Monday, 16 September 2013

Kars - Turkey

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After the Bolshevik advance into Armenia, the Alexandropol treaty was superseded by the Treaty of Kars (October 23, 1921), signed between Turkey and theSoviet Union.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.

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