Historical-geographical notes

Gegham M. Badalyan
As the majority of Armenian regions, the canton of Shirak, despite being one of the most extensive and populous cantons of the Greater Armenian province of Ayrarat, is presented quite superficially and without much detail in medieval Armenian historiography. A different pattern arises from the examination of the epigraphs of religious and cultural centers of the canton, which reveal more than 120 settlements and other locales (farmsteads, estates, fields and pastures, gardens, and even town districts), significantly complementing the data regarding Shirak and allowing one to form an idea about the toponyms of the region. This distinguishes Shirak as one of those “fortunate” Armenian cantons on whose locales a remarkable and a relatively comprehensive data is preserved. The first serious examination attempt of the toponyms recorded in the epigraphs of the region was undertaken by Gh. Alishan in his renowned work “Shirak” (Venice, 1881), preceded by a few similar observations by Nerses Sargisyan, another Mekhitarist monk. Assuredly, the prominent Armenologist could not deliberate on the majority of survived toponyms due to lack of necessary data. The current article is a humble attempt to fill this lacuna. Re-examining both the epigraphic documents and the historical accounts, the modern designations and, by extension, the geographic locations of a whole series of settlements and other locales are emended. The research revealed that the Armenian toponyms have predominantly been either translated (interpreted) and/or distorted by the incoming Turkic populace. Based on this concept and other considerations, we have examined more than twenty toponyms (mostly from Western Shirak where their Armenian character was better preserved), providing necessary comments and conclusions.


Part Ninth: Diyarbekir sanjak of Diyarbekır vilayet and the cantons of Mardin and Jezireh


Gegham M. Badalyan-Candidate of Historical Sciences
Diyarbekır vilayet was one of the earliest (created in 1517 AD) Ottoman administrative units and until the first half of the 19th century included both the southwestern and southern parts of historic Great Armenia (Tsopk, Aghdznik, Korduk), and the Northern Mesopotamia (Tur Abdin, Mardin, Mtsbin-Nisibin, Snjar, Khabur). One of its important features was the existence of semi-independent principalities and successor princedoms. After their elimination, from the end of the 1840s, the Sublime Porte inititated the implementation of substantial modifications to the boundaries and internal structure of the Western Armenian administrative units. As a result, new Kharberd eyalet (since 1867 – the Mamuret-ul-Aziz vilayet) was formed in once the whole western part of Diyarbekır and in 1879 the newly established Bitlis (Baghesh) vilayet was given Khulp (Koghb) and Sgherd cantons. The formation of the outer borders of Diyarbekir vilayet (the provinces of the Ottoman Empire had been renamed vilayets since 1867) was accomplished with the transfer of Arghana (Ergan)Maden sanjak from Kharberd in 1885. Prior to World War I, the internal administrative structure of the vilayet was also finalized, consisting of 4 sanjaks (Diyarbekır or Central, Arghana-Maden, Mardin, Severak) and 15 cantons (Turkish: kaza). The territory of Diyarbekir vilayet was 47.250 sq. km.

From a statistical point of view, particularly with regard to the Armenian population, in the sources Diyarbekır vilayet is presented in a rather poor and fragmentary manner, and the available data are either contradictory or simply missing. That is the reason that the researcher often encounters significant, even serious difficulties. The point is that the data of the Constantinople Patriarchate, which was obtained from the Diyarbekir Diocese, were usually based on improper records. Thus, in the known Armenian statistical bulletins of 1912-1914 the number of Armenian population in the vilayet varies between 88.000-124.000. Quite different are the data of Tovmas Mkrtichyan and Edward Noel, who are conventionally called British by us – 140.000-150.000 people.

Specifically, some adjustments and additions to more detailed E. Noel’s indices allowed one to conclude that on the eve of World War I the Armenian population of Diyarbekir vilayet reached 180.000. In addition, the majority of the Armenians was located in the cantons of Diyarbekir, Bsherik, Slivan (Silvan), Ltche (including the provincial center) located north of the Western Tigris, which were administratively included within the Central sanjak. The only exception was the Derik canton, located in the south of the Western Tigris (on the right) in the Masius or Mardin Mountains. Among the aforementioned administrative units, the neighboring Slivan and Bsherik (Rashkan), who occupied the fertile trans-Tigris and fields of Nprkert and Bsherik, were particularly notable for the abundance of Armenian population. By 1915 there were more than 130 villages and settlements populated by Armenians. This number may be even greater as the Armenian population of many cantons of Diyarbekir is characterized by high mobility and often relocated to more economically advantageous settlements. Hazro canton (Turkish: nahiye) was much populated by Armenians, which was administratively part of Slivan. Mihran (in Armenian sources: Mihranik) – the eastern part of Hazro, was a self-governing Armenian-Kurdish principality until the 40s of the 19th c. The number of Armenians was also considerable in Ltche canton and in the town of Haini located in the southern foothills of the Armenian Taurus. A large number of Armenians lived in the immediate vicinity of the city of Diyarbekir, located in the middle of the Western Tigris Basin – the oldest agricultural center in the Amid valley with its Eastern (Turkish: Diarbakır Şarkovası) and Western (Diyarbakır Garbovası) sections. Several Armenian monasteries were preserved in Diyarbekır canton, which were prominent Armenian writing centers in the Middle Ages: St. Makabayetsvots or Antakh, Surb Tovma Arakelo (St. Thomas the Apostle’s) or Aynebreghi, Surb Tovma Arakelo (St. Thomas the Apostle’s) of Tarjli, Surb Astvatsatsin (the Holy Mother of God) of Alipunar.

The most Armenian-populated cantons were Central (Mardin) and Jezireh (historic Korduk and Beth-Zabde), where they were quite populous settlements, such as the town of Mardin and the Til-Armen settlement. Among the well-known Armenian sanctuaries were St. Gevorg Main Church (5th century) in Mardin and close St. Hovhannes Mkrtich (St. John the Baptist) or Tvin Hermitage. It should be noted that the predominantly Arab-speaking or Kurdish-speaking Armenians in Mardin sanjak were followers of the Armenian Catholic Church. And the remarkable feature of a significant part of the Armenian population of Jezireh canton was the semi-nomadic lifestyle that survivors of the Genocide pereserved until the 1970s.

In 1915 Armenians of Diyarbekir and Mardin were subjected to mass destruction (barely 9% survived). Other Christians, especially the Assyrians (Jacobi, Kildani, etc.) also shared the same fate.


Part Tenth: Diyarbekir city and Derik, Savur, Palu and Maden cantons


Gegham M. Badalyan-Candidate of Sciences in History
The article is dedicated to the study of the pre-genocide demographic situation in the namesake provincial capital of Diyarbekir vilayet, as well as in the cantons of Derik (Diyarbekir sanjak), Savur (Mardin sanjak), Palu and Maden (Arghana-Maden sanjak).

Diyarbekir city – the center of the vilayet, was one of the oldest settlements in Armenia, which is still evidenced in the cuneiform inscriptions of the 2nd millennium B.C. as Amedu or Amedi (in Armenian medieval sources: Amid, Amit or Amdatsuots kaghak (city of the residents of Amid)). The city was located in the center of the Diyarbekir plain at the northern foot of the Karajadagh (historical Ashimun) volcanic massif, on the western bank of the Western Tigris, bordered by a meander or “bow” (Arabic: kâfs). Diyarbekir was one of the most populous and Armenian-populated cities in Western Armenia, where the continuous dominance of the Armenian population is noticeable beginning from the 70s and 80s of the 19th century. On the eve of World War I, the number of Armenians in the city’s 55.000strong multinational population was 26.000-27.500, or 47-50% (according to the comparison of the statistical data by French preacher J. Retoré, Deputy Consul of the Great Britain T. Mkrtichian and Major E. Noel). In this respect, Diyarbekir was second only to the city of Van (about 30.000 people or 66% of the population).

The Armenian population was mainly concentrated in the districts covering the northeastern and southern parts of Diyarbekir, which were formed in the vicinities of the churches of St. Kirakos and St. Sargis. Meanwhile, other Christians in the city (Jacobi and Catholic Assyrians, Kildanis, Greeks – Orthodox and Catholic-Uniates or Melchites) together with Armenians made up 55-60% of the population prior to the genocide. There was also a small Jewish community in the city – about 100 families. The Muslim population making the minority in Diyarbekir was predominantly Turkish, with a large share of Christians converted to Islam in its time (Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks), and significantly Turkified Dimili (Zazans) and Kurds. Moreover, many mosques in Diyarbekir were once Armenian sanctuaries, which were occupied at the very beginning of the establishment of Ottoman rule: St. Astvatsatsin of 60 altars (it was the main mosque of Diyarbekir in the early 20th century called Ulujami), the former Armenian Cathedral of St. Theodoros or St. Toros (the Turks renamed it Jurshunlu Jami), the Holy Trinity, St. Hovhannes (John). Of the ancient structures, the 72-tower wall surrounding Amid-Diyarbekir, which still stands today, was famous. From the Middle Ages, the four main gates (“doors”) symbolizing the Evangelists have been preserved: Armenian or Erzrum (northern, Turkish: Dağkapısı), Mardin (southern), Horomots or Horom door (western, Turkish: Rumkapısı) and New (eastern, Turkish: Yenikapısı or Şatkapısı, meaning “Door of Tigris”). Among the prominent medieval structures were the ancient citadel named Aver Berd (Fortress) (Turkish: Virankalesi), the Roman-era aqueduct-bridge that brought water from Hamrvat (Hamrvar) pouring spring flowing from the northern slopes of Karajadagh to the town, sanctified Chift-Ilija pool full of fish.

To the south of the Western Tigris were the cantons of Derik and Savur, where Armenians (mostly Catholics), as a rule, lived in administrative centers and in a few villages on the eve of the genocide. This was the result of the Ottoman yoke, as in the mentioned cantons during the 18th-19th centuries forced religious conversion had taken place. The latter had particularly catastrophic consequences in Savur, where over time the local semi-independent Armenian principality had disappeared.

The canton of Palu, among semi-independent principalities of the 40s of the 16th-19th (Turkish: hükümet), was one of the most Armenian-populated administrative units in Diyarbekir vilayet. One of the essential features of Palu principality was the existence of Armenian melikdoms. Although they were subject to the amira-rulers of Armenian descent from Palu, they enjoyed considerable independence in internal affairs. The melikdoms of Havav, Sarutchan or Okhu, Ashmushat (the region of Arshamashat – the ancient capital of Tsopk), Khamishli (Ghamishluk, Yeghegnut), Paghin were known. In particular, the canton of Ashmushat, on the left bank of the Aratsani, stood out, which was, in fact, a unique federation of separate melik families settled in several settlements. There is also information about the meliks of Khamishli (Ghamishluk) settlement of Javgan canton. Some facts enable us to speak about military cooperations between separate melikdoms and the Dmlik tribes of Dersim. However, the constant fighting against the Muslim (Kurdish and Dmlik or Zaza) feudals, as well as the penetration of new foreign tribes and the intensifying pressure, destroyed once the former power of the meliks of Palu. As a result, mass emigration began from Palu city and villages, which forced large numbers of Armenian families to flee to various places, including Cilicia and even Constantinople.

Moreover, emigration continued throughout the 19th century, with a strong negative impact on the canton’s ethnic-tribal image. Instead of the departed Armenians, a large number of Muslims (mostly Dmliks, also Kurds and Turks) migrated from Kharberd, Tchapaghjur and other cantons to the territory of Palu. The widespread Muslimization of Armenians who had converted to Greek confession (Chalcedonianism) still in the Middle Ages reached catastrophic sizes. The apostates in Palu were also known as “keskes” (meaning “half-half” in Armenian). As a result of all this, if at the beginning of the 19th century in Palu canton (including the city- fortress) approximately 60.000-70.000 Armenians and 30.000 “Kurds” lived, then almost a century later the ratio had already changed to the detriment of Armenians, respectively 22.000-24.000 and 60.000-65.000. At the same time, pursuing a traditional policy of separating the Armenian-populated cantons, the Ottoman authorities transferred Balu canton of Arghana-Maden sanjak from Kharberd vilayet or Mamuret-ul-Aziz to Diyarbekir vilayet, which remained there until the end of World War I.

It is noteworthy, however, that the inner canton-nahiyes formed in the Middle Ages were preserved in the territory of the canton: Ashmushat (<Arshamashat), Bulanukh (Upper and Lower), Gyokdere, Karabekyan (Kharabegyan), Karachor yllaretil ,ﻣﺰﺭﻋﺎﺓ – taâ’rzâM :.barA< ,turzaM( tavrzaM ro lartneC ,)rohcarahK( “mezrehes”) with Javgan, Houn (Sarachor), Voshin (Oshin or Veshin), Sivan (<Sevan), Okhu or Yegh (Hizol). Nevertheless, on the eve of the Armenian Genocide, Palu canton was one of the most Armenian-populated administrative units in Diyarbekir vilayet, where according to the British data, before the genocide, the number of the Armenian population, including the city, was about 26.000. Until the 70s of the 19th century, the number of churches in Palu city had four Armenian districts: Yerevan (St. Gregory the Illuminator Church, Katoghike or Mother Church), Toner (St. Astvatsatsin Church), St. Sahak (St. Sahak Partev Church) and St. Kirakos (with the namesake church). Despite the unfavorable demographic conditions, as a result of which St. Sahak and St. Kirakos districts almost completely deserted and uninhabited already in the 80s of the 19th century, over 6.000 Armenians (about half of the population) lived in Palu city on the eve of the Armenian Genocide. The villages and settlements of Havav, Dzet, Najaran, Nekhri (Nerkhi), Paghin, Til, Okhu (Yegh), Tepe (Blur) and Khoshmat were also notable for their populousness.

As for Maden canton, though the Armenian population was presented in separate islands (enclave), such as Maden or (Arghno Maden) and Arghni boroughs, Akl (Angh) settlement and a number of village, Armenian traces were preserved in many settlements of the administrative unit (churches, Armenian cemeteries, places of pilgrimage). The monastery of the Most High St. Astvatsatsin (Arghno Monastery) was renowned.



Arsen L. Petrosyan
Emigration is the most essential challenge for Armenia now. Due to emigration and the existing reasons of emigration, Armenia registers a fall of demographic data and there are no optimistic tendencies.

The reasons generating emigration are grouped into socio-economic, moral psychological, and foreign factors. It is noted that the morally and psychologically healthless surroundings and the absence of faith for developing perspective are the main factors nowadays.

Summing up the article, the author concludes, that Armenia’s and everyone’s economic security and prosperity are connected with the number of the permanent population of the country. A significant precondition to reach this target is to establish fairly and creative social surroundings in the country



Rubina Peroomian, Ph.D., California, Los Angeles
After a period of confusion at the end of World-War I, the Turkification of the ethnic and religious minorities in Turkey resumed in the Republican era. Kemalist secularization downplayed religion, but as soon as the days of Ismet Inönü, Islam began to slowly make its way into the center of the Turkish national discourse.

The policy of Turkification was pursued across all ethnic groups, in many instances resulting in persecutions and discriminatory treatment of the non-Muslim minorities. The 1934 decree to abolish non-Turkish surnames was a powerful strategy of Turkifying and homogenizing the diverse society. So was the 1942 wealth tax (varlık vergisi) which forced non-Muslims out of business by disproportionate and discriminatory taxes. Those who could not pay were exiled to labor camps. Then, it was the 1955 pogrom, organized in response to the Cypress issue. Greeks were the intended target, but Armenians and Jews too suffered the angry mob’s looting, raping, killing, burning of houses, and destruction of properties. As Rober Haddejian puts it, more painful than all that wreckage, was the shattering of Armenian hopes for a better future in Turkey. Adnan Menderes, the main organizer of these pogroms, was convicted and put to death for accusations unrelated to these pogroms and the tremendous destruction and death they caused. The next peak event in the process of Turkification and the government’s trampling on the rights of ethnic minorities was the 1960s campaign to prohibit the use of any language but Turkish. Significantly, beginning in 1965 the State Institute of Statistics omitted the question from the census concerning a person’s mother tongue.

The suppression of minorities in Turkey amplified by the rise of ultranationalist, Islamist elements and their involvement in the republic’s political process as well as their clandestine terrorist activities. Their covert manipulations and coercions in the name of nation’s interests are referred to as the workings of the deep state (derin devlet). The Islamist movement was briefly halted by the 1980 coup, but was resumed and, as Perry Anderson puts it, was reinforced by the Turkish Islamic synthesis as textbook doctrine. In the aftermath of the 1980 coup, repression against the Kurds took a new dimension: martial law in the south-east, a ban on using the Kurdish language and any cultural or political expressions of Kurdish identity spread over the entire country. This augmented repression pushed the Kurdish Workers party, towards paramilitary activities and an insurgence in 1984.

Acceptance in the European Union has brought about the government’s change of attitude toward minorities, especially Kurds who are in the spotlight more than others. Alevis remain in a worse condition. They are accused of “heterodoxy worse than Shiism,” even atheism. All the ethnic and religious minorities together figure one third of the entire population, and thus, as Perry Anderson puts it, one third of the population in Turkey is under systematic discrimination. Forced assimilation into the mainstream Turkish society—identity, culture, language, ethnicity—is in process engulfing all citizens of Turkey, be they non-Turk Muslims—Kurds, Lazs, Arabs, Circassians, Chechens—or non-Muslims such as Armenians, Greeks, and Jews.

In the case of the Armenian minority, the change to the worse occurred in the last two or three decades, and that is because of the political activities and armed struggle (the so called terrorist actions) of Diaspora Armenians for the world recognition of the Armenian Genocide. To counter these activities, the Turkish government fed its citizens with lies denying the Armenian claims, teaching them to hate Armenians. Taner Akçam, Osman Köker and many other Turkish intellectuals are trying to persuade the government to recognize the diversity of the Turkish society. Orhan Pamuk tries to show the importance of the multiethnic, multicultural society that existed in Turkey and the successive governments have tried to kill that. These intellectuals are digging for the truth in the past and are consequently harassed and persecuted. Hrant Dink’s assassination is a sad proof of that.

Moderate approaches to the history of Modern Turkey constitute the inclusion of the Armenian experience in the Turkish republican history, albeit showing the Armenian Genocide as forced migration. Significant among these publications is From Subject to Citizen in 75 Years (1999).

Contrary to the present day show of leniency toward minorities, however, the Erdogan-Gül government follows the criteria of Turkification. “One Flag, One Nation, One Language, One State” continues to be the slogan and the ideology enforced on Turkish society. Digression from that ideology is considered a criminal offense and is prosecuted under article 301.

Despite the fact that discriminatory treatment of ethnic and religious minorities is still a continuing reality in Turkey, the ever deepening of the sense of ethnic and religious identity is also a reality which has no doubt created a crisis in the Turkish supra-identity. The policy of Turkification has failed, and the government is no longer able to distort and falsify the diversity and enforce its own prescribed “national identity”.


The decree issued by Enver Pasha, the Minister of War, January 5, 1916 


Lusineh S. Sahakyan
Toponyms represent linguistic characteristicsw with important historical and political significance. The Young Turk rulers in 1916 Ottoman Empire and those in the Republic of Turkey realized the strategic importance of the toponyms and persistently implemented policies of distortion and appropriation. With the aim of assimilating the toponyms of the newly conquered territories, the Ottoman authorities translated them into Turkish from their original languages or transformed the local dialectal place-names by way of distortion to make them sound like Turkish wordforms. Yet another method of appropriation was that of the etymological misinterpretation of the toponyms in question. A widespread method was also renaming the places and discarding the former place-names altogether. The focus of the present article is the place-name transformation policy of the Ottoman Empire as well as the Republic of Turkey; the Ottoman (Latin-transcript)-Armenian translation of the decree, dating January 5, 1916, issued by Enver Pasha, the Minister of War, is presented in this article for the first time in English, Armenian and Russian translations. It concerns the transformation of “non-Muslim” place-names. The article also deals with the artificial term of “Eastern Anatolia”that was coined to replace Western Armenia, the political objectives of the pro-Turkish circle, as well as the aftermath of putting the mentioned ersatz term into circulation.

SHAMAKHI AND THE SHAMAKHI’S ARMENIANS (from ancient times up to the end of the 20th century) – 2009-3


Gevorg S. Stepanyan
Since immemorial times the oldest city of Eastern Transcaucasia Shamakhi had been inhabited by Armenians, according to rich bibliographic and archive materials. A part of them considered it to be their native land. Local Armenians had as unified, social-economic and spiritual-cultural active life full of high level creative and scientificcultural work, as well as played significant role in the region’s development. Armenians presented an enlightened and viable element in the backward environment of the alien Turkic speaking population.

Frequent catastrophic earthquakes had negative impact on the natural growth of the Armenian population of Shamakhi. As a result of a destructive earthquake (May, 1859) in Shamakhi the provincial central administration was removed to Baku, thus Shamakhi lost gradually its former glory. The Armenians of Shamakhi suffered hard period especially in 1918. During their aggression against Baku the Turkish troops occupied Shamakhi (July 20) and massacred, forcibly Islamized and deproted the Armenian population of the city.The policy of repressions, deportations and ethnic cleansing commited against Armenians had been continued in the years of Musavatist Azerbaijan and the Soviet power, which followed the latter. In 1989 as a result of deportation Shamakhi was finally deprived of its Armenian population.