Tuesday, April 1, 2014

The medieval Armenian ghost town of Ani

In the Turkish province of Kars, near the Turkish - Armenian border, there's the abandoned medieval Armenian city of Ani. Built in a naturally defensive site, Ani was the capital of the Kingdom of Armenia between 961 and 1045. At its height, the city had a population of 100,000–200,000 people, an important cultural and economic center, rival of Constantinople, Baghdad and Damascus.

Throughout the centuries, Ani was attacked by Byzantines, Seljuk Turks, Mongolians, and Georgians until it became part of the Turkish Ottoman Empire in 1579. An earthquake in 1319 forced many to abandon the city, however the site wasn't entirely abandoned before the eighteenth century. During World War I, the Ottomans captured Kars province and destroyed and looted all the artifacts Armenians didn't have time to save. In 1921, Turkish government minister Riza Nur ordered for the monuments of Ani to "be wiped off the face of the earth", order which was partially carried out. Until recently, no one was allowed to visit Ani without permission but since 2011 the Turkish government is allowing visits with an entrance ticket. In the same year.

Neglect, earthquakes, cultural cleansing, vandalism took a heavy toll on Ani and its monuments. In May 2011, World Monuments Fund announced it was beginning conservation work on the cathedral and Church of the Holy Redeemer in partnership with the Turkish Ministry of Culture.

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