Kars ( Kurdish: Qers, Armenian: Կարս, less commonly known as
Ղարս Ghars,) is a city in northeast
Turkey and the capital of
With a population of 73,836 (in 2011), it is the largest city on the
Turkish side of the closed border with
Armenia . For a brief period of
time, it served as the capital of the medieval Bagratid Kingdom of
Armenia. Its significance increased in the 19th century, when Kars
was contested between the Ottoman and Russian empires, with the latter
gaining control of the city as a result of the 1877-78 war. During
World War I, the Ottomans took control of the city in 1918 and
declared the Provisional National Government of the Southwestern
Caucasus, but were forced to relinquish it to the First Republic of
Armenia following the Armistice of Mudros. During the
Turkish–Armenian War in late 1920,
Turkish revolutionaries captured
Kars for the last time. The controversial
Treaty of Kars
Treaty of Kars was
signed in 1921 between the Government of the Grand National Assembly
and the Soviet republics of Armenia,
Azerbaijan and Georgia, which
established the current north-eastern boundaries of Turkey.
1.2 Medieval period
1.3 Russian administration
1.4 World War I
1.5 Recent history
8 Places of interest
8.2 Other historical structures
9 Notable natives
10 International relations
10.1 Twin towns – Sister cities
11 In popular culture
13 External links
As Chorzene, the town appears in Roman historiography (Strabo) as part
of ancient Armenia. For the origin of the name "Kars", some sources
claim it to be derived from the Georgian word კარი (kari),
meaning "the gate" while other sources claim it is from the
Armenian word հարս (hars), meaning "bride", or rather from
կառուց բերդ (kaṛuts berd), "Kaṛuts Fortress".[citation
needed] The Turkish etymology offered by M. Fahrettin Kırzıoğlu
(that the name came from the "Karsak", a Turkish tribe), has been
dismissed as unsustainable by scholars.
The 10th-century Armenian Church of the Holy Apostles, as seen in a
photo taken in the late 19th century.
The Map of Armenian Kingdom under the Reign of Bagratid Dynasty,
10-11th centuries A.D.
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). At some point in the ninth century
(at least by 888) it became part of the territory of the Armenian
Kars was the capital of Bagratid Kingdom of Armenia
between 928 and 961. During this period the town's cathedral, later
known as the Church of the Holy Apostles, was built.
In 963, shortly after the Bagratuni seat was transferred to Ani, Kars
became the capital of a separate independent kingdom, again called
Vanand. However, the extent of its actual independence from the
Ani is uncertain: it was always in the possession of the
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
Alp Arslan (leader of 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 his kingdom to the Byzantine Empire, but soon after
taken by the Seljuk Turks.
The Seljuks quickly relinquished direct control over
Kars and it
became a small emirate whose territory corresponded closely to that of
Vanand, and which bordered the similarly created but larger Shaddadid
emirate centered at Ani. The
Kars emirate was a vassal of the
Saltukids in Erzurum, whose forces were effective in opposing Georgian
attempts at seizing Kars. Thus, it was only in 1206 that Zakare of the
Zakarids-Mkhargrzeli succeeded in capturing Kars, joining it to their
fiefdom of Ani. It was conquered in 1242 by the Mongols; was
regained by Georgian Kingdom during the reign of George V the
Brilliant (1314–1346), it remained part of the Kingdom before its
disintegration, which then passed into the hands of Georgian Atabegs
belonging to the House of Jaqeli. In 1387 the city
Timur (Tamerlane) and its fortifications were damaged.
Anatolian beyliks followed for some time after that, until it firstly
fell into the hands of the
Kara Koyunlu and subsequent Ak Koyunlu.
After the Ak Koyunlu, as it went naturally for almost all their former
territories, the city fell into the hands of the newly established
Safavid dynasty of Iran, founded by king Ismail I. Following the Peace
of Amasya of 1555 that followed through the Ottoman-Safavid War of
1533-1555, the city was declared neutral, and its existing fortress
was destroyed. In 1585, during the Ottoman-Safavid War of
1579-1590, the Ottomans took the city alongside Tabriz. On June 8,
1604, during the next bout of hostilities between the two archrivals,
the Ottoman-Safavid War of 1603-1618, Safavid ruler Abbas I retook the
city from the Ottomans. The fortifications of the city were
rebuilt by the Ottoman
Murad III and were strong enough to
withstand a siege by
Nader Shah of Persia, in 1731. It became the
head of a sanjak in the Ottoman Erzurum Vilayet. In August 1745, a
huge Ottoman army was routed at
Nader Shah during the
Ottoman-Persian War of 1743-1746. As a result, the Turks fled
westwards, raiding their own lands as they went.
The 1828 Russian siege of
Kars (painter January Suchodolski).
Kars successfully resisted an attack by the Russian Empire.
During a break between the Russian campaigns in the region conducted
against the Ottomans, in 1821, commander-in-chief
Abbas Mirza of Qajar
Iran occupied Kars, further igniting the Ottoman-Persian War of
1821-1823. After another Russian siege in 1828 the city was
surrendered by the Ottomans on June 23, 1828 to the Russian general
Count Ivan Paskevich, 11,000 men becoming prisoners of war. At the
end of the war it returned to Ottoman control for diplomatic reasons,
Russia gaining only two border forts. During the
Crimean War an
Ottoman garrison led by British officers including General William
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 the
(province), comprising the districts of Kars, Ardahan, Kaghisman, and
Oltu,which was the most southwesterly extension of the Russian
From 1878 to 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
Pontic Greeks (here usually called
Caucasus Greeks) migrated to the region from the
Ottoman Empire and
other regions of Transcaucasia. According to the Russian census data,
Armenians formed 49.7%,
Caucasus Greeks 11.7%,
Poles 5.3% and Turks 3.8%.
World War I
Armenian civilians fleeing
Kars after its capture by Kâzım
In the First World War, the city was one of the main objectives of the
Ottoman army during the lost
Battle of Sarikamish
Battle of Sarikamish in the Caucasus
Campaign. Russia ceded Kars,
Batum to the Ottoman Empire
Treaty of Brest-Litovsk
Treaty 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
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
Turkish-speaking regions as far as Batumi and Alexandropol (Gyumri).
Much of the region fell under the administrative control of
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. In May 1919
Kars came under the full administration of the
Armenian Republic and became the capital of its
Skirmishes between the
Turkish revolutionaries and Armenian border
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
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. The terms of the Treaty of Alexandropol, signed by the
Turkey on December 2, 1920, forced
Armenia to give back all the Ottoman territories granted to it in the
Treaty of Sèvres.
Bolshevik advance into Armenia, the Treaty of Alexandropol
was superseded by the
Treaty of Kars
Treaty of Kars (October 23, 1921), signed
Turkey and the Soviet Union. The treaty allowed for Soviet
Adjara in exchange for Turkish control of the regions of
Kars, Igdir, and Ardahan. The
Treaty of Kars
Treaty of Kars 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.
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, on behalf of the Georgian and Armenian
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 ordered to prepare for a possible invasion of Turkey. Prime
Winston Churchill objected to these territorial claims, while
Harry Truman initially felt that the matter should not
concern other parties. With the onset of the Cold War, however, the
United States came to see
Turkey as a useful ally against Soviet
expansion and began to support it financially and militarily. By 1948
Soviet Union dropped its claims to
Kars and the other regions.
In April 1993,
Turkey closed its
Kars border crossing with Armenia, in
a protest against the capture of
Kelbajar district of
Armenian forces during the Nagorno-Karabakh War. Since then the
land border between
Turkey has remained closed. In 2006,
Kars mayor Naif Alibeyoğlu said that opening the border would
boost the local economy and reawaken the city. Despite
unsuccessful attempts to establish diplomatic relations between the
two countries in 2009, there remained opposition and pressure from
the local population against the re-opening of the border. 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. As of 2014[update], the border
According to Turkey's 2011 Statistical Yearbook, the area has been
depopulating because of migration to bigger cities. In İstanbul
alone, there are 269,388 people from Kars, more than three times the
Caucasus Greeks (8.9%)
Caucasus Greeks (8.2%), 247
Russians (26.3%), 1,084
Poles (5.2%), 733 Caucasus Greeks
(3.5%), 486 Tatars (2.3%)
On 30 March 2014, Murtaza Karaçanta (MHP) was elected mayor. The
previous mayor, Nevzat Bozkuş (AKP), was not reelected. During the
June 2015 elections,
Kars became a stronghold of the pro-Kurdish HDP,
becoming the largest political party in both the city and the province
Kars has a Kurdish majority. The current mayor is a
government appointed mayor and not an elected one.  The mayor
before Bozkuş was Naif Alibeyoğlu (AKP).
Kars has a humid continental climate (Köppen climate classification:
Dfb), with a significant difference between summer and winter
temperatures, as well as night and day temperatures, due to its
location away from large bodies of water, its high elevation and
relatively high latitude, being where the high plateau of Eastern
Anatolia converges with the
Lesser Caucasus mountain range. 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 −16 °C
(3 °F). However, temperatures can plummet to −35 °C
(−31.0 °F) during the winter months. It snows a lot in winter,
staying for an average of four months in the city. Due to its
geographic location of the city in the province, it has a slightly
milder climate compared to the surrounding region. Some hills and
peaks in the province, especially around the
Sarıkamış region, are
Köppen climate classification
Köppen climate classification Dfc) due to the higher
elevation of the region. Both the summers and winters are colder in
this area, with winter temperatures reaching −40 °C
(−40 °F) more regularly.
Climate data for
Record high °C (°F)
Average high °C (°F)
Daily mean °C (°F)
Average low °C (°F)
Record low °C (°F)
Average precipitation mm (inches)
Average precipitation days
Average relative humidity (%)
Mean monthly sunshine hours
Source #1: Devlet Meteoroloji İşleri Genel Müdürlüğü 
Source #2: Weatherbase 
The town has a football club
Kars S.K.. Bandy, a sport which does not
Turkey today, was once played here.
Kars hosts the Kafkas University, which was established in 1992.
Kars is served by a main highway from Erzurum, and lesser roads run
Ardahan and south to Igdir. The town has an airport (Kars
Harakani 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
Tbilisi railway, have regrettably been closed since April
1993. Construction on a new line, the Kars–Tbilisi–
intended to connect
Turkey with Georgia and Azerbaijan, began in 2010
and is scheduled for completion by 2017. The line became operational
on October 30, 2017.The line connects
Georgia, from where trains will continue to Tbilisi, and
Places of interest
Castle of Kars
Castle of Kars (Turkish:
Kars 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
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
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). During the eighteenth century at the Battle
Kars (1745) a crushing defeat was inflicted upon the Ottoman army
by the Persian conqueror, Nader Shah, not far from the city of Kars.
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 the
Siege of Kars
Siege of Kars in 1855.
Other historical structures
"Taşköprü" (Stone Bridge 1725) over the
The Armenian Church of the Apostles housed a museum in the 1960s–70s
and was converted to a mosque in 1993.
Below the castle is an Armenian church known as Surb Arak'elots, the
Church of the Holy Apostles. Built in the 930s, it has a tetraconch
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 1993. In the same
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.
The "Taşköprü" (Stone Bridge) is a bridge over the
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 Armenian, Turkish, Georgian,
Kurdish and Russian cultures, the buildings of
Kars come in a variety
of architectural styles. Most Russian-era buildings in
identical in architectural style to those of
Gyumri in Armenia. Orhan
Pamuk in the novel Snow, set 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.
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
Tourism Information Office (
Kars Kültür ve Turizm İl
The State Hospital of
Kars Devlet Hastanesi)
Abas I of Armenia, Armenian king
Atrpet (1860–1937), Armenian novelist and writer
Hayran-î-Dil Kadınefendi (1846–1898), wife of Ottoman sultan
Abdülaziz and mother of
Sultan Abdülmecid II
İbrahim Aydın (1874–1948), military leader and civil servant
Ivan Isakov (1894–1967), Soviet Armenian military commander, chief
of staff and Admiral of the Fleet in the Soviet Navy
Yeghishe Charents (1897–1937), Armenian poet
Hovhannes Zardaryan (1918–1992), Armenian painter
Varlam Avanesov, Armenian bolshevik politician
Kelime Aydın Çetinkaya
Kelime Aydın Çetinkaya (1982), cross country skier
Gülsüm Tatar (1985), world and European champion female boxer
Cağla Şikel – famous Turkish actress and model; 1997 Miss Turkey
winner of Azerbaijani descent
Yavuz Bingöl – famous Turkish folk music singer and actor
Murat Çobanoğlu – famous Turkish folk music singer
Tamer Karadağlı – a Turkish actor
Gökhan Saki – K1 Fighter
See also: List of twin towns and sister cities in Turkey
Twin towns – Sister cities
The municipality of
Kars has developed sister city relationships with
following cities at home and abroad:
In popular culture
Kars is the setting of the 2002 novel Kar (Snow) by Orhan Pamuk.
Yerkir Nairi (Երկիր Նաիրի) novel by
Yeghishe Charents is
dedicated to the public persons and places of Kars.
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.
In 1857 the settlement of Wellington in Ontario,
Canada renamed itself
Kars in honor of the Canadian-born General William Fenwick Williams
who organized the defense of
Kars during its 1855 siege.
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Kars (BTK) railway track becomes operational to carry
Chinese goods to Europe". dnd.com.pk. 30 October 2017. Retrieved 27
Railway Gazette International February 2009 p54 with map
^ "Burası cami oldu, burada ayin olmaz". Milliyet (in Turkish).
2008-06-24. Vakıflar Genel Müdürlüğü, 1993 yılında kiliseyi
Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı'na devretti. Böylece kilise, yıllar
yine cami olarak kullanılmaya başlandı ve adı yine Kümbet Cami
^ "THE CATHEDRAL OF KARS: Holy Apostles Church (Surb Arak'elots)."
VirtualANI. December 7, 2000.
Kars Belediyesi'nin çalışmaları" (in Turkish). Siyasal Birikim.
8 October 2007. Archived from the original on 8 April 2014. Retrieved
8 April 2014. 68- KARDEŞ ŞEHİR: Belediyemiz Kardeş Şehir
İlişkisi kurulması konusunda gerekli girişimlerde bulunarak yurt
Edirne Belediyeleri ile yurt dışında ise
Azerbaycan'ın Gence Belediyesi, Almanya'nın
Kirkenes Belediyesi, Gürcistan'ın
Kutaisi Belediyesi ile
kardeş şehir ilişkisi kurulmuştur.
^ "Twin-cities of Azerbaijan". Azerbaijans.com. Retrieved
Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kars.
Wikivoyage has a travel guide for Kars.
Pictures of the city and the nearby city of Ani
700+ pictures of city, Kümbet Camii, Kale and Ani
Kars Governor's Office
The official city guide of the
Kars Guide and Photo Album by Luc Wouters
Kars Weather Forecast Information
Treaty of Kars
Atlas of Conflicts: The
Treaty of Kars
Treaty of Kars and Its Geopolitical
Armenia by Dr. Andrew Andersen, Ph.D.
VirtualANI - A history and description of the city of Kars
Armenian History and Presence in Kars
HitchHikers Handbook's guide to Kars
3D Model of the Cathedral
Kars preservation project summary at Global Heritage Fund
Kars with Google Earth on Global Heritage Network
Awarded "EDEN - European Destinations of Excellence" non traditional
tourist destination 2009
Kars Province of Turkey
List of Provinces by Region
West Black Sea
East Black Sea
Central East Anatolia
Metropolitan municipalities are bolded.
Historical capitals of Armenia
Tushpa (832–590 BC)
Armavir (331–210 BC)
Yervandashat (210-176 BC)
Artashat (176-77 BC and 69 BC-120 AD)
Tigranakert (77-69 BC)
Yerevan (since 1918)