7 River Hiitolanjoki

These recordings have been selected from the interview material relating to the project (2003-2004) for preserving the traditions of River Hiitolanjoki (Kokkolanjoki) and Simpele. The interviews were carried out by folklorist Mikko Europaeus MA, who also compiled the material. The project was implemented in cooperation with the Rautjärvi Local History Association and financed by a grant given by the Foundation for the Promotion of Karelian Culture.

Recordings are in Finnish!

Recording 1 (Kolu)
Recording 2 (Transportation)
Recording 3 (Log floating)
Recording 4 (Inspection)
Recording 5 (Fishing)
Recording 6 (Lahnasenkoski)
Recording 7 (Torch fishing)

River Hiitolanjoki Scenic Path opened to the public!
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River Hiitolanjoki website placed online
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Association ‘Hiitolanjoki-yhdistys’ founded
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Project for a museum area and scenic path introducing the industrial history of River Hiitolanjoki
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Area map of River Hiitolanjoki

Location map and border crossing points

Scenic path and the power plant rapids on River Hiitolanjoki between Highway 6 and the Finno-Russian border

Have a closer look at River Hiitolanjoki by means of an old floating examination map


Visit other websites relating to River Hiitolanjoki!

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Find out about the activities of the ’Hiitolanjoki-yhdistys ry’ Association!

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Find out about projects relating to River Hiitolanjoki!

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The prehistoric period of River Hiitolanjoki is linked with the gradual expansion of settlements from the northwest shores of Lake Ladoga towards the outer Salpausselkä Ridge and from there on towards the interior. Salmon fishing linked with the hunting culture and the opportunities offered by the agriculturally fertile soil along the river probably provided the impetus for this development. There is a wealth of archeological material which has been uncovered in the area of the former parishes of Kurkijoki and Hiitola, and other early evidence relating to human movements has also been found in the upper reaches of the river at Simpele in Rautjärvi. For example, a crudely fashioned perforated axe was discovered at Haarakoski Rapids (situated at the confluence of the Hiitolanjoki and Silasmusjoki Rivers); this axe may actually represent a sacrifice intentionally offered to the rapids (Kähtävä-Marttinen 1997: Rautjärven kunnan arkeologinen inventointi). It may well be that the confluences of the waterways were thought to be dangerous places for travellers or that the sacrifice was made in order to ensure that the safe ascent of the salmon would take place also in the future.

In the oral tradition relating to the river there are recollections of an ancient salmon trap called ‘kolu’. Listen to the recording.

River Hiitolanjoki was the first stage in the long and extensive network of alternative waterways which allowed access from Lake Ladoga to Lakes Simpelejärvi and Torsanjärvi, and from there on to Lake Saimaa and the Savo waterways, and even all the way to Oulu and Russian Karelia. It has also been suggested that the river in fact formed the starting point for journeys made northwards by the Karelians in the period before they adopted the better known “Nousia Ryssä” route (Lappalainen 1968: Säämingin historia I). The significance of River Hiitolanjoki as a settlement and transport route has been studied by Finnish historians such as Erkki Kuujo, Kustaa Vilkuna and Pekka Lappalainen (who has investigated the ‘Ladogan’ origins of the early settlement of Eastern Savo in particular detail).

See further details of alternative waterways of River Hiitolanjoki.

A flat-bottom rowing boat which was discovered in River Silamusjoki in 1974. Picture: Erkki Terävä.
When travelling on waterways, the larger rapids were circumvented and land journeys were undertaken by foot, the light-weight travel boats (uisko) being pulled on rollers or carried overland. Pictures: Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus (History of the Northern Peoples) by Olaus Magnus (1555).
As a result of changes in borders and settlement (i.e. Western Karelia being placed under Swedish rule, the expansion towards the east of the Savo people), the importance of River Hiitolanjoki as an access route was probably already diminishing in the period following the Treaty of Pähkinäsaari (1323). However, the use of the river certainly continued even after this era: for example, it provided direct access to the nearby Änkilä village in Rautjärvi.

The river was also used for transporting various goods by suitable craft.  Listen to the recording.
One of the major features of the pre-industrial history of River Hiitolanjoki was the mill installations located on the river. Information on the local mills dates back as far as the 18th century. The oldest known mills were situated along the upper reaches of the river at the former Kivijärvekoski (above Juvankoski Rapids) and at Uudensillankoski.

At some stage, most rapids on River Hiitolanjoki had a mill and some rapids also had gang saws (raamisaha) which were  linked to a mill. The mills were divided into two categories: ”tax or duty mills” which paid tax, and “domestic mills” which were owned by one or two houses (for their own requirements).

The mill of Ylä-Ritakoski Rapids. Picture: UPM-Kymmene archives. 

Log floating on River Hiitolanjoki was a common activity before the harnessing of the rapids  - and even afterwards, up to the time of border readjustments which followed the end of the Second World War. The power plants constructed in the early part of the 20th century were by-passed by means of log chutes. River Hiitolanjoki formed a part of the log floating route between Lakes Torsanjärvi and Simpeleenjärvi along which logs were floated all the way from the head waters down to the saw mills around Lake Ladoga. Short firewood (“lappuhalko”) was also transported all the way to St. Petersburg. The log floating along River Hiitolanjoki  was organised by Laatokan Saha Oy (Ladoga Saw Mill), the Zachariassen Group of companies, Laatokan Puu Oy and the predecessor of  Yhtyneet Paperitehtaat (United Paper Mills), Aktiebolaget Simpele.

Some of the personal log floating experiences of local people have been recorded.  Listen to the recording.

Log floating on River Hiitolanjoki, probably in the 1930s. Picture: Satakunta Museum.
The factory at Kangaskoski Rapids, pictured from downstream in the 1910s. Picture: UPM-Kymmene archives. The Syrjäkoski power plant was built along the lower reaches of the river, about 6 kilometres from the current border between Finland and Russia. Today, the rapids remain virtually undisturbed in their natural state although the ruins of the power plant and some dam structures still remain. Picture: UPM-Kymmene archives.

The industrial history of River Hiitolanjoki began with the harnessing of Juvankoski Rapids in 1896 to meet he needs of the Simpele factories. The huge project was launched by Matti Roiha, an enterprising businessman from Parikkala. To start with, water power was used to illuminate the factory by means of a dynamo turbine. An early paper factory and a ground-wood mill were also in operation in Kangaskoski during 1901-1925. One of the first products to be manufactured was natural-brown wrapping paper for export to the St. Petersburg area. Later, with the expansion of the production and the further development of hydroelectric power operations in other rapids, new hydroelectric power plants (Lahnasenkoski 1911, Kalliokoski 1919, Sahakoski 1919, Ritakoski 1920, Syrjäkoski 1924, Kangaskoski 1925, Juvankoski 1948) were constructed which in turn enabled the industrial development of the area to proceed at full stride. It was typical of the period that these electrification projects also resulted in the establishment of a number of small electricity companies in the Parikkala and Hiitola area. 

What happened when Juuso Walden, Managing Director of Yhtyneet Paperitehtaat (United Paper Mills), and  Ilmari Sipilä, General Manager of the Simpele factory, carried out an inspection of the power plants.
Listen to the recording.

Today, four of the power plants of River Hiitolanjoki are still in operation. The Juvankoski plant produces electricity for the international company M-Real which manufactures consumer packaging board and coated paper at Simpele. Hiitolanjoen Voima Oy owns the Kangaskoski and Ritakoski power plants, while Vantaan Energia Oy owns the Lahnasenkoski plant. Electricity produced at the Kangaskoski plant is also transferred to factories, whereas the electricity generated by the Ritakoski and Lahnasenkoski plants is transferred to the national grid by Parikkalan Valo Oy. There are no power plants operating on the Russian side of the river.

Copyright 2005- Association 'Hiitolanjoki-yhdistys ry', Imatra Region Development Company
Website is produced as a part of project
'Scenic path introducing the industrial history and museum area of River Hiitolanjoki'