Tunceli Province

Tunceli Province (Kurmanji Kurdish: parêzgeha Dêrsimê, Turkish: Tunceli ili[3]), formerly Dersim Province, is located in the Eastern Anatolia region of Turkey. Its population mostly consists of Alevi Kurds (Kurmanj and Zaza speaking Kurds). The province was originally named Dersim Province (Dersim vilayeti), then demoted to a district (Dersim kazası) and incorporated into Elâzığ Province in 1926.[4] It was finally changed to Tunceli Province on January 4, 1936[5] by the "Law on Administration of the Tunceli Province" (Tunceli Vilayetinin İdaresi Hakkında Kanun), no. 2884 of 25 December 1935,[6][7][8] but some still call the region by its original name. The name of the provincial capital, Kalan, was then officially changed to Tunceli to match the province's name.

The adjacent provinces are Erzincan to the north and west, Elazığ to the south, and Bingöl to the east. The province covers an area of 7,774 km2 (3,002 sq mi) and has a population of 76,699. It has the lowest population density of any province in Turkey, just 9.8 inhabitants/km2. The majority of the population is Kurdish.[9] Tunceli is the only province of Turkey with an Alevi majority.

Tunceli is known for its old buildings such as the Çelebi Ağa Mosque,[10] Sağman Mosque,[11] Elti Hatun Mosque and adjoining Tomb,[12] castles including Mazgirt Castle,[13] Pertek Castle,[14] Derun-i Hisar Castle,[15] and impressive natural scenery, especially in Munzur Valley National Park, the largest national park of Turkey.

Tunceli Province
Location of Tunceli Province in Turkey
Location of Tunceli Province in Turkey
RegionCentral East Anatolia
 • Electoral districtTunceli
 • Total7,774 km2 (3,002 sq mi)
 • Total88,198
 • Density11/km2 (29/sq mi)
Area code(s)0428[2]
Vehicle registration62


Tunceli is traversed by the northeasterly line of equal latitude and longitude.


The history of the province stretches back to antiquity. It was mentioned as 'Daranalis' by Ptolemy, and seemingly, it was referred to as 'Daranis' before him. One theory as to the origin of the name associates with the Persian Emperor Darius. Another, more likely hypothesis (considering the region's Armenian background), says the name Daranalis or Daranaghis comes from the historical Armenian province of Daron, of which Dersim belonged.

Armenian regions-expansion of the House of Mamikonian
The name Daranaghi in what's today Dersim, that in the Mamigonian was times part of Daron.

The area that would become Dersim province formed part of Urartu, Media, the Achaemenid Empire, and the Greater Armenian region of Sophene. Sophene was later contested by the Roman and Parthian Empires and by their respective successors, the Byzantine and Sassanid Empires. Arabs invaded in the 7th century, and Seljuq Turks in the 11th.[16]

As of the end of the 19th century, the region (called "Dersim") was included in the Ottoman sancak (subprovince) of Hozat, including the city and the Vilayet of Mamuret-ül Aziz (Elazığ today), with the exception of the actual district of Pülümür, which was in the neighboring sancak of Erzincan, then a part of the Vilayet of Erzurum. This status continued through the first years of the Republic of Turkey, until 1936 when the name of the province ("Dersim") was changed to Tunceli, literally 'the land of bronze' in Turkish (tunç meaning 'bronze' and el (in this context) meaning 'land') after the brutal events of the Dersim rebellion. The town of Kalan was made the capital and the district of Pülümür was included in the new province.

Armenians of Dersim

Prior to the Armenian Genocide, The Armenians of Dersim lived peacefully alongside the Alevi Zazas, who partially assimilated into and had various Armenian beliefs.[17] During the Armenian Genocide, many of the region's Armenians were living among the Alevi Zazas of the region, with whom they had good relations.[18] This allowed the Armenians to avoid deportation, and therefore survive the genocide unscathed, because their Alevi neighbors didn't have any negative affinity towards Armenians, and as explained before were somewhat Armenian themselves. The Armenians lived quietly in their mountain villages until 1938, when Turkish soldiers invaded the region to put down a Dersim rebellion, and in the process blew up St Karapet's monastery and killed around 60,000-70,000[19][20][21] Alevis and Armenians alike, causing an abrupt end to any open Armenian life in the province. Armenians now were forced to assimilate fully into the Alevi population, moving from their majority Armenian villages to blend in better with the population, and therefore becoming Crypto-Armenians.[22] In modern times, many Armenians have recently tried to regain their identity with catalysts being Turkey's EU accession bid and Hrant Dink's murder, with the Union of Dersim Armenians being formed as an organization with their interests in mind.

Dersim Alevi Kurds

Tunceli is the only province of Turkey with an Alevi majority.

It has been noted that the Alevi faith in Dersim is different from general Turkish Alevism. In general Turkish Alevis consider themselves Turkic nomadic Shamanist Muslims and a branch of Islam, while most Dersim Alevis don't consider themselves as Muslims and categorize their Alevi beliefs as closer to Zoroastrian than Islam. This makes them different from Kurds of other provinces who are mainly Sunni Muslims. The Dersim Alevis do not go to mosques nor read from the Quran, and their religion consists mostly of traditional Kurdish culture, spiritual and folklore beliefs.

They have been practicing Alevism before the Ottoman Empire came to the Middle East and many believe Munzur, Dersim to be the heartland of the Alevi religion. Where holy places, all of which are natural features of the landscape, are found in abundance, and where the region's isolation has insulated it from the influence of Turkey'dominant Sunni sect of Islam, helping to keep its unique Alevi character relatively pure.[23] An example of this would be Newroz, the Kurdish New Year and a key date in Zoroastrian. The Alevi Kurds come out to sing and dance around the fire, they dress in traditional clothing, wear a red band over their heads and play soft music to their land. This is an important spiritual event to the Dersim Alevis and is considered a holy day, much like Christmas is to Christians. Well other Kurds celebrate this holiday for freedom, the Alevi Kurds celebrate it for mostly religious purposes. They sing and dance as a way to pray to their gods/land, so that their crops and flowers can grow healthy. They light candles so the good spirits may bring them luck inside their home. Their New Year is held usually between 18 and 24 March. The Dersim Alevi Kurds are a minority within a minority, as they're suppressed by not only their culture for being Kurdish, but also their religion. Majority of Turks and Kurds outside of Dersim/Tunceli are Sunni Muslim. The Alevi Kurds have a history of being attacked and discriminated against by Sunni Muslims in the past, both by the Ottoman Empire and Kurdish Sunni Muslims from other provinces due to their religion.

"If you really call yourself Alevi," says Bulut, "there is not really room for it in Islam, as a Muslim". --Kadir Bulut, 30, is one of the few remaining "dedes" in Tunceli.[24]

"Davutoglu's visit was an attempt at assimilation, he tried to define a Muslim, define us Alevis as Muslims, and we do not want this." --Engin Dogru, head of the Kurdish Democratic Regions Party in Tunceli[24]

Armenian Alevis

Because the Alevis have lived with their fellow Christian Armenians for centuries, they have Christian values mixed in with their religion more than any other Alevi tribes in Turkey. Because of this most Armenians chose to convert to Alevism instead of Sunni Islam when they were being suppressed by the Ottoman Empire. The Christian Armenians could still freely practice their Christian beliefs within Alevism in Dersim. Their fellow Kurdish Dersim Alevis would encourage their Christian beliefs and would keep their true religion a secret from being prosecuted from Sunni Muslims. Keeping the Armenians' religion and beliefs a secret, along with not participating in the Armenian Genocide and even helping the Armenians escape their death, the Dersim Armenians have a strong bond with the Dersim Alevis and Dersim Zazas.[25][26]

Name changes

After the Dersim rebellion, any villages and towns deemed to have non-Turkish names were renamed and given Turkish names in order to suppress any non-Turkish heritage.[27][28][29][30][31][32][33][34][29][35] During the Turkish Republican era, the words Kurdistan and Kurds were banned. The Turkish government had disguised the presence of the Kurds statistically by categorizing them as Mountain Turks.[36][37]

Nişanyan estimates that 4,000 Kurdish geographical locations have been changed (Both Zazaki and Kurmanji).[38] The people of Tunceli have been actively fighting to get their province reverted to its old Kurdish name "Dersim". Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) claimed they are working on what it called a “democratization package” that includes the restoration of the Kurdish name of the eastern province of Tunceli back to Dersim in early 2013, but there has been no updates or news of it since then.[39]


Tunceli Province is divided into eight districts (capital district in bold):

Although a distinct province, Tunceli was administered from Elazığ until 1947.

Cities and towns


Ninety-eight percent of Tunceli's population has at least a primary school education, leading to one of the highest rates of literacy for a district within Turkey. In 1979/1980 Tunceli had the highest number of students attending universities as well as the top entry points until the only higher education school shut down and was converted to a military base.

Tunceli University was established on May 22, 2008.[40] It has departments in international relations, economics, environmental protection engineering, industrial engineering, electronic engineering, computer engineering and mechanical engineering.


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External links

Coordinates: 39°12′53″N 39°28′17″E / 39.21472°N 39.47139°E

Beylik of Çubukoğulları

Beylik of Çubukoğulları (Turkish: Çubukoğulları Beyliği, literally "sons of Çubuk") was a small and short-lived principality in East Anatolia, Turkey between 1085 and 1112.

Çubuk was a commander in the Seljuk army. After the battle of Malazgirt in 1071, he fought in East Anatolia and was tasked with capturing the important fort of Harput (modern Elazığ). He captured the fort and continued making conquests in the surrounding area. He founded a principality under the suzerainty of the Seljuk Empire that included Palu, Çemişgezek, and Eğin (modern Kemaliye).

Çubuk was succeeded by his son Mehmet after 1092. After Mehmet's death in 1112 or 1113, the beylik was incorporated into the realm of Artuqids.

Cevizlidere mine

The Cevizlidere mine is a large copper mine located in Tunceli Province in eastern Turkey. Cevizlidere represents one of the largest copper reserves in Turkey, with estimated reserves of 445.7 million tonnes of ore grading 0.38% copper.

Erzurum Eyalet

The Erzurum Eyalet (Ottoman Turkish: ایالت ارضروم; Eyālet-i Erżurūm‎) was an eyalet of the Ottoman Empire. It was established after the conquest of Western Armenia by the Ottoman Empire. Its reported area in the 19th century was 11,463 square miles (29,690 km2).

Erzurum Vilayet

The Vilayet of Erzerum (Ottoman Turkish: ولايت ارضروم, Vilâyet-i Erzurum‎) was a first-level administrative division (vilayet) of the Ottoman Empire.

The vilayet of Erzurum shared borders with the Persian and Russian empires in the east and north-east, in the north with the Trebizond Vilayet, in the west with the vilayet of Sebastia, and in the south with the vilayets of Bitlis, Mamuret-ül Aziz and Van.

At the beginning of the 20th century it reportedly had an area of 29,614 square miles (76,700 km2), while the preliminary results of the first Ottoman census of 1885 (published in 1908) gave the population as 645,702. The accuracy of the population figures ranges from "approximate" to "merely conjectural" depending on the region from which they were gathered. It was one of the six Armenian vilayets in the eastern part of Anatolia, and, prior to World War I, had a large number of Armenians living there as well as Georgians, Pontic Greeks and Caucasus Greeks, and other ethnic groups, both Muslim and Christian [mainly Greek Orthodox and Armenian Apostolic (Orthodox/Gregorian)].


Hozat (Ottoman Turkish: خوزات‎ and Kurdish: Xozat‎ ,) is a small city and its surrounding district in Tunceli Province of Turkey. It has a population of 4,714. The mayor is Celaleddin Polat (CHP).

In the 10th century, it was known as Chozanon (Greek: Χόζανον), and formed a thema after its conquest by the Byzantine Empire shortly after 938.

List of populated places in Tunceli Province

Below is the list of populated places in Tunceli Province, Turkey by the districts. In the following lists first place in each list is the administrative center of the district.


Mazgirt, Kurdish: Mêzgir or Mazgêrd‎) is a small city and its surrounding district in Tunceli Province of Turkey. The city has a population of 1,712, most of which are Alevi. The mayor is Tekin Türkel (ÖDP). The town has a number of interesting buildings, such as an abandoned castle, an old Mosque, and an Armenian Church which is soon to be renovated.

Munzur University

Munzur University (Turkish:Munzur Üniversitesi) is a university located in Tunceli, Turkey. It was established in 2008 as "Tunceli Üniversitesi".

Munzur Valley National Park

The Munzur Valley National Park (Turkish: Munzur Vadisi Milli Parkı), established on December 21, 1971, is the largest and the most biodiverse national park in Turkey. It is located at the Munzur Valley of Munzur Mountain Range within Tunceli Province in eastern Anatolia.The Munzur Valley National Park, part of the Eastern Anatolian mountainous ecoregion, is one of the richest floristic areas of Anatolia. The national park was established to protect the region’s wildlife and scenic beauty.The protected area is administered by the Directorate-General of Nature Protection and National Parks (Turkish: Doğa Koruma ve Milli Parklar Genel Müdürlüğü) of the Ministry of Environment and Forest, although even outside of the administered area the landscape is very well preserved. A large part of this may be due to the Alevi inhabitants of the region, who respect nature as part of their religious beliefs.


Nazımiye (Kurdish: Qisle) is a district of Tunceli, Turkey. The town has a population of 1,636. It was also known as Kızıl Kilise.

Ovacık, Dersim

Ovacık (Ottoman Turkish: پلور‎ Pulur, Zazaki: Pulur, Kurdish: Pulur‎) is a town and its surrounding district in Tunceli Province of Turkey. It has a population of 3,227. It was the first town to elect a communist mayor, Fatih Mehmet Maçoğlu, member of the Communist Party of Turkey. He made public transport free of charge and in 2017 he opened a municipal agricultural cooperative which produced chickpeas, beans and honey and according to Maçoğlu gave work to 250 people. In the Municipal elections of 2019 Mustafa Sarigül from the CHP was elected mayor.


Pertek (Armenian: Բերդակ), (Kurdish: Pêrtag‎) is a small city and its surrounding district in Tunceli Province of modern Turkey. Pertag, means "tiny fortress" in Armenian.

The area of Pertek was ruled by different empires in its history. In the medieval period such as the Armenians and Byzantines before being taken over by different Islamic dynasties after the 11th century. Later it became part of the Ilkhanids and others and finally became part of the Ottoman Empire in the early 16th century. During the Ottoman period Pertek was a hereditary Kurdish sanjak. The old town of Pertek was located near the citadel but was abandoned in 1838 and moved to its current location. Before the Armenian genocide it was populated by Armenians, Turks and Kurds. Today the city is populated by Turks and Kurds. The mayor is Recai Vural (AKP). The city has a population of 6,341.

There are two historic Ottoman mosques in Pertek.The Baysungur mosque (16th century) and Celebi Ali mosque (16th century). The mosques were later dismantled and moved from the site of the old town to protect them from flooding in Lake Keban. Nearby Pertek is a medieval castle. There are other historic sights in the nearby area. The village of Sağman has a ruined citadel with a 16th-century mosque, tomb and tekke built by the Kurdish sanjak bey Keykusrav.

Pertek Castle

Pertek Castle (Turkish: Pertek Kalesi) is a castle in the Pertek district of the Tunceli province in Turkey.

It was built in the 11th century by the Seljukid Mengujekids beys. Under the Ottoman Empire it was restored and rebuilt, probably in the 16th century, at the same time as the Sungur Bey Mosque and Çelebi Ağa Mosque in Pertek. Its origins, however, probably lie at earlier times. According to the Italian archaeologist Roberto Dan, the castle exhibits characteristics of Urartu rock processing and was built for the control of nearby mines, especially copper mines.Originally, the castle overlooked Old Pertek. In 1974, the surrounding area was flooded by the Keban Dam, leaving the castle on an island five kilometers away from the northern shore of the new artificial lake. It is close to the boundary of the Elazığ province.

The castle's walls are completely made of natural stone blocks. In the southern walls, clinker and blue tiles were also used. There is an entrance in the northwest, and cisterns along with two defensive walls in the castle. According to Evliya Çelebi, the castle hosted a sculpture of an eagle. Below the castle, the Baysungur Mosque and the Çelebi Ali Mosque, built by Baysungur, the bey of Pertek, were located.


Pülümür, formerly known as Kuzucan or Kuzudjan, is a small city and its surrounding district in Tunceli Province, Turkey. The mayor is Müslüm Tosun (CHP). The city has a population of 1,656. The politician Hüseyin Kenan Aydın was born here in 1962. Also the politician Senol Akkılıç who is a Member of the Provincial Parliament with the Green Party in Vienna, Austria was born in Pülümür in 1965.

Seyrantepe Dam

The Seyrantepe Dam is an earth-fill embankment dam on the Peri River (a tributary of the Euphrates), located 15 km (9 mi) northwest of Karakoçan on the border of Elazığ and Tunceli Provinces, Turkey. Its primary purpose is hydroelectric power generation and is the fifth dam in the Peri River cascade. Construction on the dam began in 2003 and its power station was commissioned in 2008. It contains two 29.39 MW Francis turbine-generators for a total installed capacity of 58.78 MW. It is owned and operated by Limak Energy and Bilgin Energy. The sand and gravel-fill dam is 48.5 m (159 ft) tall.At the opening of the hydro plant, President (then-Prime Minister) Recep Tayyip Erdoğan used the opportunity to attack environmentalist critics, a campaign he sustained in office: he said

"While making these investments we are also taking the natural life into consideration. We know that most of the [environmentalist] criticisms in the media in this regard are ideological. On the other hand, we are already taking reasonable and sincere criticisms into account and we are examining them. Just like in the case where we consider the balance between democracy and security, we are continuing our balanced approach between development and environment. No one shall have any doubts on this. But we should not forget; while preaching environment, we should not forget to say that humans come first. Because humans come before anything else. The living conditions of our people are very crucial for us."

Speech during the opening ceremony of the Seyrantepe Hydroelectricity Plant, Peri Suyu


Dersim (alternatively: Dêsim) or Tunceli (until 2019) is a city in Turkey. It is the capital of Tunceli Province, located in the middle of Eastern Anatolia Region.

Tunceli (electoral district)

Tunceli is an electoral district of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey. It elects 2 members of parliament (deputies) to represent the province of the same name for a four-year term by the D'Hondt method, a party-list proportional representation system.

Uzunçayır Dam

The Uzunçayır Dam is an embankment dam on the Munzur River, located 14 km (9 mi) south of Tunceli in Tunceli Province, Turkey. Constructed between 1994 and 2009, the development was backed by the Turkish State Hydraulic Works. The primary purpose of the dam is hydroelectric power generation and it supports an 84 MW power station.


Çemişgezek (Armenian: Չմշկածագ Čmškacag), Ottoman Turkish: چمشکزک‎, Kurdish: Melkişî‎, Medieval Greek: Chosomachon) is a small Turkish city and its surrounding district in Tunceli Province of Turkey. The city has a population of 2,819, while whole district has a population of 7,929. The mayor is Ahmet Şadan Ersoy (CHP).

The name Çemişgezek (in Armenian Չմշկածագ = ուր որ Չմշկիկը ծագեցաւ, where Tzimiskes was born) is related to the Armenian general of the Eastern Roman forces John Tzimiskes, who defeated the Arabs in Mesopotamia, returned to Constantinople and usurped the imperial throne, reigning as emperor from December 11, 969, to January 10, 976.

Tunceli Province of Turkey


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