Kars Oblast

Kars Oblast
Карсская область
Oblast of Russian Empire
Coat of arms of Kars Oblast
Coat of arms
Capital Kars
• 1897
16,473 km2 (6,360 sq mi)
• 1897
• Treaty of San Stefano
• First Republic of Armenia
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Erzurum Vilayet
First Republic of Armenia
Democratic Republic of Georgia
Today part of  Turkey


Kars Oblast (Russian: Карсская область, Karsskaya Oblast) was one of the oblasts of the Caucasus Viceroyalty of the Russian Empire between 1878 and 1917. Its capital was the city of Kars, presently in the Republic of Turkey. The governorate bordered with the Ottoman Empire, Batum Oblast, Tiflis Governorate, Erivan Governorate, and from 1883 to 1903 the Kutais Governorate. It covered all of Turkey's present provinces of Kars and Ardahan and the northeastern part of Erzurum Province as well as a small part of Armenia.


An 1883 map including Kars Oblast and adjacent provinces of Russian and Ottoman Empires

Kars Oblast was created in 1878 from some of the lands conquered by Russia from the Ottoman Empire and transferred to Russia by the Treaty of San Stefano (1878). The lands of the Oblast had previously belonged to the Ottoman Kars Eyalet and Samtskhe Province before 1845 and Erzurum Eyalet after 1845. [1]

With the incorporation of the region into Russian Empire, a large portion (82,000 during 1878–1881, according to Russian sources[1]) of the local Muslim population left for Ottoman territory. Instead new settlers (mostly Armenians, Caucasus Greeks (i.e., Russianized, eastern Pontic Greeks from Armenia and Georgia) and Russians)[1] migrated to or were resettled in the newly conquered lands from Russia's other Transcaucasian provinces or from areas that still fell within the Ottoman Turkish side of the newly drawn border. Russian Imperial Census of 1897 clearly reflected the new ethnic composition.

Russian official population statistics based on the native language of respondents, 1897.

Language Groups Kars Oblast %
Armenian 73,406 25.3
Turkish 63,547 21.9
Kurdish 42,968 14.8
Greek 32,593 11.2
Karapapak 29,879 10.3
Russian 27,856 9.6
Turkmen 8,442 2.9
Polish 3,243 1.1
Tatar (Azerbaijani Turkish) 2,347 0.8
Other languages 6,373 2.1
TOTAL 290,654 100

Many of these Christian Orthodox communities had fought in or collaborated with the Russian Imperial Army as a means of recapturing territory from the Muslim Ottomans for Christian Orthodoxy.[1]

The first ruler of the oblast held the title of nachalnik ("chief"), later the title became military governor. Nachalniks were Ivan Popko (Russian: Попко, Иван Диомидович) between 01.11.1877 and 08.06.1878, and Viktor Frankini (Russian: Франкини, Виктор Антонович), between 08.06.1878 and 27.10.1878. The first military governor was Viktor Frankini (27.10.1878—01.04.1881).

After the October Revolution of 1917 and the disintegration of Russian Empire, the lands of Kars Oblast were controlled for a short while by First Republic of Armenia and, in its northeastern part, by the Democratic Republic of Georgia. Eventually, Turkish forces recovered the region, leading to a formation of an unrecognized provisional government, before the lands gained by the First Republic of Armenia were maintained. Incorporation of most of the lands of the former Kars Oblast into Turkey was confirmed by the borders determined in the Treaty of Kars (1921), signed by proclaimed Turkish Government, Armenia SSR, Azerbaijan SSR and Georgia SSR.

Orhan Pamuk's novel Snow, set in present-day Kars, makes many references to the numerous buildings left over from the period of Russian rule, which in Pamuk's view make the city significantly different from other Turkish cities.

Administrative division

Since 1881, Kars Oblast consisted of four okrugs (districts):

  • Kars (Карсский округ)
  • Ardahan (Ардаганский округ)
  • Kağızman (Кагызманский округ)
  • Oltu (Ольтинский округ)

Two more okrugs, Zarushat (Заришат) and Shoragyal (Шорагял; also spelt Shuregel) existed in 1878-81.



Ethnographic map of the Kars Oblast, 1902 (according to the census of 1886)

In 1892, the population of Kars Oblast was estimated as 200,868. The ethnic composition, and religious affiliation of ethnic groups, was reported as follows:[1]

The religious composition of the population was reported as follows:


Kars 1897 Census

The Russian Empire Census of 1897 counted 290,654 residents in Kars Oblast, including 160,571 men and 130,083 women. This number may perhaps imply that the 200,868 estimate for 1892 given by Brockhaus is too low, or that a large-scale migration from other provinces of the empire took place in between. The following breakdown of the population by the mother tongue was reported:[2]

The 30,000 excess population of male over females was mainly attributed to the "European" ethnic groups. Viz., among the 27,856 speakers of Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian, 19,910 men and 7,946 women were recorded. The Polish, and Lithuanian speakers were almost exclusively (99%) male as well; Germans and Jews, 80 to 90% males. This preponderance of males in the "European" ethnic groups (reported, usually to a lesser extent, in neighboring governorates as well) may indicate presence of a large numbers of soldiers or exiled persons in the region.

Ethnic groups in Kars Oblast according to 1897 Russian census[3]

Okrug (district) Armenians Turks Kurds Caucasus Greeks Karapapak Russians Turkmens Ukrainians Poles Tatars (Azerbaijani)
TOTAL 25,3% 21,9% 14,8% 11,2% 10,3% 7,7% 2,9% 1,8% 1,1%
Ardahan 2,9% 42,6% 19,1% 11,9% 12,0% 3,0% 6,6%
Kaghizman 36,5% 8,7% 29,9% 12,2% 4,4% 1,1% 2,4% 1,5% 1,5%
Kars 34,8% 7,9% 6,8% 11,0% 16,4% 12,6% 1,8% 2,5% 1,6% 1,1%
Olti 9,9% 62,6% 11,1% 8,6% 2,8% 3,2%

See also


Further reading

  • Gurallar, Neşe (2020). "Russian Modernization in East Anatolia: The Case of Kars". Muqarnas Online. 37 (1): 247–264. doi:10.1163/22118993-00371P09.

Coordinates: 40°36′25″N 43°05′35″E / 40.6069°N 43.0931°E / 40.6069; 43.0931