Kemi is a city in Finland, located in the province of Lapland, in
the Kemijoki estuary. Kemi has a population of 20,586 (30 June 2020)
and covers an area of 747.28 km² (1 January 2020), of which 95.37
km² of land, 7.38 km² of inland waters and the remaining 644.53 km²
of sea. In terms of land area, Kemi is the smallest and most densely
populated municipality in the province of Lapland. Its neighboring
municipalities are Keminmaa, Simo and Tornio. Kemi is the third
largest municipality in the province of Lapland in terms of
population. The word Kemi means trampled meadow to camp on.
In 2015, the City of Kemi and the municipalities of Keminmaa and Simon negotiated the merger into a new city of Kemi. The merger was scheduled to take place from the beginning of 2017. The Kemi and Simon municipal councils approved the merger proposal, but the Keminmaa council rejected it.
The city of Kemi was established by the Decree of the
Imperial Majesty on March 5, 1869. The port of Kemi was established
at the same time, and the city also acquired the rights of a tapioca
city, i.e. the rights to foreign trade. Even before the city rights,
a wood processing industry had been established in Kemi (Laitakari
steam sawmill in 1863).
After the founding of the city, the Kemi region quickly grew into one of the most significant concentrations of the wood processing industry in Finland. Kemi Oy began operations in 1893, Kemi Oy's sulphite pulp mill was started up in 1919, Veitsiluoto Oy started operations by establishing a sawmill in the Veitsiluoto district in 1922 and a pulp mill in 1930. With the growth of industry, transport connections also improved: railway 1902 and airport 1939.
Until 1931, industrial plants and residential areas of the working population were located in rural municipalities outside the city. In early 1931, the suburbs of the factory were annexed to the city and the city became an industrial and workers' city. The city’s land area rose from 5.8 square kilometers to 83.5 square kilometers. The population increased from 3,543 to 16,795. Kemi's current area is less than 94 square kilometers, making it the smallest municipality in Northern Finland.
During the Winter and Continuation Wars, the city of Kemi was spared from bombing, but during the Lapland War, the Germans blew up the bridges over the Kemijoki River and also tried to demolish Kemi City Hall by blowing three floors away from the bottom of the house. However, thanks to its exceptional elevator shafts, Kemi City Hall was so strong that it did not collapse. In addition, Finnish soldiers had emptied the water tank on the upper floors of the house, which served as a water tower, before the blast. Kemi Town Hall was renovated and later expanded.
The post-war period was an uncertain time in Finland, when the communist coup was feared. The events in Kemi in 1949 began with a strike at the Kemijoki swimming site. The strikes ended in the deaths of two people during a demonstration march in Kemi on Thursday, August 18, 1949.
As the wood processing industry continued to expand into the paper and board industry, Kemi grew into a city with almost 30,000 inhabitants by the 1960s. At that time, Kemi was the second most important and largest city in Northern Finland, right after Oulu. In the 1970s, as automation reduced the need for industrial labor, and as the state concentrated its agencies in the county capital, Rovaniemi, the population of Kemi began to decline.