Turkey: Kars and around (April 2018)

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Kars is a city (approx. pop. 80,000, elev. 1,768m) in northeast Turkey and the capital of the Turkish province of the same name. For centuries the area had been home to a large population of Armenians. For a brief period of time (928 to 961) Kars was even the capital of the Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia, before this kingdom′s capital was transferred to Ani, 45 km to the east. More recently, the Russians occupied the region from 1878 until the end of World War I. The region then came briefly under the administration of the Armenian Republic. But, in October 1920, Turkish forces took Kars, causing an exodus of Armenians, and the region became officially part of the Republic of Turkey when this republic was founded in October 1923. Today, the region includes a large minority of ethnic Azerbaijani who strongly oppose the re-opening of the border with neighboring Armenia.


For photos of Ani, see here.





The city is dominated by its huge citadel (kalesi). This citadel was initially built in 1153 under the Anatolian Seljuks, torn down by Timur in the 14th century, and repaired in the 16th century.



View over the city from the citadel.




Armenian church of the Holy Apostles, built in the 930′s by Bagratid King Abas, and the Evliya mosque (″mosque of the Saints″) built in 1579 behind it. The church is extremely well preserved, especially in comparison to other Armenian churches in the region. Is it because it has officially been converted into a mosque (called Kumbet camii, for ″Domed mosque″), though it does not look like one, or because it lies in the heart of a province capital?


Other views of the Armenian church.




Inside the church. The porches were added during the Russian occupation. In the bottom-right corner of the photo one can see parts of the modest arrangements made when the church was converted into a mosque, in addition to the four square frames with prayer signs in Arabic script posted on the walls and the removal of Christian objects.



Left: View of the citadel in a painting by J. Suchodolsky showing the 1828 Russian siege of Kars. Right: Late 19th-century photo of the Armenian church of the Holy Apostles during some restoration work. Neither the citadel, nor the church has changed much since then.

[Source of both images: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kars.]


Tas Kopru, a bridge built over the Kars river in the 16th century and reconstructed in the 18th century after an earthquake.



A 19th-century Russian Orthodox church, converted into a mosque, the Fethiye mosque.


Busts of historical figures lined up near the Fethiye mosque.


Facade of the Hotel Cheltikov, one of the remaining 19th-century Russian buildings in Kars.


North of Kars:


This area is close to the borders of Turkey with modern Georgia and Armenia. In medieval time this area was more an extension of Georgia than Armenia.


Remain of an Armenian/Georgian church from the 10th century in the village of Dogruyol (pop. ~1,000) on the north-east shore of lake Cildir Golu, some 55km north-east of Kars. The neglected church is side by side with a more recently built mosque.


Farming scenes in the village. Villagers use collected manure for fuel during winter and as fertilizer in spring.




Cones of manure patties near the shore of Cildir Golu.


Recently plowed fields near Dogruyol.


Views of Cildir Golu (the name of which in Georgian is ჩრდილის ტბა, meaning ″Lake of Shadows″), at an elevation of 1,900m.




Seytan Kalesi (which means ″Devil′s Castle″) is a well-renovated castle built on a rock platform (elev. ~2,400m) above a deep gorge formed by the Karacay (″Black water″) some 8km north of the shores of Cildir Golu and 9km west of the border with Georgia. Its origins are unclear, but it was mentioned in Seljuk chronicles as early as 1064. It offers a fantastic sight, but its walls are plain and lack interesting ornamental details.








South of Kars:


Armenian church (former Eghegnamor monastery, 13th century) towering above the houses of the village of Cengilli (elev. ~2,000m), 55km south of Kars, near the city of Kagizman. By the end of the 19th century most of the villagers were ethnic Armenians. Today most are ethnic Kurds. The views from outside the village give a good idea of the sheer size of the church. (First photo below: view from the east. Second photo: view from the west.)



The church seen from close-by locations. It is now used more or less as a communal barn and warehouse. Without protection, despite being sturdy, it will not survive so much neglect and vandalism for long.



Inscription in Armenian above the entrance of the church.


Inside the church.


Walls of an ancient fortress in the village of Kercivan. The former fortress was huge, but most of it is crumbling and/or mixed with the village houses.



In the nearby village of Ortakoy.


Water tower at the old railway station near the village of Benliahmet, built during the Russian occupation of the region.


Landscape near Benliahmet.


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