Erzincan (pronounced [æɾˈzindʒan];[3] Kurdish: Erzîngan), historically Yerznka (Armenian: Երզնկա),[4] is the capital of Erzincan Province in Eastern Turkey. Nearby cities include Erzurum, Sivas, Tunceli, Bingöl, Elazığ, Malatya, Gümüşhane, Bayburt, and Giresun. The city is majority Sunni Turkish with a significant Alevi Kurdish minority.[5]

View of Erzincan
View of Erzincan
Erzincan is located in Turkey
Coordinates: 39°44′47″N 39°29′29″E / 39.74639°N 39.49139°E / 39.74639; 39.49139Coordinates: 39°44′47″N 39°29′29″E / 39.74639°N 39.49139°E / 39.74639; 39.49139
 • MayorBekir Aksun (MHP)
 • District1,622.08 km2 (626.29 sq mi)
1,185 m (3,888 ft)
 • Urban
 • District
 • District density89/km2 (230/sq mi)


Yedigöller, literally "seven lakes" in Turkish
Grape agriculture in Erzincan
A historical Inn in Erzincan

Acilisene, the ancient city that is now Erzincan, was the site of the Peace of Acilisene by which in AD 387 Armenia was divided into two vassal states, a smaller one dependent on the Byzantine Empire and a larger one dependent on Persia.[6][7] This is the name (Ἀκιλισηνή in Greek) by which it is called by Strabo in his Geography, 11.4.14. The etymological origin of the word is disputed, but it is agreed that the city was once called Erez. For a while it was called Justinianopolis in honour of Emperor Justinian. In more recent Greek it has been called as Κελτζηνή (Keltzene) and Κελεζηνή (Kelezene)[8]

In the Armenian language, the 5th-century Life of Mashtots called it Yekeghiats[9] In the more recent past, it was known in Armenian as Երզնկա (Yerznka)[4]

In the settlement of Erez, at a yet unidentified site, there was a pre-Christian shrine dedicated to the Armenian goddess Anahit. A text of Agathangelos reports that during the first year of his reign, King Trdat of Armenia went to Erez and visited Anahit's temple to offer sacrifice. He ordered Gregory the Illuminator, who was secretly a Christian, to make an offering at its altar. When Gregory refused, he was taken captive and tortured, starting the events that would end with Trdat's conversion to Christianity some 14 years later.[10] After that conversion, during the Christianisation of Armenia, the temple at Erez was destroyed and its property and lands were given to Gregory. It later became known for its extensive monasteries.

It is hard to tell when Acilisene became a bishopric. The first whose name is known is of the mid-5th century: Ioannes, who in 459 signed the decree of Patriarch Gennadius I of Constantinople against the simoniacs. Georgius or Gregorius (both forms are found) was one of the Fathers of the Second Council of Constantinople (553), appearing as "bishop of Justinianopolis". Theodorus was at the Third Council of Constantinople in 681, signing as "bishop of Justinianopolis or the region of Ecclenzine". Georgius was at the Photian Council of Constantinople (879). Until the 10th century, the diocese itself appears in none of the Notitiae Episcopatuum. At the end of that century, they present it as an autocephalous archdiocese, and those of the 11th century present it as a metropolitan see with 21 suffragans. This was the time of greatest splendour of Acilisene, which ended with the decisive defeat of the Byzantines by the Seljuk Turks at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. After the 13th century, there is no mention of diocesan bishops of Acilisene and the see no longer appears in Notitiae Episcopatuum.[8][11] No longer a residential bishopric, Acilisene is today listed by the Catholic Church as a titular see.[12]

In 1071 Erzincan was absorbed into the Mengüçoğlu under the Seljuk Sulëiman Kutalmish. Marco Polo, who wrote about his visit to Erzincan, said that the "people of the country are Armenians" and that Erzincan was the "noblest of cities" which contained the See of an Archbishop.[13] In 1243 it was destroyed in fighting between the Seljuks under Kaykhusraw II and the Mongols. However, by 1254 its population had recovered enough that William of Rubruck was able to say an earthquake had killed more than 10,000 people. During this period, the city reached a level of semi-independence under the rule of Armenian princes.[14]

Erzincan was one of the most pivotal towns in Safavid history. It was there, in the summer of 1500, that about 7,000 Qizilbash forces, consisting of the Ustaclu, Shamlu, Rumlu, Tekelu, Zhulkadir, Afshar, Qajar and Varsak tribes, responded to the invitation of Ismail I,[15] who would aid in him establishing his dynasty.

Armenian genocideEdit

According to the 1914 Ottoman census, which undercounted religious minority groups such as Armenians,[16] there were 16.144 Armenian Gregorians and 147 Protestants in the central kaza. In the other kazas of Erzincan there were 11.135 Armenian Gregorians and 144 Protestants in Kemah.[17] However, Miller and Kévorkian's research state that the Armenians in the centre of Erzincan were more than double the census data. Of the pre-World War I population of 37,000 Armenians in Erzincan and suburbs, most were killed in the genocide.[18][19][20]

During the Armenian genocide, at least 150,000 Armenian men, women and children from Erzincan and surrounding areas[clarification needed - possible contradiction] were transported by Turkish forces between 1915 and 1916 through Erzincan proper, where a series of transit camps were set up to control the flow of victims to the concentration camp and killing site at the nearby Kemah gorge.[21][22] J.M. Winter's work state that between 1915 and 1917, the Central Hospital of Erzincan was the primary site of medical experiments conducted by Turkish army physicians on Armenian civilians involving typhus and other lethal infectious agents.[23] As of 2019, few traces of Armenian presence or civilization remain in Erzincan.[24][25][26]

Battle of ErzincanEdit

The Battle of Erzincan took place during the Caucasus Campaign of the First World War. In 1916 Erzincan was the headquarters for the Turkish Third Army commanded by Kerim Pasha. The Russian General Nikolai Yudenich led the Russian Caucasus Army who captured Mama Hatun on 12 July 1916. They then gained the heights of Naglika and took a Turkish position on the banks of the Durum Durasi river, with their cavalry breaking through the Boz-Tapa-Meretkli line. They then advanced on Erzincan arriving by 25 July and taking the city in two days. The city was relatively untouched by battle and Yudenich seized large quantities of supplies. Despite the strategic advantages gained from this victory, Yudenich made no more significant advances and his forces were reduced due to Russian reverses further north.[27]

Erzincan SovietEdit

A short-lived soviet council had been at Erzincan between 1916 and 1918. Mainly today's Erzincan and Tunceli provinces were under Russian occupation. After the revolution, Bolshevik soldiers took control of the officer corps. Arshak Djamalian who was a Bolshevik soldier, called Kurdish, Turkish, and Armenian representatives to take charge of the administration of Erzincan Soviet.[28][29]

Turkish capture of ErzincanEdit

Following the withdrawal of the Russian Army, the commander of the First Caucasian Army Corps Kâzım Karabekir regained control over Erzincan on the 13 February 1918. This event is celebrated annually by its inhabitants.[30]

1939 Erzincan earthquakeEdit

The airport terminal
The airport terminal

The city was completely destroyed by a major earthquake on December 27, 1939. The sequence of seven violent shocks, the biggest measuring 7.8 on the moment magnitude scale, was the most powerful one to strike Turkey in recent history. The first stage of the earthquake killed about 8,000 people. The next day, it was reported that the death toll had risen to 20,000. An emergency relief operation began. By the end of the year, 32,962 had died due to more earthquakes and several floods. So extensive was the damage to Erzincan city that its old site was entirely abandoned, and a new town was founded a little further to the north. Certain local folklore attributed the earthquake to "Armenians’ curse taking effect," referring to local victims of the Armenian genocide.[31]


Erzincan has a continental climate (Köppen climate classification: Dsa or Trewartha climate classification: Dca) with cold, snowy winters and hot, dry summers. Spring is the wettest season whilst summer is the driest. The lowest temperature recorded was −32.5 °C (−26.5 °F) in January 1950. The highest temperature recorded was 40.6 °C (105.1 °F) in July 2000. The highest snow thickness recorded was 74 cm (29.1 inches) in February 1950.

Climate data for Erzincan (1991–2020, extremes 1929–2020)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 14.0
Average high °C (°F) 2.8
Daily mean °C (°F) −1.9
Average low °C (°F) −5.7
Record low °C (°F) −31.2
Average precipitation mm (inches) 26.3
Average precipitation days 8.87 9.30 12.10 14.43 15.30 9.20 4.03 3.47 5.20 9.23 7.70 9.17 108.0
Mean monthly sunshine hours 93.0 121.5 145.7 168.0 210.8 264.0 294.5 275.9 231.0 189.1 129.0 89.9 2,212.4
Mean daily sunshine hours 3.0 4.3 4.7 5.6 6.8 8.8 9.5 8.9 7.7 6.1 4.3 2.9 6.1
Source: Turkish State Meteorological Service[32]


Mulberry tree plantations were found in Erzincan in the early 20th century, which were used in sericulture.[33]

Notable peopleEdit


  1. ^ "Area of regions (including lakes), km²". Regional Statistics Database. Turkish Statistical Institute. 2002. Retrieved 2013-03-05.
  2. ^ "Population of province/district centers and towns/villages by districts - 2012". Address Based Population Registration System (ABPRS) Database. Turkish Statistical Institute. Retrieved 2013-02-27.
  3. ^ Barış Kabak and Irene Vogel, "The phonological word and stress assignment in Turkish", Phonology 18 (2001), p. 325.
  4. ^ a b "AGMI identified new unknown photo documents on Armenian genocide". Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute. Retrieved 18 October 2013. the region of Yerznka (modern day Erzincan)...
  5. ^ Atabaki, Touraj; Dorleijn, Margreet (1991). Kurdistan in Search of Ethnic Identity. University of Utrecht. p. 17.
  6. ^ Suny, Ronald Grigor (1994). The Making of the Georgian Nation. Indiana University Press. p. 22. ISBN 978-0-25320915-3.
  7. ^ A. J. Hacikyan; Gabriel Basmajian; Edward S. Franchuk; Nourhan Ouzounian, eds. (2000). The Heritage of Armenian Literature: From the Oral Tradition to the Golden Age. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. p. 378. ISBN 9780814328156.
  8. ^ a b Raymond Janin, v. Celtzene ou Celezene in Dictionnaire d'Histoire et de Géographie ecclésiastiques, vol. XII, Paris 1953, coll. 130–131
  9. ^ A. J. Hacikyan; Gabriel Basmajian; Edward S. Franchuk; Nourhan Ouzounian, eds. (2000). The Heritage of Armenian Literature: From the Oral Tradition to the Golden Age. Detroit: Wayne State University Press. p. 169. ISBN 9780814328156.
  10. ^ Vreg Nersessian, "Treasures From the Ark", 2001, p114-115
  11. ^ Michel Lequien, Oriens christianus in quatuor Patriarchatus digestus, Paris 1740, Vol. I, coll. 435–436
  12. ^ Annuario Pontificio 2013 (Libreria Editrice Vaticana 2013 ISBN 978-88-209-9070-1), p. 823
  13. ^ Polo, Marco (1993). "Description of the Greater Hermenia". In Yule, Sir Henry; Cordier, Henri (eds.). The Travels of Marco Polo ([Repr. of the 3. ed.,] London 1903. ed.). New York: Courier Corporation. p. 45. ISBN 0486275868.
  14. ^ (in Armenian) Baghdasaryan, Ye. M. "Երզնկայի հայկական իշխանությունը XIII-XIV դարերում" (The Armenian Principality of Yerznka in the 13th–14th Centuries). Lraber Hasarakakan Gitutyunneri. No. 2., 1970, pp. 36–44.
  15. ^ Faruk Sümer, Safevi Devletinin Kuruluşu ve Gelişmesinde Anadolu Türklerinin Rolü, Türk Tarih Kurumu Yayınları, Ankara, 1992, p. 15. (in Turkish)
  16. ^ Kévorkian 2011, p. 266.
  17. ^ Kemal Karpat (1985), Ottoman Population, 1830-1914, Demographic and Social Characteristics, The University of Wisconsin Press, p. 170
  18. ^ Kévorkian, Raymond H. (2011). The Armenian genocide : a complete history. London: I.B. Tauris. ISBN 978-0-85771-930-0. OCLC 742353455.
  19. ^ "Clark University Genocide Compendium: 39 Sivas - Erzurum - Erzincan Courts Martial". Clark University Digital Commons. 2022-10-10. Archived from the original on 2022-05-27. Retrieved 2022-10-29.
  20. ^ Miller, Donald E. (1993). Survivors : an oral history of the Armenian genocide. Lorna Touryan Miller. Berkeley. ISBN 978-0-520-92327-0. OCLC 44958346.
  21. ^ Kaiser, Hilmar (2019-02-28). "Financing the Ruling Party and Its Militants in Wartime:The Armenian Genocide and the Kemah Massacres of 1915". Études arméniennes contemporaines (12): 7–31. doi:10.4000/eac.1942. ISSN 2269-5281. S2CID 159921391. Archived from the original on 2022-10-03.
  22. ^ "Clark University Genocide Compendium: 21 Erzincan - Deportations and Genocide". Clark University Digital Commons. 2022-11-17. Archived from the original on 2022-01-20. Retrieved 2022-10-10.
  23. ^ America and the Armenian genocide of 1915. J. M. Winter. New York: Cambridge University Press. 2003. pp. 70–78. ISBN 978-0-511-16575-7. OCLC 80244663.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: others (link)
  24. ^ "Erzincan'ın kimsesiz mezar taşlarına 'tarla' zulmü". Agos. 2017-03-22. Archived from the original on 2021-06-09. Retrieved 2022-10-10.
  25. ^ Cilli, Kenan (2019-10-23). "Tracing Armenian Heritage in Erzincan". Archived from the original on 2021-07-18. Retrieved 2022-10-10.
  26. ^ "Erzindjan/Erzincan/Yerzenga - Churches and Monasteries". 2019-12-16. Archived from the original on 2022-09-12. Retrieved 2022-10-10.
  27. ^ World War I: A Student Encyclopedia by John S.D. Eisenhower (Foreword), Spencer Tucker, Priscilla Mary Roberts (Ed.s)
  28. ^ (in Turkish) Karabekir, Kâzım. Erzincan ve Erzurum'un Kurtuluşu: Sarıkamış, Kars ve Ötesi (The Liberation of Erzincan and Erzurum: Sarıkamış, Kars and Beyond). Erzurum Ticaret ve Sanayi Odası Araştırma, Geliştirme ve Yardımlaşma Vakfı, 1990, p. 377. ISBN 978-975-512-072-0.
  29. ^ “Ekim Devrimi Tartışmaları 2009: Ekim Devrimi ve İki Cumhuriyet” panel, Köz Gazetesi, 15 November 2009, Yüz Çiçek Açsın Kültür Merkezi - Okmeydanı, İstanbul.
  30. ^ "13 Şubat 1918 Erzincan'ın Düşman işgalinden kurtuluşunun 101. Yılı Çeşitli Etkinliklerle Kutlandı | T.C. Erzincan Belediyesi". Retrieved 2022-11-13.
  31. ^ Çaylı, Eray (2015-12-30). ""Accidental" Encounters with the Ottoman Armenians in Contemporary Turkey". Études arméniennes contemporaines (6): 257–270. doi:10.4000/eac.919. ISSN 2269-5281.
  32. ^ "Resmi İstatistikler: İllerimize Ait Mevism Normalleri (1991–2020)" (in Turkish). Turkish State Meteorological Service. Retrieved 28 June 2021.
  33. ^ Prothero, W. G. (1920). Armenia and Kurdistan. London: H.M. Stationery Office. p. 64.

External linksEdit