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The castle ruins and tar canal
Kajaani Castle was built in the beginning of the 17th century and was destroyed in the Great Northern War in 1716. The unrest in Russia in the 17th century, accelerated the progress of building Kajaani Castle. The Castle was needed to stabilise the Lake Oulujärvi region and at the same time, to supervise the vital waterway between Ostrobothnia and Russian Karelia (i.e. the River Kajaanijoki), which was normally used by Russian traders.
In the 1660’s the castle controlled Swedish frontiers in the east as well as protected the Gulf of Bothnia coast. The castle was used also as a prison. Famous prisoners in the castle included doctor Johannes Messenius and poet Lars Vivallius.
The Russian beat the Finnish army in the battle during the Great Northern War in 1714, a period also known as the Great Wrath. The Russians destroyed parts of Kainuu Region in order to invade Kajaani, too. The Chief of the castle heard about their plan, however, and warded off the first attack. In December 1715 Commander Tshekin arrived with his cavalry of 4,000 men. The Russians laid siege to 50 rangers and approximately 70 women and children in the castle for about 5 weeks. Finally (24 February 1716) the residents had to surrender as they had lost men to battle. The people in the castle were imprisoned and taken to Siberia. The castle was vacated and blown up. Only the stone ruin of the castle remained but even that was gradually destroyed as the locals picked up rocks for the foundation of their houses.
Lock-keeper’s cottage was built for the lock-keeper in 1880. Around the World War I, the cottage was used as a waypoint for jägers, the infantrymen.
The lock-keeper’s cottage was shifted a few metres from its original spot to give way to the rebuilding of a canal to transport tar. The lock and the lock-keeper’s cottage with its exhibition was opened to public in 1984.
The large rapids of the River Kajaaninjoki, that is, Koivu and Ämmäkoski, were the worst obstacles for the oarsmen rowing tar barrels to Oulu. The loads had to be carried by horse and carriage past the rapids and the fare often comprised 2/3 of the total transport fee from Kuhmo to Oulu. People requested improvements for the conditions and Vicar Johan Wegelius in Hyrynsalmi pleaded Alexander I, the Emperor of Russia, for his permission to build locks in connection to his locks in Ämmänkoski. The plea was, however, rejected in 1822. Johan Wegelius had already built wooden boat channels in 1819-20, but they were not safe and local coachmen managed to raise doubts regarding the use of the channels. In 1825 the Emperor gave permission to build canals in the rapids in River Kajaani. The building project begun in 1836 and the canals were finally completed 11 years later.
In the first years approximately 6,000 to 10,000 barrels a year were transported through the canals but the numbers increased gradually and in their peak, in the turn of the century, around 24,000 barrels were shipped through the canals. Once the railway was completed in 1904 and as the tar trade decreased, also the canals were less busy with the locks being eventually closed on 1 January 1915. Koivukoski lock was dismantled but Ämmänkoski lock was only filled up with soil.
The only tar canal in the world, built in the 1840’s, was eventually closed in 1915 and re-opened in 1984. On Sunday evenings n July you can still go and see tar rowing shows in the tar canal (free entry).
Tel. 08 6155 2555
Open Mon to Fri 9:00 to 16:30; holiday eves 9:00 to 15:00.