Culture and history info
Van (Turkish: Van; Armenian: Վան; Kurdish: Wan; Ottoman Turkish: فان; Medieval Greek: Εύα, Eua) is a city in eastern Turkey's Van Province, located on the eastern shore of Lake Van. The city has a long history as a major urban area. It has been a large city since the first millennium BC, initially as Tushpa, the capital of the kingdom of Urartu from the 9th century BC to the 6th century BC, and later as the center of the Armenian kingdom of Vaspurakan. Today, Van has a Kurdish majority and a sizeable Turkish minority.
In 2010 the official population figure for Van was 367,419, but many estimates put it much higher with a 1996 estimate stating 500,000 and former Mayor Burhan Yengun is quoted as saying it may be as high as 600,000. The Van Central district stretches over 2,289 square kilometres (884 square miles).
Archaeological excavations and surveys carried out in Van province indicate that the history of human settlement in this region goes back at least as far as 5000 BC. The Tilkitepe Mound, which is on the shores of Lake Van and a few kilometres to the south of Van Castle, is the only source of information about the oldest culture of Van.
Under the ancient name of Tushpa, Van was the capital of the Urartian kingdom in the 9th century BC. The early settlement was centered on the steep-sided bluff now known as Van Castle (Van Kalesi), close to the edge of Lake Van and a few kilometers west of the modern city. Here have been found Urartian cuneiform inscriptions dating to the 8th and 7th centuries BC. In the trilingual Behistun inscription, carved in the order of Darius the Great of Persia, the country referred to as Urartu in Babylonian is called Armenia in Old Persian.
KINGDOM OF ARMENIA
The region came under the control of the Orontids in the 7th century BC and quickly later the Persians in the mid 6th century BC. The Van Fortress located outside Van holds an inscribed stereotyped trilingual inscription of Xerxes the Great from the 5th century BC upon a smoothed section of the rock face, some 20 metres (66 feet) above the ground near the fortress. The inscription survives in near perfect condition and is divided into three columns of 27 lines written in (from left to right) Old Persian, Babylonian, and Elamite. In 331 BC, Van was conquered by Alexander the Great and after his death became part of the Seleucid Empire. By the early 2nd century BC it was part of the Kingdom of Armenia. It became an important center during the reign of the Armenian king, Tigranes II, who founded the city of Tigranakert in the 1st century BC. In the early centuries BC, it fell to the emerging Arsacid dynasty of Parthia until the 3rd century AD. However, it also fell once to the Arsacid Dynasty of Armenia in this timespan. In the History of Armenia attributed to Movses Khorenatsi, the city is called Tosp, from Urartian Tushpa
Byzantines, Sassanids, and the Artsrunis
Following the fall of the Parthians and the emergence of the Neo-Persian Empire, better known as the Sassanian Empire, the town naturally fell into the possession of the latter. During the over 700 years lasting Roman-Persian Wars, some of the wars razed at or around the location of modern-day Van. The Byzantine Empire briefly held the region from 628 to 640, following the victory in the climactic Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628, after which it was invaded by the Muslim Arabs, who consolidated their conquests as the province of Arminiya. Decline in Arab power eventually allowed local Armenian rulers to re-emerge, with the Artsruni dynasty soon becoming the most powerful. Initially dependent on the rulers of the Kingdom of Ani, they declared their independence in 908, founding the Armenian Kingdom of Vaspurakan. The kingdom had no specific capital: the court would move as the king transferred his residence from place to place, such as Van city, Vostan, Aghtamar, etc. In 1021 the last king of Vaspurakan, John-Senekerim Artsruni, ceded his entire kingdom to the Byzantine empire, who established the Vaspurakan theme on the former Artsruni territories.
Incursions by the Seljuk Turks into Vaspurakan started in the 1050s. After their victory in 1071 at the battle of Manzikert the entire region fell under their control. After them, local Muslim rulers emerged, such as the Ahlatshahs and the Ayyubids (1207). For a 20-year period, Van was held by the Anatolian Seljuk Sultanate until the 1240s when it was conquered by the Mongols. In the 14th century, Van was held by the Timurids, followed subsequently by the Turkoman Kara Koyunlu and Ak Koyunlu confederations.
Turco-Iranian rivalry and the Ottoman era
The first half of the 15th century saw the Van region become a land of conflict as it was disputed by the Ottoman Empire and the neighboring Persian Safavid Empire. The Safavids captured Van in 1502, as it went naturally with all former territories of the Ak Koyunlu. The Ottomans took the city in 1515 following the climactic Battle of Chaldiran and held it for a short period. The Safavids retook it again in 1520 but the Ottomans gained an almost definite hold of it in 1548 during another Ottoman-Safavid War. Ottoman control over the town got confirmed in the 1555 Peace of Amasya which came as a result after the end of the war. They first made Van into a sanjak dependent on the Erzurum eyalet, and later into a separate Van eyalet in about 1570. In 1602, the Safavids under king Abbas the Great recaptured Van alongside other swaths of lost territories in Eastern Anatolia. However, Ottoman control over it was at last now made final and definite in 1639 with the Treaty of Zuhab.
During the early 1900s, the city of Van had eleven Armenian schools and ten Turkish schools. Towards the second half of the 19th century Van began to play an increased role in the politics of the Ottoman Empire due to its location near the borders of the Persian, Russian and Ottoman Empire, as well as its proximity to Mosul. During the period leading up to the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, Armenians were well represented in the local administration.