A thousand years ago the Kokemäenjoki river valley was
a main artery through which cultural influences from
Europe entered Satakunta and other parts of western
Finland. The historical province of Satakunta came into
being in early medieval times. The centre of the
province was in Kokemäki. There was an important
trading post, Teljä, and the chapel of St Henry, where
according to Catholic tradition the patron saint of
Finland had preached before his martyrdom in 1155. The
silting up of the river and the rise of the surrounding
land eventually forced traders to move closer to the sea.
The forerunner of Pori, Ulvila, received its charter in
The son of the King Gustavus Vasa of
Sweden, John, was the Duke of Finland. He established
the city of Pori in 1558 at the mouth of the
Kokemäenjoki river. The ancient foreign-trade posts of
the river then moved from Ulvila to Pori. The
northernmost city in Finland was an important trade
centre though which whitefish, salmon and other products
of the Gulf of Bothnia were exported to continental
Europe. Exotic delicacies such as spices, fine wines and
fabrics were imported to Pori. From here they were sent
on to other parts of Satakunta and northern Finland.
After a successful start, Pori’s fortunes took a turn
for the worse in the 17th century. The entire Swedish
kingdom was wracked by years of war and famine. The
state’s restrictive economic practices denied foreign
trade almost entirely to many cities, Pori among them.
Pori’s foreign-trade rights were
restored in 1765. Once again the ships of the
townspeople sailed to the ports of the Baltic Sea. A new
seaport was founded at Reposaari as the old river
harbour had become silted up.
Pori was a big town by Finnish standards. In 1766 it had
a population of 1,500.
In 1809 Finland became part of the Russian Empire. There
was no great change in the life of people in Pori. The
old trading links, family ties and cultural connections
with Stockholm were kept. In the 1840s its growing
merchant fleet made Pori Finland’s foremost shipping
town. Sawn timber was exported as far as the
Mediterranean. Then began a series of accidents: the
town had suffered numerous fires, but the great fire of
1852 brought disaster upon the town. In a single day,
almost the entire city was reduced to ashes.
Pori’s growth as in industrial city accelerated in the
1870s. A match factory was founded in 1851 and an
engineering works followed seven years later. The real
industrial backbone of Pori was its sawmills, of which
several were started in the closing decades of the 19th
The products of the sawmill industry were mostly
exported, keeping the ports busy with shipping. A cotton
mill founded at the turn of the century sought success
for its products on the domestic market. The railway
between Pori and Tampere was completed in 1895. A number
of industrialist dynasties were influential in the city,
among them the Ahlströms and the Rosenlews. The wealthy
were balanced by a large and assertive industrial
working class. The city’s population had now reached
After the great fire, the city became more spacious in
aspect; broad avenues crisscrossed the city centre, and
blocks of fine masonry buildings were built along the
Around the turn of the century, Pori was also a busy
cultural centre. The national Finnish-language theatre
gave its first public performance in Pori, in the upper
hall of the Otava hotel in 1872. Several newspapers were
published in the city, a library and a museum were
started, there were Finnish and Swedish grammar schools,
vocational schools and a workers’ institute.
Industry, culture and civilisation
Since Finland gained her independence in 1917, Pori has
been an important, fast-growing city of heavy industry
and ports. Rosenlew, Outokumpu, Rauma-Repola, Kemira and
other industrial plants needed plenty of fresh labour
and the city grew rapidly.
The new age brought new winds of culture. Within a few
years, the Pori Jazz Festival grew to become a
flourishing international festival, and Finnish rock
often has its roots in Pori. In sport, the city won a
name for itself as the home of prizewinning strongmen
and its national champion ballgame teams.
In the new millennium, Pori is a city of students. In
Pori’s centres of education one can study technology,
business and the humanities. With its six thousand
students, Satakunta Polytechnic has been chosen as the
national centre of excellence in its field.
The industrial upheaval in Pori that started in the
1970s has been drastic, and the process of regeneration
is still to some extent incomplete. The people of Pori
have taken the hard years stoically. The city’s
economic base is now more diverse than before.
The Pori National Municipal Park embraces the main
features of Pori: the fast-flowing Kokemäenjoki river
delta, industrial and cultural history, and the living
present. Good environmental management has made Pori,
Yyteri and the marine area a superb place for
recreational pursuits. The delta is still a paradise for
bird-watching enthusiasts in Finland.
As it prepares for its 450th anniversary, Pori is a city
that is proud of its long history.
Pori has a population of 76,000. The population of the
surrounding Satakunta rural district is 241,000.