Alajärvi is a Finnish city in Southern Ostrobothnia. The city has
a population of 9,506 (30 June 2020) and an area of 1,056.75 km² (1
January 2020), of which 1,008.83 km² is land and 47.92 km² is inland
water. The municipality of Alajärvi was founded in 1868 and was
renamed the city in 1986. The municipality of Lehtimäki was annexed
to Alajärvi in 2009. The neighboring municipalities of Alajärvi are
Alavus, Kuortane, Kyyjärvi, Lappajärvi, Lapua, Perho, Soini, Vimpeli
and Ähtäri. Alajärvi is part of the Lake District region. Alajärvi
is the only town in the Lake District.
The city's largest lake is Alajärvi, which belongs to the Ähtäväjoki watershed, on the shore of which the city's city center is located.
Alajärvi is also known for the Sports Association Alajärvi Anchor.
Birth of settlement
The settlement of the Alajärvi region is very old. Suomusjärvi's cultural residences have been found especially in the Kurejoki-Koskenvarre area. Tuluskivi has been found along Soukanpuro and perforated stones have been found on the shores of Lake Verijärvi, among other places. In addition, scattered gutter chisel discoveries have been made. The earliest settlements were located in estuaries by the sea, although today they are far inland from the effects of land uplift. The occupation of the residents was mainly fishing and hunting, which is also shown by the decorated ball float found in the area. Finds from the Bronze and Iron Ages include a bronze dagger and iron arrowheads found in the area of Lehtimäki village.
In the Middle Ages, deserters from Satakunta and Häme arrived in the Alajärvi region. The area was also visited by the popular Pirkkala wilderness route through Näsijärvi and Ähtärinreiti along the Ähtäväjoki River all the way to the shores of the Gulf of Bothnia. Gradually, the Swedes who settled on the coast of Ostrobothnia also began to move along the Ähtäväjoki valley to the surroundings of Lake Lappajärvi. In Alajärvi, the Swedish population cleared their habitats on the shores of lakes and rivers, mainly on the shores of Alajärvi and Kurejoki. At the beginning of the new era, a new phase began in the settlement of Alajärvi, as in the entire Lake District. The flow of Savonian settlers was directed to the area from 1560.
Ecclesiastically, the Alajärvi region initially belonged to a very large Pietarsaari parish. From the upper part of the parish church, the Lappajärvi chapel parish was formed in 1637, to which Alajärvi also belonged. In 1751 Alajärvi became a chapel parish and in 1859 an independent parish. Soini and Lehtimäki, formed as chapels in Alajärvi, were separated into independent parishes in 1895 and 1904. The first church in Alajärvi parish was built of wood by Antti Hakola in 1749. The church still has a tap-like bell tower still in use today. The current wooden church was built between 1836 and 1842 according to drawings made in the curatorial office. The builder was Jaakko Kuorikoski from Kaustis. Lehtimäki Church was built by the well-known church builder Jakob Rijf in 1791–1800.
The eruption continued in Alajärvi for a long time. Although the area with its abundant bogs was a favorable wetland, new cultivation techniques were introduced rather slowly. The clearing of the Finns accelerated at the end of the 18th century, when the population also began to grow. By the middle of the century, there were 310 inhabitants, but by 1805 there were already more than 1,600. One important reason for the increase in population was the economic boom brought by tar burning. After the Peace of Uusikaupunki in 1721, tar burning was concentrated in Ostrobothnia, with the exception of a few small islands in southern Finland. When tar burning in the Lapua and Kyröjoki areas gradually subsided, the opposite happened in the Ähtäväjoki region. Tar burning was an important factor in the birth of many villages in the 19th century. Agriculture also progressed, including the numbering of numerous lakes to obtain new arable land. Agriculture continued to develop in the 20th century, with the number of farms increasing from 1900 to 1950 from six hundred thousand.
Economic growth was also reflected in mental development. Although the first primary school was not established until 1883, by 1939 there were already eighteen schools. In order to develop agriculture, a country school was established in Kurejoki in 1926. The Alajärvi Youth Club, founded in 1896, also grew to be a significant influence.
The influence of Pietarsaari was felt in Alajärvi for a long time, but with the completion of the body of the road, the importance of Vaasa, the capital of Vaasa County, increased. The Vaasa-Kuopio postal road, completed in 1780, passed through Alajärvi. In the 20th century, Seinäjoki became a new center, which had the advantage not only of short distance but also of the Finnish language.
North America also attracted the people of the Lower Lakes. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, about 3,500 people traveled from the Alajärvi behind the ocean. Despite the migration, the population of the municipality was already 8,351 in 1920. Alajärvi has lost its territories in three regional unions. In 1870 the village of Kauhajärvi was annexed to Lappajärvi, which was later annexed to Lapua, in 1927 the village of Koskela to Vimpeli and in 1949 to Hokkaola and Vehkaperä to Kyyjärvi. The population of Alajärvi was almost ten thousand in the 1950s, but over the next fifteen years the population decreased by more than 1,500 people. Alajärvi experienced a strong change in the economic structure in the 1970s. Agriculture and forestry, which still employed almost half of the working population in 1970, lost their position as the main industry in the service sector. After that, the population started to grow again and in 1985 there were 9,141 inhabitants. At the beginning of 1986, Alajärvi received city rights.
Academician, architect Alvar Aalto spent his summers in Alajärvi
in the 1920s and 1940s. In Alajärvi you can find Aalto's
production of the first public building design work for an
architecture student, the Youth Observatory (1918), the wooden
buildings conceived by a young architect in the 1920s and the works
of the world-famous maestro "White Age"; municipal agencies from
1967 through to the last creation of the Aalto Architects' Office;
the city library, which was built in 1991. Aalto center in Alajärvi
is complemented by Villa Flora, a summer residence designed by Aino
Aalto in 1924. The Alajärvi Church, designed by Carl Ludvig Engel,
and the public buildings of the church village designed by Alvar
Aalto are jointly classified as Finland's nationally significant
built cultural environments.
Another well-known influence in Alajärvi was the painter Eero Nelimarkka, who was also from Alajärvi. Nelimarkka, a photographer of the Ostrobothnian landscape and way of life, built a studio villa in Kivikko as early as the 1930s, and in 1964 the Nelimarkka Museum was opened on the west side of Lake Alajärvi, where the artist's grandfather had been born.
Lehtimäki became its own keeper when it separated from Lappajärvi. The population of Lehtimäki grew steadily in the early 20th century. In the early 1960s, the population was nearly 3,000. After that, the population declined until the 1980s, when the population stabilized at around 2,500. In the 1990s, the population of the municipality began to decline again. In 2009, before the municipal union with Alajärvi, the parish had 1,849 inhabitants. The municipality of Lehtimäki joined the city of Alajärvi in 2009.
After the municipal associations, the population of the city of Alajärvi increased and in 2011 it was 10,440. Alajärvi is a vibrant trade center in the eastern part of Southern Ostrobothnia. In addition to several specialty stores, there are a few restaurants and a fast food place in the center. The city also has a police station, a fire station, a health center and a swimming pool opened in 2013. Alajärvi has a high school, and the Alajärvi and Kurejoki offices maintained by the Järviseudun Koulutuskuntayhti provide secondary vocational education. Lehtimäki Special People's College operates in Lehtimäki.