also had its own MP from Ähtär, baker Emanuel Pohjaväre. In accordance with the We Require program, Inha had already moved to an eight-hour working day with his own strike. 13.11. the general strike sought the same throughout the country.

An important special feature of Ähtäri, however, is that, despite the apparent vigilance of the labor movement, the local trade unions did not unite with the rebels when they came to power in the party. This could have been Valpas-Hänninen's influence - his own actions were against the revolution.

The founding meeting of the patronage was held at Tuomarniemi Forest Guard School on September 17, 1917. The patronage was also established in Myllymäki. However, the secretary of Ähtäri's Defense Forces, Arvid Borg from Tuomarniemi, played a key role in Ähtäri's events. When the Ostrobothnians began to disarm the Russians who had become foreigners on January 28, 1918, the whites of Ähtäri considered the 40 Russians still in the fortifications to be their enemies. In Ähtäri, the Reds did not take over the railways. Inha Ruukki had a factory protection card (November 4, 1917), but it remained inactive. The Defense Forces received the means to deport the Russians by rail and also deported a number of the most ardent people of Ähtär (January 30, 1918).

At the beginning of the war, attention was focused on the Haapamäki section of track. Although Haapamäki is nearby, there were no actual military operations in Ähtäri. Tranquility is evident, among other things, in the fact that in Ähtäri, high 6/7 conscripts in the Jyväskylä military district took part in the conscription (cf., for example, in Jyväskylä ½). In other words, the Red Guard participated in the invitations along with the Conservation Party. Even those absent were already on the front. There were no rebels in Ähtäri. Even then, the tension heated up into terrorist acts.


Of the 67 Red Reds executed in Vaasa County, as many as 32 were nine of them shot at once in the Beetroot massacre. A total of 12 reds were executed on the beet cloth. Only in Keuruu, which was an actual military area, there were more people executed in the entire Jyväskylä military district. The events of 1918 seem to have been a showdown between the people of Ähtär. Only two people from Ähtär were executed outside Vaasa County. There was no red terror in Ähtäri. In Heinola, the two sons of the Count of Ähtäri, Karl and Martti von Pfaler, fell as victims of the terror. This heated up emotions in Ähtäri, even though the local trade unions had hardly any part to happen.

Municipal administration at the beginning of independence
After Finland's independence, the legislators prepared key, fundamental laws every year: the Crofters Act, the Working Hours Act, the Tax Act, the new Conscription Act, and the Alcohol Prohibition Act. Municipal progress was also made: the municipal hospital was set up in 1919, frightened by the largest swine flu epidemic in world history, the parish was electrified and the primary school network was completed (17 school districts). Ähtäri of the living villages was at its most authentic.

In 1917, the municipal assembly was replaced by a compulsory, elected municipal council. The preparatory and implementing body was the municipal board (later the municipal government). In December 1918, the first elections were held. The bourgeois electoral bloc, typical of Ähtäri, but very exceptional in Southern Ostrobothnia, won and held the position of chairman of the council until 1964. The tradition of the ironworks was reflected in the SDP's good electoral success. It was the largest party continuously at the beginning of World War II, and strengthened again during the reconstruction.

In 1921, Niini Hyrkki was elected chairman of the Ähtäri municipal council, the first female chairman of the municipal council in Finland. Until the turn of the 21st century, all of Hyrk's Followers were men.

The people of Ähtär during the war
In the autumn of 1939, Finland prepared for a possible war with additional rehearsals at the beginning of October. A state of war with the Soviet Union was declared on 30 November.

Winter War troops were formed by locality. Accordingly, the Infantry Regiment of the Battalion II in Infantry Regiment 30 (EK / II / JR30; later EK / II / JR21) and two machine gun companies of the same regiment (2nd HQ / II / JR30 and 3rd HQ / III / JR30) may be designated as the actual Warther Division. . Troops took part in the fighting in Karelia, especially in Taipaleenjoki. There also fell 70 of the 103 victims of the war.

In the Continuation War, troop divisions were no longer formed on a municipality-by-municipality basis. Among other things, the so-called The miserable fate of the brutal company led to an attempt to divide the men of the same region into different battalions within the regiment. In the Continuation War, the Ähtäri residents were stationed in the Infantry Regiment 16 (JR 16), especially in the 3rd Battalion, artillery batteries and grenade launcher companies. After the resettlements, a large proportion of the JR 16's warsmen fought in the Infantry Regiment 58 (JR 58), but also in many other divisions. Some of the youngest age groups also took part in the Lapland War. In the Continuation War, 175 victims of Ähtär were recorded. Again, the stock was the most destructive front block for the people of Ähtär.

The war economy was also felt on the home front. We lived in a regulatory economy and there was a severe shortage of labor. Prisoners of war were placed on duty in farms. The crisis brought military tasks to everyone. Air surveillance was needed not only for the protection of civilian targets but also for the security of the munitions industry operating in the municipality (ammunition depot, Fiskars, Ryöttö).

At the end of the war, Ähtäri was temporarily occupied by 2,000 evacuees, but in the spring of 1946 there were only 949. When the new premises were created, the investment areas were further changed, and thus in the 1950 census, 5.6 per cent of the people of Ähtäri were migrants, at this stage the largest groups were already the Jakak people and the people of Snowwater, whose investment area was named Ähtäri.

Diversification of service structure
Throughout independence, Ähtäri has been heavily built on new services, but a particularly strong change in service structure shook Ähtäri during the wars and reconstruction. The first of these was the establishment of Ammunition Depot 8 in Inha. Activities began as early as the Winter War. After the wars, the depot system was changed to meet the needs of peacekeepers, and the Inha armory became a central depot (later Asevarikko 7, Ähtäri Armory and further Ähtäri Depot). The rapid return to peacetime strength caused haste in the depot. At most, more than 400 people worked hard in building the depot, cataloging and storing the material, but the normal strength of the depot has also been 75–150 employees.


Another wartime time was the construction of a nursing home during the truce on Kaijanniemi on the shores of Ouluvesi. Immediately after the end of the war, plans were also made to build their own college. A private support association was founded in February 1945, and already in the same autumn studies began at two grade levels. My own school building was completed in 1950.

The following year, a new municipal building was commissioned, and strong structural development continued in the 1960s: in 1962, Ähtäri Vocational School began operations, and when the new vocational school building was completed (1965), excavations began for the next major project, Ähtäri Regional Hospital. In both projects, the tenacious hard work of Mayor Väinö Jaakola benefited Ähtäri. There would have been other takers for the vocational school and regional hospital in the surrounding municipalities.

However, Jaakola's real royal idea was the idea of ​​Ähtäri tourism in the late 1960s. The goal was to stop the population decline and create new jobs in Ähtäri. In the first phase, the municipality wanted a restaurant, then a camping site and finally the idea of ​​a deer garden, which later expanded into an entire zoo and eventually a tourist area. Ähtäri Zoo started its operation on June 17, 1973. Thanks to Hotelli Mesikämmenen, Mini-Suomi (Santer's Adventure Country) and many private tourism entrepreneurs, tourism has expanded to create almost 200 year-round jobs in Ähtäri (1999).

At the same time, a second wave of industrialization took place in the municipality: the largest industrial employers in the late 20th century created new jobs in the 1970s - at the same time as the welfare sector expanded in the hospital, health center, primary school and tourism in Ähtäri.

Municipal life after the wars
The good success of the SDP continued in municipal politics until the 1950s. However, non-socialist parties have had a majority in Ähtäri Municipal Council, with the exception of two breaks. In 1945, SKDL became the third largest party, accompanied by Paasikivi's speech, and until 1948 Ähtäri was on the left. For the second time, a meager socialist majority came in the 1964 election for one term.

The mayor was first elected in 1961. Väinö Jaakola was elected, and he enjoyed his position until his retirement. 1983 Hannu Marttala was elected to succeed Jaakola and 1992 Lea Tolonen.

With the exception of the mid-1960s, the flow of the party field has taken from left to right throughout the post-war period. The reason is the change in the economic structure described above. Since 1951, the largest single party has been the Agrarian Union, now the Center Party. Other bourgeois parties, such as the Coalition Party, have also increased their support since the 1970s, reflecting the diversification of the business community and the strengthening of the service sectors. The strong heterogeneity of the party field, which differs from Southern Ostrobothnia, has consistently been typical of Ähtäri. One political group has never had a majority in municipal politics. Even small political movements have been successful in Ähtäri. IKL, Liberal Progress Party and LKP, SMP, TPSL, Christian, Green Movement and the new party of the 21st century Basic Finns. all have in turn quickly been represented in the municipal council.

In the early 1960s, a bleak future was predicted for Ähtäri. At the turn of the millennium, the migration loss population would be home to 6,000 to 6,500 inhabitants. The prediction was not as erroneous as it sounds. Without the growth impetus given by the hospital, vocational school and travel company, the prophecy of defeat would have come true. Ähtäri became a city in 1986. At the turn of the millennium, Ähtäri had a population of 7,300 - a thousand less than in 1960, but about the same as in 1980.