Grensehistorie Vannkraft Grenseliv


The Pasvik valley is rich in pine forests. Forestry was important for many people in the valley and has a long tradition. Before the last war, Pasvik Timber and Elvenes sawmill were large businesses. Since the area was protected, forestry operations have declined.

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Many of the older generation of the Pasvik valley worked in the forests. It was hard work, with hand-saws and axes, piece work and grinding toil. The men worked in teams, each with its own cook, and lived in log cabins. Reindeer and horses were used to transport the logs. In summer there were log chutes in some places that carried the logs down to the Pasvik river. Today, few people work in the forests. Some take out wood for fuel for their own use and for sale. Others build log cabins, saunas and stabbur (storehouses). These traditions are in the process of dying out.

Ancient forest

In the Øvre Pasvik National Park, we find Norway’s largest remaining ancient forest. Pasvik’s ancient forest is the north-westerly offshoot of the world’s largest unbroken belt of evergreen forest, the Siberian taiga. Taiga simply means forest in the Yakut language, and the forest is characterised by deep pine woods, with some lowland birch, common birch, and Siberian spruce. The forest has been allowed to develop freely, without any great intervention from humans. Thousands of years of autumn storms and forest fires have created a varied forest with great differences in age among trees, and many trees are several hundred years old.

Nature conservation

Conservation and protection of the forest has created a lot of local involvement and interest. Nature conservationists have fought to have the area protected, while others believe that Pasvik has contributed enough to protecting nature. Some people claim that nature conservation has helped destroy the basis for the forestry industry.

Sawmill and planning mill

Between the two world wars, there was great activity in sawmilling and the sale of timber and wood for fuel. The largest companies were Elvenes sawmill at the mouth of the Pasvik river, and Pasvik Timber at Jakobsnes, a few kilometres out in Bøkfjorden, which employed 250 people at the height of the industry. Many ships from the Continent made the long voyage to the north for timber, much of which was floated downriver from the deep forests of Finland. Both the state-owned sawmill and planing mill and Pasvik Timber struggled to make a profit right until the beginning of World War II. Pasvik Timber was bombed by German bomber planes in June 1940 and burned down. Elvenes sawmill was destroyed in the German retreat in 1944.

Elvenes sawmill

The population of Pasvik were highly engaged in the hydropower development at Melkefoss. At the same time, the Elvenes sawmill affair arose. It was established by Order in Council in 1972 that a sawmill and a planing mill would be built in the Pasvik valley. Four years later, the Norwegian Agriculture Minister indicated different plans. This created unrest in the valley and the local people held a public meeting. Steen Wikan, who chaired the meeting, declared: “We will no longer tolerate being exploited as though we were an underdeveloped country. We are not interested in simply supplying raw materials for other people to process.”

Timber! (Foto: Jonas Endre Karlsbakk, Sør-Varanger Avis)

Timber! (Photo: Jonas Endre Karlsbakk, Sør-Varanger Avis)

Finske fløtere på Hasseltjern. (Foto:

Finnish raftsmen on Hasseltjern. (Photo: Unknown. Sør-Varanger Museum Collections)

Kampen om arbeidsplasser og skogdrift. (Faksimile Finnmarken 10. mai 1976)

The fight for jobs and forestry work. (Facsimile, Finnmarken, 10 May 1976)

Grensehistorie Vannkraft Grenseliv
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