The Kars Oblast (Russian: Карсская область; Armenian: Կարսի մարզ) was an oblast (region) of the Caucasus Viceroyalty of the Russian Empire between 1878 and 1917. Its capital was the city of Kars, presently in the Republic of Turkey. The oblast bordered the Ottoman Empire, Batum Oblast, Tiflis Governorate, Erivan Governorate, and from 1883 to 1903 the Kutais Governorate. The Kars Oblast included parts of the contemporary provinces of Kars, Ardahan and Erzurum Province of Turkey, and the Amasia municipality of the Shirak Province of Armenia.
|• Total||16,473 km2 (6,360 sq mi)|
|• Density||25/km2 (64/sq mi)|
The Kars Oblast was a province established after the region's annexation into the Russian Empire through the Treaty of San Stefano in 1878, following the defeat of the Ottoman Empire and the dissolution of the latter's Kars, Childir and Erzurum eyalets.
With the incorporation of the region into Russian Empire, a large proportion of the local Muslim population (~82,000 during 1878–1881) migrated to the new borders of the Ottoman Empire. In their stead, Christian settlers, mostly consisting of Armenians, Greeks and Russians, were settled throughout the province. The Armenians, who eventually came to form the largest ethnic group in the region were mainly immigrants from the Six Vilayets.
During the First World War, the Kars Oblast became the site of intense battles between the Russian Caucasus Army supplemented by Armenian volunteers and the Ottoman Third Army, the latter of whom was successful in briefly occupying Ardahan on 25 December 1914 before they were dislodged in early January 1915.
On 3 March 1918, in the aftermath of the October Revolution the Russian SFSR ceded the entire Kars Oblast through the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk to the Ottoman Empire, who had been unreconciled with its loss of the territory since 1878. Despite the ineffectual resistance of the Transcaucasian Democratic Federative Republic which had initially rejected the aforementioned treaty, the Ottoman Third Army was successful in occupying the Kars Oblast and expelling its 100,000 panic-stricken Armenian inhabitants.
The Ottoman Ninth Army under the command of Yakub Shevki Pasha, the occupying force of the district by the time of the Mudros Armistice, were permitted to winter in Kars until early 1919, after which on 7 January 1919 Major General G.T. Forestier-Walker ordered their complete withdrawal to the pre-1914 Ottoman-frontier. Intended to hinder the westward expansion of the fledgling Armenian and Georgian republics into the Kars Oblast, Yukub Shevki backed the emergence of the short-lived South-West Caucasus Republic with moral support, also furnishing it with weapons, ammunition and instructors.
The South-West Caucasus Republic administered the entire Kars Oblast and neighboring formerly occupied districts for three months before provoking British intervention by order of General G.F. Milne, leading to its capitulation by Armenian and British forces on 10 April 1919. Consequently, the Kars Oblast largely came under the Armenian civil governorship of Stepan Korganian who wasted no time in facilitating the repatriation of the region's exiled refugees.
Despite the apparent defeat of the Ottoman Empire, Turkish agitators were reported by Armenian intelligence to have been freely roaming the countryside of Kars encouraging sedition among the Muslim villages, culminating in a series of anti-Armenian uprisings on 1 July 1919.
The Kars Oblast for the third time in six years saw invading Turkish troops, this time under the command of General Kâzım Karabekir in September 1920 during the Turkish-Armenian War. The disastrous war for Armenia resulted in the permanent expulsion of the region's ethnic Armenian population, many who inexorably remained befalling massacre, resulting in the region joining the Republic of Turkey through the Treaty of Alexandropol on 3 December 1920. Turkey's annexation of Kars and the adjacent Surmalu Uyezd was confirmed in the treaties of Kars and Moscow in 1921, by virtue of the new Soviet regime in Armenia.
The first ruler of the oblast held the title of nachalnik ("chief"), later the title became military governor. Nachalniks were Ivan Popko (Russian: Попко, Иван Диомидович) between 01.11.1877 and 08.06.1878, and Viktor Frankini (Russian: Франкини, Виктор Антонович), between 08.06.1878 and 27.10.1878. The first military governor was Viktor Frankini (27.10.1878—01.04.1881).
Orhan Pamuk's novel Snow, set in present-day Kars, makes many references to the numerous buildings left over from the period of Russian rule, which in Pamuk's view make the city significantly different from other Turkish cities.
- Ardahan Okrug (Ардаганский округ)
- Kars Okrug (Карсский округ)
- Kagizman Okrug (Кагызманский округ)
- Olti Okrug (Ольтинский округ)
Population Estimate of 1892Edit
In 1892, the population of Kars Oblast was estimated as 200,868. The ethnic composition, and religious affiliation of ethnic groups, was reported as follows:
- Turks (this number also included Adjarians): 24% (Sunni Muslims)
- Armenians: 21.5%
- Kurds: 15%
- Muslim Karapapaks: 14% (Sunni and some Shi'a)
- Alevi Karapapaks (reported as 'Turkmen'): 5%
- Caucasus Greeks or eastern Pontic Greeks from Georgia and northeastern Anatolia: 13.5% (Orthodox Christians)
- Russians: 7% (mostly "sectarians", i.e. Spiritual Christian Pryguny, Molokans, Doukhobors, etc.)
The religious composition of the population was reported as follows:
- Orthodox Christians: 14%
- Spiritual Christians (Pryguny, Molokans, Doukhobors, etc.): 5%
- Armenian Apostolic Church: 21%
- Other Christian churches: 0.75%
- Muslims: 53%, among which:
- Alevi (reported as "Ali Illahi"): 5%
- Yazidism: 1.25%
Russian Imperial Census of 1897Edit
The Russian Empire Census of 1897 counted 290,654 residents in Kars Oblast, including 160,571 men and 130,083 women. This number may perhaps imply that the 200,868 estimate for 1892 given by Brockhaus is too low, or that a large-scale migration from other provinces of the empire took place in between. The following breakdown of the population by the mother tongue was reported:
- Turkic: 104,457, including:
- Armenian: 73,406
- Kurdish: 42,968
- Caucasus Greeks: 32,593
- East Slavic: 27,856, including:
- Polish: 3243
- Jewish (Yiddish etc.): 1,138
- Lithuanian: 892
- Chaldean Neo-Aramaic ('Assyrian'): 585
- Persian: 568
- Georgian: 543
- Ossetian: 520
- Estonian: 455
- Lezgin: 448
- German: 430
The 30,000 excess population of male over females was mainly attributed to the "European" ethnic groups. Viz., among the 27,856 speakers of Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian, 19,910 men and 7,946 women were recorded. The Polish, and Lithuanian speakers were almost exclusively (99%) male as well; Germans and Jews, 80 to 90% males. This preponderance of males in the "European" ethnic groups (reported, usually to a lesser extent, in neighboring governorates as well) may indicate presence of a large numbers of soldiers or exiled persons in the region.
|Language Groups||Kars Oblast||%|
|Tatar (Azerbaijani Turkish)||2,347||0.8|
Many of these Christian Orthodox communities had fought in or collaborated with the Russian Imperial Army as a means of recapturing territory from the Muslim Ottomans for Christian Orthodoxy.
|Okrug (district)||Armenians||Turks||Kurds||Caucasus Greeks||Karapapak||Russians||Turkmens||Ukrainians||Poles||Tatars (Azerbaijani)|
Caucasian Calendar of 1917Edit
The 1917 Caucasian Calendar which produced statistics of 1916 indicates 404,305 residents in the Kars Oblast, including 206,435 men and 197,870 women, 345,953 of whom were the permanent population, and 58,352 were temporary residents.
|Okrug (district)||Russians||Other Europeans||Georgians||Armenians||North Caucasians||Kurds||Other Asian Nationalities||Gypsies||Jews||TOTAL|
|Orthodox||Sectarian||Muslim||Yezidi||Christian[a]||Shia Muslim||Sunni Muslim[b]|
- Many Assyrians were also included in the number of Christians, in addition to Caucasus Greeks.
- Many Karapapakhs were also included in the number of Sunni Muslims, in addition to Anatolian Turks.
- The Caucasian Calendar for 1917 did not receive the Olti district data for 1916, therefore, the latest available data is used from the 1915 Calendar for the year 1914.
- Карсская область (Kars Oblast) in Brockhaus and Efron Encyclopedic Dictionary (in Russian)
- "КАРССКАЯ ОБЛАСТЬ — информация на портале Энциклопедия Всемирная история". w.histrf.ru. Retrieved 2021-12-05.
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- Кавказский календарь .... на 1913 год (in Russian). Tiflis: Office of the Viceroy of the Caucasus. 1913. pp. 271–317.
- Первая всеобщая перепись населения Российской Империи 1897 г. Распределение населения по родному языку и регионам (Census 1897)
- Демоскоп [Demoscope Weekly - Первая всеобщая перепись населения Российской Империи [The first general population census of the Russian Empire] 1897 г. Распределение населения по родному языку и уездам. Российской Империи кроме губерний Европейской России]
- Кавказский календарь .... на 1917 год (in Russian). Tiflis: Office of the Viceroy of the Caucasus. 1917. pp. 359–360.
- Кавказский календарь .... на 1915 год (in Russian). pp. 303–304.
- Gurallar, Neşe (2020). "Russian Modernization in East Anatolia: The Case of Kars". Muqarnas Online. 37 (1): 247–264. doi:10.1163/22118993-00371P09. S2CID 228969076.