Van, Turkey

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Van Fortress From Northwest.JPG
Hoşap Kalesi (Van, Türkiye).JPG
Akhtamar Island on Lake Van with the Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross.jpg
Wan,Mizgefta Hezretî Omer.JPG
Iskele St. Van.JPG
65500 Görecek-Muradiye-Van, Turkey - panoramio.jpg
Van is located in Turkey
Coordinates: 38°29′39″N 43°22′48″E / 38.49417°N 43.38000°E / 38.49417; 43.38000Coordinates: 38°29′39″N 43°22′48″E / 38.49417°N 43.38000°E / 38.49417; 43.38000
Country Turkey
RegionEastern Anatolia
 • MayorBedia Özgökçe Ertan (democratically elected, imprisoned), Mehmet Emin Bilmez (state-appointed)
 • District1,938.14 km2 (748.32 sq mi)
1,726 m (5,663 ft)
 • Urban
 • District
 • District density240/km2 (630/sq mi)

Van (Armenian: Վան; Kurdish: Wan[3]) is a mostly Kurdish-populated city[4][5] 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. Turkish presence in Van and in the rest of Anatolia started as a result of Seljuk victory at the Battle of Malazgirt (1071) against the Byzantine Empire.[6][7][8]

Van is often referred to in the context of Western Armenia and Northern Kurdistan.[9][10]


An Urartian cauldron at the Museum of Anatolian Civilizations

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.

The name 'Van' comes from the Urartian Biaina.[11]

Kingdom of Armenia[edit]

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. Van Fortress, located outside Van city center, 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.[12] 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.[13]

Byzantines, Sassanids, and the Artsrunis[edit]

Following the fall of the Parthians and the emergence of the Neo-Persian Empire, better known as the Sassanian Empire,[14] 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.[15] Decline in Arab power eventually allowed local Armenian rulers to re-emerge, with the Artsruni dynasty soon becoming the most powerful.[16] Initially dependent on the rulers of the Kingdom of Ani, they declared their independence in 908, founding the Armenian Kingdom of Vaspurakan.[17] 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.[17] 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. Van was called Eua or Eva during Byzantine rule.[18]

Seljuk Empire[edit]

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.[19] 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[edit]

Hz. Ömer Mosque in Van
A replica of a 19th-century house

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.

Van from Joseph Pitton de Tournefort's 1717 book Relation d'un voyage du Levant
The rock and walled city of Van in 1893 by H. F. B. Lynch.

During the early 1900s, the city of Van had eleven Armenian schools and ten Turkish schools.[20] 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.[21]

Ottoman Era Demographics[edit]

The demographics of Ottoman Van are a debated and contentious point as they relate directly to claims of ownership by either side prior to the outbreak of World War I. For the city of Van itself it's estimated that it had 50,000 inhabitants prior to World War I, of whom 30,000 were Armenian and 20,000 were Muslims. Based on the official 1914 Ottoman Census the population of Van province consisted of 179,422 Muslims and 67,797 Armenians.[22] The Ottoman Census figures include only male citizens, excluding women and children. According to a more recent research, the corrected estimates for the Van province (including women and children) are: 313,000 Muslims, 130,000 Armenians, and 65,000 others, including Assyrians.[23]

The demographics of Van are a greatly debated point, given the changing provincial borders. For example, in 1875 the province was divided; Van and Hakkari were separated, only to be rejoined in 1888, drastically changing the census numbers. Some writers argue that this merging was done to keep the Armenians from forming a majority.[24] In 1862 it was estimated that in Van there were 90,100 Christians (including Syriac Christians) and 95,100 Muslims.[25] The French Consul in Van reported that in Van and Bitlis 51.46% were Kurds, 32.70% were Armenians and 5.53% were Turks.[26] On the other hand, the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople estimated 185,000 Armenians in Van, 18,000 Assyrians, 72,000 Kurds, 47,000 Turks, 25,000 Yezidis and 3,000 Gypsies.[27] Both sides have been accused of over-counting the numbers at the time given the revival of the Armenian genocide and population statistics became important during the Berlin Conference.[28]

The Russo-Turkish War of 1877-1878[edit]

During this war the Kurdish Sheikh Jalaleddin led thousands of soldiers to massacre Armenians of the province and destroyed and plundered many of their villages.[29] These events are described in Armenia and the Campaign of 1877 by British war correspondent Charles B. Norman and in the fictional novella Jalaleddin by the Armenian novelist Raffi in very similar terms.[30]

World War I and Armenian genocide[edit]

Ruins of the old walled city of Van seen from the castle rock.

The province's Armenian population was devastated during the Armenian genocide by the Young Turks.[31] The regional administrator, Cevdet Bey, was reported to have said that "We have cleansed the Armenians and Syriac Christians from Azerbaijan, and we will do the same in Van.[32] Numerous reports from Ottoman officials, such as a parliament deputy, the governor of Aleppo as well as the German consul in Van, suggested that deliberate provocations against the Armenians were being orchestrated by the local government.[32] In mid-April 1915, Cevdet Bey ordered the execution of four Armenian leaders,[33][34] which drove the Armenians to take up arms in self-defense.[35] On the other hand, historian and sociologist Taner Akçam acknowledges that in the case of Van, the deportations may have been driven by military necessity[36] and states the resistance in Van should be examined as a separate case.[37]

Van region in the administrative-territorial division of the regions of Turkey occupied by Russian troops during World War I 1916-1917

In April 1915, as slaughter was being inflicted upon the rural populations surrounding Van, the Armenian residents of the city launched a rebellion hoping to avoid the same fate, defending themselves in the Armenian quarters of the city against the Turks.[38] The Russians finally relieved the Armenian defenders of Van in late May 1915 and local Armenians gave the keys of the city to Russian general Yudenich on May 21. In August, a victory over the Russian army allowed the Ottoman army to retake Van. In September 1915, the Russians forced the Turks out of Van for the second time. Russian forces began to leave the area after the October Revolution in Russia in 1917, and by April 1918, it was recaptured by the Ottoman army again. According to Taner Akçam, citing the Osmanli Belgelerinde Ermeniler 1915–1920 (Armenians in Ottoman Documents, 1915–1920), after the Turks took back the city from the Russians, they killed the Armenian population in the city.[39] Clarence Ussher, an American physician and missionary in Van, and an eye-witness to the events, reported that 55,000 Armenians had been killed.[40][41] The end of World War I forced the Ottoman army to surrender its claim to Van, although it stayed in Turkish hands following the Turkish War of Independence.

Turkish War of Independence and Republic[edit]

Streets of the city center
IOC Offshore Van Grand Prix 2010
Festival of Van lake 2011

In the Treaty of Sèvres, the Entente Powers decided to cede the city to the First Republic of Armenia. Turkish revolutionaries, led by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, rejected the terms of the treaty and instead waged the Turkish War of Independence. However, the idea of ceding Van to the Armenians was floated, and İsmet İnönü was said to have surveyed army officers on 14 October 1919 on the issue of ceding Van and Bitlis. However, the parliament in Ankara rejected any compromise on this issue.[42][page needed] By 1920, Van fell under Turkish control again and its remaining Armenian inhabitants were expelled in a final round of ethnic cleansing.[38] With the Treaty of Lausanne and Treaty of Kars, the Treaty of Sèvres was annulled and Van remained de facto under Turkish sovereignty.

By the end of the conflicts, the town of Van was empty and in ruins. The city was rebuilt after the war a few kilometers east of the ancient citadel, which is now known as Van Castle (Van Kalesi). The city now lies at about 1,750 metres (5,741 feet) above sea level.


HDP won in a landslide in Van by appealing to various voters through economic reforms, in the 2019 municipal elections

In the 2019 municipal elections, Bedia Özgökçe Ertan of the HDP party was elected mayor of Van. In August 2019 she was dismissed and subsequently sentenced to 30 years imprisonment accused of supporting terrorism as part of a government crackdown against politicians of the Kurdish HDP party; the Turkish state appointed an unelected state-trustee, Mehmet Emin Bilmez, in her place. Many other Kurdish mayors in other Kurdish cities across the region also suffered a similar fate.[43][44] Protests against the decision arose which were suppressed by the Turkish police with the use of water cannons; some protestors were killed.[45][46][47]


In 2010 the official population figure for Van was 367,419,[48] but many estimates put it much higher with a 1996 estimate stating 500,000[49] and former Mayor Burhan Yengun is quoted as saying it may be as high as 600,000.[50] The Van Central district stretches over 2,289 square kilometres (884 square miles).[51] Today, Van has a Kurdish majority and Turkish minority.[52]



Van has a continental climate (Köppen: Dsa, Trewartha: Dc) with cold, snowy winters and very warm, dry summers. Precipitation can be observed for the majority of the year, with a slight peak during spring and autumn, and a brief dry summer from July to September.

Climate data for Van (1991–2020, extremes 1939–2020)
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °C (°F) 12.6
Average high °C (°F) 2.9
Daily mean °C (°F) −2.1
Average low °C (°F) −6.0
Record low °C (°F) −28.7
Average precipitation mm (inches) 32.9
Average precipitation days 8.07 9.47 11.30 12.60 11.10 4.93 2.17 1.57 2.93 8.47 8.07 9.83 90.5
Mean monthly sunshine hours 155.0 161.0 201.5 231.0 294.5 351.0 372.0 347.2 306.0 232.5 177.0 127.1 2,955.8
Mean daily sunshine hours 5.0 5.7 6.5 7.7 9.5 11.7 12.0 11.2 10.2 7.5 5.9 4.1 8.1
Source: Turkish State Meteorological Service[53]


View of the city from Van Castle

The modern city is located on the plain extending from the Lake Van, at a distance of 5 kilometres (3 miles) from the lake shore. Reports have appeared over the years of a certain Lake Van Monster said to live in the lake. Lake Erçek is the second largest lake in the region and lies just east of Lake Van.

Van has often been called "The Pearl of the East" because of the beauty of its surrounding landscape. An old Armenian proverb in the same sense is "Van in this world, paradise in the next".[54] This phrase has been slightly modified in Turkish as Dünyada Van, ahirette iman or "Van for this world, faith for the next".

The city is home to Van Yüzüncü Yıl Üniversitesi (Van 100th Year University) and recently came to the headlines for two highly publicized investigations initiated by the Prosecutor of Van, one of which was focused on accusations against the university's rector, Prof. Hasan Ceylan, who was kept in custody for a time. He was finally acquitted but lost his rectorate. He is a grandson of Agop Vartovyan, an Ottoman Armenian who is accepted as the founder of modern Turkish theatre. Prof. Hasan Ceylan is also the department chairman of Environmental Engineering at Van 100th Year University.

Famous breakfast table in Van.

In 1941, Van suffered a destructive 5.9 Mw earthquake.[55] A more severe 7.2 Mw earthquake occurred on 23 October 2011.[56] On the 9 November 2011, another earthquake caused several buildings to collapse.[57]


In culinary terms, as some cities in Turkey became renowned for their kebab culture or other types of traditional local dishes, Van has distinguished itself with its breakfast culture.[58]


Van Ferit Melen Airport
Van Railway Station

Van stands on Highway D300, which runs from the Iranian border 100 km east at Kapikoy through Van then along the south lake shore to Tatvan (100 km), and westwards to the rest of Turkey. Highway D975 runs north to Dogubeyazit and south towards Hakkari. Frequent buses and dolmuses ply these highways.

Van is the western terminus of the railway line from Iran, with freight and passenger trains (suspended between 2015 and 2018). There is a train ferry (upgraded in 2015) across the lake to Tatvan. There is no railway around the lake; it is intended eventually to build one but to date there are no plans. This would actually create an unbroken rail link between Europe and the Indian subcontinent, as Tatvan is the terminus of the line to Ankara and Istanbul.

Van has daily flights to Istanbul, Ankara and other major Turkish cities from Ferit Melen Airport.


Near Van, there is a longwave broadcasting station with a 250-metre-tall (820-foot) guyed mast. It went in service in 1990 and operates on 225 kHz with 600 kW. It has also local news outlets like Van Gazetesi or Gazete Van.[59][60]

The Van Cat[edit]

The Van Cat is a breed of cat native to this town and named after it. It is noted for its white fur, and having differently colored eyes.[61]

Notable residents[edit]

International relations[edit]

Twin towns – Sister cities[edit]

Van is twinned with:


See also[edit]

Van Havadis 19 May 2020 Van nerede? Van'a nasıl gidilir?


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External links[edit]