Location of Kuusamo College

Kuusamo College was founded in 1909 and it resides in the Kuusamo centre, Kitkantie 35. The college arranges courses on folk high school, community college and summer university levels. The college specialises in visual arts, photography and handicrafts.

History of Kuusamo College

The White Karelian Union (Vienankarjalan Liitto) initiated the college in Kuusamo in 1909. Forty students started their studies in the Marttila house on Kirkkotie. Architect J.A. Palmqvist designed the first college building, finished in 1914. Duringe the Finnish Civil War the college functioned as a base for the Finnish Whites. The original premise of educating young students from Karelia became difficult after the Finnish independence (1917) as the Russian officials hindered Karelians to cross the border to Finland. The original mission resurfaced during the 1921-1922 East Karelian uprising as more than 10000 East Karelians refugees entered Finland. More than a hundred East Karelians studied the language and culture of their new home country in Kuusamo during the 1920’s.

The college dormitory Majala was completed in the 1930’s as the Great Depression began. The new principal, the agronomist instigated agricultural studies with the new barn.

World War II: the army used the school during the Winter War. The college activities were on hold all through the Interim Peace and the Continuation War, when the college functioned as a hospital for the German troops. As the Germans retreated in 1944 the Kuusamo centre was burned, including the college buildings.

The new main building was inaugurated in 1953. It included an auditorium and classrooms for textile and wood working and a separate dormitory wing for the teachers.

During the summers the college functioned as a hostel, which was particularly popular during the 1960’s as car tourism became more popular. Meanwhile the agricultural activities proved unviable, the the lifestock farming was given up in 1961 and gardening replaced the field farming. The college curriculum was now directed towards forestry rather than agriculture.

The college popularity decreased in the 1970’s as a result of the rural exodus, as young people migrated to southern Finland and Sweden. New programs included tourism and visual art studies. Photography and, later on, video studies were included and the handicrafts studies became textile studies. The art camps during the summers gathered students from all parts of Finland.

The once popular tourism studies were abandoned in the mid-90’s as the vocational studies in tourism became the norm.

Kuusamo College has arranged the Kuusamo History Days since 1987 and the international White Karelian Symposium biannually since 1998.


Location and history of Kuusamo

Kuusamo was founded in 1869 and it is in northern Finland, Northern Ostrobothnia. Kuusamo’s identity and geographical location lies firmly within Koillismaa (Northeasternland as a literal translation), together with the municipalities of Taivalkoski and Pudasjärvi. Kuusamo became a city in 2000.

The areal of Kuusamo is the tenth largest in Finland, 5809 square kilometres with a population density of 3,3 inhabitants per square kilometre. Lakes and rivers take up 830 square kilometres and there are 4330 square kilometres of forests. The Oulanka national park comprises 290 square kilometres. The national park was founded in 1956 and two rivers run across it, the Oulanka and Kitka rivers. The mighty rapids of Kuusamo, Kiutaköngäs and Jyrävä remain unleashed as the result of the “Rapidwars” of the 1950’s, led by Reino Rinne, a pioneering environmentalist and writer from Kuusamo.

Kuusamo remains one of the snowiest and most popular tourist attractions. The Kuusamo travel association was founded in 1936 and initially the focus was on the summer season. The scenic attractions in Oulanka and Paanajärvi were popular sites for hiking and rowboating on the white waters. Buses operated from Kuusamo to Paanajärvi and back on a separate road, and thus the expression “karhunkierros” (the Bear’s Ring) was coined, meaning that the ring route always had bears within it.

The development of the tourism industry was halted by the war, as 70% of Kuusamo was demolished and the so-called Switzerland of Finland, Paanajärvi, was lost in the war. The next municipality north of Kuusamo is Salla and the winter tourism centre of Sallatunturi ended up on the Soviet side of the new border. The reconstructions took years and Ruka and a new hike route for the Bear’s Ring were established as a new hub in 1954. Tourism gradually became a major source of income, enhanced by the opening of Kuusamo airport in the early 1970’s. The Bear’s Ring is currently the most popular in the country and the ski slopes at Ruka attract most downhill skiers.

There are four national parks around the Kuusamo region: Oulanka, Riisitunturi, Hossa and Iso-Syöte. The next established national park will be in Salla is the 41st national park in Finland.

Travellers, artists and researchers have been drawn to Kuusamo since the 19th century. Numerous nature photographers and hikers explore the paths of the Finnish national artist Akseli Gallen-Kallela and photographer I.K. Inha. Kuusamo receives more than a million visitors each year, seeking inspiration and experiencing the tranquillity of the wilderness. Kuusamo ARK – Kuusamo Arctic Residence Centre is a continuation of the story.

National Parks

Oulanka National Park

Hossa National Park

Riisitunturi National Park

Syöte National Park

Sallan (tba) National Park

Arriving to Kuusamo

Check the detailed information on the Ruka homepage. Moving about in Kuusamo

Moving about in Kuusamo

The residency guests have free use of a bicycle and camping gear, such as snow shoes and tents. Longer than day trips must be notified to the staff due to safety reasons.