On the outskirts of the city of Sarıkamış in the Kars Province (now located in the territory of Turkey) – a picturesque place on the edge of a pine forest – there is one interesting historical structure. Residents of the city and travel agencies call this building Catherine’s House.
This one-story Baltic-style structure made of pine logs without nails, with a dozen rooms, was established as a winter hunting house for Tsar Nicholas II.
Catherine’s House was built in 1901-02 (according to another version in 1894-95) during the period of Russian rule in the city of Sarıkamış. Stone barracks were built around the house, of which only the walls remain today.
Tsar Nicholas II was only once in Sarıkamış. It was in early December 1914 when he visited the forward positions of Russian troops on the Caucasian front. However, it is not known for certain whether the Tsar visited Catherine’s House during this trip.
The city of Sarıkamış (Armenian name Yeghegnik), which formed a part of the Vanand district of the historical Ayrarat Province of Greater Armenia, is located 60 kilometers southwest of the medieval Armenian capital Kars.
In April 1918, the Kars Province and the city of Sarıkamış were occupied by Ottoman Turkey. However, since May 1919, the territory was a part of the First Armenian Republic for a short time.
In the years of the First Republic, Sarıkamış was settled by thousands of refugees from Western Armenia. Some refugees found shelter in Catherine’s House, and a garrison of the Armenian army occupied the nearby barracks.
Since 1921, the Kars Province and with it Sarıkamış have been part of Turkey. Catherine’s house and adjacent buildings would serve as barracks for the Turkish army. In 2009, the city authorities decided to transfer this historic building to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Kars Province.
At the moment, reconstruction works are underway here: the house will be turned into a hotel according to modern traditions. One big reason for this is that Sarıkamış has become the largest tourist center of skiing in Turkey in recent years.