History of Erzurum, the heart of eastern Anatolia

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Erzurum is an ancient Armenian city which later became one of the most symbolic and historical places regarding the history of the Republic of Turkey

The words of Ibn Battuta

“Our next stop was Erzurum, also in the territories of Iraq, a very large city but largely destroyed by the civil war that broke out between two groups of Turkmen who reside there.”

The origins of Erzurum

Erzurum was founded with the name of Karin from the Kingdom of Diahuei, a confederation of tribes that from the 12th century BC. to 760 BC they dominated the westernmost part of the Anatolian Caucasus. Subsequently the kingdom weakened due to continuous attacks at the hands of the Assyrians, thus passing to the nearby Kingdom of Urartu and then binding to the Armenian one. With its progressive weakening, it passed for a long time under the influence of the Romans, who will definitively gain control after the Peace of Acylissene in 387 AD. . Following this event, Armenia will be divided between the Sassanid Empire and the Roman Empire, then becoming part of the Byzantine Empire; this treaty was established by the emperor Theodosius I, who built an important fort and renamed the city Teodosiopoli in honor of himself. In 701 it was conquered by the Umayyad army and became the capital of the Emirate of the Kaysites, transforming itself de facto into an Arab and Muslim island within a territory inhabited mainly by Christian Armenians. The latter, however, were happy to have them in command of the region, as they were much more easily manipulated and influenced than the great and distant Byzantine Empire, which facilitated their rooting.


In 949 it was reconquered by Byzantium, but was then definitively lost following the Battle of Manzikert in 1071, fought against the Seljuks. This event will mark the beginning of a profound period of political instability, during which it passed first to the Saltuqids, then to the Seljuks, Ilkhanids, Kara Koyunlu, Tamerlane, Ak Koyonlu, Safavids and, after the Battle of Chaldiran in 1514, to the Ottomans to which will bind forever.

Ottomans and Turkey

From 1821, however, Erzurum became the protagonist of many military operations, mostly culminating in defeats. In 1821 he lost against the Qajar army and then twice against the Russian one, but then always returning under the control of Istanbul through a series of treaties. It will be precisely the proximity and strength of Moscow to instill the first tensions between Ottomans and Armenians, which will lead to the “Hamidian massacres”, during which the Hamidiye, predominantly Kurdish cavalry regiments, massacred many Armenians. Unfortunately, these events will only be a preamble to the much more serious and heavier Armenian Genocide, which caused as many as 40,000 of them to leave the city without the certainty of seeing her again or any other place on this earth. In 1916, during the First World War, Erzurum was conquered by the Russian army, which abandoned it after the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, becoming one of the most representative places for the birth of the Republic of Turkey thanks to the famous congress of 1919.


The latter was really decisive for the birth of modern Turkey, as the governors of the main provinces of the East declared they met and established the need to free the country from the forces of foreign occupation, restoring its independence and giving it the borders that we know today. After this event he officially joined the Turkish National Movement Musa Kâzım Karabekir, which will be the absolute protagonist of the Turkish-Armenian War, managing to triumph in all the clashes and giving these territories the shape of today. During the Cold War it was one of the most important NATO bases in Turkey.

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