History of the village

The geological history of Ylläsjärvi stretches to billions of years ago when Ylläs and other fells have been formed out of movement of ancient tectonic plates. It is fascinating to think what the fells that are guarding our village have been witnessing over the course of history. Fells have been on the bottom of the ocean to get the hard quartzite rock. Geologists believe that Pallas-Ylläs fells have been even ten times higher than nowadays, same as Himalayan mountains are today. The fells surrounding the village have resisted erosion and glaciers and are today beautiful round fells and one of the oldest base rocks in the world. 

There has been many ice ages throughout our history and the thickness of the ice during the last ice age was estimated to be over 3 kms. No wonder that the movement of the ice has created a lot of different and interesting formations, like giant's steps on the hillside of Ylläs close to Tuomikuru hut. 

The glacier of the last ice age retreated from Ylläsjärvi about 9000 years ago and the first inhabitants moved to these areas soon after because Ylläs situated almost on the shores of lake Anculys, the former stage of the modern Baltic Sea. When many parts of Southern Finland were still under water, there were people inhabiting Ylläsjärvi. Archeologists have found habitations from the stone age around the village. Sami people have been passing the are for centuries and after them came the tax collectors from south, Karelian and Norway.

The founder of the village Ylläsjärvi was Erkki Ylläsjärvi, who bought the lake and lands with two barrels of fish in 1760s and founded Ylläsjärvi heritage estate in 1771.  Before that Ylläsjärvi belonged to peasants who lived in Pello and used the wilderness lake for fishing. Heritage estate means that one could not sell or split the estate but it was inherited usually by the oldest son of the family.

Ylläsjärvi-born professor Kyösti Kurtakko has made genealogy of Ylläsjärvi family. According to Kurtakko, in the 1800's people started to find new areas for living along the rivers and wilderness lakes of Tornio-Muonio river system. Ylläsjärvi was and still is connected to this river system by River Ylläs and the village was also situated near one of the old main paths that connected Sodankylä and Kolari via Kallo and Venejärvi. Later the other main path for smugglers to Sweden went through the village from Kittilä to Äkäsjokisuu. 

Main livelihood of the village has always been natural economy: forests and waters but also tar burning and small scale farming. From the beginning there were only two houses in the village for nearly a century: Ylläsjärvi heritage estate and its croft/Hyötylä. For the unkown reason, in 1882 Ylläsjärvi estate was sold to Heikki Ylläsjärvi (former Luosujärvi) from the neighbor village Luosu. After Heikki the time of Ylläsjärvi heritage estate ended and the estate with its lands was devided and given to Heikki's children whose offspring still mainly live in the village.

In the beginning of the 2000th century the meaning of the farming grew bigger giving an important livelihood for the villagers. The population started to grow and new houses were built, most of them on the lands of the former Ylläsjärvi heritage estate. Julius and his father Aaron Möykkynen also moved to Ylläsjärvi from Pallasjärvi.

In the 1920's the famous folklore collector Samuli Paulaharju visited Ylläsjärvi and writed down the old history of the village in his book Taka-Lappia. On the same decade the first road was built between Ylläsjärvi and Kurtakko, although there were no road continuing from Kurtakko forward. 

1930's brought the first tourists to the village. Shop keeper Nylander and his companions from Oulu were accommodated in the oldest house of the village. At first there were 3 houses that accommodated tourists.

Second World War and Winter War took Ylläsjärvi men first to extra military rehearsal in Kemi and immediately after to war in Suomussalmi in December 1939. There were no food or shelter available and soldiers were sleeping outside in -30 Celcius degrees. Many men of the village were wounded and we lost Jonne Kurtakko even after the war when he hit the land mine on the way to Äkäsjokisuu. Our war veterans did not want to talk about experiences they faced with the war so there are not so many stories to share.

Lapland War 1944-45 burned most of Lappish villages but Ylläsjärvi was saved from burning even it was visited by German soldiers. Evacuation order for civilians to flee to Sweden was given and most of the villagers left. However, Kalle and Laura Ylläsjärvi with their family and cows decided to turn back to their home village from Kurtakko. They "trusted their faith in God no matter what happens". Also some members of Möykkynen family stayed home. German soldiers came by motorbike and broke into Ylläsjärvi family's home. They asked if there was a road to Kittilä and asked also for food. They paid for the food and exploded the bridges over the river when they left. No one was hurt nor any house were burned.

After the war the great forest logging took place around the village and it was seen in the village for many years. Kalle Ylläsjärvi's home was renovated into lumber men's accommodation and there was also a shop and food supply. Kalle and his family lived at the other end of the house. Also tourists started to visit the village more and more and were accommodated in many houses.

The first ski café in Ylläs was founded in 1957 in Tuomikuru, next to the trail from the village to the first Ylläs ski lift in Varkaankuru. Ylläs-Topi and Ylläs-Jussa served skiers in this demanding place and you can still find the remains of the iron stove they used for heating the berry juice and coffee.

Eelin kauppa supermarker started first at home of Elle and Eeli Ylläsjärvi in 1963. Great loggings gave way to tourists who were still accommodated in local houses. Karjalan liiton maja (Karelian association lodge) was built on the shore of the lake Ylläsjärvi in 1968 and it was the first tourism building of the village. Then the first cottages owned by tourists were built in Palovaara area and also locals started to build separate accommodation buildings and cottages little by little. Home accommodation continued all the way to the beginning of 2100-century and nowadays it is popular again to overnight at the local houses. Although the bookings are made today via Internet and not with letters or postcards!

Hospitality was strong also in 1960's. Travellers arriving to the village were offered food when in other villages it was traditional to offer coffee. Ylläsjärvi was so remote place even in 1960's that locals new that arrivals came from the long distance and were hungry. On winter evenings all the houses layed down for the night before 8.00 p.m. and woke up at 5.00 a.m.

1970's was the decade of famous Ylläs x-country ski competitions in the village. There were over 1000 participants and 14 different nationalities who competed in these one day lasting ski races. Race center was located on the fields near Eelin kauppa and skiers started the race at the same time from the lake ice. All the village fields were reserved for car parking places and still the line of the cars continued all the way to Kotarova. There were no electricity in the village to organize these massive ski races with TV and radio broadcasts but only one generator. Organizing required a lot of volunteer work from the village and also from the neighbour villages. The ski trails were made by one snowmobile and by feet. The trail followed the demanding slopes in Palovaara area and some of the hills were so steep that it was impossible to glide down them without falling down. Afterwards the trail was changed a bit for easier slopes.

Electricity arrived to village as late as in 1975. In 1980's many houses were built in the village and also the ski resort was founded in 1981 although there were no road from the village to the ski resort. At the end of 1980's many cottages like Loma-Ylläs and Hotel Ylläsrinne were built specially in Palovaara area. The road to Kittilä was built in 1991. The economic depression in the beginning of 1990's slowed down the tourism development for few years but 2100 st century brought new big investments like Spa Hotel Ylläs Saaga, the Scenic Road to Äkäslompolo and the cable car, gondola lift.

Ylläsjärvi grew and developed and attracted many new inhabitants, companies and jobs. In 2010's the village got the new kindergarten and school.

Throughout the history village Ylläsjärvi has maintained its hospitality and also the strong volunteer work for the welfare of the village. The close and easy-going relationship to the surrounding nature is still characteristic to the village and its people.

In 2021 this developing and sustainably growing village turns 250 years! It's time to celebrate!