Like many medieval Armenian towns, Kars had originally been a fortress. In fact, many historians refer to it as “fortress of Kars”. Over the course of the 9th-13th centuries, city quarters spread around the fortress, the latter at some point being turned into a citadel. In the years of the Turkish-Persian domination, the fortress of Kars was plundered.
Kars was located in an Ararat province of Vanavand in the vicinity of a river of the same name at an altitude of 2,000 meters. Kars has been a residence of the Arsacid Dynasty (52 – 428). It also has supposedly been the princely family residence of the Vanandetsis at some point.
Kars experienced unprecedented rise during the reign of the Bagratuni dynasty (885 – 1045). In the years of Bagratuni Armenia and of the struggle against the Arab dominion, Ashot I (885 – 890), Smbat I (890 – 914), Ashot II (914 – 929) changed the capitals of Armenia, moving it to Dvin, Bagaran, and Yervandashat because they have been in a close vicinity to the Arab state. After Ashot II successfully fought off the Arab yoke, his brother and successor Abbas Bagratuni (928 – 953) moved the capital to Kars, which was lying in a much more secure location than the previous capitals.
The second major peak of Kars was in 1919 when thousands of Armenians returned to Armenia after the establishment of the First Republic of Armenia. Alas, it was the swan song of the ancient capital as the 11th Red Army invaded Armenia in late 1920, establishing the Soviet rule. Kars along with other vast historical Armenian territories was given out to the Turks as a result of the 1921 Moscow and Kars Treaties.
Ancient Armenian fortress town of Kars