The modern city of Erzurum is the administrative center of the eponymous region of the Turkish Republic. In ancient times, the city had different names. Its Armenian name was Karin. The 15th century Spanish traveler Rui González de Clavijo tells the following about Erzurum:
“The city was located on the plain, had a powerful stone wall with towers and a castle in it. The city was not highly populated, and there was a beautiful church there, as it used to belong to Armenian Christians and many Armenians lived in it.”
Erzurum was populated by Armenians up to the genocide organized by the Young Turks’ government in the early 20th century. Despite the actual deliverance from the Armenian population, there is still a significant Armenian trace in the culture of the city.
Erzurum dialect of the Turkish language (tur. – Erzurum Türkçesi) is remarkable not only for its similarity with the Modern Azerbaijani language but also for its Armenian vocabulary. In the book “Armenian loanwords in Turkish” the turkologist Robert Dankoff brings examples of many Armenian words used by the people of Erzurum and its close regions: pancar (green) – Arm. banjar (բանջար- vegetables); kom (farm) – Arm. gom (գոմ- barn); harmut (mixed) – Arm. kharn (խառն- mixed); tuşik (gentle) – Arm. tush (թուշ – cheek); torun (grandchild) – Arm. torn (թոռն – grandchild); tetik (paw) – Arm. tatik (թաթիկ – small paw). In his book, Robert Dankoff uses the word “bar” (պար – dance) which stands for the Armenian “par” (պար – dance) and that is pronounced as “bar” in the Western Armenian. The word “bar” and not the words “dans” and “oyun” are used in the names of folk dances of Erzurum.
Folk dances of Erzurum
The name of any dance consists of two words in the Turkish language – the “name of the dance” and the word “dance” itself. For instance, “Zeybek oyunu” (the dance of Zeybeks) or “Bitlis dansı” (the dance of Bitlis). The abovementioned word “bar” is used likewise. In that regard, we will bring several examples of the names of famous Erzurum dances which are connected with the Armenians: «Koçeri barı» (Kochari dance), «Garabet barı» (Karapet’s dance).
Koçeri barı / Kochari dance is known throughout the entire Anatolian region. This latter is danced by a considerable number of nations – Armenians, Turks, Azeris, Kurds, Assyrians, Pontic Greeks.
According to Turkish sources, the word Koçeri originates from the word göçmek (move, relocate, walkabout). In that case, a question is why the word koç (koch) isn’t pronounced as the abovementioned göç (gyoch). The answer to this question may be the assumption that the name of the dance has a different origin, or there is the influence of a language, or several languages, in which there is no sound [ö] (for example, Armenian).
Garabet barı / Garabet’s dance is the favorite dance of Erzurum people, which is evidenced by a big number of videos on YouTube.com. The word “Garabet” stands for the man’s Armenian name. This fact suggests that the emergence, formation, and popularization of this dance are directly related to Erzurum Armenians.
So, as we see, despite the physical elimination of the Armenian population, the city of Erzurum and its surroundings continue to carry the heritage of the Armenian language and culture.
By Hovhannes Nazaryan armat.im