Kirkuk, from the Assyrians to the present day

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Kirkuk, one of the oldest cities in the world, with a history that deeply links Assyrians, Turks and oil. A little known story that is just waiting to be revealed.

Kirkuk, the ultra-millennial city

The area around Kirkuk was already inhabited by Neanderthals starting from 5000 BC, soon becoming one of the most important and prosperous cities under the Akkadian Empire with the name of Arrapha. The center then passed into the hands of the Guti, the Sumerians and finally the Assyrians, to whom it was bound forever, becoming part of both the Ancient Empire and the following ones. After a few Babylonian parentheses, the city will definitively transform itself into one of the most important metropolises for this people, so much so that it has since shared its destiny. With the definitive fall of the Assyrians, in fact, it will pass first to the Achaemenids, then to the Seleucids, who will transform it into Karkha d’Beth Slokh, and finally to the Sassanids, to whom it will remain until the Arab conquests.

The name Karkha d’Beth Slokh means “Fort of the House of the Seleucids” in Aramaic

With the arrival of the latter, in fact, Mesopotamia will enjoy a new youth, transforming itself radically both in terms of names and splendor. The city will then change its name, becoming Kirkuk. It will remain under them until the 10th century, then being incorporated forever into the Turkish world. In fact, starting with the arrival of the Seljuk Turks, it will become part of all the major Turkish empires in the region, passing under the Zengids, the Kara Koyunlu, the Ak Koyunlu and finally the Ottoman Empire.

The discovery of oil and the Turkish identity

With the First World War and the consequent collapse of the Sublime Porte, the province of Mosul and Kirkuk became one of the main reasons of conflict between the British and the Turkish authorities. Following the armistice of Mudros in 1918, in fact, these territories ended up under British control which decided, probably to keep them under its own sphere of influence, to entrust them to the newborn Iraqi state.


This caused very strong protests by the Turkish authorities, who contested the decision due to the large population of Turkmen who have inhabited these places for centuries. Kirkuk, in particular, was considered, already at the time of Suleiman, a real capital by these populations, so much so that for a long time it was called Gökyurt, or “The blue motherland”. With the Ankara treaty of 1926, however, control passed definitively to Iraq which, just the following year, became the second largest oil field in history. This made the city one of the major industrial centers in the country, attracting populations from all over and bringing the region back to prosper.

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