Tunceli Province

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Tunceli Province
Province of Turkey
Location of Tunceli Province in Turkey
Location of Tunceli Province in Turkey
Country Turkey
Region Central East Anatolia
Subregion Malatya
 • Electoral district Tunceli
 • Total 7,774 km2 (3,002 sq mi)
Population (2010-12-31)[1]
 • Total 76,699
 • Density 9.9/km2 (26/sq mi)
Area code(s) 0428[2]
Vehicle registration 62

Tunceli Province (Northern Kurdish: parêzgeha Dêrsimê, Zazaki: Dêsim, Turkish: Tunceli ili[3]), formerly Dersim Province, is located in the Eastern Anatolia region of Turkey. It has a majority Alevi Zaza Kurdish population with a minority Sunni Turkish population.[4] The province was originally named Dersim Province (Dersim vilayeti), then demoted to a district (Dersim kazası) and incorporated into Elâzığ Province in 1926.[5] It was finally changed to Tunceli Province on January 4, 1936[6] by the "Law on Administration of the Tunceli Province" (Tunceli Vilayetinin İdaresi Hakkında Kanun), no. 2884 of 25 December 1935,[7][8][9] but some still call the region by its original name. The name of the provincial capital, Kalan, was then officially changed to Tunceli to match the province's name.

The adjacent provinces are Erzincan to the north and west, Elazığ to the south, and Bingöl to the east. The province covers an area of 7,774 km2 (3,002 sq mi) and has a population of 76,699. It has the lowest population density of any province in Turkey, just 9.8 inhabitants/km². Tunceli is the only province of Turkey with an Alevi majority.

Tunceli is known for its old buildings such as the Çelebi Ağa Mosque, Sağman Mosque, Elti Hatun Mosque and adjoining Tomb, and impressive natural scenery, especially in Munzur Valley National Park, the largest national park of Turkey.


(See Munzur Valley National Park for more details)

Tunceli is traversed by the northeasterly line of equal latitude and longitude.


The history of the province stretches back to antiquity. It was mentioned as 'Daranalis' by Ptolemy, and seemingly, it was referred to as 'Daranis' before him. One theory as to the origin of the name associates with the Persian Emperor Darius. Another, more likely hypothesis (considering the region's Armenian background), says the name Daranalis or Daranaghis comes from the historical Armenian province of Daron, of which Dersim belonged.

The name Daranaghi in what's today Dersim, that in the Mamigonian was times part of Daron.

The area that would become Dersim province formed part of Urartu, Media, the Achaemenid Empire, and the Greater Armenian region of Sophene. Sophene was later contested by the Roman and Parthian Empires and by their respective successors, the Byzantine and Sassanid Empires. Arabs invaded in the 7th century, and Seljuq Turks in the 11th.[10]

As of the end of the 19th century, the region (called "Dersim") was included in the Ottoman sancak (subprovince) of Hozat, including the city and the Vilayet of Mamuret-ül Aziz (Elazığ today), with the exception of the actual district of Pülümür, which was in the neighboring sancak of Erzincan, then a part of the Vilayet of Erzurum. This status continued through the first years of the Republic of Turkey, until 1936 when the name of the province ("Dersim") was changed to Tunceli, literally 'the land of bronze' in Turkish (tunç meaning 'bronze' and el (in this context) meaning 'land') after the brutal events of the Dersim massacre. The town of Kalan was made the capital and the district of Pülümür was included in the new province.

Armenians of Dersim[edit]

Prior to the Armenian Genocide, The Armenians of Dersim lived peacefully alongside the Alevi Kurds, who partially assimilated into and had various Armenian beliefs.[11] During the Armenian Genocide, many of the regions Armenians were living among the Alevi Kurds of the region, with whom they had good relations with.[12] This allowed the Armenians to avoid deportation, and therefore survive the genocide unscathed, because their Kurdish neighbors didn't have any negative affinity towards Armenians, and as explained before were somewhat Armenian themselves. The Armenians lived quietly in their mountain villages until 1938, when Turkish soldiers invaded the region to put down a Kurdish rebellion, and in the process blew up the St Karapets monastery and killed around 70,000 Alevis and Armenians alike, causing an abrupt end to any open Armenian life in the province. Armenians now were forced to assimilate fully into the Alevi population, moving from their majority Armenian villages to blend in better with the population, and therefore becoming Crypto-Armenians.[13] In modern times, many Armenians have recently tried to regain their identity with catalysts being Turkeys EU accession bid and Hrant Dinks murder, with the Union of Dersim Armenians being formed as an organization with their interests in mind.


Tunceli Province is divided into eight districts (capital district in bold):

Although a distinct province, Tunceli was administered from Elazığ until 1947.

Cities and towns[edit]


Ninety-eight percent of Tunceli's population has at least a primary school education, leading to one of the highest rates of literacy for a district within Turkey. In 1979/1980 Tunceli had the highest number of students attending universities as well as the top entry points until the only higher education school shut down and was converted to a military base.

Tunceli University was established on May 22, 2008.[14] It has departments in international relations, economics, environmental protection engineering, industrial engineering, electronic engineering, computer engineering and mechanical engineering.


  1. ^ Turkish Statistical Institute, MS Excel document – Population of province/district centers and towns/villages and population growth rate by provinces
  2. ^ Area codes page of Turkish Telecom website (Turkish)
  3. ^ "Mevcut İller Listesi" (PDF) (in Turkish). İller idaresi. Retrieved 15 January 2015. 
  4. ^ According to the "United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)" Tunceli cannot be considered a purely Alevite region)
  5. ^ Album of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey, Vol. 1, p. XXII, Dersim İli, 26.06.1926 tarih ve 404 sayılı Resmi Ceride'de yayımlanan 30.5.1926 tarih ve 877 sayılı Kanunla ilçeye dönüstürülerek Elazıg'a bağlanmıştır.
  6. ^ Paul J. White, Primitive rebels or revolutionary modernizers?: the Kurdish national movement in Turkey, Zed Books, 2000, ISBN 978-1-85649-822-7, p. 80.
  7. ^ New perspectives on Turkey, Issues 1-4, Simon's Rock of Bard College, 1999 p. 15.
  8. ^ Victoria Arakelova, "The Zaza People as a New Ethno-Political Factor in the Region" - in – “Iran & the Caucasus: Research Papers from the Caucasian Centre for Iranian Studies, Yerevan”, vols.3-4, 1999-2000, pp. 197-408.
  9. ^ G.S. Asatrian, N.Kh. Gevorgian. Zaza Miscellany: Notes on some Religious Customs and Institutions. – A Green Leaf: Papers in Honour of Prof. J. P. Asmussen (Acta Iranica - XII). Leiden, 1988, pp. 499-508
  10. ^ Seyfi Cengiz Tarih (2005). History.
  11. ^ http://www.kirdki.com/images/kitaphane/Meqale%202.pdf
  12. ^ http://www.academia.edu/8162093/The_Halvori_Vank_An_Armenian_Monastery_and_a_Zaza_Sanctuary
  13. ^ http://repairfuture.net/index.php/en/identity-standpoint-of-armenia/the-search-for-identity-in-dersim-part-2-the-alevized-armenians-in-dersim-armenian#_ftn2
  14. ^ Tunceli University Signs Protocol with 4 American Universities

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 39°12′53″N 39°28′17″E / 39.21472°N 39.47139°E / 39.21472; 39.47139