Kirkenes is a town and the administrative center of the Sør-Varanger municipality in Finnmark. The town has about 3500 inhabitants, if you include the towns Hesseng, Sandnes and Bjørnevatn, located in the immediate vicinity of Kirkenes, the city has about 7200 inhabitants. There are about 10,000 residents in Sør-Varanger municipality spread over an area of about 3967 km ².
The municipality borders Russia to the east and Finland. There is border crossing with Russia at Storskog which is located about 15 km from Kirkenes.
Kirkenes was founded in 1862 and became a town in 1998. Kirkenes was heavily bombed during World War II. 320 bombing raid ensured that Kirkenes was one of the hardest hit towns during World War II. Kirkenes was liberated by the Red Army (Soviet Union) 25 October 1944, as the first town in Norway. The town is the endpoint for E6 and Hurtigruten. In Kirkenes streets signpost are in both Norwegian and Russian. About 10 percent of the people in Kirkenes are Russians.
The main industry in Kirkenes was for many years mining. At most the mining industry had 1,500 employees. In 1996 the operations at AS Sydvaranger ended, but in 2009 the preparation for a new mining operations began. Today the mine is operated by Sydvaranger Gruve AS with about 350 employees. In recent years, tourism has taken over as the main industry in Kirkenes.
The military camp Høybuktmoen is situated about 14 km from Kirkenes, housing Garrison of Sør-Varanger, GSV. The city’s airport, Høybuktmoen Airport has daily flights to Oslo and Tromsø, and the rest of Finnmark. In summer there is a weekly flight to Germany. The airport is built with its own international section.