The Azarians

Abraham Azarian and Lucy Arevian/Hagopian

Abraham Azarian was born in Sivas, Turkey in 1865

Lucy Arivian/Hagopian was born in the village of Pirkinik in the Vilayet of Sivas in 1875/76

Images Old and New Of Sivas

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Sivas Train Station

Railroad Station

The railroad came to Sivas in 1930.

Allah Dethroned, a Journey Through Modern Turkey Lilo Linke, published in 1937.

Postcard collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Sivas Hokumet (Government) Meydani (Square), date unknown

The buildings on the right and left are no longer standing. The domed building in the center of the images is the Kale Camii (Mosque) - built in 1580. The building with the double minarets is the Cifte Minareli Medrese (See below.). The Street on the right is Inonu Boulevard.

This is the main square in Sivas from which radiate the major roads of the city. Behind the viewer and to the left outside the picture are the Statehouse building and the Sivas Ataturk Congress and Ethnography Museum, shown in the following image.

Allah Dethroned, a Journey Through Modern Turkey Lilo Linke, published in 1937.

In the middle of the image is the Inonu Boulevard with the Statehouse built in 1884 at the end of it. The first two floors of the Statehouse were cut stone and the top floor (added in 1913) was wood.

Partly visible on the left is the Sivas Ataturk Congress, which was built in 1892 as a high school.

Sivas 1877, Bogos Natanyan, 2008, Arsen Yarman arsivi

The Statehouse and Sivas Ataturk Congress buildings are to the back middle and the back left. The double minarets of the Cifte Minerali Medessi are visible in front of the Congress building. The dome of the Kale Camii is to the right of the twin minarets. Most of the rest of the buildings have been torn down.

Sivas 1877, Bogos Natanyan, 2008, Arsen Yarman arsivi

This image is a shift to the left of the previous image. The twin minarets of the Cifte Minerali are no more centered in the picture.

"Modern Hotel", Sivas

Allah Dethroned, a Journey Through Modern Turkey Lilo Linke, published in 1937.

Ataturk Cadessi

Elif Kebap-Lahmacun, May 2008

Tom and I had lahmacun here in May 2008.

Photo Maggie Land Blanck, May 2008

"An Old Inn", Sivas

Allah Dethroned, a Journey Through Modern Turkey Lilo Linke, published in 1937.

This is a typical Caravanserai (or Khan). The animals were stabled on the bottom floor and there were rooms for people on the top floor.

Buyers in the Market Place, Sivas

Allah Dethroned, a Journey Through Modern Turkey Lilo Linke, published in 1937.

Market Place, Sivas

Allah Dethroned, a Journey Through Modern Turkey Lilo Linke, published in 1937.

National Geographic 1924, Crossing Asia Minor, The Country Of The New Turkish Republic by Major Robert Whitney Imbrie

"A Street in Sivas."

Photo Maggie Land Blanck, May 2008

The lone minaret which is situated in front of and to the right of the yellow mosque in the center of the image is the minaret on the Ulu Camii (Mosque). This could be the minaret in the center of the image "A Street in Sivas". In any event there are clear differences in the streets of Sivas between 1924 and 2008.

Ulu Camii built in 1196/97 is one of the oldest mosques in Sivas. The minaret was built in 1213.

Seljuk Sivas

Cifte Minareli Medrese (Seminary of the Twin Minarets, 1271), built under the "instructions" of the Ilkhanid vizier Sahip Semseddin Mehmet Cuveyni (Sivas, Ministry of Culture and Tourism Guide to Sivas).
National Geographic 1924, Crossing Asia Minor, The Country Of The New Turkish Republic by Major Robert Whitney Imbrie

"A Seljuk Mosque With Fallen Minarets in Sivas"

"The colleges and mosques are the most pretentious and interesting buildings in Sivas, one of the largest and most important cities in the interior of Asia Minor. Several of the mosques are now merely fragments, but their warm-tinted yellow stone and occasional brickwork, their deep doorways, with elaborately carved panels, their sky-blue tiles and tapering minarets, help to keep up the tradition al reputation and atmosphere of the East."

Cifte Minareli Medesse, May 2008

Photo Maggie Blanck, May 2008

Mosque Doorway, Sivas

Allah Dethroned, a Journey Through Modern Turkey Lilo Linke, published in 1937.

Central Anatolia

Allah Dethroned, a Journey Through Modern Turkey Lilo Linke, published in 1937.

In the Country East of Sivas

Allah Dethroned, a Journey Through Modern Turkey Lilo Linke, published in 1937.

The Old Way

The title that Ms. Linke gave this photo refers to the fact that by 1930 Anatolia could be crossed by railway with bridges that spanned the rivers.

This photo and the previous two photos give some idea of the harshness of the Anatolian terrain. Abraham and Lucy and/or their families left Sivas before the advent of the railroads. I do not know the route they took to Constantinople. The two possibilities are: overland all the way, or overland from Sivas to Samsun on the coast of the Black Sea and then by boat from Samsun. Either way it required some overland travel.

Theses pictures also give some idea of the difficulty encountered by the women and children on the forced marches in 1915.

Bridge on the road between Sivas and Ersinjan

A Ride Through Western Asia

Book collection of Maggie Land Blanck

House of the American Consul in Sivas

Across Asia on a Bicycle, Century Magazine, May 1894.

Periodical collection of Maggie Land Blanck

The "Flirting Tower" in Sivas

Across Asia on a Bicycle, Century Magazine, May 1894.

No information was provided about the "Flirting Tower"

Periodical collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Periodical collection of Maggie Land Blanck

National Geographic May 1915

"Theses springless carts are the chief means of conveyance throughout Asia Minor"

Pictures from the National Geographic 1924, Crossing Asia Minor, The Country Of The New Turkish Republic by Major Robert Whitney Imbrie

The Khan at Tarsus

The Interior of an Asia Minor Khan

"Through Sivas runs the Great Road of Asiatic Turkey, the road over which, since history's dawn, Have passed the caravans from Bagdad to Constantinople, a road now fallen into disrepair, but still enormously important as a trade route from the Black Sea coast to the interior. The camels nearly always tied head to tail and led by a diminutive donkey, grunt along with a supercilious sneer upon their lips."

Freight Transport in Asia Minor

"One of the Disk-Wheel Carts of Anatolia. Such a vehicle, with its buffalo team, travels at the rate of a mile and a half an hour."

A Trip to Sivas May 2008

In May 2008 Tom and I had a fabulous trip to Turkey. It could not have been better if a fairy godmother had magically arranged the whole thing.

We were joined on the flight from Istanbul to Sivas by Metin Evliçoğlu — a friend of a friend. Metin had some business in Sivas and had agreed to act as our translator.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Sivas as seen from the plane. This was actually leaving. It was raining and overcast when we arrived.

In Search of Pre 1915 Houses

We were met at the airport by Kağan Çaşkurlu, a native of Sivas and a friend and business associate of Metin's.

We made a brief stop at the hotel and then we were off to find some examples of the old style houses of Sivas (Almost all of the current housing in Sivas is in apartment buildings). Kağan knew exactly where to take us, showing us some houses in ruins, some restored houses and the Inönü Konaği Museum (where we got a sense of the interior of houses at the end of the 19th century).

We saw houses of a variety of sizes. Some were quite large while other were more modest. Most of the older houses we saw were in the northeast part of the city, not too far from the Inönü Konaği Museum. The Sivas Guide from the Ministry of Culture and Tourism says that the city was divided in residential and commercial districts.

All of the house that we saw date from the 19th and 20th century, having replaced the older style flat roofed, one story houses, constructed of sundried brick. Remains of the earlier type of houses are much less common and we did not see any on our visit.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

A dateover this door is 1890

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

This is the side of the same building pictured above.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Another side of the same building.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Typical gate.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

This house and the one in the next photo are basically across the street from one another.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

This duplex has one side renovated (or maintained in good condition) and the other side derelict.

Bezirci Area, Dispanser Street Numer 27

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

As in many places the beauty of the old becomes apparent when it may be too late in the game. This house was actually marked as slatted to be renovated by some conservation group.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Seating is/was on cushions either on the floor or on benches along the wall.

Traditional Armenian Houses in Kayseri

"Along the edges of rooms, especially along walls with windows, was a seating area that in Anatolian houses is termed a sedir. This is a simple rectangular structure made of timber that is covered in carpets or cushions. Inside the sedir were box cupboards for the storage of blankets, clothes, etc."

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Apparently it is still the custom to sit on cushions in Sivas, as we saw several stores selling these type of cushions.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Rooms were multi-functional. The same room would have been used for sitting, eating and sleeping. Bedding was put away in the closets, such as the one on the wall of this room.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

A large copper tray on a low support serves as a table.

See Explore Turkey

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Many homes contained elaborately carved wooden ceiling panels.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

The Inönü Konaği Museum, Ali Baba Cad.

Ismet Inönü, the second president of the Republic of Turkey lived in this house from 1891 to 1897 while he was completing his secondary education.

This house typifies a home of the upper class of Sivas in the late 19th century. The foundation is stone. The upper two stories are timber frame filled with sun-dried bricks and plastered with lime. The roof is tiled. The overhang of the first and second floors is a feature of the historic architecture of the area.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

The gate to the Inönü Konaği Museum

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Our guides, Metin and Kağan

This picture also shows something of the construction technique. The base is of cut stone with timber frame above. The spaces between the timbers is filled with sun dried brick and then the whole thing is covered with stucco.

Sivas 1877, Boğos Natanyan

A sketch of the home of Hagop Şahinyan, 1875, Kale-i Atik Street, Sivas.

This was the house of the great grand father of Ani Çapan. In the 1920s it housed the Post, Telegraph and Telephone office. We did not suceed in finding this building.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

These apartment buildings are typical of housing in Sivas in 2008. The facade of the blue building is covered with small tiles. This was quite common throughout the city.

We were told that the house we saw were in the old Armenian area of the city. There is no way to know that for certain. The Traditional Houses in Kayseri web site says that by the 1970 much of the old areas of the Kayseri was demolished for real estate speculation: "The former Armenian districts were the last to go, perhaps because of uncertainties over property deeds...... Most of the remaining old houses are either derelict or in ruins." This would seem to make sense for Sivas, also.

A 1914 map for the city of Sivas in Armenian Sebastia/Sivas and Leser Armenia indicates that the National Hospital (Armenian) and the Armenian and Hripsiman Schools were in the part of the city where we saw the above houses.

A Tomb, A Bath, A Caravansary and A Mosque

Some of the older public buildings are near each other on Arap Şehy and Hoca Ahmet Yesevi.

Ahi Emir Kümbeti (Cupola)

This domed Seljuk grave shrine with a 'mihrab' (niche showing the direction of Mecca) dates to 1332/33. Notice how much lower the ground level was in 1332/33.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Kurşunlu Hamami (Baths)

This double bath with men's and women's sections dates to 1579. The bath is still in use today.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Behram Paş Hani or Caravansaray

Sivas was a stop on the old silk routes from Europe to the East. There are remains of several Caravansaries in the city. This one, built in 1576, is situated next to the Kurşunlu Hamami (Baths). It was once used as a calvary barracks.

It was closed when we stopped the first time but we were able to get into it later.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Another view of the Behram Paş Hani. The building was being used, at least in part, as some sort of granite and/or stone warehouse.
Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Blue tile work on the minaret of the Sivas Ulu Camii (Mosque)

The Seljuk Ulu Mosque is one of the oldest in the city and dates to 1196/97. The minaret dates to 1213.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck


We drove a little ways out of the city to a lovely spot in the countryside for lunch. We were joined by Cem, another associate and friend of Metin's and Kağan's.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Arugula, tomato and pepper salad, the most yummy yogurt with cucumber, and divine eggplant salad were the appetizers. The specialty of Sivas is lamb kebab, with eggplant, tomatoes, peppers and roasted garlic. The kebabs are cooked in a special oven where they are hung between an open fire — the spring lamb was wonderful.

A View of Sivas From Afar, The Eğri Köprü Bridge and the Red River

On our way back to the city we stopped to view the city from afar and to see a very old bridge that was part of the ancient silk route.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

This hilltop overlooks the Cumhuriyet University Sivas. The university has faculties of Nursing, Physical Education and Sports, Health Services, Medicine, Dentistry, Engineering among others. See Cumhuriyet University

The city is visible in the distance.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

The Seljuk Eğri Köprü Bridge formed a link in the ancient silk routes between the Sivas-Malatya road and Southeastern Anatolia. Built of cut stone the bridge curves partway across to form a kind of prow against the force of the river's flow. When the winter snows melt the river can run very high potentially washing out bridges. The river called, Kizilirmak (Red River), derives its name from the muddy reddish color of the water. It flows mainly through red sandstone, gypsum and marl which give the water a permanently dull red color.

The bridge has recently been restored. In my opinion it suffers from over restoration — an all to common occurrence which somehow detracts from the charm of historic edifices.

Photo by Tom Blanck

Cem, me, Kağan and Metin

Gök Medrese (Madrasah) and Sivas Kalesi (Castle)

Before calling it quits for the day, Metin, Kağan and Cem took us to see Gök Medrese (Madrasah) and Sivas Kalesi (Castle).

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Gök Medrese (Madrasah)

Restoration began on this medrese in 2006. The structure dates to 1271 and has an inner courtyard. Medrese, meaning a place to study, was a college for the study of law and the Koran. See All About Turkey, The Medieval Madrasa

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Across the street from the Gök Medrese were some older houses — humbler and of a different style than those we saw in the morning.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Just around the corner from the Gök Medrese is the Sivas Kalesi (Castle). The "Castle" is a natural hill. Various rulers of the area took advantage of the geological mass of limestone to build fortification. Nothing remains today but the original hill from which one can see out over the city. The minarets of the Gök Medrese can be seen in the center of the photo.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Another view from the Castle. The lone minaret in the center of the photo is that of the Ulu Mosque.

After viewing the City form the Castle, Metin, Kağan and Cem drove us back to the hotel and left us to our own devices for the rest of the afternoon.

Çifte Minareli Medrese, Kale Camii, Buruciye Medrese, Şifaiye Medrese and another Caravansaray

We took off on our own to visit the Çifte Minareli Medrese, the Kale Camii, Şifaiye Medrese and the Buruciye Medrese, all located in the the park near the Government Square. Other web sites have better images than I got of the Çifte Minareli Medrese, the Kale Camii, Şifaiye Medrese and the Buruciye Medrese. These buildings are among the better known and important structures in Sivas.

The Kale Camii was built in 1580.

The Buruciye Medrese was built in 1271. Today it is the home of a tea house and some small shops.

The Şifaiye Medrese built in 1217 is a complex of buildings that was once a medical school. It was turned into a medrese by imperial edict in 1768. It also once housed tea houses and small shops but at the time of our visit it was under renovation or excavation

The Çifte Minareli Medrese was built in 1271. The only surviving part is the front wall. This building was used as a hospital in 1882 and later as a school.

See Dick Osseman Photos of Sivas for some great images of the historical buildings of Sivas.

After wandering around this historic area for a while we took a walk along Ataturk Cadessi to the Taş Han (Caravansary) where we had çay. Then we wandered around fruit and vegetable the market which was pretty quiet as the evening was coming on. Later we stopped for Lahmacun (yum!). In the evening we joined hundreds of others for a stroll on Inönü before retiring for the night.

A very full and satisfying day in Sivas with a little help from our friends, Metin, Kağan and Cem.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

The side entrance and first floor of Taş Han

Taş Han was built in the second half of the 19th century on the site of an earlier building.

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

The second floor of Taş Han

Photo by Maggie Land Blanck

Near the market is the Zeya Bey Library of Handwritten Works, build in 1908 and founded by Yusuf Ziya Başara.

Some Facts About Sivas

Sivas, at an altitude of 1275m (4,183 ft) above sea level, is the highest city in Central Anatolia. It is the second largest city in Asian Turkey with a 28,488 square kilometer area. It lies to the north of the Kizil Irmah (Red River) in a broad valley surrounded by sparsely wooded mountains.

Winters are cold and severe with frequent heavy snow falls. Snow covers the ground for 3 to 5 months of the year. Summers are hot and dry and the spring and fall are rainy.

The city may date to pre-Roman times.

During the Roman era it was called Sebastia. Under Diocletian it became the capital of Armenia Prima. Under Justinian it was the capital of Armenia Secunda.

St Blaze (Blasius), present at council of Nicaea in 325, feast day February 3, was a bishop of Sivas. The Armenian Catholic Church in Sivas was called St. Blaze.

There was an Armenian dynasty in control of the city to 1080. At the beginning of the 11th century the city was under the suzerainty of the Greek emperors.

It was controlled by Turcoman emirs in the 12th century.

It was controlled by Seljuks princes in the 13th century. Under the Seljuks it reached great prosperity to become one of the largest and most important cities in Anatolia and a center of learning and culture. It is known for its Suljuk architecture.

Sivas lay at the juncture of the Persia and Baghdad caravan routes which made it a busy commercial center in ancient times. The trade route between the East and the West, known as the Silk Road, was in reality a series of routes that converged and diverged at multiple points. Sivas was situated on the Silk Road at a confluence of roads coming from Constantinople (through Ankara or along the Black Sea) in the west and from the Egypt and Syria in the south. Trade between China and the West existed from ancient times. The Assyrians, Persians, Greeks and Romans went through Sivas, as did Marco Polo on his trip to the East. Few actually made the whole trip from West to East as Polo did. Most traders did a section of the route and then went back to their home base. Consequently, the goods passed through a series of hands en route. As an important hub on the Silk Road, Sivas was a place to replenish supplies, trade, and fatten up the beasts of burden.

The Franciscans established a monastery in Sivas by 1279

In the 17th century there were approximately 6,000 houses in Sivas.

The Vilayet (Civil Province) of Sivas was created in 1864 and included the "sanjak" of Sivas. In the sanjak of Sivas were 26 Armenian villages where the population was mostly engaged in agriculture and handicrafts. In the city of Sivas the Armenian populations was mostly engaged as merchants, traders, artisans, money lenders and money changers. Most of the trade in the area was in Armenian hands.

Sivas was the see of the Armenian Catholic Church from 1858. In 1892 it became an archiepiscopal see. In Armenian, A Historic Atlas Robert H Hewson lists the following but does not date this information

  • About 30 mosques
  • 14 Apostolic Churches
  • Catholic Church and Chapel
  • Greek Orthodox Church
  • He also mentions that Sivas was an important center of the Protestant Missions who were there as early as 1851.

Appletons' Annual Cyclopedia and Register of Important Events of 1881 approximated the population of Sivas at 35,000 to 40,000.

A massacres of Armenians took place in Sivas in 1894-1896

Although it's glory had faded after the Seljuks, Sivas remained an important provincial capital during the Ottoman Empire.

In September 1919 it was the site of the second national congress organized by Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk) who later became the first president of Turkey.

The development of the railroads in the early 1930s again brought prosperity to Sivas under the Republic of Turkey. Sivas was connected to Ankara in 1930 and Samsun and the black Sea in 1932.

Pirkinik (Prknig)

According to a compilation of records Lucy Hagopian was born on January 15, 1875/76 in Pirkinik, Turkey the daughter of Hagop and Annik Hagopian (Agopian). Her siblings were Hagop, Baptist, Hovaness, Christine, and Nazareth. This family were Roman Catholics and claimed to be descendants of the Pakradouni.

The village of Perkenik, a short distance from the city of Sivas, was a Roman Catholic center. In February 2007 Robert Haroutunian wrote:

My Late Aunt's mother in-law was a native of Prknig village of Sepasdia. My cousin Margaret is her granddaughter. Also, in the 1970s Armenian writer Taniel Varoujan's daughter lived in New York City. He also was from this village and was related to my cousin's grandmother's family. The grandmother's name was Pepron she was born in 1900 and I remember her when I was a kid. She also was Catholic. She used to say that the Armenians of this village were descendants of the Pakraduni Armenian Royal family.
In 850 Ashod Pakradouni was appointed Governor of Armenia by the Arab caliph. In 884 he became King Ashod I. The Pakraouni dynasty ruled for 150 years. In 1045 the Pakradouni king, Gagig II, abdicated and so ended the last Armenian kingdom.

Pakraduni is also spelt Bagratuni.

Pirkinik in 1915

"In the parish of Sivas, the only village to have been spared is Pirkinik, where the archbishop, Monseigneur Ketchedjian, has escaped to. He, and one cleric that accompanied him, are the only survivors."

There a several web sites with the same quote about the village in 1915.

To see images of Pirkinik go to Pirkinik

Descriptions of Sivas from Articles and Books

Journey Through Asia Minor, Armenia, and Koordistan, 1813, John Macdonald Kinneir ITENERIES TO CONSTANTINOPLE, BY SIVAS AND TOCAT, BY THE AUTHOR, IN THE WINTER OF 1810.

"it is dirty and ill built, has a town clock (a wonder in this part of the world,) and is the seat of the pasha. The inhabitants are a course and rude people, and great breeders of horses. The castle is in ruins, and not far from the Town is a celebrated Armenian monastery."

The Spirit of Missions, the Episcopal Church Board of Mission, 1845

Armenian Papists, "were said to number fifteen families in Sivas and three hundred and fifty in Pirkinik a village near Sivas."

Notes from Nineveh: And Travels in Mesopotamia, Assyria and Syria, James Phillips Fletcher, 1850

Fletcher described Sivas as cold in the winter with "icy blasts from the nearby mountains". In the summer the nights "present a freezing contrast to the heat of the days".

"The modern Sebaste is not celebrated for its cleanliness, as it is one of the most filthy towns I ever passed through: not does it possess and edifice worth noticing. Its only advantage seems to be a fine view of the neighboring mountains".

Narrative of the Euphrates Expedition: Carried on by Order of the British ..., Francis Rawdon 1868

"The town or city - which was said, in round numbers, to contain 5,00 Mohammedan and 1,000 Armenian houses - does a considerable business in cereals, which constitute the chief produce of the plain; for at an elevation of nigh 5,000 feet above the level of the sea neither mulberries, grapes, not pomegranates were said to flourish".

Travels in Little-known Parts of Asia Minor, Henry John Van Lennep, 1870

Van Lennep stated that because of the altitude not many trees grow in the area and that there were no fruit trees because the winters were too cold (all fruit had to be brought in from other places). "poplars are planted near every watercourse, but chiefly in enclosed gardens, in order to obtain rafters to support heavy roofs of clay."

He added that "Sivas presents the appearance of a flat-roofed town, with here and there a modern looking tiled house." A few of the streets of Sivas had recently been paved at the time of his visited but he noted that the majority were very muddy in winter due to the abundant snowfall which lay on the ground all winter. He commented that common sewers lay open in many streets.

On Horseback Through Asia Minor Vol 1, Captain Fred Burnaby, 1877

Captain Brunaby stayed with and an Armenian family in Sivas in a "clean looking house, which faced the Pasha's residence".

He says that one of the missionaries in Sivas had negative feelings towards the Turks but even worse towards the Armenian.

"It was clear that he had not formed a favorable opinion of the Sultan's Mohammeda subjects; but when I changed the conversation to the Armenians, I found that the company looked upon them as being quite as ignorant as the Turks, and much more deceitful."

"The good missionaries found the conversion of these superstitious and ignorant Christians of the East a very difficult and uphill task. Indeed I subsequently heard from some Armenian Roman Catholics, who might have been prejudiced in making the statement, that most to the converts to Protestantism were from among the Armenian shop-keepers who supplied the mission with goods."

The monastery of Nishan or of the Cross;
"stands on a rising slope, about two miles from Sivas. Its Gothic towers, more than 500 years old, look upon the town and neighboring villages, and can be seen form many miles around."*
The Armenian merchants in Sivas used the telegraph to learn of the fluctuations in the monetary value of the Turkish paper money while the local inhabitants would not know for two weeks or more of the changes in value. The Armenian merchants were able to make large sums of money by buying up all of the gold in the district "pocketing the difference between the actual exchange and that which passed as current in Sivas."

Burnaby observed that there wasn't much export trade from Sivas. Tobacco was the staple produce of the area. All imported items were expensive because of the difficulty of bring it overland from Samson, as the roads between Sivas and Samson were poor.

* The ruins of the monestary were razed in 1978.

A History of the Empire and People of Turkey and the War in the East , R. A. Hammond 1878

"The town covers a large area, within which are numerous ruins, but the houses, upon the whole, are well built and intermingled with gardens, which, with the numerous minarets, give the place a cheerful aspect. The bazaars are well stocked, many of them with articles of foreign manufacture".

Considerable transit trade passes through the town- various Asiatic products being sent thence, on its wasy to Constantinople, for shipment at the port of Samoon, on the Black Sea."

Timber for building was brought down from the surrounding forests.

The Hubbards of Sivas (1870s to 1890s), Edwin W. Martin

Albert and Emma Hubbard were American Protestant missionaries to Sivas from the 1870s to the 1890s. The book, The Hubbards of Sivas, is based on diaries and letters written by Albert and Emma Hubbard to their family in the states and to each other in times of separation. It gives a few glimpses into live in Sivas.

Traveling from Constantinople to Sivas in 1873 to 1894

"The next leg of the Hubbard's journey to Sivas took them from Constantinople to Samsoon (Samsun) a Black Sea voyage of about 200 miles. From Samsoon they rode seventy miles by horseback to Marsovan (Mersifon), where there was a substantial mission station and college."

From Marsovan it was a further 150 miles by horseback or wagon to Sivas. Sometimes there were roads and sometimes there were none. It took them an additional 7 days of travel to get from Marsovan to Sivas.

On the first day they covered 24 miles and stopped in Amasia. They had their own bedding but fleas and bed bugs were a problem; alleviated somewhat by flea powder.

From Amasia they traveled 27 miles to find a kahn that was "half stable half other" with one room for all the lodgers, men and women.

On day three the group traveled only 16 miles but stopped in a first class kahn which had separated rooms with doors, but no tables and chairs.

On day four they covered 28 miles and arrived at Tokat in the mid afternoon where they stopped at the Protestant mission for a few days.

The next leg took them 21 miles with no comments about the accommodations.

On day six of their traveling they covered 18 miles and stopped at a place where the fleas were so bad and they opted to sleep in the carriage.

The last segment was a further 18 miles to Sivas.

At another point Albert describes going to the annual meeting in Constantinople as

"a considerable journey overland to the Black Sea port of Samsoon followed by a brief sea voyage."
In 1877 the journey from Sivas to Samsoon took 10 days.

There was no harbor in Samsoon and the ship was reached by a small row boat.

The horse and camel communication with Constantinople was open all winder despite heavy snows in the area.

There were wild mountains to the southeast of Sivas.

In 1894 the road to Constantinople via Cesarea and Angora (Ankara) was longer and "obstructed by quarantine".

In 1894 it took Alfred two weeks and a day to get from Sivas to Constantinople.

In 1894 Alfred also left for the states aboard a French ship from Constantinople which stopped in Marseilles. From Sivas they sailed eighteen houses to Piraeus, where the ship stopped for two hours. He does not say how long it took form Piraeus to Marseilles.

On his return to Sivas he left Constantinople on June 8th and reached Samsoon on the 10 and started overland the same day arriving in Sivas on the 19th of June.

Hazards of Travel

Robberies were common on the mountain roads of Anatolia.

The City of Sivas

Sivas was described as,

"A somewhat remote provincial capital in the vast Ottoman Empire, hoping that a projected railroad would some day restore its importance as a regional trade center. Still dependent on horse and wagon and oxcart for its trade links with the sea and with Constantinople, the city had changed little of the centuries."

There was cholera in Sivas in 1894 for the first time in forty years Earthquake

Turkey was hit with an earth quake in the Constantinople region in July 9 , 1894.


The Armenians ate on a "small round table not more than a foot high, and three or four in diameter." For each person who is to eat put a wooden spoon & a piece of bread on the edge of the table, and a cushion on the floor. The food is one deep dish in the center.

Each person ate from the common dish. If there is more than one course they were eaten in succession. The first dish being removed and another put in its place. The last cooked dish to be eaten was pilaf.

Stoves are holes in the ground over which are put tables and over the tables are spread large heavy comfortables. Hot coals are put in these holes and gusts who are cold sit down on the floor and tuck hands and feet under comfortables, over coals. This is also their dining table.

Roman Catholics in the Area

The Jesuits were active in the area. They "spent lots of money" and "were doing everything in their power to draw the people" and were having "apparent success", "They teach free, and feed the poor a great deal".

Albert talks of two churches in Sivas, "the Catholic church and the Jesuit's church".


On November 22, 1895 about 1200 Armenians were killed in Sivas. About four "Mohamendas" were also killed.

America State Department Consul Jewett wrote:

" Turks tell me that the massacre and pillage here were under the management of the mayor of the city and other officials and prominent Turks. They say the money saves were taken in storage by the Chief of the Gendarmes and his men who opened them and divided the spoils. Now those most responsible for the outrage are constituted by the governor into commission to investigate and reestablish peace and friendship. Not a Mohammedan has been arrested. There is no officer to make the arrests who is not himself one of the most guilty parties. Officers tell me that there is not an Armenian village left unruined in this part of the country except one that the Governor protects and another which is a Catholic village, and it is well-known the Catholic Patriarch has been courting the favor of the Sultan."
He also alleges that the Moslems were trying to convert the Armenians, to force their men to be circumcised, and were raping or carrying off the young women.

In 1896 there were continual reports of massacres and the Armenians were "afraid to move or be seen" and were living in terror. Alfred added that the Consul thought that "the govŐt is doing its best to prevent such things here".

On a trip to Egin to escort a female missionary to Sivas Alfred spent several nights on the road talking to Kurds about the destruction of the Armenian villages in the area. He obtained the following information about the massacres:

Arabkir, of "4,000 Armenian houses only 300 were left unburnt".

Pingan, of "187 Armenian houses 175 were totally destroyed and fifty nine persons, including ten women and girls, murdered. Days after this massacre, on the banks of t he Euphrates below the town, lay corpses, still exposed."

Zismara, "where all had been driven in terror to the mountains and six persons killed."

Divik, "forty men killed last year and its recent fright when three men, escaped to the mountains, were cut down."

Egin where "from 1040 wealthy Armenian houses, 800 had recently been plundered and burned, and every accessible male of the age of twelve, murdered."

The unrest continued in 1897 when in March of that year the stores were closed and the people in Sivas were "in terror" for two weeks. Some of the surrounding villages were attacked including Tokat where 400 were killed and most of the village looted.

Bighan does no have much to say about the physical aspects of Sivas or about the local people except the Europeans and the officials.

Information supplied by the American Missionaries to General Sir C. Wilson and forwarded by him to Sir H. Yule.

"One of the oldest churches in Sivas is St. George (Sourp-Kevork), occupied by the Greeks, but claimed by the Armenians; it is situated near the centre of the town, in what is called the "Black Earth," the spot where Timur is said to have massacred the garrison. A few steps north of St. George is the Church of St. Blasius, occupied by the Roman Catholic Armenians. The tomb of St. Blasius, however, is shown in another part of the town, near the citadel mount, and the ruins of a very beautiful Seljukian Medresseh."
Armenian Apostolic Churches in Sivas Apostolic: Holy Virgin, St Sergis, St Minae, St. Savior. Note: These are not the same listed by Robert Hewsen, see below.

St Blasius Roman Catholic

Across Asia on A Bicycle, Century Magazine, May 1894

"The comparative size and prosperity of Sivas, in the midst of rather barren surroundings, are explained by the fact that it lies at the converging point of the chief caravan routes between Euxine, Euphrates, and Mediterranean. Besides being the capital of Ruminli, the former Seljuk province of Cappadocia, it is the place of residence for a French and American consular representative, and an agent of the Russian government for the collection of the war indemnity, stipulated in the treaty of '78."
Note: The Black Sea was known as the Euxine Sea in the antiquity.

A Ride Through Western Asia, Clive Bigham, 1897

In 1897 Sivas was divided into different quarters; Turkish, Armenian, and Circassian.

The road from Angora (Ankanra) to Sivas

"is as bad as it can be — in some places a mere track over the rocks. We hired a common county cart call and "araba" furnished with a hood, to carry the luggage. The price as far as Sivas (290) miles was £4 pounds 15 s."
Bighham road on horseback while his guide wrote on the supply cart. They bought red wine as the water was not drinkable due to cholera. They also brought bread, rice, potatoes and cooking oil but no meat as it was too hot to store it. They bought chickens and eggs along the way the way.

They started on July 25 for Sivas. They had to cross the hot plains between Angora and Sivas. The heat was the most intense Bigham had ever experienced. Meat was difficult to get; fruit dangerous. There were no vegetables except cucumbers. Eggs and chickens were cheap.

Bigham consistently described the Armenians as dirty and unwashed; afraid of water.

Along the way they met some Armenians traveling in wagons dressed "in semi-European clothes" who told them they were traveling to Angora for purposes of trade. The Armenians were not allowed to carry weapons so they traveled in large numbers for protection.

"The Kurds are in general far more attractive to the casual observer than the Armenians. In spite of their brigand lives they are more honest and straightforward, and they bear pain with remarkable fortitude. They probably suffer as much, if not more, at the hands of the Government, but their plaints do not reach so far."
It took them nine days to travel the 290 miles between Angora and Sivas.

Greenmantle, John Buchan, 1916

Greenmantle is an adventure and espionage story set in Turkey during WW I with four English spies who travel from Constantinople through Ankara and on to the Russ-Turkish border to Erzerum.

From Chapter Sixteen, The Battered Caravaseai

"About midday we descended on a wide plain full of the marks of rich cultivation. Villages became frequent, and the land was studded with olive groves and scarred with water furrows. From what I remembered of the map I judged that we were coming to that champagne country near Siwas, which is the granary of Turkey, and the home of the true Osmanli stock."
Note: Siwas=Sivas

Crossing Asia Minor, The Country Of The New Turkish Republic, Major Robert Whitney Imbrie, National Geographic, 1924

In 1924 Angora (Ankara), the new capital of Turkey had no sewage system, no sidewalks, and no streetlights. It can be assumed the same was true for Sivas.

There were no hotels in all of Anatolia in 1924. Travelers stayed in the Khan. A type of oriental inn, the khan was an enclosed courtyard surrounded by a wall (mud or wood). On at least one side there was a two-story structure. The lower story contained stables. The upper story had rooms for guests. However many guests camped in the courtyard. The guest was obliged to provide all of his/her necessities: food, bedding, drink. Hygiene was almost completely lacking and the Khan was full of bugs. Most western travels only stayed in the Khan for protection from bandits.

Sivas is about 200 miles due east across the Mysian plateau from Ankara. Imbrie describes the trip from Ankara to Sivas as "over parched and dreary country with little to relieve the eye" and "Lonely open country with out much water".

Two days out from Kaisariye near Shehr Kishla the country began to change.

"Occasionally we would cross a small stream bordered by cottonwood trees.

We began to meet people- a cape- draped horseman, long dagger slanted across his hip, carbine in hand who perhaps had been three months in the saddle on his ride from Persia, or an old lady atop a buffalo cart, its ungreased wooden wheels shrieking to heaven, spinning along at the dizzy rate of a mile and a half an hour.

Now and then we were fortunate enough to find a group of trees by a spring at which to rest at noon."

Out of Shehr Kishla towards Sivas:
"We rode through a land forlorn, between bare hills and with never a tree in sight.

We were now less than 30 miles from the town of Sivas, and so, getting an early start, we left the packhorse to follow with the orderly and pushed ahead. The road climbed steadily, and by 10 o'clock we had reached an altitude of 5,600 feet, where we traversed a pass. We crossed another range of sterile hill and from these beheld the town far away in the valley below "

About Sivas:
" Through Sivas passes the Great Road of Asia Minor, the road over which for centuries the caravans from Bagdad to Istanbul have passed. Though it has now fallen into complete disrepair, it is still enormously important as a trade route from the Black Sea to the interior. It was over this road we headed for the Black Sea and Samsun, 200 miles away."
Note: I bought the above article on eBay and the seller did not include an issue number or month; just the year.

The article was prefaced by the following:

"The following article, descriptive of a journey made by the author when a special representative of the American State Department in Angora, formed the basis of a lecture before the National Geographic Society in Washington in January 1924, and was probably Major Imbrie's last literary project. It is a significant fact that he here emphasizes a sympathy and an understanding of their philosophy, their customs and their prejudices. Major Imbrie's tragic death in July at the hands of an unprovoked mob in Teheran, the capital city of Persia, where he was the American vice-consul, is a great loss to the Foreign Service of the United States. He was an American gentleman- honorable, considerate, and brave. He served his country gallantly on the field of battle and in important diplomatic mission. THE EDITOR."
Robert Whitney Imbrie was beaten to death by a mob in Teheran. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery. To see articles about his murder and view a photo of his head stone go to Arlington National Cemetery, Robert Whitney Imbrie

Armenia Sebastia/Sivas and Lesser Armenia edited by Richard G Hovannisian, 2004 (UCLA Armenian History and Culture Series)

Armenian Sebastia/Sivas and Lesser Armenia Richard G Hovannisian

Before modern transportation Sivas was at least a six day journey from Constantinople.

The Caravan route bridge across the Halys River east of Sebastia bore an Armenian inscription which was still visible in 1998.*

Many of the Armenians who were in Sebastian until WWI were descendants from the original Armenian population of the area. Others however had arrived in Sivas from the east during the Armeno-Byzantine period. "The Armenians never forgot the saga of the arrival of their kings in Lesser Armenia, whose relics were shown in the local monasteries, and, however dubious, from whom a number of prominent Armenian families of Sebastia even claimed descent."

The Ottoman Census of 1914 showed 3,693 Armenian Catholics.

The Catholic bishopric was established in Sivas in 1858. "There was also a Roman Catholic Jesuit school (college) actually more of a preparatory school for students in tending to enter institutions of higher learning elsewhere."

* We did not see an Armenian inscription on the bridge when we visited in 2008.

Armenia on the Halys River, Robert H Hewsen, Armenia Sebastia/Sivas and Lesser Armenia edited by Richard G Hovannisian

In the town of Sivas the Armenians were the merchants, traders, grocers, artisans and involved in money changing and lending.

Sivas was something of a cultural backwater until 1908.

"The city of Sivas lies at an altitude of 1,275 meters (4,183 feet) above sea level somewhat north of the right bank of the Kizil Irmak. Besides the Cathedral of Surb Astvatsatin (built in 1840), the Apostolic Armenians possessed three other churches; Surb Hakob, Surb Prkich, and Surb Sargis. There were also and Armenian Catholic Church, and Armentian Protestant Church, a Greek Orthodox Church, and a Catholic chapel attached to the Jesuit mission in the city. In addition, Sivas had an Armenian hospital, and American mission, and American mission hospital and a Swiss orphanage."

In the first Turkish census of the Turkish republic in 1927 there were 30,000 people in Sivas. Armenian Sebastia ended in 1915 but there were said to be some 300 still living there in the 1970s.*

One of the parks in Sivas is adorned with old tombstones including some with Armenian inscriptions.**

About 2 kilometers from Sebastia lay the monastery of the Holy Cross (Surb Nsham) built before the 11 century (perhaps earlier). The throne of the Artaruni kings were preserved there.***

*On our visit in May 2008 we were told by our Armenian contact in Sivas that there were 76 Armenians (forming part of 20 families) still living in the city of Sivas. According to an interview of the Patriarch Mesrob II of Istanbul and Turkey by Florence Avakian in 1999, there were 40 families living in Sivas and speaking Armenian with a Sebastian dielact. This number of families may reflect the number in the state of Sivas and not just the city of Sivas.

**On our visit in May 2008 we did not succeed in finding such a park.

***According to our Armenain contact in Sivas, the ruins of this monastery were razed in 1978.

Armenian Immigration to the Sebastian Region, Tenth-Eleventh Centuries, S. Peter Cowe

The Bagratuni/Bagratid Dynasty, one of the two most important Armenian princely and royal houses, arrived in the Sivas area in the 10th century.

Armenian Art and Architecture of Sebastia, Christina Maraci

Most of the Armenain churches and monasteries have be altered beyond recognition or razed to the ground*. Maraci says that the Monastery of the Holy Cross was destroyed completely in the 1980s.

Sabastia was an important center of Armenian scriptoria during the late Middle Ages. There are Armenian manuscripts from the Monestary of the Holy Cross, Sivas at:

  • Walters Art Gallery in Baltimore: 1666 Baltimore Walters Art Gallery W544; Gospel Sebastia scribe Mikayel
  • 17th century partial copy of the gospel illuminated by Toros Roslin in 1262 Sanjin New York Public Library Spencer Collection
  • 1668-73 Washington, Freer Gallery of Art 35.15; Gospel Sebastia (Nor Avan)

* Our Armenian source in Sivas, at the time of our visit in May 2008, said that there are no remains of any of the Armenian churches in the city of Sivas. We were shown two ruins of Armenian churches outside of the city.

A Farewell to the Armenains of Evdokia/Tokat, Barlow Der Mugrdechian

"Several waves of immigration added to the Armenian element, most notably during the first part of the eleventh century, when King Senekerim-Hovannes Artsruni of Van/Vasourakan relocated with a large retinue, estimated to by 14,00 cavalry and their families, to Sebastia and the neighboring areas."
There continued to be migrations to Tokat over the centuries for various reasons, war famine etc, in the east which pushed the population west. The same must have been true for Sivas. Jesuits were the first Catholic missionaries to arrive in the area in the early 17th century. They were followed by the Capuchins. The numbers of Catholics increased although only a few Armenian clergy were converted.

The Ottoman Empire recognized the Armenian Catholic millet (congregational community) in 1830. In those towns were the Catholic population was small and did not have many churches they were compelled to maintain ties with the Apostolic church and most of the rites of baptism, marriage and death were performed in the Apostolic church. Mass and communion were celebrated in private homes.

Tokat was 12 to days journey from Consatntinople and was on an ancient silk road from Erserum. (From todays map it looks like this route would bypass Sivas.) By the early 1800s the khans were empty and there was little economic life in Tokat.

Rural Sebastia The Village of Guvdin, Murad A Meneshian

The area around Sivas contained a number of Armenian villages. Most of the Armenians in these villages farmed the land and tended livestock.

An example of one of the larger villages in the area was Govdun. Situated 12 miles east of Sivas it consisted of about 300 households with nearly 3,000 inhabitants. The village was supposed to have been settled by members of the retinue of Kiing Hovhannes-Senekerim Artsruni.

On Easter eve everyone dressed in the best attire and went to church. Hardly had the priest uttered the words, "Take this bread and eat...." then many men and boys ended the fast and challenged one another to see whose red colored egg was the strongest when struck against the tip of another." During the following days there were may "egg fights".*

Villages were isolated from one another because of the poor road conditions and a large gap existed between town and village and there was the usual distrust of one for the other.

*My husband's mother, Alice Azarian, was Armenian. She and her sisters continued the tradition of egg fights after they immigrated to the USA.

Taniel Varoujan

Taniel Varoujan, the great Armenian poet, was born in 1884 in the village of Brgnik (Prknig) to Krikor and Takouhi Varoujan. The family remained in Pirkinik for twelve years and then moved to Constantinople in 1896 where Krigor was a migrant worker. He attended the Armenian Catholic Mekhitarist School in Constantinople until 1902 when he left for Venice. He was the principle of Saint Gregory the Illuminator (Grigor Lusavorich) in Pera from 1912 to 1915.

He married Araxie and had a daughter, Veronica Jaroujan Safrasian.


Sivas Turkey . Wonderful pictures of some of the Seljuk buildings.

Sivas 1877 : Sivas Marhasaligi ve Sivas Vilayetine Bagli Birkac Onemli Sehir Hakkinda Rapor (Sivas, Tokat, Amasya, Merzifon) by Bogos Natanyan is available on line at . It contains other images of Armenian Sivas. Unfortunately, it is written in Turkish.


A Sketch Map of Asai Minor (Anatolia) National Geographic 1924.

This map shows the possible routes from Sivas to Constantinople.

  • Overland all the way through Angora
  • Overland to Samson on the black Sea and then by boat to Constantinople.

Map of Sivas

From Armenia A Historical Atlas by Robert H Hewson

Map collection of Maggie Land Blanck

Map of Sivas showing Pirkinik

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Lucy Pirkinik
Arevian/Hagopian Other Azarians
Armenian Ancestors The Genocide

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