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Bitlis, Turkey

Bitlis, Turkey

Bitlis, Turkey

Town in southeastern Turkey with 45,000 inhabitants (2004 estimate), at an elevation of 1,400 metres above sea level, in the steep-sided valley of the Bitlis River, a tributary to the Tigris River. It lies 15 km from Van Lake, and it is the capital of Bitlis province with 390,000 inhabitants (2004 estimate).
The local economy is mainly based on agricultural products which include fruits, grain and tobacco. The industry is fairly limited, and deals mainly with leatherworking, manufacture of tobacco products as well as weaving and dyeing of coarse cloth.
Bitlis is connected with other urban centres by road. Tatvan, the port on Lake Van lies 25 km northeast, Mus 100 km northwest and Diyarbakir 200 km west.
Bitlis is a very basic city, with few modern buildings. The main historical building of Bitlis is the 16th century Serefiye mosque. The Great Mosque dates back to 1126 and has an unusual structure.
The climate of Bitlis can be harsh, with long winters and heavy snowfalls. Summers are mild.
Today, almost all of the population is Kurdish, but until World War 1, about half were Armenians.

Known from ancient Armenian sources as Bagesh.
Around 640: Conquered by Muslim Arabs.
14th century: Becomes part of a Kurdish dynasty.
Around 1500: Becomes part of the Ottoman Empire, but local rulers of Bitlis get great autonomy.
1847: The central Ottoman government abolishes the autonomy of Bitlis.
1914-18: Russian occupation during the World War 1, resulting in much damage to Bitlis, reduced population level and destruction of industries.

By Tore Kjeilen