History[edit source | editbeta]

Etymology[edit source | editbeta]

As Chorzene, the town appears in Roman historiography (Strabo) as part of ancient Armenia.[4] For the origin of the name "Kars", some sources claim it to be derived from the Georgian word კარი (kari), meaning "the gate" [5] while other sources claim it is from the Armenian word հարս (hars) which is a folk etymological word for bride, or more correctly կառուց բերդ (kaṛuts berd), "uprbuild fortress".[6] In recent years the Georgian etymology, along with a Turkish one offered by Fahrettin Kırzıoğlu (that the name came from a Turkish tribe, the "Karsak"), has been dismissed as unsustainable by scholars.[7]

Medieval period[edit source | editbeta]

The tenth century Armenian Church of the Holy Apostles, as seen in a photo taken in the late nineteenth century.
Little is known of the early history of Kars beyond the fact that it had its own dynasty of Armenian rulers and was the capital of a region known as Vanand. Medieval Armenian historians referred to the city by a variety of names, including "Karuts' K'aghak'" (Kars city), "Karuts' Berd", "Amrots'n Karuts'" (both meaning Kars Fortress) and "Amurn Karuts'" (Impenetrable Kars).[8] At some point in the ninth century (at least by 888) it became part of the territory of the Armenian Bagratunis. For a short time (from 928 to 961) Kars became the capital of their kingdom. During this period the town's cathedral, later known as the Church of the Holy Apostles, was built.[9]
In 963, shortly after the Bagratuni capital was transferred to Ani, Kars became the capital of a separate independent kingdom, again called Vanand. The extent of its actual independence from the Kingdom of Ani is uncertain: it was always held by relatives of the rulers of Ani, and after Ani's capture by the Byzantine Empire in 1045 the Bagratuni title King of Kings held by the ruler of Ani was transferred to the ruler of Kars. In 1064, just after the capture of Ani by the Seljuk Turks, the Armenian king of Kars, Gagik-Abas, paid homage to the victorious Turks, so that they would not lay siege to his city. In 1065 Gagik-Abas ceded control of Kars to the Byzantine Empire, but soon after they lost it to the Seljuk Turks.[8]
In 1206/07 the city was captured by the Georgians and given to the same Zakarid family who ruled Ani. They retained control of Kars until the late 1230s, after which it had Turkish rulers. In 1387 the city surrendered toTimur (Tamerlane) and its fortifications were damaged. Anatolian beyliks followed until 1534, when the Ottoman army captured the city. The fortifications of the city were rebuilt by the Ottoman Sultan Murad III and were strong enough to withstand a siege by Nadir Shah of Persia, in 1731. It became the head of a sanjak in theOttoman Erzurum Vilayet.

Russian administration[edit source | editbeta]

The 1828 Russian siege of Kars (painterJanuary Suchodolski).
In 1807 Kars successfully resisted an attack by the Russian Empire. After another siege in 1828 the city was surrendered on June 23, 1828 to the Russian general Count Ivan Paskevich, 11,000 men becoming prisoners of war. Although it later returned to Ottoman control, the new border between the Ottoman Empire and Russia was now much closer to Kars. During the Crimean War an Ottoman garrison led by British officers including GeneralWilliam Fenwick Williams kept the Russians at bay during a protracted siege; but after the garrison had been devastated by cholera and food supplies had depleted, the town was surrendered to General Mouravieff in November 1855.
The fortress was again stormed by the Russians in the Battle of Kars during the Russo-Turkish War, 1877-78 under generals Loris-Melikov and Ivan Lazarev. Following the war, Kars was transferred to Russia by the Treaty of San Stefano. Kars became the capital of Kars Oblast (province), comprising the districts of Kars, ArdahanKaghisman, and Oltu.
From 1878-1881 more than 82,000 Muslims from formerly Ottoman-controlled territory migrated to the Ottoman Empire. Among those there were more than 11,000 people from the city of Kars. At the same time, many Armenians and Pontic Greeks migrated to the region from the Ottoman Empire and other regions of Transcaucasia. According to the Russian census data, by 1892Russians formed 7% of the population, Pontic Greeks 13.5%, Kurds 15%, Armenians 21.5%, Turks 24%, Karapapakhs 14%, and Turkmen were 5% of the population of Kars Oblast of Russian Empire.[10]

World War I[edit source | editbeta]

Armenian civilians fleeing Kars after its capture by Kâzım Karabekir's forces.
In the First World War, the city was one of the main objectives of the Ottoman army during the lost Battle of Sarikamish in the Caucasus Campaign. Russia ceded Kars, Ardahan and Batum to the Ottoman Empire under theTreaty of Brest-Litovsk on March 3, 1918. However, by then Kars was under the effective control of Armenian and non-Bolshevik Russian forces. The Ottoman empire captured Kars on April 25, 1918, but under the Armistice of Mudros (October 1918) was required to withdraw to the pre-war frontier. The Ottomans refused to relinquish Kars; its military governor instead established a government, the Provisional National Government of the Southwestern Caucasus, led by Fahrettin Pirioglu, that claimed Turkish sovereignty over Kars and the Turkish-speaking and Islamic neighboring regions as far as Batumi and Alexandropol (Gyumri). Much of the region fell under the administrative control of Armenia in January 1919 but the pro-Turkish government remained in the city until a joint operation launched by British and Armenian troops dissolved it on April 19, 1919, arresting its leaders and sending them to Malta.[11] In May 1919 Kars came under the full administration of the Armenian Republic and became the capital of its Vanand province.
Skirmishes between the Turkish revolutionaries and Armenian border troops in Olti took place during the summer of 1920. In the autumn of that year four Turkish divisions under the command of General Kâzım Karabekir invaded the Armenian Republic, triggering the Turkish-Armenian War.[12] Kars had been fortified to withstand a lengthy siege but, to the astonishment of all, was taken with little resistance by Turkish forces on October 30, 1920, in what some modern scholars have called one of the worst military fiascoes in Armenian history.[13] The terms of the Treaty of Alexandropol, signed by the representatives of Armenia and Turkey on December 2, 1920, forced Armenia to give back all the Ottoman territories granted to it in the Treaty of Sèvres.
After the Bolshevik advance into Armenia, the Alexandropol treaty was superseded by the Treaty of Kars (October 23, 1921), signed between Turkey and theSoviet Union. The treaty allowed for Soviet annexation of Adjara in exchange for Turkish control of the regions of KarsIgdir, and Ardahan. The treaty established peaceful relations between the two nations, but as early as 1939, some British diplomats noted indications that the Soviet Union was not satisfied with the established border. On more than one occasion, the Soviets attempted to renegotiate with Turkey to at least allow the Armenians access to the ancient ruins ofAni. However, the government in Ankara refused these attempts.[14]

Recent history[edit source | editbeta]

After World War II, the Soviet Union attempted to annul the Kars treaty and regain the Kars region and the adjoining region of Ardahan. On June 7, 1945, Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov told the Turkish ambassador to Moscow Selim Sarper that the regions should be returned to the Soviet Union, in the name of both the Georgian and Armenian republics. Turkey found itself in a difficult position: it wanted good relations with the Soviet Union, but at the same time they refused to give up the territories. Turkey itself was in no condition to fight a war with the Soviet Union, which had emerged as a superpower after the second world war. By the autumn of 1945, Soviet troops in the Caucasus were already assembling for a possible invasion of Turkey. The British prime minister Winston Churchillobjected to these territorial claims, while President Harry S. Truman of the United States felt that this matter shouldn't concern other parties. The Cold War was just beginning.[15]
In April 1993, Turkey closed its Kars border crossing with Armenia, in a protest against the capture of Kelbajar district of Azerbaijan by Armenian forces during theNagorno-Karabakh War.[16] Since then the land border between Armenia and Turkey has remained closed. In 2006, former Kars mayor Naif Alibeyoğlu said that opening the border would boost the local economy and reawaken the city.[17] Despite unsuccessful attempts to establish diplomatic relations between the two countries in 2009,[18] there remained opposition and pressure from the local population against the re-opening of the border.[19] Under pressure from Azerbaijan, and the local population, including the 20% ethnic Azerbaijani minority, the Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoğlu reiterated in 2010 and 2011 that opening the border with Armenia was out of question.[20][21] As of 2012, the border remained closed.[22]

Population[edit source | editbeta]

  • 8,672 (1878)
  • 20,891 (1897)
  • 12,175 (January 1913)[8]
  • 129,789 (1922)[dubious ]
  • 54,000 (1970)[8]
  • 78,455 (1990) (census)
  • 78,473 (2000) (census)
  • 76,992 (2007) (official estimate)[23] According to Turkey’s Statistical Yearbook, 2011, the area has been depopulating.[24]

Government[edit source | editbeta]

As of 2012, its mayor was Nevzat Bozkuş, whose party is AKP.[25] The previous mayor, of the same party, was Naif Alibeyoğlu.[26]

Kars Citadel[edit source | editbeta]

Kars Citadel
The Castle of Kars (TurkishKars Kalesi), also known as the Citadel, sits at the top a rocky hill overlooking Kars. Its walls date back to the Bagratuni Armenian period (there is surviving masonry on the north side of the castle) but it probably took on its present form during the thirteenth century when Kars was ruled by the Zak'arid dynasty.
The walls bear crosses in several places, including a khachkar with a building inscription in Armenian on the easternmost tower, so the much repeated statement that Kars castle was built by Ottoman Sultan Murad III during the war with Persia, at the close of the sixteenth century, is inaccurate. However, Murad probably did reconstruct much of the city walls (they are similar to those that the Ottoman army constructed at Ardahan).
By the nineteenth century the citadel had lost most of its defensive purpose and a series of outer fortresses and defensive works were constructed to encircle Kars - this new defensive system proved particularly notable during theSiege of Kars in 1855.

Other historical structures[edit source | editbeta]

The Armenian Church of the Apostleshoused a museum in the 1960s and 70s and was converted to a mosque in 1998.
Below the castle is an Armenian church known as Surb Arak'elots, the Church of the Apostles. Built in the 930s, it has atetraconch plan (a square with four semicircular apses) surmounted by a spherical dome on a cylindrical drum. On the exterior, the drum of contains bas-relief depictions of twelve figures, usually interpreted as representing the Twelve Apostles. The dome has a conical roof. The church was converted to a mosque in 1579, and then converted into a Russian Orthodox church in the 1880s. The Russian people constructed porches in front of the church's 3 entrances, and an elaborate belltower (now demolished) next to the church. The church was used as a warehouse from the 1930s, and it housed a small museum from 1963 until the late 1970s. Then the building was left to itself for about two decades, until it was converted into a mosque in 1998. In the same district of Kars are two other ruined Armenian churches. A Russian church from the 1900s was converted to a mosque in the 1980s after serving as a school gymnasium.[27]

"Taşköprü" (Stone Bridge 1725) over the Kars river.
The "Tashköprü" (Stone Bridge) is a bridge over the Kars river, built in 1725. Close to the bridge are three old bath-houses, none of them operating any longer.
As a settlement at the juncture of ArmenianTurkishGeorgianKurdish and Russian cultures, the buildings of Kars come in a variety of architectural styles. Most central buildings and houses are identical in the architercutal sense to those of central Gyumri in Armenia. Orhan Pamuk in the novel Snow, which takes place in Kars, makes repeated references to "the Russian houses", built "in a Baltic style", whose like cannot be seen anywhere else in Turkey, and deplores the deteriorating condition of these houses.

Kars in popular culture[edit source | editbeta]

  • Kars is the setting of the novel Kar (Snow) by Orhan Pamuk.
  • Modest Mussorgsky composed the march "The Capture of Kars" to commemorate Russia's victory there in 1855.
  • The film Kosmos (Cosmos) by Reha Erdem was filmed in and around Kars.

Climate[edit source | editbeta]

Kars has a humid continental climate (Köppen climate classificationDfb), with a wide range of temperature between the summer and winter, due to its high elevation and relatively high latitude. Summers are generally brief and warm with cool nights. The average high temperature in August is 26 °C (79 °F). Winters are very cold. The average low January temperature is −18 °C (−0 °F). However, temperatures can plummet to −40 °C (−40.0 °F) during the winter months.[citation needed] It snows a lot in winter,[clarification needed] staying for an average of four months in the city.
[hide]Climate data for Kars
Record high °C (°F)8.4
Average high °C (°F)−6
Average low °C (°F)−18
Record low °C (°F)−31.8
Precipitation mm (inches)19.5
Avg. rainy days6579131176575586
 % humidity83857868656563555762738369.8
Mean monthly sunshine hours96.1112155177226.3276322.4316.2252198.413596.12,362.5
Source #1: BBC Weather [2]
Source #2: Hong Kong Observatory [3]

Places of interest[edit source | editbeta]

  • Castle of Kars (Kars Kalesi)
  • Cathedral of Holy Apostles (Surb Arak'elots Yekeghetsi, now converted into a mosque named Kümbet Camii)
  • The Mansion of Ahmet Tevfik Pasha (Ahmet Tevfik Paşa Konağı)
  • The Stone Bridge (Taşköprü)
  • The Topchuoglu Bath House (Topçuoğlu Hamamı)
  • The Ilbeoglu Bath House (İlbeyoğlu Hamamı)
  • The Mazlumaga Bath House (Mazlumağa Hamamı)
  • The House of Namık Kemal (Namık Kemal Evi)
  • The Palace of Beylerbeyi (Beylerbeyi Sarayı)
  • The Mansion of Pasha (Paşa Konağı)
  • The Cemetery of Arap Baba (Arap Baba Şehitliği)
  • The Mosque of Yusuf Pasha (Yusuf Paşa Camii)
  • The Mosque of Evliya (Evliya Camii)
  • The Tomb of Ebul Hasan-i Harakani (Ebul Hasan-i Harakani Türbesi)
  • The Mosque of Fethiye (Fethiye Camii)
  • The Mansion of Gazi Ahmet Muhtar Pasha (Gazi Ahmet Paşa Konağı)
  • The Museum of Kars (Kars Müzesi)
  • Tourism Information Office (Kars Kültür ve Turizm İl Müdürlüğü)
  • The State Hospital of Kars (Kars Devlet Hastanesi)

Sports history[edit source | editbeta]

Bandy, a sport which doesn't exist in Turkey today, was once played here. [4]

Education[edit source | editbeta]

Kars hosts the Kafkas University, which was established in 1992.

Transport[edit source | editbeta]

Kars is served by a main highway from Erzurum, and lesser roads run north to Ardahan and south to Igdir. The town has an airport, with daily direct flights to Ankara and Istanbul. Kars is served by a station on the Turkish Railways (TCDD) that links it to Erzurum. This line was originally laid when Kars was within the Russian Empire and connected the city to nearby Alexandropol and Tiflis, with a wartime, narrow-gauge extension running to Erzurum. Turkey's border crossings with Armenia, including the rail link, the Kars-Gyumri-Tbilisi railway, have been closed since 1993. Construction on a new line, the Kars–Tbilisi–Baku railway, intended to connect Turkey with Georgia and Azerbaijan, began in 2010 and is scheduled for completion by 2012. The line will connect Kars to Akhalkalaki in Georgia, from where trains will continue to Tbilisi, and Baku in Azerbaijan.[28]

Notable individuals[edit source | editbeta]

International relations[edit source | editbeta]

Twin towns – Sister cities[edit source | editbeta]

The municipality of Kars has developed sister city relationships with following cities at home and abroad:[29]

External links[edit source | editbeta]

Notes[edit source | editbeta]

  1. Jump up^ "Area of regions (including lakes), km²"Regional Statistics Database. Turkish Statistical Institute. 2002. Retrieved 2013-03-05.
  2. Jump up^ "Population of province/district centers and towns/villages by districts - 2012"Address Based Population Registration System (ABPRS) Database. Turkish Statistical Institute. Retrieved 2013-02-27.
  3. Jump up^ Tahir Sezen, Osmanlı Yer Adları (Alfabetik Sırayla), T.C. Başbakanlık Devlet Arşivleri Genel Müdürlüğü, Yayın Nu 21, Ankara, p. 287.
  4. Jump up^ Strabo. "Geography Stabo - Book XI - Chapter XIV". Retrieved 2011-05-31.
  5. Jump up^ Ring, Trudy; Salkin, Robert M.; La Boda, Sharon (1996). International Dictionary of Historic Places: Southern Europe. Taylor & Francis. p. 357.ISBN 1-884964-02-8, ISBN 978-1-884964-02-2 Check |isbn= value (help).
  6. Jump up^ Room, Adrian (2003). Placenames of the World. McFarland. p. 178. ISBN 0-7864-1814-1.
  7. Jump up^ Bartold, Vasily-[C. J. Heywood]. "Kars." Encyclopedia of Islam, 2nd ed. Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1997, vol. iv, p. 669.
  8. Jump up to:a b c d (Armenian) Arakelyan, Babken, Vrezh Vardanyan, and Hovhannes Khalpakhchyan. «Կարս» [Kars]. Armenian Soviet Encyclopedia. Yerevan: Armenian Academy of Sciences, 1979, vol. v, pp. 342-344.
  9. Jump up^ (Armenian) Harutyunyan, Varazdat M. "Ճարտարապետություն" [Architecture] inHay Zhoghovrdi Patmut'yun [History of the Armenian People], ed. Tsatur Aghayan et al. Yerevan: Armenian Academy of Sciences, 1976, vol. 3, pp. 374-375.
  10. Jump up^ (Russian) Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary. "Kars oblast". St. Petersburg, Russia, 1890-1907.
  11. Jump up^ See Hovannisian, Richard G. (1971). The Republic of Armenia, Vol. I: The First Year, 1918-1919. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 197–227.ISBN 0-520-01984-9.
  12. Jump up^ Hovannisian, Richard G. (1996). The Republic of Armenia, Vol. IV: Between Crescent and Sickle, Partition and Sovietization. Berkeley: University of California Press. pp. 182ff. ISBN 0-520-08804-2.
  13. Jump up^ See Hovannisian. Republic of Armenia, Vol. IV, pp. 253-261.
  14. Jump up^ (Armenian) Zohrabyan, Edik A. (1979). Սովետական Ռուսաստանը և հայ-թուրքական հարաբերությունները, 1920-1922 (Soviet Russia and Armenian-Turkish Relations, 1920-1922). Yerevan: Yerevan State University Press, pp. 277-280.
  15. Jump up^ See Robert O. Krikorian (2011), "Kars-Ardahan and Soviet Armenian Irredentism, 1945-1946," in Armenian Kars and Ani, ed. Richard G. Hovannisian. Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishers, pp. 393-409.
  16. Jump up^ Panico, Christopher; Rone, Jemera (1994). Bloodshed in the Caucasus: Escalation of the Armed Conflict in Nagorno Karabakh. Human Rights Watch/Helsinki Watch. p. 74. ISBN 1-56432-142-8, ISBN 978-1-56432-142-8Check |isbn= value (help). "Turkey cut all routes to Armenia in April 1993, after the Karabakh Armenian army - with alleged support from Russian and Armenian armies - seized Kelbajar province of Azerbaijan."
  17. Jump up^ "Kars battles for access to Armenia and beyond", Turkish Daily News, July 30th 2006.
  18. Jump up^ Staff (11 October 2009). "Turkey, Armenia to Reopen Border"The Wall Street JournalArchived from the original on 12 October 2009.
  19. Jump up^ Mammadli, Sabuhi (1 May 2009). "Border Turks Want Door to Armenia Kept Shut"CRS Issue 491 (Institute for War and Peace Reporting). Archivedfrom the original on 23 September 2012. Note: archive not available until mid-2013.
  20. Jump up^ "Armenia border opening out of question, says Davutoğlu"Today's Zaman. 19 July 2010. Archived from the original on 23 September 2012. Note: archive not available until mid-2013.
  21. Jump up^ "Two vast and ugly blocks of stone"The Economist. 13 January 2011.
  22. Jump up^ "Turkish, Armenian journalists want the border opened"Today's Zaman. 3 June 2012. Archived from the original on 23 September 2012. Note: archive not available until mid-2013.
  23. Jump up^ [1]
  24. Jump up^ Turkish Statistical Institute (2011). "The provinces with highest out-migration according to their net migration rate" (pdf). Turkey in Statistics 2011 (The Summary of Turkey’s Statistical Yearbook 2011). p. 15.
  25. Jump up^ "İlhan Aküzüm, Başkan Nevzat Bozkuş'u Ziyaret Etti (Ilhan Aküzüm President Visits Mayor Nevzat Bozkus)"Ihlas News Agency (in Turkish). 18 September 2012. Archived from the original on 24 September 2012. Note: archive not available until mid-2013.
  26. Jump up^ Bakırcı, Cem (7 December 2007). "'Başkanın kardeşiyim belediye elimizde' ("We Have the Mayor's Brother")"Milliyet Online (in Turkish). Archivedfrom the original on 8 December 2007.
  27. Jump up^ "THE CATHEDRAL OF KARS: Holy Apostles Church (Surb Arak'elots)." VirtualANI. December 7, 2000.
  28. Jump up^ Railway Gazette International February 2009 p54 with map
  29. Jump up^ www.kars.bel.tr : "68- KARDEŞ ŞEHİR: Belediyemiz Kardeş Şehir İlişkisi kurulması konusunda gerekli girişimlerde bulunarak yurt içinde Bursa ve Edirne Belediyeleri ile yurt dışında ise Azerbaycan’ın Gence Belediyesi, Almanya’nın Wesel Belediyesi, Norveç’in Kirkenes Belediyesi, Gürcistan’ın Kutaisi Belediyesi ile kardeş şehir ilişkisi kurulmuştur." Kars has 6 sister cities. Sister cities of Kars are Bursa and Edirne in Turkey, Ganja in Azerbaijan, Kirkenes in Norway, Kutaisi in Georgia, and Wesel in Germany. (Turkish)
  30. Jump up^ "Twin-cities of Azerbaijan"Azerbaijans.com. Retrieved 2013-08-09.

Further reading[edit source | editbeta]