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Kohtla-Järve is a city and municipality in north-eastern Estoniamarker, founded in 1924 and incorporated as a town in 1946. The city is highly industrial, and both processes oil shales and is a large producer of various petroleum products. The city is also very diverse ethnically: it contains people of nearly 40 ethnic groups and only 21% of the population are Estonians. Many ethnic Estonians in the city have adopted Russian as their primary language, although this changed in the late 1990s, as Estonian once again became the primary language used in everyday life. Kohtla-Järve is the 4th largest city in Estonia.


The history of Kohtla-Järve is closely tied to the history of extraction of oil shale - the main mineral of Estonia.

There is evidence that a number of settlement existed on the territory of modern Kohtla-Järve since High Middle Ages. In Danish Land Book, Järve and Kukruse villages were first mentioned in 1241 by the names Jeruius and Kukarus respectively, and Sompa village in 1420 by the name Soenpe.

Local residents were aware of oil shale's flammable capability since ancient times, but its industrial extraction in Estonia began only in 20th century. In 1916 researches have shown, that oil shale can be used both as fuel and as raw material for chemical industry, and mining started near Järve village. In 1919 State Oil Shale Industrial Corporation was formed and the extraction by shaft and open-pit mining was extended. Settlements for workers began to appear adjacent to mine. In 1924 the oil shale processing factory was built near Kohtla railway station, and nearby settlement named Kohtla-Järve started to grow.

During the World War II the value of Estonian oil shale deposit grew. Germans, who occupied Estonia, considered it as an important source of fuel. However, they failed to begin full-scale extraction.

After the war, the next occupant of Estonia, Soviet Unionmarker, required oil shale for industries in constantly icreasing quantities and its extraction greatly expanded. Kohtla-Järve, as the main settlement in mining area, received city status on 15 June 1946. Since that time, during the next twenty years, there was a process of administrative amalgamation of neighboring settlements within the limits of Kohtla-Järve. Kohtla and Kukruse were added to the city in 1949; Jõhvi, Ahtme and Sompa in 1960; Kiviõli, Oru, Püssi and Viivikonna in 1964. Thus, Kohtla-Järve greatly expanded, becoming a city with unique layout, as its parts remained scattered among woods, agricultural areas and oil shale mines. Total population of the city increased mainly by workers sent from different parts of Soviet Union, reaching 90,000 in 1980.After the break down of Soviet Union and Estonia again regained independence in 1991 the number of city districts decreased, as Jõhvimarker, Kiviõlimarker and Püssimarker became separate towns. Volumes of oil shale extraction and processing decreased dramatically during the 1990s and a lot of Kohtla-Järve citizens moved to Tallinnmarker or Russiamarker, due to high unemployment rate in Ida-Viru County.


Kohtla-Järve has a unique layout. The districts of the city are scattered across the northern part of Ida-Viru County in a considerably large area. The distance between Järve and Sirgala districts is about 30 km.
Administrative districts of Kohtla-Järve
The city is subdivided into 6 administrative districts ( ):
  1. Ahtme (about 20,000 inhabitants)
  2. Järve (21,000)
  3. Kukruse (600)
  4. Oru (1,500)
  5. Sompa (2,000)
  6. Viivikonna (with Sirgala) (700)

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