Nokia is a small city (pop. 26900) on the banks of the Emäkoski River in the county of Pirkkala, some 15 kilometers to the south of Tampere, Finland.


Nokia has been around long enough that even its name is obscure. The most probable theory is that it comes from Old Finnish nois (pl. nokia), meaning a type of dark-coated marten found in the area to this day, and the animal is thus enshrined on the Nokia coat of arms. In modern Finnish, on the other hand, noki means soot and nokia would mean soots, but using the plural makes little sense in either language.

Nokia was the setting of one of the largest battles in the Club War, a 1596 peasant uprising against Swedish feudal lords. The peasants, armed with clubs (surprise!), took up residence in Nokia Manor and won several skirmishes against the feudal cavalry, but were decisively defeated by Klaus Fleming on January 1-2, 1597. Thousands of clubmen were slain and their fled leader, Jaakko Ilkka, was captured a few weeks later and executed. The Club War was the last major peasant revolt in Finland, and it permanently consolidated the hold of the nation state. Much later, in the Finnish Civil War (1918), Nokia (along with neighboring Tampere) was a Communist stronghold and saw some combat.


But Nokia had started on its road to world domination in 1865, when Fredrik Idestam established a pulp mill in Nokia and started manufacturing paper. The factory prospered and a town started to develop around it, replacing what had previously been just farmlands. In 1898, Nokia spawned the Finnish Rubber Works, which manufactured galoshes and later also tires. And for a long time this is what Nokia was known for in Finland: in almost every Finnish home you can still find a pair or two of long black rubber boots, emblazoned with exactly the same "NOKIA" logo found on Nokia's cellphones.

The first step on the road to telecommunications was taken when the Finnish Cable Works were opened in 1912 in Helsinki. Its 1967 merger with the Rubber Works resulted in the creation of the Nokia Group, by then a vast industrial conglomerate for rubber, cable, paper and electronics products. Combining most of these skills, during the 1970s Nokia developed the DX 200 digital telephone switch and the revenue share of the electronics department started to balloon.

The die was cast in May 1992, when newly elected CEO Jorma Ollila decided to concentrate solely on telecommunications. The rubber, paper and consumer electronics operations were spun off into their own companies (all with names of the form "Nokian X"), but the telecoms group retained the name Nokia for itself. The rest is history.


Oddly enough, Nokia (the telecom company) no longer has a single building in Nokia (the place), their Finnish operations have been moved mostly to the Helsinki area and Salo. The rubber and paper companies are still there, and Nokia's spectacularly unsexy motto remains "The City of Rubber, Paper and Electricity". These days, Nokia's biggest -- some might say only -- draw for tourists is the Rantasipi Eden Spa Hotel, the swankiest spa and hotel in Finland featuring lots of liquid fun for the whole family. (You'll probably need some liquid refreshment after paying the bill though, as day pass prices start at €25 per head.)

References (City of Nokia, also in English) (Company of Nokia) (Rantasipi Eden Spa Hotel)