Bassen: A Glimpse into a Historical Region in Armenia

Situated north of Karin (Erzurum), in the cradle of the Armenian Highlands, Bassen stands majestically at an elevation between 1750 and 1800 meters. This region, also known as Basyank, has a rich tapestry of history that weaves through several eras and rulers.

A Journey Through Time: Bassen’s Historical Timeline

Ancient Kingdoms (2nd millennium BCE to 5th century BCE): Bassen’s early history saw its integration into the Kingdom of Hayasa, followed by the Kingdom of Ararat, and eventually the Armenian Satrapy in the 6th century BCE.

Middle Period (4th century BCE to 11th century): From the Armenian Kingdom of Ayrarat in the 4th century BCE to the Armenian Kingdom of Ani in the 11th century, Bassen’s political landscape underwent several transformations. It also became part of Greater Armenia’s province of Ayrarat.

Byzantine and Seljuk Rule (11th century): Conquered by Byzantium, Bassen was soon handed over to the Seljuks, Central Asian migrants. This marked the beginning of Turkish control, despite sporadic liberation during the 13th and 14th centuries.

Persian Invasion to Russian Control (12th century to 1916): Ravaged by Persian forces in the 12th century, the region faced tumultuous times. In the 19th century, Russia reclaimed it from the Turks, only to return it, leading to the 1829 massacre.

Armenian Tragedies (1855 to 1915): Bassen witnessed a series of pogroms that culminated in the heart-wrenching Armenian Genocide in 1915.

Post-World War Era (1916 to 1945): Bassen’s borders shifted numerous times during this period. It came under Russian control in 1916, only to be recaptured by the Turks in 1918. Efforts to recognize it as part of an independent Armenian Republic were stymied by international politics, and attempts to return it to Armenia by the USSR in 1945 were similarly unsuccessful.

Bassen’s Cultural Heritage

Before the 1915 Armenian Genocide, the region was a vibrant Armenian hub, home to 16,740 Armenians. With 57 villages, 16 Armenian Apostolic Churches, an inhabited monastery, and 20 schools, Bassen was a center of Armenian culture and spirituality.

The locals spoke a unique dialect, akin to the Erzerum (Karin) dialect, similar to the language spoken in Javakha (present-day southern Georgia, near the Armenian border).

Bassen Today: A Historical Landmark

The administrative heart of Bassen is its namesake city fortress, standing 42 kilometers northeast of Karin (Erzurum). As a testament to its rich history and diverse cultural influences, Bassen remains a symbol of Armenia’s historical landscape.

Vigen Avetisyan

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