|• Mayor||Göksal Toksoy (AKP)|
|• Kaymakam||Erdoğan Turan Ermiş|
|• District||1,971.01 km2 (761.01 sq mi)|
|• District density||26/km2 (66/sq mi)|
Sarıkamış (Ottoman Turkish: صاری قامش, Kurdish: Sarîqamîş, Azerbaijani: Sarıqamış) is a town and a district of Kars Province in the Eastern Anatolia region of Turkey. Its population was 17,860 in 2010. The town sits in a valley and is surrounded by mountains, many of which are covered with pine forests. It has very long winters, with average of 7–8 ft of snowfall, and short, dry summers. In recent years Sarıkamış has developed as a winter skiing resort, with one of the world's longest pistes.
Sarıkamış district neighbours the districts of Selim and Kağızman to East, Şenkaya and Horasan to West, Eleşkirt to South, Selim and Şenkaya to North and occupies an area of 1732 km2. Its average altitude is 1500-2000m, and Aladag Mountain, 3138m, is within its borders. Other important mountains are Süphan, Balıklı (2835m), Kösedağı (2599m), Çıplakdağ (2634m) and Soğanlı (2849m). The Kars and Aras rivers flow through it.
Extensive barracks from the Russian period surround the town and are still in use by the Turkish army. Other historical buildings include the town's former Russian cathedral, known locally as Yanik Kilise, now used as a mosque after being used as a cinema for many years. A hunting lodge, built for a visit by Czar Nicolas, is located at the edge of the pine forests.
For most of the 19th century, Sarıkamış was an insignificant settlement that was divided into two parts: upper Sarıkamış and lower Sarıkamış.
Nothing is known of its earlier history, but nearby archaeological sites date from Urartian times: there is a Urartian fortress on a hill beside upper Sarıkamış, another, 12 km away, beside Chatak village, and a third, 15 km away, at a site known as Yedikilise. To the east and south of the town, in the forests of Soğanlı, there were many medieval Armenian monasteries, but most were in ruins by 1878.
Seljuk sultan Alp Arslan invaded the Sarıkamış area including Allahü Ekber and Soğanlı mountains in 1064, only a few years prior to the battle of Manzikert between the armies of Alp Arslan and Romans. The area was then taken by Suleiman the Magnificent in 1534 and became a liva of Kars sancak of the Ottoman Empire.
After the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, Sarıkamış became part of the Russian empire, incorporated within the militarily administered Kars Oblast, which was renowned for the extreme ethnic diversity of its population. Lower Sarıkamış developed into a small, modern town. Being close to the Ottoman border, it was also a military station with barracks for two regiments. It had a railway station that was the railhead for the line running from Kars and Alexandropol.
Enver Pasha, the leader of the Ittihat ve Terakki party in Istanbul, personally led the army along with Hafiz Hakki Pasha, who was his brother in-law, to scale the Mount Allahu Ekber and afterwards attack the Russian army in Sarıkamış to occupy the town in order to halt logistic support to the city of Kars lost to Russians in 1878 which he was planning to reoccupy.
In mid December, Enver Pasha entered the Caucasus region through Armenia. Enver ordered his forces to attack along many routes with the goal of arriving suddenly at Sarikamis at the same time. The chief German military advisor, Liman von Sanders strongly argued against this plan but was ignored. Governor General Vorontsov planned to withdraw his forces to the city of Kars. But General Yudenich, in charge of the defense of the area, ignored Vorontsov's wishes to withdraw and instead stayed to defend Sarikamis.
Enver's forces lost touch with one another and arrived at Sarakamis at different times from December 29 through the 3rd of January. The first divisions to arrive briefly took control of the barracks in the western part of the city but were driven off. In the following days, as more Ottoman forces arrived at the battle, they attacked without coordination and the Russians under the skillful command of Yudenich fought off the attacks one by one. The battle finally ended on January 4 and the Ottoman army retreated in complete disorganization back through the mountains in the middle of winter.
The number of Turkish losses is estimated to be 60,000-80,000 dead out of an army of 90,000. It is very likely that the majority of Turkish soldiers died because of inadequate winter clothing and field shelters during the attack and retreat. In any event, this was an extraordinarily costly defeat for the Turks; in losses this was the worst single defeat they suffered in the entire war. Turkish soldiers reached their targets but they were too weak to win. The Russian casualties were estimated at 35,000.
As one German officer attached to the army wrote later, the Ottoman 3rd army had "suffered a disaster which for rapidity and completeness is without parallel in military history."
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