ARDAHAN or Artahan is a city and a province (since 1878-okrug) in Akhaltsikhe eyalet on the upper side of the Kura river. The center is Ardahan city. The territory of Ardahan mainly corresponds to the Ardahan province of the Gugark province of the Greater Armenia. In 1555 it fell under the Turkish rule and was included in Chldr (Akhaltsikhe) vilayet as an independent sanjak (province). On August 1928, before the Russian army entered Argail, the great majority of the 400 households of the city were Armenians. When a part of the Akhaltsikhe vilayet was included in Russia, Argail became part of the Erzurum vilayet. The territory of Argail was included in the vilayet of Erzurum when the part of the vilayet of Akhaltsikhe was annexed to Russia.

On May, 1877 Argail was recaptured by the Russian army and band was annexed to Russia as a part of Kars province. According to the data of the census of 1897, 1315 Armenians lived in the Argail city. In 1904, as one of the four okrugs of Kars, Argail was divided into 4 districts: Ardahan, Gyol, Chldr and Potskhov along with 77 villages. By 1913, the number of villages had reached 92 (Armenians lived in 36 villages) due to Armenian, partly Greek and Yazidis migrants from Western Armenian and Russian sectarians migrated from Russia. In 1910, 27.000 Christians and 33.000 Islamized Armenians lived in the whole okrug. In 1914, there were 4113 Armenians in the city. On December 25, 1914, Turkish invaded Argail and organized terrible massacres of Armenian and Georgian population. More than half of the population of the villages Meriyam, Sazara, Khelavan, Sedrak, Ur, Pangis, Olchaki, Kermak, Dadagyoul, Revaz, Sheghevan, Chikova, Kndedaman, Alara was killed. Another part of the migrants from the city of Akhalkalaki suffered from frostbite on the road. On January 3, 1915, the Russians re-captured the city of Argail, after which some of the migrants went back to the province. On March 6, 1912, Turkish forces broke the three-day rebellion of the small group of Armenian volunteers and, with the help of the local Muslims, which lived there, captured Argail. By the end of May, Turkish killed more than 9000 Armenians in the okrug. 

Thousands of people emigrated to Akhalkalaki, and then when it was captured by Turkish, they moved to Tsalka and Bakuriani (many of them died from starvation and epidemic). In 1918, according to the Treaty of Batum, the Argail province passed to Turkey. After the Armistice of Mudros (October 30, 1918) the English militaries entered the Argail okrug. Since May 1919, the province was annexed to the Republic of Armenia. 1919-20, with the help of the Republic of Armenia, numerous habitants of Ardahan went back to their homeland. On November, 1920, Kemal Turkish invaded villages of the province and exerted violence against the Christian population. On March 16, 1921, according to the Russian-Turkish contract (treaty), the Argail okrug with the Kars province passed to Turkey. After this, the whole Georgian and Armenian population emigrated to Transcaucasia. Now the territory of Argail okrug is the part of Kars in Turkey and mainly Turks and Kurds live there.

M. Melkonyan

Source: “Encyclopedia of the Armenian Question”. Yerevan, 1996

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