Since ancient times a number of settlements, 36 approximately, have existed on the territory of modern Kohtla-Järve. The first mention of both Järve village and the village of Kukruse (Kukarus) dates back to the Danish Land Book of 1241. It was unlikely that any city would emerge, but on the territory were found extensive deposites of ‘solid oil’, or oil shale fields.
In 1919 State Oil Shale Industrial Corporation was formed in the Republic of Estonia and the extraction by shaft and open-pit mining was extended. It was from this time that settlements for the workers began to appear adjacent to the mines. In 1924 the oil shale processing factory was built near Kohtla railway station, and the nearby settlement, named Kohtla-Järve, started to grow. After the World War II, Kohtla-Järve recieved city status as the main settlement for mining on 15th June 1946.
Nowadays the city has approximately 50’000 inhabitants and is subdivided into six administrative districts: Järve, Sompa, Kukruse, Ahtme, Oru and Viivikonna (with Sirgala).