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Tampere History, Finland


Many people often claim that understanding the history of a particular place is the key to understanding its place in modern times and this is often a true story.  However, in the case of Tampere it is especially true and the historical account of this particular Finnish town cannot begin without an explanation of the unique geography that it has.  Tampere is on an isthmus which means that it is essentially a land bridge spanning across a body of water to the north known as Lake Nasijarvi and a body of water to the south known as Lake Pyhajarvi.  Both of these lakes are connected with the Tammerkoski Rapids, a formation that ends in a waterfall 18 meters in height at the southern part of the city of Tampere.

Why is this important?  It is important because it explains why the population started to settle in Tampere around the end of the 7th century.  This connection point allowed easy access into two different paths of water and that was very important to the people that initially populated the town.  Around the turn of the 18th century, more than a thousand years later, the rapids and the water difference over the falls were used to generate some of the earliest forms of hydroelectricity and when that happened the city became a permanent fixture in Finland on the order of King Gustav the III.

With the massive power base that the city was able to support, thanks to the location of the rapids, Tampere quickly became one of the major industrial cities of Finland during the 19th century.  In fact, there was one decade during the second half of the 1800s that Tampere had almost half of the industrial workers of the entire nation and for this reason, it was nicknamed Manchester of the North.  If you hear the city being fondly referred to as Manse, this is where the origin of that particular nickname comes from.

Tampere was also a focal point in the war between Communist and Democratic forces in 1918 and it was the headquarters of the Red Communist Forces.  If these forces had been victorious, it is likely that Tampere would have been the capital of Finland, but the city itself was marginalized when the White Democratic Forces prevailed.  The industry eventually left the city over the course of the next four decades and those same factories that had once held massive industrial operations were eventually converted to the offices, cultural centers and restaurants that exist in central Tampere today.

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