Tornio (Swedish: Torneå) is a Finnish city in the province of Lapland on
the Swedish border. Tornio is the center of the Tornio River Valley and the
most important border crossing point between Finland and Sweden.
Tornio has a population of 21,614 (30 June 2020) and an area of 1,348.83 km² (1 January 2020), of which 1,188.78 km² of land, 40.46 km² of inland waters and the remaining 119.59 km² of sea.
Tornio was the northernmost city in Finland until the form of Rovaniemi changed from a township to a city in 1960. Founded in 1621, Tornio is the oldest city in Lapland. The neighboring municipalities of Tornio are Kemi, Keminmaa, Tervola and Ylitornio. The city of Tornio has a lot of co-operation with its Swedish border neighbor, Haparanda.
The Stone Age of the Tornio Valley
The Tornionjoki estuary has been inhabited since the last ice age. By 1995, 16 ancient settlements had been found in the area. They are similar to Vuollerim from about 6000 to 5000 BC. found. However, most of the current urban area has only risen from the sea during the last millennium due to post-glacial land uplift. Around 1000, the mouth of the Tornionjoki River was located near Kukkolankoski, 14 kilometers north of the current city center.
Establishment of the city
Prior to its establishment, Tornio was known as a meeting place for trade routes, from where Nordic products, salmon and Lapland furs, entered the world market.
Tornio is named after the Tornio River, which flows along the western border of Finland. The origin of the name Tornionjoki has been disputed, but according to the current understanding, it contains the old word 'Tornio' for Hämäläinen's war spear. The explanation based on the Swedish word ‘Tower’ (tower) is no longer considered credible. Lake Torniojärvi (Duortnosjávri in northern Sámi) is probably named after the river, as the oldest known documents mention Iretresk as the name of the lake.
Tornio received its city rights by order of King Gustav II Adolf of Sweden on May 12, 1621 and was officially established in Suensaari (wolf island). The name may have come from a landowner in the area, or from the word Swensarö, a Swedish island.
Tornio was the northernmost city in the world at the time.
The city was founded in recognition of Tornio’s position as a center of commerce during the 16th century. Tornio grew into the largest trading city in the north and for a few years was the wealthiest city in the Kingdom of Sweden. Despite its lively trade with Lapland and overseas territories, the city’s population remained at the level of more than 500 people for hundreds of years.
In the 18th century, Tornio was visited by a few Central European explorers who came to explore the Arctic. The most significant expedition took place between 1736 and 1737, when Pierre Louis Moreau de Maupertuis and his research team from the French Academy arrived to take measurements along the Tornio River. Among other things, triangular measurements made from the top of Aavasaksa succeeded in proving that the Earth is a spherical ball, a geoid.
Tornio during Russian rule
Lapland's trade, on which Tornio depended, began to decline during the 19th century. Due to the uplift, the river had become too narrow for water traffic and the port of Tornio had to be moved downstream. However, the most significant blow to the wealthy city took place in the Finnish War of 1808, at the end of which Finland was annexed to the Russian Empire. The border was drawn along the deepest waterway of the Muonionjoki River, continuing to the Tornionjoki estuary. The policy divided Lapland into two parts, which was fatal for trade. Unlike the rest of the border line, the Russian emperor demanded Suensaari on the west side of the deepest waterway of the Tornio River and with it the center of Tornio to be connected to Russia. The Swedes established the village of Haparanda (now the city) on the west side of the border to offset the loss of Tornio.
During Russian rule, Tornio was a small garrison town. Trade only picked up during the Crimean War and the First World War. At that time, Tornio became an important border crossing point. During World War I, Tornio and Haparanda had the only connection between Russia and their western allies.
Tornio during the period of Finnish independence
After Finland became independent in 1917, the first battles of the Civil War were fought in the area of Tornio railway station in February. As a result of the fighting, Russian soldiers in Tornio were imprisoned.
Tornio lost his garrison. However, the city’s population began to grow steadily.
In the Lapland War, towards the end of the Second World War, Finland considered it a condition of the peace agreement to remove German soldiers from the country. The most significant battle of the Lapland War took place near the city center of Tornio, when Finnish soldiers who arrived from Oulu by sea landed in a city occupied by the Germans. A quick successful recapture apparently saved the city from burning.
Thus, for example, the Tornio Church from 1686, one of the most significant
old buildings in Tornio, has survived.
Tornio reached its present territory in 1973, when the neighboring municipalities of Alatornio and Karunki were annexed to the city of Tornio.
Since the Second World War, the city has been employed especially by a brewery owned by Hartwall, known for its Lapin Kulta beer. In the 1960s, Outokumpu Oyj built a ferrochrome plant for the production of stainless steel raw materials in the Röyä district, and in 1976 the company's stainless steel plant was started there. In the past post-war decades, large textile industries have also been major employers in Tornio, such as the Kerilon nylon yarn factory and the Norlyn sock factory. The textile industry has now withered away. Tourism in the Tornio River Valley has increased in recent years.
Tornio transitioned to the mayoral system in 1929. Prior to that, the city was governed by mayors who were elected on the basis of a degree in law and familiarity.