Nellim is one of the oldest inhabited areas in Inari. Signs of prehistoric habitation from as far back as the Stone Age about 8000 years ago have been found in the village surroundings. Many prehistoric relics, such as habitation, deer hunting pits and foundations for huts, remain from the era. Indeed, the village is a nationally significant cultural-historical location.
Nellim and life in the village were originally born and formed around reindeer herding, fishing and hunting.
The Nellim village as we know it was founded when the Inari Sami People settled on the shores of Konkelovuono (today, Nellimvuono) in the 1870s – the first of them was Pehr Pehrinpoika Saijets aka Nuoran Pekka. He named the farm Nellim, which later became the name of the entire village.
The Finns began moving into the village in the 1920s and 1930s to work in the logging sites. In the 1940s, after the Second World War, Skolt Sami evacuees from Petsamo moved into the village.
Arctic Ocean Road
The road to Nellim is the old Jäämerentie (“Arctic Ocean Road”, previously Petsamontie), which used to connect Rovaniemi and the Liinahamari harbor in Petsamo, on the shore of the Arctic Ocean, to each other. The highway was built in 1931.
After its completion, the road was under heavy traffic; at its best, as many as four daily busses traveled the route. The road was used to bring food and raw materials needed by the economic life into Finland, and to take mainly forest industry products abroad.
Building work in the mining town and nickel mine of Nikkeli (previously Kolosjoki), as well as the popularity of the Petsamo area as a tourist destination, contributed to the traffic on the road.
Several inns were located along Jäämerentie, all of them built a day’s horse ride apart. The Virtaniemi Inn in the Nellim area was destroyed during an air raid in 1940, Mustolan kievari 1944.
After the war, Finland lost its connection to the Arctic Ocean when the northern part of the road remained within the Petsamo area surrendered to Russia in 1944.
The Nellim region functioned as the scene for extensive logging in the 1920s and 30s. This kind of work, which lasted for years, brought in additional income for people who owned houses as they offered food, sauna and other services according to demand. The trade business was also significant in the area at the time.
Up until the 1960s, forest work in Lapland was a major rural employer, as forest companies hired employees to perform the heavy forest work requiring lots of labor.
The Nellim village still has a wood flume renovated by the National Board of Antiquities, which was used to deliver logs from the forests to lake Nellimjärvi and further on to Inari, and along the Paatsjoki river to the sawmills at the shores of the Arctic Ocean.
The Nellim region holds several war historical locations having witnessed the events of World War II. The German Kaamasaari prison camp, as well as the remains of old dugouts and watch towers, can be found in the area.
As a result of World War II, Finland lost Petsamo, and the Skolts in the area were evacuated to Inari and Nellim. Traffic connections from Finland to Petsamo were cut off, and the bridges across the Paatsjoki river were blown up. With the war, the thriving tourism in Nellim and all over the Petsamo region was lost.
The bay surrounded by rock faces, known as Rautaportti (”the Iron Gate”), held strategic importance during the war. Fortresses were built on both sides of the bay to defend the road leading to the Arctic Ocean. The area still holds many structures from the Second World War.