Capital of Kars province in northeast Turkey, on the Kars River, 192 km/120 mi northeast of Erzurum; population (2000) 78,500. The city is situated 1,750 m/5,741 ft above sea-level, near Mount Ararat, Turkey's highest peak. It has a major cattle market, and produces cheese, carpets, felts, and coarse textiles. As a frontier settlement, 48 km/30 mi from the Armenian border, the city has seen frequent fighting and changes of ownership; it remains a major military stronghold.
Architecture The city has a grid layout unique in Turkey, a legacy of its Russian occupation in the 19th century. Notable structures include a magnificent fortress, the Kars Kalesi, refurbished by successive conquerors; the 11th-century Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Apostles, now a warehouse; and several buildings displaying grand Russian design.
History Originally founded by the Armenians, Kars became the capital of Armenia in the early 10th century. It was taken by the Seljuk Turks in the mid-11th and the Georgians in the early 13th centuries. After being taken into the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century, Kars was heavily fortified, but in 1828, 1855, and 1878 it was successfully besieged by Russia. Kars had reverted to Turkey by peace treaty on previous occasions, but was ceded to Russia after the 1878 Congress of Berlin. The province and town were returned to Turkey after World War I, and a treaty between Turkey and the Soviet Union signed in Kars in 1921.
Local features The impressive remains of Ani, capital of Armenia from the late 10th century, lie nearby on the Armenian border. Once a city of 100,000 inhabitants, it was deserted after the Mongol invasion of 1239.