ERZERUM, or Arzrum (Arm. Garin), the chief town of an important vilayet of the same name in Asiatic Turkey. It is a military station and a fortress of considerable strategical value, closing the roads from Kars, Olti and other parts of the frontier. Several important routes from Trebizond and various parts of Anatolia converge towards it from the west. It is situated at the eastern end of an open bare plain, 30 m. long and about 12 wide, bordered by steep, rounded mountains and traversed by the Kara Su, or western Euphrates, which has its source in the Dumlu Dagh a few miles north of that town, which lies at an elevation of 6250 ft. above sea-level, while the near hills rise to 10,000 ft. The scenery in the neighbourhood is striking, lofty bare mountains being varied by open plains and long valleys dotted with villages. Just east of the town is the broad ridge of the Deveboyun ("Camel's Neck"), across which the road passes to Kars. To the south is the Palanduken range, from which emerge numerous streams, supplying the town with excellent water. In the plain to the north the Kara Su traverses extensive marshes which afford good wildfowl-shooting in the spring.
The town is surrounded by an earthen enceinte or rampart with some forts on the hills just above it, and others on the Deveboyun ridge facing east, the whole forming a position of considerable strength. The old walls and the citadel have disappeared. Inside the ramparts the town lies rather cramped, with narrow, crooked streets, badly drained and dirty; the houses are generally built of dark grey volcanic stone with flat roofs, the general aspect, owing to the absence of trees, being somewhat gloomy. The water-supply from Palanduken is distributed by wooden pipes to numerous public fountains. The town has a population of about 43,000, including about 10,000 Armenians, 2000 Persians and a few Jews. It has a garrison in peace of about 5000 men. It is the seat of the British consulate for Kurdistan, and there are other European consulates besides an American mission with schools. The great altitude accounts for very severe winter cold, occasionally 10° to 25° below zero F., accompanied by blizzards (tipi) sometimes fatal to travellers overtaken by them. The summer heat is moderate (59° to 77°).
There are several well-built mosques (none older than the 16th century), public baths, and several good khans. There are Armenian and Catholic churches, but the most beautiful building is a medresse erected in the 12th century by the Seljuks, with ornamental doorway and two graceful minarets known as the Chifte Minare.
Situated on the main road from Trebizond into north-west Persia, the town has always a large caravan traffic, principally of camels, but since the improvement of communications in Russia this has declined. A good carriage-road leads to the coast at Trebizond, the journey being made in five or six days. There are also roads to Kars, Bayazid, Erzingan and Kharput. Blacksmiths' and coppersmiths' work is better here than in most Turkish towns; horse-shoes and brasswork are also famous. There are several tanneries, and Turkish boots and saddles are largely made. Jerked beef (pasdirma) is also prepared in large quantities for winter use. The plain produces wheat, barley, millet and vegetables. Wood fuel is scarce, the present supply being from the Tortum district, whence surface coal and lignite are also brought; but the usual fuel is tezek or dried cow-dung. The bazaars are of no great interest. Good Persian carpets and similar goods can be obtained.
Erzerum is a town of great antiquity, and has been identified with the Armenian Garin Kalakh, the Arabic Kalikale, and the Byzantine Theodosiopolis of the 5th century, when it was a frontier fortress of the empire - hence its name Erzen-er-Rum. It was captured by the Seljuks in 1201, when it was an important city, and it fell into Turkish possession in 1517. In July 1829 it was captured by the Russian general Paskevich, and the occupation continued until the peace of Adrianople (September 1829). The town was unsuccessfully attacked by the Russians on the 9th of November 1877 after a victory gained by them a short time previously on the Deveboyun heights; it was occupied by them during the armistice (7th of February 1878) and restored to Turkey after the treaty of Berlin. In 1859 a severe earthquake destroyed much of the town, and another in November 1901 caused much damage.
The Erzerum vilayet extends from the Persian frontier at Bayazid, all along the Russian frontier and westward into Anatolia at Baiburt and Erzingan. It is divided into the three sanjaks of Bayazid, Erzerum, and Erzingan. It includes the highest portion of the Armenian plateau, and consists of bare undulating uplands varied by lofty ranges. The deep gorges of the Chorokh and Tortum streams north of the town alone have a different appearance, being well wooded in places. Both arms of the Euphrates have their rise in this country as well as the Aras (Araxes) and the Chorokh (Acampsis). It is an agricultural country with few industries. Besides forests, iron, salt, sulphur and other mineral springs are found. Some of the coal and lignite mines in Tortum have been recently worked to supply fuel for Erzerum. The population is largely Armenian and Kurd with some Turks (Moslems 500,000, Christians 140,000).
(C. W. W.; F. R. M.)
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)