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Vaasa ( ) is a city on the west coast of Finlandmarker. It received its charter in 1606, during the reign of Charles IX of Sweden and is named after the Royal House of Vasa. Today, Vaasa has a population of ( ), (about 90000 in the Vaasa sub-region) and is part of the administrative province of Western Finlandmarker and is the regional capital of Ostrobothniamarker.

The city is bilingual with of the population speaking Finnish as their first language and speaking Swedish. The city is an important centre for Finland-Swedish culture.



Over the years, Vaasa has changed its name several times, due to alternative spellings, political decisions and language condition changes. At first it was called or after the village where it was founded in 1606, but just a few years later the name was changed to Wasa to honor the royal Swedish lineage. The city was known as Wasa between 1606 and 1855, (Swedish) and (Finnish) between 1855 and 1917, (Swedish) and (Finnish) beginning from 1917, with the Finnish name being the primary name from ca 1930 when Finnish speakers became the majority in the city.


Old Vaasa in the 1840s by Johan Knutsson
The history of Korsholmmarker (Mustasaari in Finnish) and also of Vaasa begins in the 14th century, when seafarers from the coastal region in central Swedenmarker disembarked at the present Old Vaasa, and the wasteland owners from Finland Propermarker came to guard their land.

In the middle of the century, Saint Mary's Church was built, and in the 1370s the building of the fortress at Korsholmmarker, Crysseborgh, was undertaken, and served as an administrative centre of the Vasa County. King Charles IX of Sweden founded the town of Mustasaari/Mussor on October 2, 1606, around the oldest harbour and trade point around the Korsholm church approximately seven kilometres to the southwest from the present city. In 1611, the town was chartered and renamed after the Royal House of Vasa.

Thanks to the sea connections, ship building and trade, especially tar trade, Vaasa flourished in the 17th century and most of the inhabitants earned their living from it.

In 1683, the three-subject or 'trivial' school moved from Nykarlebymarker to Vaasa, and four years later a new schoolhouse was built in Vaasa. The first library in Finland was founded in Vaasa in 1794. In 1793, Vaasa had 2,178 inhabitants, and in the year of the catastrophic town fire of 1852 the number had risen to 3,200.

The Massacre of Vaasa

During the Finnish War, fought between Swedenmarker and Russiamarker in 1808–1809, Vaasa suffered more than any other city. In June 1808, Vaasa was occupied by the Russian forces, and some of the local officials pledged allegiance to the occupying force.

On June 25, 1808, the Swedish colonel Johan Bergenstråhle was sent with 1,500 troops and four cannons to free Vaasa from the 1,700 Russian troops who were led by generalmajor Nikolay Demidov. The Battle of Vaasa started with the Swedish force disembarking north of Vaasa in Österhankmo and advancing all the way to the city where they attacked with 1,100 troops, as some had to be left behind to secure the flank. There was heavy fighting in the streets and in the end the Swedish forces were repelled and forced to retreat back the way they came.

Generalmajor Demidov suspected that the inhabitants of Vaasa had taken to arms and helped the Swedish forces, even though the provincial governor had confiscated all weapons that spring, and he took revenge by letting his men plunder the city for several days. During those days 17 civilians were killed, property was looted and destroyed, many were assaulted and several people were taken to the village of Salmi in Kuortanemarker where they had to endure the physical punishment called Running the gauntlet. The massacre in Vaasa was exceptional during the Finnish war as the Russian forces had avoided that kind of cruelty that far. It was probably a result of the frustration the Russians felt because of intensive guerilla activity against them in the region.

On June 30, the Russian forces withdrew from Vaasa, and all officials that had pledged allegiance to Russia were discharged, and some were assaulted by locals. On September 13, the Russian forces returned and on the next day the decisive Battle of Oravaismarker, which was won by Russia, was fought some further north. By winter 1808, the Russian forces had overrun all of Finland, and in the Treaty of Fredrikshamn (September 17, 1809) Sweden lost the whole eastern part of its realm. Vaasa would now become a part of the newly formed Grand Duchy of Finland within the Russian Empiremarker.

Town fire

The Court of Appeal, nowadays the Church of Korsholm, survived the fire of 1852
The mainly wooden and densely built town was almost utterly destroyed in 1852. A fire started in a barn belonging to district court judge J.F. Aurén on the morning of August 3. At noon the whole town was ablaze and the fire lasted for many hours. By evening, most of the town had burned to the ground. Out of 379 buildings only 24 privately owned buildings had survived, among them the FalanderWasastjerna patrician house (built in 1780–1781) which now houses the Old Vaasa Museum.

The Court of Appeal (built in 1775, nowadays the Church of Korsholm), some Russian guard-houses along with a gunpowder storage and the buildings of the Vaasa provincial hospital (nowadays a psychiatric hospital) also survived the blaze. The ruins of the greystone church, the belfry, the town hall and the trivial school can still be found in their original places. Much of the archived material concerning Vaasa and its inhabitants was destroyed in the fire. According to popular belief, the fire got started when a careless visitor fell asleep in Aurén's barn and dropped his pipe in the dry hay.

The new town

The new town of Nikolaistad (Nikolainkaupunki in Finnish, after late Tsar Nicholas I) rose in 1862 about seven kilometres to the northwest from the old town. The town's coastal location offered good conditions for seafaring. The town plan was planned by Carl Axel Setterberg in the Empire style. In the master plan the disastrous consequences of the fire were considered. Main streets in the new town were five broad avenues which divided the town into sections. Each block was divided by alleys.

The town was promptly renamed Vasa (Vaasa) after the Tsar Nicholas II was overthrown in 1917.

Site of Government

During the Finnish Civil War, Vaasa was the capital of Finland from January 29 to May 3, 1918. As a consequence of the occupation of central places and arresting of politicians in Helsinkimarker the Senate decided to move the senators to Vaasa, where the White Guard that supported the Senate had a strong position and the contacts to the west were good.

The Senate of Finland began its work in Vaasa on February 1, 1918, and it had four members. The Senate held its sessions in the Town Hall. To express its gratitude to the town the senate gave Vaasa the right to add the cross of freedom, independent Finland's oldest mark of honour designed by Akseli Gallen-Kallela, to its coat of arms. The coat of arms is unusual not only in this respect, but also because of its non-standard shape and that decorations and a crown are included. Because of its role in the civil war, Vasa became known as "The White City". A Statue of Freedom, depicting a victorious White soldier, was erected in the town square.

The language conditions in the city shifted in the 1930s, and the majority became Finnish. Therefore the primary name also changed from "Vasa " to "Vaasa", according to Finnish spelling.

University City

Vaasa has three universities. The largest one is the University of Vaasamarker, which is located in the neighbourhood of Palosaari. Palosaari is a peninsula near the center of Vaasa, connected to it by bridges. The other two universities are Åbo Akademimarker, headquartered in Turkumarker, and the Swedish School of Economics and Business Administrationmarker, or Hanken, headquartered in Helsinkimarker. Unique to Vaasa is the Finland-Swedish teachers training school, part of Åbo Akademi. The University of Helsinkimarker also has a small unit, specialized in law studies, in the same premises as the University of Vaasa.

The city has two universities of applied sciences: Vaasa University of Applied Sciences , located right next to the University of Vaasa, and the Swedish University of Applied Sciences (former Swedish Polytechnic).

Major employers

Vaasa is generally speaking an industrial town, with several industrial parks. Industry comprises one-fourth of jobs. There is a university (University of Vaasamarker), faculties of Åbo Akademimarker and Hankenmarker, and two universities of applied sciences in the town. Many workers commute from Korsholmmarker (Mustasaarimarker), Laihiamarker, and other municipalities nearby.

Major employers, in order:
  1. City of Vaasa
  2. ABB Strömberg – industrial and power electronics and automation equipment
  3. Vaasa Central Hospital
  4. State institutions
  5. Wärtsilädiesel engines
  6. Vaconfrequency converters
  7. KWH Groupplastics, abrasives and logistics services
  8. TeliaSonera – telephony
  9. Vaasa Engineering
  10. Posti – mail
  11. Anvia (old Vaasa Area Telephone)
  12. Kemira Chemicals

Notable people from Vaasa

International relations

Twin towns — Sister cities

, Vaasa has town twinning treaties or treaties of cooperation signed with nine cities.



File:Korsholms slott.jpg|Korsholm castlemarker as a detail on a map made after 1752. The picture might depict a drawing from the 17th century, but is unreliable as a source. The detailed portal might have some equivalence with reality.File:Vaasa_Rewell_Center.jpg|Rewell CenterFile:Vaasa_Trinity_Church.jpg|Trinity Church (Protestant)File:Vaasa_Wasaborg.jpg|WasaborgFile:Vaasa_centrum_at_night_15_1_2006_640x480.jpg|Town Square at Winter (night)File:Vaasa_night_panorama.jpg|Panorama of the Town Square at nightFile:Vaasa_Town_Hall.jpg|Town HallFile:Tritonia%2C_Vasa_vetenskapliga_bibliotek%2C_sommaren_2003..jpg|Tritonia, the scientific libraryFile:Vasa_universitet%2C_huvudentr%C3%A9n%2C_sommaren_2003..jpg|University of VaasaFile:Vaasa_vapaudenpatsas.jpg|the Statue of LibertyFile:Barracks_building_in_Vaasa.JPG|Barracks from the Russian ageFile:Court_of_appeal_in_Vaasa.JPG|Court of Appeal, Finlands oldestFile:The_Market_Hall_in_Vaasa.JPG|the Market Hall by nightFile:Vaasan_vesitorni.jpg|Watertower located in the centre a block from the Town SquareFile:Orthodox_Church_of_Vaasa.JPG|St. Nicholas Church (Eastern Orthodox)File:Ruins_of_St._Maria_Church_in_Vaasa.JPG|the ruins of the old St. Maria Church, that burned to the ground in 1852File:Korsholms_kyrka.jpg|the Church of Mustasaari (protestant), in Vanha Vaasa

See also


  • Julkunen, Mikko: Vaasa – Vasa. Vaasa: Vaasa, 1982. ISBN 951-660-076-X (Photo book with English text.)

External links




Tritonia is the Academic Library of Vaasa and is shared by the city's three universities


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