Smbat Minasyan -
ըստ մի շարք հայ պատմագիրների վկայությամբ Կարսի բերդը հիմնադրվել է դեռ
Կարսը միջնադարյան Հայաստանի մինչեւ օրս պահպանված մայրաքաղաքներից է:
Այն գտնվում է Ախուրյանի աջակողմյան վտակ Կարս գետի ափին: Կարսը գտնվում
է Այրարատ աշխարհի Վանանդ գավառում: Նրա առաջին տերերը Վանանդի իշխաններն
են, որոնք հիշատակվում են IV
դարից: Քաղաքի պատմության վաղ շրջանի մասին տեղեկությունները քիչ են:
Միայն ստույգ գիտենք, որ այն հայոց պատմության մեջ հայտնի դարձավ ավելի
ուշ` IX դարից: IX դարի վերջից Կարսը
հիշատակվում է իբրեւ բերդաքաղաք, իսկ 928թ. դառնում է Հայաստանի
Սակայն Բագրատունյաց նախորդ երկու մայրաքաղաքների` Բագարանի եւ
Երազգավորսի նման Կարսը եւս երկարատեւ չի մնում կենտրոնական
թագավորության մայրաքաղաք: 961թ. Աշոտ 3-րդը Բագրատունյաց թագավորության
մայրաքաղաք է հռչակում Անին, իսկ Կարսը մնում է որպես Բագրատունիների
կրտսեր ճյուղի Կարսի կամ Վանանդի ֆեոդալական փոքր թագավորության
1053թ-ից Կարսը պարբերաբար ենթարկվում է Սելջուկների ասպատակություններին:
1064թ Կարսի վերջին հայ թագավոր Գագիկը, որպեսզի ապահովի Կարսը հետագա
Սելջուկյան արշավանքներից, զիջում է այն բյուզանդացիներին դրա դիմաց
ստանալով Կապադովկիայի Ծամնդավ քաղաքը: Շուտով Կարսը գրավում են Սելջուկ
թուրքերը: 1198-1236թթ հայազգի զորավարներ Զաքարե եւ
Իվանե Զաքարյանները ազատագրեցին Կարսը եւ Հայաստանի մի հատվածը
հիմնելով իրենց իշխանությունը:
XI-XIII դդ. Կարսի բնակչության թիվը
անցնում էր 50.000 մարդուց, իսկ դա այդ ժամանակաշրջանի քաղաքների
բնակչության համար շատ մեծ թիվ էր:
Մոնղոլները 1236թ. Հյուսիսային Հայաստանի մյուս քաղաքների հետ միասին
գրավում եւ ավերում են նաեւ Կարսը: 1394թ. Կարսը ավերվում է Լենկթեմուրի
հորդաների կողմից, իսկ հետագայում ձեռքից ձեռք է անցնում կարա-կոյունլու
ու ակ-կոյունլու թուրքմենական ցեղերի, ապա թւորքերի եւ պարսիկների
1877-1878թթ ռուս-թուրքական պատերազմի ժամանակ Կարս քաղաքը եւ նրա
շրջակայքը միացվեցին Ռուսաստանին: Ռուսական կայսրությանը նոր միացրած
տարածքներից կազմվեց Կարսի մարզը` Կարս, Օլթի, Արդահան եւ Կաղզվան
օկրուգներով: Մարզի կենտրոնը Կարսն էր:
Առաջին համաշխարհային պատերազմի վերջում Կարս քաղաքն ու մարզը, Բրեստի
1918թ. մարտի 3-ի պայմանագրով, նորից անցան Թուրքիային: Այստեղ հայ
բնակչության զգալի մասը զոհ գնաց կոտորածներին, իսկ մնացածը գաղթեցին
Արեւլյան Հայաստան եւ Հյուսիսային Կովկաս: 1919թ ապրիլին Կարս մտան
Հայաստանի Առաջին Հանրապետության զորքերը: Մեկ տարվա ընթացքում
հսկայական քանակության հայ գաղթականներ տեղափոխվեցին Կարս քաղաքը եւ
շրջակայքը: Սակայն 19120թ ամռանը երկրորդ թուրք-հայկական պատերազմի
ժամանակ գրավվեց թուրքական զորքերի կողմից եւ կրկին անգամ կազմակերպվեց
հայ բնակչության կոտորած:
Ներկայումս Կարսը Թուրքիայի կազմի մեջ է, փոքրիկ եւ անշուք քաղաք:
Անցյալի փառքից մնացել է միայն անունը:
History & commentary:
St. Arak'eloc cathedral of Kars is situated at the base of the ancient citadel of the city of Kars.
According to the reliable testimony of the tenth century Armenian historian Step'anos Asolik, the Armenian Bagratid king Abas I (929-953) "built the holy cathedral of the city of Kars with blocks of stone, with sandstone blocks that were polished with steel: (the church) was surmounted by a circular dome whose ornamentation resembled the vault of heaven." Scholars assume that Abas transferred the capital to Kars as soon as he became king and the
construction of the cathedral began soon thereafter. This is quite reasonable, since the early Bagratid kings did not have a permanent capital. They converted the center of their own realm or the town where they resided before their coronation into the capital of the country.
From the ninth century, the Fortress City of Kars served as the seat of the bother of the ruling king. If this tradition still prevailed at the beginning of the tenth century, Abas was probably the master of Kars, even before his coronation in 929, when his brother Asot II (914-929) was king, therefore he could
have built the church at an earlier date. However, Step'anos Asolik and the later chroniclers are quite specific in associating the construction of the cathedral with Abas's coronation.
The exact date of the completion of the church is not given in the sources, but there are two specific events connected with the consecration of the edifice. The first is the invasion of the Abasgians, whose king Ber hoped to consecrate the newly constructed church according to the Chalcedonian rite. Unfortunately the date of this event is not known and the identity of Ber remains a mystery. The
second event is the pontificate of Anania of Mokk as Catholics of Armenia. Step'anos Asolik mentions the construction of the church and the invasion of the Abasgians, and then adds that "at about this time Lord Anania was on the patriarchal throne…". The dates of Anania are 943-967. The first year of Anania may serve as a logical terminus as quem for the completion of the church. The dates 932 and 931 given in the twelfth and thirteenth century chronologies of Samuel of Ani and Mxit'ar of Ayrivank probably refer to the beginning of the construction of the church. The discrepancy of two or
three years is due to different methods of calculation used by the above authors.
St. Arak'eloc's church has no building inscriptions, which is very unusual for a structure built during the Bagratid period. Modern scholars suspect that inscriptions did exist at one time but were removed by the Muslim occupants of the building.
The Armenian sources are absolutely silent about the subsequent history of this church. It isusually assumed that after the Seljuks conquered the city of Kars in 1065, the church was abandoned and that during the Middle Ages it was partially covered
with earth. During the short Georgian occupation of the city, while the walls of the fortress were being renovated in 1234, the church was probably still abandoned. After the Ottoman occupation of western Armenia, Mustafa Pasha converted the church into a mosque in 1579. It is assumed that the Suleyman Efendi mosque mentioned by the seventeenth century traveler Evliya Celebi is none other than St. Arak'eloc church. After the Russian occupation of the city in 1877, St. Arak'eloc was converted into a Russian Orthodox Church. Porticos were built in front of the west, north and south portals,
whose original structure was destroyed. A sacristy was erected on the east side which covered the entire façade, and inside an iconostasis was built. In 1918, the Turks reoccupied Kars and again converted the church into a mosque. In 1919, during the brief Armenian occupation of Kars, it was converted into an Armenian church. After the fall of the city to the Turks in 1920, the church was again converted into a mosque, but soon thereafter the Kemalist government put it up for sale. The municipality of Kars bought it and planned to demolish it to build a school on its site, but the plan was
never carried out. In the 1950's the municipality used it for a depot for petroleum. At present it is a museum.
Step'anos Asolik, Samuel of Ani, and Mxit'ar of Ayrivank all knew this church as a kat'u'ike ("cathedral"). The name, St. Arak'eloc appears in the 19th century topographical works of Armenian scholars.
The cathedral of Kars is a centrally planned domed tetraconch, similar in plan to the 7th century church of Mastara. Its interior plan is reflected in the exterior volumes. Four apses radiate from a central square bay, over which rises a circular dome. Externally, the
right angles of the square between the conchs protrude about three meters beyond the sides of the apses; inside they are represented by four dihedral angles each surmounted with a squinch. The conchs are externally pentagonal, but their sides have irregular and oblique dimensions. The outer sides are slightly convergent and are wider than those in the middle. Inside the church the conchs are semicircular and they open on the central square with a semicircular arch that is supported by engaged pillars and rests on imposts. The west conch is deeper than the one other three, its sides
slightly extended. Two vaulted apsidal chapels that open into the central square by means of long narrow doors flank the east apse. Their backsides have been torn sown in order to make the Russian sacristy accessible to the church. As a result it is not known whether the east walls of the chapels were flat or concave. The east elevations of the apsidal chapels were the continuation of the wall of the east conch, which appears pentagonal only above the apsidal chapels.
The drum of the dome rests on eight semicircular arches, four of which belong to the conchs and four of which are
the squinches over the dihedral angles. The drum is externally and internally circular. The hemispherical dome has a span of almost 11 meters. It is covered with a conical roof that is surbased. The monument is 20 meters high. The church has three portals, one on each on the north, south and west elevations. The interior of the church receives its light from twelve windows in the drum of the dome, four apsidal windows, single windows on either side of the north and south conchs, and four oculi, one each on either side of the east and west conchs. All the windows have the same long, narrow
form. They end with a semicircular arch at the top, and have no interior splay. Externally decorative reliefs surround them.
The roof of the conchs and those of the angles of the central square area gently slanted. Vegetation now covers the roof. The conical roof of the dome is covered with Roman tiles and is still in good condition. This suggests that the monument was recently restored or that its upkeep was carefully maintained.
On the spandrels between the twelve arches on the drum there are twelve figural reliefs in standing position. These are executed in a very primitive style. According to J.M. Thierry, these figures represent the twelve apostles, whose cult was brought from Byzantium in the 10th-11th centuries. The windows in the drum of the dome are surrounded by blind arcades with arched bands carved with a palmette motif resting on imposts that in turn stand on robust half columns with ornamental reliefs. The cornice under the cover of the cupola consists of an interlace band
with four triple strands. The lower cornice, encircling the central square and the exedrae is decorated with diamond shaped motifs connected like the loops of a chain. Inside each loop there are two rosettes with four petals. Its dripstone consists of a simple band hanging over the beveled edge. The arched bands over some of the church windows are also carved in relief. Above the northwest oculus there is the relief of a masculine figure with two serpents on either side of his face. According to J.M. Thierry, the figure is that of St.Gregory the illuminator. Set in the south elevation is a
rectangular slab with the relief of a lion facing to the left with its head and right paw raised high. There are several khach'cars set into the walls of the church, of various form and shape.
At each angle of the central square bay, at the topmost extremity of the dihedral angle directly under the squinch, there is a half-conical stone set in the wall with two faces at right angles. These stones are carved with primitive releifs. The stones on the northeast and southeast corners represent human heads, while the one at the northwest resembles the head of a cow and that at the southwest an eagle. These are believed to be the symbols for the four evangelists.
The spandrel wall separating the eight arches of the octagon from the circular base of
the drum is stepped in relief. The spandrels to the upper step are decorated with scallops of five grooves each. Underneath the scallops of the four western spandrels are the reliefs of two human heads, the head of a ram, and that of a cow.
The engaged pillars on which the interior arches rest have two-faced imposts which are also carved in relief
The city of Kars is about 50km to the north-west of the ruins of Ani. As a settlement, Kars is probably older than that of Ani and, unlike Ani, Kars was never abandoned. This history of continuous inhabitation has left it with fewer surviving medieval Armenian monuments, but with many buildings from a wider time period. On this website in the future there will probably be more pages covering Kars in greater detail, including pages on the medieval castle; the 19th century defences; the districts constructed during the Russian period;
A History of Kars
For a short time (928-961) Kars was the capital of the Armenian Bagratid kingdom and it was during this time that the Cathedral, now known as the Church of the Apostles, was built. Shortly after the Bagratid capital was transferred to Ani, Kars became (in 963) a separate independent kingdom known as Vannad - the Armenian name for the Kars region. This kingdom was to outlive that of Ani.
After the Seljuk Turks captured Ani, the last Armenian king of Kars ceded his city to the Byzantine empire in 1064, getting in return the city of Amasya and lands in northern Cilicia. The Byzantines were no more successful in defending Kars than they were with Ani, and soon lost it to the Turks (in 1071). The Turkish population of Kars would have been small - but support from the Emirs of Erzurum maintained their power until 1206, when the Georgians expelled the Turkish rulers. In 1236 the Mongols occupied the region. As with
other places, they probably gave a great deal of autonomy to the majority Armenian population: an Armenian prince is known to have been governing Kars in 1284.
After the collapse of the Mongol empire a series of petty Turkish emirs governed Kars until its incorporation into the Ottoman Turkish empire in 1534. In 1579 the Ottomans undertook an extensive rebuilding of the city and its fortifications to guard against Persian attacks. From the mid 18th to the early 19th century control from Constantinople had diminished to the extent that the pashas of Kars were semi-autonomous.
The gradual Russian conquest of the Caucasus, starting in the 18th century, led to an influx of Muslim migrants, especially Circassians. Kars became a strategic and heavily fortified border town protecting the Turkish empire's eastern frontier and the road to Erzurum. The Armenian population by then was probably quite small and seems to have been lived mainly in a district to the west of the old castle, just outside the city walls - there are still two ruined Armenian churches here, as well as an old medieval Armenian graveyard.
The Russians occupied Kars in 1828, in 1855 (after celebrated siege lasting seven months) and again in 1877. This time the Russians kept the city.
A substantial part of the Muslim population left after 1877, choosing not to live under Russian rule. The Russians did not behave particularly favourably towards their remaining Turkish subjects; some mosques were demolished, others turned into stables, although their policy was mainly one of deliberate neglect. Those Muslims still in Kars seem to have moved to the districts formerly lived in by the Armenians. The Armenians gradually moved into an entirely new district of European-style buildings built on a grid plan to the
south of the old medieval city, and most of the old city walls were demolished. There was a large influx of Armenians from other parts of Russian controlled Armenia, as well as Armenians fleeing the oppression and massacres of the Ottoman empire: Kars became a rapidly growing boom town.
In 1894 the British traveller Lynch wrote that the population of Kars was around 4000 (excluding the large military garrison), made up of 2500 Armenians, 850 Turks, 300 Greeks and 250 Russians. In 1913 the town had 10200 Armenian and 900 Turkish inhabitants.
By the end of the 19th century the Kars plain had become the home to various sects, mostly Protestant Christian, that were unwelcome in Russia proper. A few surviving adherents of one group called the Molokans are still supposed to be living in and around Kars. Some of the descendants of German and Estonian settlers still live in the Kars region, and there were also many Greek settlers, now all gone. The policy of allowing non-Armenians to settle here was a deliberate Russian one to limit the growth and wealth of the Armenian
population. Lynch mentions that around Yerevan uncultivated lands were for the most part in the hands of the Russian government who were not inclined to sell or lease them to Armenians because they were keeping them for Russians.
The recapture of Kars was a key military objective for Turkey during the early months of the First World War, but their invading army was heavily defeated at the battle of Sarikamish. This defeat was due more to the winter weather and bad planning, than to the Russians (who were actually preparing to evacuate Kars).
After many more battles, Russian forces succeeded in advancing as far west as Erzincan, but the collapse of the Russian army after the 1917 revolution left only thinly spread Armenian units to resist the inevitable Turkish counter-attack. By 1918 the Turkish army was cutting a swathe of destruction across the newly declared Republic of Armenia, capturing Kars in April 1918 and reaching Baku on the Caspian sea.
Defeat on other fronts caused Turkey to surrender and withdraw to the pre-war borders. In 1920 Turkey renewed its offensive, Kars again fell to the Turks (in October 1920), so did Alexandropol. The invasion was led by General Kazim Karabekir. Significantly it is a statue of Karabekir, not Ataturk, that stands outside the Kars train station.
In November 1920 the Bolsheviks annexed the little that was left of the Armenian republic. With Armenia now under Soviet "protection" the Turks ceased their advance and even withdrew from some captured territory, including Alexandropol. The Bolsheviks wanted good relations with Turkey, and in 1921 they signed the "Treaty of Kars" ceding the towns of Kars, Sarikamish, Igdir, Kagizman, Ardahan, Artvin and Oltu to Turkey. The railway carriage in which this treaty was signed is still preserved in the Kars museum.
In 1920 much of the town's Armenian population had fled in panic before the advancing Turks. Of those that stayed, hundreds were imprisoned - and then either executed or sent to Erzurum to work as slave labour building roads. Those Armenians still free had little incentive to remain. Oliver Baldwin, held prisoner in Kars shortly after its capture, later wrote:
"If a Turk desires any particular Armenian woman, all he has to do was arrest the husband as a spy. If the husband caused too much trouble he was shot at once, and the excuse was always the same: 'In 1915, when the Armenians took Erzeroum, this man killed my cousin'. Since the poor man was dead it would have been impossible for him to prove that in 1915 he was in America, so the murderer was dismissed and the crime written down as 'justifiable revenge'.
One Armenian who refused to surrender a ring was murdered for it, and the
same Turkish excuse was used with the same result.
These incidents were of daily occurrence during my time at Kars, but it was all part of the Turkish policy of seeing that no Armenians remain in Armenia, and the consequent justification of its possession by Turkey".
The Kars Treaty enabled the deportation of the remaining Armenians. A traveller named Reitlinger visited Kars in 1931 and found most of the city deserted and in ruins, with a civilian population numbering only a few hundred. By the late 1960s the population had increased to 25,000. Today the Turkish census says that there are 78,000 inhabitants in Kars, which is now the capital of Kars province.