|Kiruna - Giron|
Clockwise from top: Kiruna skyline by night, Kiruna Church, the Icehotel in Jukkasjärvi, rocket launch at Esrange, bell tower at Kiruna Church.
|• Total||16.53 km2 (6.38 sq mi)|
|Population (31 December 2010)|
|• Density||1,098/km2 (2,840/sq mi)|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|• Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
Kiruna (Northern Sami: Giron, Finnish: Kiiruna) is the northernmost town in Sweden, situated in the province of Lapland. It had 18,148 inhabitants in 2010 and is the seat of Kiruna Municipality (pop. 23,099 in 2008) in Norrbotten County.
The area in which the city was built shares a long history with the indigenous Sami people dating back at least 6,000 years of evident settlement. The city of Kiruna was founded in 1900 and quickly became an important seat for iron ore extraction and mining industry in Sweden. During World War II, large quantities of iron were transported from Kiruna by rail to the east coast, and further down to be sold to Germany.
Esrange Space Center was established in Kiruna in 1964 and is one of only two spaceports under direct control by the European Space Agency. Also in Kiruna are the Institute of Space Physics and the Department of Space Science belonging to Luleå University of Technology.
Kiruna is a popular travel destination for both Swedish and international tourists, mostly because of its world famous Icehotel. The northern location makes it a good place to observe the midnight sun and northern lights.
Archeological findings have shown that the region around Kiruna has been inhabited for at least 6,000 years. Centuries before Kiruna was founded in 1900, the presence of iron ore at Kiirunavaara and Luossavaara had been known by the local Sami population. In 1696, Samuel Mört, a bookkeeper of the Kengis works, wrote on the presence of iron in the two hills. The Swedish senior enforcement officer and cartographer and mapper Anders Hackzell mapped the Kiruna area in 1736 and gave the mountains of the area their Swedish language names Fredriks berg (original Finnish name still in use as well: Kiirunavaara) and Berget Ulrika Eleonora (original Finnish name still in use as well: Luossavaara), after the King of Sweden Fredrik I and his wife Ulrika Eleonora.
Despite the findings of large amounts of ore, no mining was initiated because of the remote location and the harsh climate. Some ore was extracted in the 19th century by extracting it in summer and transporting it in winter, using sleds drawn by reindeer and horses. However, the costs were high and the quality of the phosphorous ore poor, until, in 1878, the Gilchrist-Thomas process, invented by Sidney Gilchrist Thomas and Percy Gilchrist, allowed for the separation of phosphor from the ore.
In 1884, a concession for a railway from Luleå to Narvik was granted to The Northern of Europe Railway Company. The provisional railway between Luleå and Malmberget was finished in 1888 and the first train left Malmberget in March. Around the same time, the English company went bankrupt and had to sell the line to the Swedish state for 8 million Swedish crowns, around half the amount initially invested. After a significant rebuild, the railway to Gällivare could be used again and iron ore was extracted at Malmberget by Aktiebolaget Gellivare Malmfält (AGM).
At the initiative of Robert Schoug, the Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara Aktiebolag (LKAB) was founded in 1890. In 1893, Gustaf Broms became CEO of both LKAB and AGM. LKAB pressed for continuing Malmbanan via Luossavaara and Kiirunavaara to the ice-free coast of Norway. The continuation of the railway line to Narvik was controversial, because opponents feared the influence of Russia (then controlling Finland and already connected to Sweden at Haparanda–Tornio) on an international railway line.
The decision to build was finally taken in 1898. The railway came to Kiruna 15 October 1899 and the Swedish and Norwegian sections were joined 15 November 1902. For LKAB, this had been so expensive that they could barely avoid bankruptcy in 1901, just after the ore mining at Kiirunavaara had started. King Oscar II only opened the railway line 14 July 1903, preferring summer over winter to travel north.
The architects Per Olof Hallman and Gustaf Wickman were appointed to design the city, to be built at Haukivaara, near both iron ore mines, with then revolutionary consideration of geographical and climatological circumstances; being built on a hill, winter temperatures are much milder than in other towns, and due to the street plan and the positioning, wind is limited. On 27 April 1900, Hallmans plan was officially accepted.
Gustaf Broms proposed to name the settlements Kiruna, a short and practical name that could also be pronounced by Swedish speaking inhabitants. LKAB appointed Hjalmar Lundbohm, who had finished neither high school nor his geology studies, as local manager in Kiruna.
Before the design for the settlement had been accepted, houses were built in a disorganized manner with illegal slums similar to those in the other mining town, Malmberget, 80 kilometres (50 mi) south of Kiruna. Also, provisional buildings served as a church, a school, a hospital, a hotel and a police station. However, official residences were built at a high pace, and when the king opened the railway in 1903, all illegal residences and most other provisional buildings had been demolished and replaced. The very first building, B:1, is preserved and can be seen at Hjalmar Lundbohmsgården. In 1899, 18 people were registered as living in soon-to-be Kiruna. This increased to 222 in 1900, 7,438 in 1910 and 12,884 in 1930.
The residences did not fully keep up with this rapid growth; by 1910, there were 1,877 official rooms and some unrecognised residences, which meant that an average of three to four people lived in a single room; this density decreased steadily during the decades to follow. Kiruna became a municipalsamhälle (a community within a municipality) in 1908. This caused unhappiness in local organisations, such as Luossavaara-Kiirunavaara Arbetareförening, that had hoped for a status as köping, which would have kept more of the mining income inside the locality. In return, the mining company LKAB paid for a hospital, fire station, sewage, roads, a church (opened 1912) and the priest's home.
In April 1907, a tram began operation in Kiruna, the northernmost in the world. This meant miners would no longer have to walk several kilometers through the sub-arctic cold, nor would they need to climb a hundred meters up the mining hill. The network consisted of three lines: bergbanan (funicular), stadsspårvägen (city tramway) and gruvspårvägen (mine tramway). The funicular closed in 1955 after a road up the mine had been built 1949. The city line had a total length of 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) at longest and was unique due to the 1-meter gauge, double windows and heated wagons. It closed in 1958 after gradually being replaced by buses. Between 1941 and 1964, a tram was used inside the mine, with wagons bought from closed down tramlines from all over Sweden.
The economy for iron ore was good in the early 20th century. Before the start of the work, Hjalmar Lundbohm had been worried about whether the Kiruna winter would allow for working outside at all, but despite early research into underground mining, mountaintop removal mining was the primary method in the early years. Mechanisation was attempted early using steam powered excavators, but the cold climate led to considerable difficulties and only when electrical machinery became available in the 1910s, significant mechanisation was achieved. The peak of Kiirunavaara, Statsrådet, was 247.7 metres (813 ft) above Luossajärvi until it was spectacularly blown off in 1910.
A general strike hit Sweden in 1909 and Kiruna was no exception. Hoping for a better future, thousands of people left Kiruna, including a group of 500 inhabitants emigrating to Brazil. Most of them returned, disappointed that life in Latin America was not what they had hoped it to be, Hjalmar Lundbohm personally lent money for the trip home to some of the emigrants.
During World War I, iron ore production dropped to the lowest level in LKAB's history, and when exports increased again, a successful three-month strike in 1920 meant a 20% increase in salaries for the miners. Production dropped to a minimum in 1922 and a three-day workweek was introduced, but during the fabulous twenties, it increased to a record nine million tonnes in 1927.
In 1921, mining started at the other of the two ore hills in Kiruna, Luossavaara. However, the total amount of ore that could be mined in open pit mining here was small compared to Kiirunavaara, and LKAB preferred to concentrate resources in one place. Nevertheless, mining here continued until 1974 and later it became a research mine.
During the first decades of Kiruna's existence, no road connected it to the outside world. The only connection was by railway or, as in the time before the railway, by boat (in summer) via the Torne and Kalix rivers to Jukkasjärvi and Håmojåkk and then proceed by foot. A road from Kiruna was built to Tuolluvaara in 1901, Poikkijärvi in 1909, Alttajärvi in 1913 and connected to Svappavaara in 1926, from where roads already connected via Vittangi to Pajala and via Lappesuando to Gällivare and further south.
Although some tourists had already started coming to the area in the 19th century, the completion of the railway line truly made tourism possible. Tourists came for the rivers and the mountains, but also geologists and entire classes of students came to see the mine. Additionally, a yearly winter sports festival was started, which attracted people from a wide area. The Sami population was already a tourist attraction in the early days of Kiruna's existence.
World War II
The municipality of Kiruna shares borders with Norway and Finland, and Kiruna is located relatively close to both countries. This led to many soldiers being transported to the area whenever mobilisation was requested; first in September 1939 after the German invasion of Poland, then in November 1939 after the Russian invasion of Finland, but in both cases the Swedish soldiers did not engage in any fighting. In March 1940, Churchill requested permission to transport soldiers from Narvik in Norway to Finland via Kiruna and Haparanda in Operation Catherine. Out of fear that the presence of British soldiers near the Kiruna ore mine would provoke a German attack on Sweden, the request was declined.
After the German invasion of Norway, at least ten soldiers were stationed along every bridge along Malmbanan, preparing for the possibility to blow up the bridges should the German army invade Sweden. Additionally, foreigners were banned from visiting Kiruna or the iron ore line, and only the Sami, military personnel, locals and people working for the government were permitted to travel between Kiruna and Riksgränsen.
Swedish iron ore from Kiruna was of major importance to the German war machine. A group of people working at LKAB organised in the Wollweberliga, planning to sabotage transports to Germany. In late November 1941, Edvard Nyberg, Ernst Wollweber and others produced a mine to be attached to the ore cars. Nyberg was caught, was fired from LKAB and spent 3½ years in prison. Upon his release, he founded Nybergs Mekaniska Verkstad which is still one of Kiruna's biggest companies .
Germany requested that Sweden provide use of the railway network to transport military equipment, but the Swedish government agreed only to transitering av human karaktär, men ej underhåll till stridande trupp (transit of humanitarian character, but no supply of fighting soldiers). Germany argued that, now that Norway was occupied, the German soldiers there were no longer fighting, and thus transported a large amount of military equipment, ammunition and, secretly, troops from south to north Norway, via Malmbanan and Kiruna. Troops were often transported in transports declared as material transports. Despite being strictly against the rules, there was considerable interaction between the German soldiers and the Swedish locals, including trading and football matches.
During the war, up to 2000 refugees from 20 different countries were kept in Kiruna. Also German prisoners of war, for example from crashed airplanes, were kept in Kiruna before being transported south. However, small-scale sabotage, such as sand in the engines, was also common and loose weapons often ended up at the bottom of the Luossajärvi lake, next to the railway stop.
In 1948, Kiruna gained city rights and started to receive large amounts of money from the mine. The city centre was renovated starting it 1953; most buildings built before 1920 were demolished and replaced, and many of the current buildings were built in the following period. The town grew and new neighborhoods were built, as well as new apartment buildings and villas in existing neighborhoods. The area currently known as Lombolo was built in the 1960s.
After World War II, the economy of Kiruna started to diversify. Initially, the mechanisation of the mining industry led to more mechanical workshops developing machinery for the mine, still dependent on the mining, but individual companies with spinoffs that could be sold to other areas than the Kiruna mine alone. In the 1950s, a fund, Norrlandsfonden was estabilshed, in which profits from LKAB would be invested in order to diversify the local economy. The municipality started to lend money to starting companies against very beneficial rates, a scheme that lasted until 1959 because the banks, that insisted this was false competition, had established more relaxed rules for lending out money. The industrial area east of the city was built in the 1950s to separate industry from neighborhoods.
On 10 November 1960, Kiruna Airport opened to separate civilian air traffic from the military airplanes that had landed at Kalixfors airport and at Luossajärvi since World War I. A road to Nikkaluokta was opened in 1971 and to Riksgränsen and Narvik in 1984. The latter had been debated heavily, for alternative plans existed to build the road to Norway on the northern side of Torneträsk, via Laimo, Kattuvuoma, Salmi to Innset and Bardu in Norway. This road was never built, but a 25 km long track between Laimo and Salmi was built at the initiatives of the locals and finished in 1962; however, this track, called Talmavägen, is not connected to any other road.
Increased communications were also beneficial for tourism. Swedish Railways had already run special trains before World War II, but started a special Dollar train in the summer months between Gothenborg and Kiruna, connecting to cruise ships from the United States. The canoe club Kiruna Långfärdspaddlare was founded in 1972 and rafting for tourists restarted after it had been discontinued for 20 years due to the drowning of Valfrid Johansson. Until the 1980s, tourism had been mainly a summer business, but touristic exploitation of dog sledging was started in 1983 in Jukkasjärvi. In 1990, the first Icehotel was built in Jukkasjärvi and advertised as the worlds largest igloo. It had been built using techniques from the building of Malmbanan 90 years before, and was also inspired by the Snow Festival, that had started in 1986 to celebrate the Swedish Viking satellite. Since 1998, a special tourist area exists in the mine and since 1999, tourists can visit the various areas of research going on in Kiruna.
In 1957, the Kiruna Geophysical Observatory (KGO) (now the Swedish Institute of Space Physics) was founded and established by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences. Esrange Space Centre is established in 1966. Here, rocket operations and ground-based observations are carried out since 1966, balloon operations since 1974, satellite operations since 1978 and testing operations since 2000 (with the Swedish Defence Material Administration). ESA also operates a satellite station near at Salmajärvi, near Esrange, since 1989. In 1987, Umeå University started a space engineering program in Kiruna, and GIS education was started by Luleå University of Technology in 1991. In 1993, The Umeå space engineers moved to the same building housing IRF and a year later another Luleå University programme, civil engineering with specialisation in space technology, started at the same location. Since 2006, the Erasmus Mundus Master Course in Space Science and Technology has started with at least one semester spent at LTU. In 2007, education along IRV was split and only the Department of Space Science, belonging to Luleå University of Technology, remained, while the Umeå University programme in Space Engineering quit.
Until the 1970s, Kiruna's population steadily increased as the iron ore economy was thriving. 1973 was a record year for the iron ore company LKAB, mining 24 million ton ore from Kiruna and nearby Svappavaara. However, a steel crisis led to a dramatic decrease in the iron ore economy, and LKAB had losses in 1977 for the first time in decades. Additionally, increasing transport capacity meant increasing competition from Africa, South America and Australia, where mining is mostly done in the open and thus cheaper. In ten years the number of employees decreased from 8,000 to 4,000 and the population of Kiruna began to drop. The mines at Svappavaara, Tuolluvaara and Luossavaara closed and only Kirunavaara remained. The local job office was jocularly called Resebyrån (the travel agency) because the only message to unemployed youths was: move. Since then, the population has gone steadily downhill, but has stabilised in recent years due to the diversification of the economy. After year 2000 the rise in commodities prices has again increased mining activities in Kiruna, and created new job opportunities.
Since 1985, the snow festival has been organised each winter, including various activities such as an ice sculpture contest. In 2000, when the city was 100 years old, the Kiruna festival was first organised and has since been organised every year in summer.
Kiruna is located in the north of Sweden, 145 kilometres (90 mi) north of the Arctic circle. The city centre is built on the Haukavaara hill at an altitude of 530 m, high above the Torne river to the north and the Kalix river to the south. Other parts of the town are Lombolo and Tuolluvaara. Near Kiruna are the mountains Kiirunavaara and Luossavaara. Kiirunavaara is an iron ore mine that is the town's primary economic resource. Luossavaara is a former mine and now used as a skiing slope.
The city is built near the lake Luossajärvi with outflow to the Luossajoki that flows in the Torne river at Laxforsen. The area around Kiruna is very sparsely populated. The northwest, west and southwest of Kiruna are dominated by the Scandinavian mountains, visible from the city centre. Swedens highest mountain, Kebnekaise, is 75 kilometres (47 mi) from the city centre and can be seen from it as well. To the west is Nikkaluokta and to the northwest are Abisko, Björkliden, Riksgränsen and the Norwegian town of Narvik, 180 kilometres (110 mi) via the road. 12 kilometres (7 mi) north of Kiruna is Kurravaara, on the edge of the Torne River. The land north of Kurravaara is roadless, uninhabited land, partly barren and partly birch forest, up to the Norwegian and Finnish borders at Treriksröset. The lower-lying east is dominated by boreal forest, stretching hundreds (if not thousands) of kilometers into Finland and Russia. Around 15 km east of Kiruna is a group of villages at the Torne River, most notably Jukkasjärvi, where an ice hotel is built in winter, attracting tourists from all over the world. The twin cities Gällivare and Malmberget are some 120 km south of Kiruna.
Kiruna became a Swedish city on January 1, 1948, and was at one time listed as the largest city in the world by area, even if most of its territory of course was non-urban. After the Swedish municipality reform in the 1970s, the term "city" has been legally discontinued. Today only the built-up area is considered a de facto city.
Being located 145 kilometres north of the Arctic Circle, Kiruna has a Sub-Arctic climate with short, cool summers and long, cold winters, although the city itself can be considerably milder than the surrounding forest. Snowcover generally lasts from late September to mid-May, but snowfall can occur year-round. The sun does not set between May 30 and July 15, and perpetual daylight lasts from early May to early August. The period that the sun does not rise lasts from early December to early January, the exact boundaries depending on local topography. At this time of the year, a few hours of twilight are the only daylight available. The coldest temperature ever in Kiruna was -49 °C (-56 °F) in February 1966. The hottest was 29 °C (84 °F) in June 1974.
|Climate data for Kiruna|
|Average high °C (°F)||−11.1
|Daily mean °C (°F)||−16.9
|Average low °C (°F)||−21
|Precipitation mm (inches)||30.1
|Avg. precipitation days||17||14||14||13||12||13||16||17||15||16||16||17||192|
|Source: Swedish Meteorological and Hydrological Institute |
Kiruna is located at the E10 road, connecting Luleå with Norway and passing close by Gällivare (south of Kiruna) and Narvik (on the Norwegian coast). A short road connects to Kurravaara at the Torne river and ends there. Another road connects Kiruna with Nikkaluokta close to Kebnekaise and is used by tourists to get to the mountains. It also passes by or nearby several villages in the Kalix river valley.
Buses connect Kiruna with major towns in Norrbotten province and villages nearby and in the wider region. The railway connects Luleå with Gällivare, Kiruna and Narvik. Although built to serve the mine, Swedish Rail runs daily passenger traffic on the line: a night train from Narvik to Stockholm, a day train from Narvik to Luleå (connecting with a second night train to Stockholm and Göteborg), and trains to Luleå and Narvik that start and finish in Kiruna. The latter is known as Karven and popular for day trips to the mountains near Abisko, Björkliden and Riksgränsen, particularly in winter. Additional long-distance trains are run by Connex in summer.
Kiruna Airport is located southeast of the city, 8 km by road. A few flights per day connect Kiruna with Stockholm, either directly or via Luleå or Umeå. During tourist season, buses connect Kiruna Airport to the city center.
Iron ore extraction is a key industry of the area, and the town is very dependent on the mining company LKAB. During World War II, large quantities of iron were transported from northern Sweden by rail to the east coast, and further down to be sold to Germany. (See Swedish iron ore during World War II).
In recent years, attempts have been made to reduce the area's dependence on mining with initiatives to promote science, R&D and government related activities. Initiatives have included the proposed relocation of the Swedish Space Corporation and the establishment of the Environment and Space Research Institute (Miljö- och rymdforskningsinstitutet); the former was never executed and the latter was essentially only a temporary success.
The ESTRACK Kiruna Station of ESA, the European Space Agency, is located in the municipality. So is Esrange, the European Space and Sounding Rocket Range, as well as an EISCAT station and EISCAT scientific headquarters.
Tourism is an important source of income for Kiruna and the surrounding region with around 300,000 tourist-nights per year (1998). Throughout the year, fishing and hunting are popular activities by both locals and tourists. Visits can go to the mine, the church and different research agencies, such as Abisko Scientific Research Station the Institute of Space Physics or Esrange. Tourists can experience the sami culture, particularly in combination with winter activities such as dog sledding.
In summer, many come to the mountains to hike up to Kebnekaise, to walk on trails such as Kungsleden and Nordkalottruta, or to hike in the national parks such as Abisko National Park. The location north of the arctic circle attracts tourists for experiencing the midnight sun. Tourists also come for the lakes and rivers of Lapland. There exists rafting on the Kalix and Torne rivers, canoeing in the Vistas valley near Nikkaluokta, and boat trips on lakes such as Torneträsk. Caving can be done near Björkliden. Each year in summer, the Kiruna festival is organised, a music festival in the midnight sun.
In winter, the Icehotel attracts tourists from all over the world. The northern location makes it a good place to observe the northern lights, and snow cover generally lasts from October to May. The long and certain snow cover, with frozen lakes and river Torne, makes it a good place for winter adventures, skiing (cross-country and alpine), dog sledding or driving a snowmobile. Ice climbing can be done in the mountains and sometimes one can go ice skating on lakes or rivers. Each year in winter, the Snow festival is organized over the last weekend of January, including scooter jumping, reindeer racing, an ice sculpture contest, and more.
- Car testing
- North European Aerospace Test range (NEAT)
- Kiruna FF is a Swedish football club located in Kiruna. The club currently competes in Division 3 Norra Norrland, the fifth tier of the Swedish football league system.
Moving the town
The re-development of Kiruna is a reconstruction project of Kiruna, as the Kirunavaara mine, run by LKAB, undermines the current town center. Several buildings are to be moved or demolished. The town center is to be moved 3 kilometers to the east.
The ground deformations became apparent in 2003, and the redevelopment started in 2007.
In 2004, it was decided that the present centre of the municipality would have to be relocated to counter mining-related subsidence. The relocation would be made gradually over the coming decade. On January 8, 2007, a new location was proposed, northwest to the foot of the Luossavaara mountain, by the lake of Luossajärvi.
The first actual work on moving the town was done in November 2007, when work on the new main sewage pipe started. In the same week, first sketches for the layout of the new part of the town became available. The sketches include a travel centre, the new locations for the city hall and the church, an artificial lake and an extension of the Luossavaara hill into the city. The location of the new section of the E10 is still uncertain, as is the location of the railway and the railway station. A more official sketch was published early in spring 2008, which was then discussed with various interest groups before a further version is to be produced.
Most of the buildings in Kiruna will simply be torn down and rebuilt at the target site. However, the Kiruna city hall, the most architecturally significant building in Kiruna, will be cut into four parts, each of which will be transported whole to the target site and reassembled there. The move will require an extremely flat and level road tens of metres wide and will be extremely slow. Also, the Kiruna Church, by many considered the most architecturally significant building in Kiruna, will be moved.
In June 2010 the municipal council decided that the town would be moved eastwards (to  The moving of the town is expected to start in the spring of 2014. White Arkitekter AB based in Stockholm won the contract to design the new city, which envisages a denser city centre with a greater focus on sustainability, pedestrians and public transport than automobiles.), in the direction of Tuolluvaara, instead of the proposed northwestern location.
Kiruna Church, built in 1912, is one of Sweden's largest wooden buildings. The church exterior is built in a Gothic Revival style, while the altar is in Art Nouveau. In 2001, Kiruna Church was voted the most popular pre-1950 building in Sweden, in a country-wide poll conducted by the Swedish Travelling Exhibitions, a government agency connected to the Ministry of Culture.
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kiruna.|
|Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Kiruna.|
- Kiruna – Official website
- Mitt Kiruna – Kiruna city guide with local news, weather forecast, cinemas, TV-guide and current events.
- BBC – Sweden to save sinking town
- Satellite picture by Google Maps
- Det nya Kiruna – (Swedish)
- (English) Trip to Kiruna