Lahti ( Swedish: ) is a city and municipality in Finland.
Lahti is the capital of the Paijanne Tavastia region. It is situated on a bay at the southern end of lake Vesijarvi about 100 kilometres (60 mi) north-east of the capital Helsinki. In English, the Finnish word Lahti literally means bay. The Lahti region is growing and is one of the main economic hubs of Finland.
The symbol of the city depicts a train wheel surrounded by flames.
Lahti was first mentioned in documents in 1445. The village belonged to the parish of Hollola and was located at the medieval trade route of Ylinen Viipurintie, which linked the towns of Hameenlinna and Vyborg.
The completion of the Riihimaki – St. Petersburg railway line in 1870 and the Vesijarvi canal in 1871 turned Lahti into a lively station, and industrial installations began to spring up around it. For a long time, the railway station at Vesijarvi Harbour was the second busiest station in Finland. Craftsmen, merchants, a few civil servants and a lot of industrial workers soon mixed in with the existing agricultural peasantry.
On 19 June 1877, almost the entire village was burned to the ground. However, the accident proved to be a stroke of luck for the development of the place, as it led to the authorities resuming their deliberations about establishing a town in Lahti. The village was granted market town rights in 1878 and an empire-style, grid town plan was approved, which included a large market square and wide boulevards. This grid plan still forms the basis of the city center. Most of the buildings were low wooden houses bordering the streets.
Lahti was founded during a period of severe economic recession. The Russian Empire was encumbered by the war against Turkey. The recession also slowed down the building of the township: land would not sell and often plots were not built on for some time. In its early years, the town with its meagre 200 inhabitants was too small to provide any kind of foundation for trade. At the end of the 1890s, Lahti’s Township Board increased its efforts to enable Lahti to be turned into a city. In spring 1904, the efforts finally bore fruit as the Senate approved of the application, although it was another eighteen months before Tsar Nicholas II finally gave his blessing and issued an ordinance for establishing the city of Lahti.
At the end of 1905, the area that now comprises Lahti accommodated around 8,200 people of whom just under 3,000 lived in the city itself. All essential municipal institutions were built in just ten years, including a hospital and a city hall. At the same time, a rapid increase in brick houses was taking place in the centre of the city.
In the early 1920s the city gained possession of the grounds of the Lahti Manor, an important piece of land previously blocking the city from the lake. Large-scale industrial operations grew rapidly in the 1930s as did the population; Lahti, at the time, was one of Finland’s fastest-growing cities, and before the start of the Winter War its population was approaching 30,000.
Through the addition of new areas in 1924, 1933 and 1956, Lahti grew, both in terms of population and surface area. Especially strong was the growth after the wars, when Lahti accepted about 10,000 immigrants from Karelia, after the region was surrendered to the Soviet Union, and then later in the 1960 and 70s as a result of mass urbanization. The population growth came to a sharp end in 1975 and the city has since grown very little.
Lahti harbors cultural ambitions, and recent years saw the building of a large congress and concert center, the Sibelius Hall. Lahti has one of Finlands most widely known symphony orchestras, the Lahti Symphony Orchestra (Sinfonia Lahti), which performs both classical and popular music, notably concentrating on music by Jean Sibelius.
Lahti’s annual music festival programme includes such events as Lahti Organ Festival, Jazz at the market place and Sibelius Festival.
The economic region of Lahti, which includes the surrounding municipalities, was strongly affected by the collapse of Finnish-Soviet trade and by the recession in the early 1990s.