Finnmark – where dreams become reality

The history of Finnmark

People have lived in Finnmark for over 10.000 years and there are many traces after settlements and burial sites of old times.  Alta has a World Heritage Site for cave art and rock carvings which are over 6.000 years old.

Obscure as it may be, the first impact of Sámi  culture goes back at least 2.000 years. Sápmi or Sámi territory covers an area which is now intersected by borders between Russia, Finland, Sweden and Norway.   Most of the Sámi  live in Norway. The Sámi  languages and dialects all have the same origin, but as time went they developed in different directions.

Norwegians first settled in Finnmark in the thirteenth century. The first church was consecrated in Vardø in 1307, where a fortress was built at about the same time. Good fishing and promising trade stimulated immigration from northern Europe. Immigrants from Finland and Sweden during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries brought Finnish culture which we still find in Finnmark to this very day, notably in the east of the county (Vadsø, Bugøynes). The Finnish language can still be heard and Finnish surnames are in use.

World war II left deep scars in Finnmark. The allies bombed large parts of the towns of Kirkenes, Vardø and Vardø. When the German forces withdrew during the autumn of 1944, they applied the “Scorched Earth” approach. More than ten thousand dwellings, schools, hospitals and some churches were destroyed, as well most of the fishing boats. About two third of the population was evacuated to Southern Norway by force.

During spring and summer of 1945, most of those who had been forced to leave moved back home. Though the authorities wanted to reconstruct the county, they succeeded only partially. There was a lack of practically everything, but people insisted on returning and rebuild what was lost. Most of the county bears the mark of post-war architecture. Some places have never been rebuilt at all.

Today’s Finnmark has changed. Its natural resources and geographical location make Finnmark internationally attractive as well. Close distance to Russia, its culture and existing possibilities imply good future perspectives. Both municipalities, Finnmark County Authority, the Sámi Parliament and Innovation Norway work for the population and the economy of Finnmark.