Cross-Stone Mountains – Western Armenia

Cross-Stone Mountains – Western ArmeniaBeing the home of one of the most beautiful mountain ranges in the world, Eastern Turkey (historical Western Armenia) still holds traces of the Armenian past presence. Over the course of the 19th and 20th centuries, the most of the Armenian cultural and geographical names have been replaced in the process of the region’s Turkification.

Some etymologists (Sevan Nisanyan, 2011) estimate that at least 3,600 Armenian place names have been replaced in the 20th century, the peak of which seemingly occurred after the expulsion of the Armenians from the Ottoman territories.

Percentage of geographical name changes in Turkey from 1916 onwards.

Deriving their name from the Armenian word “khachkar” (“cross-stone”), Kaçkar Mountains (Turkish: Kaçkar Dağları), fronting the Black Sea to the north and the valley of the Çoruh River to the south, stand as a testimony to the Armenian past of Eastern Turkey [1][2]. Having been a part of Lesser Armenia, Kaçkar Mountains are often presented as the lushest and most spectacular mountain range in Turkey.

Kaçkar Mountains are glaciated mountains with an alpine character, steep rocky peaks, as well as numerous mountain lakes. The range’s highest peak is at an altitude of 3,937 meters (12,917 feet), while its plateaus are at about 3,000 meters (9,800 feet) of elevation. In 1994, the area was declared a national park, and today, it is a hub of tourism activities such as hiking, camping, and mountaineering.

A considerable Muslim Armenian population lives on Kaçkar Mountains to this day. Known as Hamshentsi, these people belong to the royal Armenian house of Hamam. They speak a dialect of Armenian and consist of Muslim and Christian communities. Unlike their Muslim compatriots, the Christian Hamshentsis have been expelled from their home lands. Today, they mostly live in South Russia and Abkhazia.

Like the names of many Armenian settlements, “Hamshen” contains the suffix “shen” from the Armenian word “shenel”, meaning “to build”. “Hamshen” simply means “built by Hamam”. In Turkish, the settlement is called Hemşin and its people are known as Hemşinli.

Below, you can see some images of the Kaçkar Mountains.

Kackar Mountain map (French)


[1] Marc Dubin; Enver Lucas (1989). Trekking in Turkey. Lonely Planet. p. 125. ISBN 0-86442-037-4.
[2] Robert H. Hewsen. Armenia: A Historical Atlas. — University of Chicago Press, 2001. — 341 p. — ISBN 0-226-33228-4, ISBN 978-0-226-33228-4. P.212. “River between the port of Atina (now Pazar) on the coast and the great inland peak called Kajkar (Arm. Khach’k’ar) Dagh ‘Cross-stone Mountain’”

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