Sivas (the late-Classical and Medieval Sebastia, sometimes spelt Sebastea or Sebasteia, Greek: Σεβάστεια, Armenian: Սեբաստիա) is the provincial capital of Sivas Province in Turkey. According to the 2007 Turkish census, its population was 296402.
The city lies at an elevation of 4,193 feet (1,285 m) in the broad valley of the Kızılırmak river, and is a moderately-sized trade center and industrial city, although the economy has traditionally been based on agriculture. Rail repair shops as well as a thriving industry of manufacturing rugs, bricks, cement, and cotton and woolen textiles are all important for the economy of the city. The surrounding region is a cereal-producing area and with large deposits of iron ore, which are worked at Divriği.
Sivas is also communications center to the north-south and west-east trade routes to Iraq and Iran, respectively. With the development of railways, the city gained new economic importance, as it stands at the junction of several railways and highways and is linked by air with Istanbul via Ankara, as well as an important rail line linking the cities of Kayseri, Samsun, and Erzurum.
Ancient and medieval
Excavations at a mound known as Topraktepe indicate Hittite settlement in the area, though little is known of Sivas' history prior to its emergence in the Roman period. In 64 B.C. as part of his reorganization of Asia Minor after the Third Mithridatic War, Pompey the Great founded a city on the site called "Megalopolis". Numismatic evidence suggests that Megalopolis changed its name in the last years of the 1st century B.C. to "Sebasteia" in honor of the emperor Augustus: Σεβάστεια is the feminine form of the usual Greek translation of Augustus. The name "Sivas" is the Turkish version deriving from the name Sebasteia.
Sebastea, which became the capital of the province of Armenia Minor under the emperor Diocletian, was a town of some importance in the early history of the Christian Church; it was the home of Saint Blaise and St. Peter of Sebaste, who were bishops of the town, and of Eustathius, one of the early founders of monasticism in Anatolia — all in the 4th century; the place of martyrdom of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste, also 4th century; the birthplace (1676) of Mekhitar, the founder of the Mekhitarist Order. Several Greek Orthodox and Armenian patriarchs were born in Sebaste, among them Atticus, the 5th‑century Patriarch of Constantinople, and Michael, the 16th‑century Patriarch of Echmiadzin.,
The city was briefly the headquarters of the Armenian church. The Armenian king Sennacherib John of Vaspurakan (the southern Armenian kingdom, whose parts make up modern day province of Van, Turkey) ceded his land to the Byzantine emperor Basil II in 1021 A.D. and migrated to Sivas with many of his nobles and people and became a vassal of the Byzantines, until the city was conquered by the Turkmen Danishmend dynasty (1155–1192) after the Battle of Manzikert in 1071.
In 1174, the city was captured by Seljuk ruler Kilij Arslan II and periodically served as capital of the Seljuk empire along with Konya. Under Seljuk rule, Sivas was an important center of trade and site of a citadel, along with mosques and madrasahs (religious educational institutions), four of which survive today and one of which houses the Sivas Museum.
The city fell to the Ottoman Sultan Bayezid i (1389–1402) in 1398, was lost to Timur (Tamerlane; 1336–1405) in 1400, and was recaptured by the Ottomans in 1408. Under the Ottomans, Sivas served as the administrative center of the province of Rum until about the late nineteenth century.
The Sivas Congress was held in this city on 4 September 1919. With the arrival of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (1881–1938), the founder of the Turkish Republic, from Amasya, the Congress of Sivas is considered a turning point in the formation of the Turkish Republic. It was at this congress that Kemal's position as chair of the executive committee of the national resistance was confirmed. (see Turkish War of Independence)
On July 2, 1993, the Sivas massacre took place: thirty-seven intellectuals and local Alevis participating in the Pir Sultan Abdal Cultural and Literary Festival were killed when the Madımak Hotel in the centre of Sivas was burnt down by 15.000 members of various anti-democratic, pro-shariah radical islamist groups protesting against the presence of Aziz Nesin, the Turkish translator of Salman Rushdie's The Satanic Verses. Individuals who lost their lives that day included prominent Alevi artists and intellectuals such as Muhlis Akarsu, Metin Altiok, Behçet Aysan, Nesimi Cimen and Ugur Kaynar, as well as a Dutch anthropologist. Nesin managed to escape the burning building by the help of a fireman, and was carried away to safety from the fanatical mob. Protested by many Turkish and Kurdish singers e.g. Grup Yorum, Arif Sağ, Musa Eroğlu, Selda Bağcan, İlkay Akkaya and more, who sang Aşık Veysel's song "Sivas Ellerinde Sazim Calinir", the tragic and much-condemned incident has been a turnpoint in Turkish political history, with the Government taking a harder stance against religious fanaticism, militant Islam, and antisecularism. There was a national campaign in late 2006 to convert the hotel into a museum to commemorate the tragedy, carried out by the Pir Sultan Abdal Cultural Institute itself, the outcome of which is yet to be determined.
A cultural hub as well as an industrial one, Sivas features many monuments of 13th-century Seljuk architecture. Mavi Medrese from 1271, Şifaiye Medresesi from 1218 and the Çifte Minare Medresesi from 1271 with its intricately carved facade and minarets are among the most noteworthy edifices. The oldest mosque is the Great Mosque dating from the Turkmen era. Near Sivas lay the Armenian Christian monastery of the Holy Cross, with its royal throne and other relics. It is now entirely destroyed.
Ulu Camii (Mosque) completed in 1196, is famous for its simplicity and it is a showcase for the Seljuk Turks' architectural success. The city is also famous for its Medreses (Madrasa). Gök Medresesi (the Celestial Madrasa) and Mavi Medrese were built in 1271. On the other hand, Sifaiye Medresesi was completed earlier, in the eve of the second wave of Turkic immigration to Anatolia, in 1218 and the with its intricately carved facade and minarets are among the most noteworthy edifices carries on the traditional Seljuk Medrese plan.
The city also contains some of the finest examples of the Ottoman architectural style. Kurşunlu Hamamı (Bath) which was completed in 1576, is the largest bath in the city and it contains many details from the classical Ottoman bath building. Behrampaşa Hanı (Caravansaray), was completed in 1573 and it is famous for its lion motives around its windows.
Atatürk Kongre ve Etnografya Müzesi (Atatürk Congress and Ethnography Museum) is a museum that is dedicated to the Sivas Congress and the ethnographic pieces special to the region.
Pir Sultan Abdal - Legendary (Alevi poetry|Alevi poet)
Aşık Veysel - Alevi poet of the Turkish folk literature
Nebahat Albayrak - Turkish-Dutch politician and currently state minister in the Netherland's government
Ahmet Ayık - World and Olympic champion sports wrestler
Mekhitar of Sebastia - founder of the Mekhitarist Order of Armenian Catholic monks.
Taniel Varouzhan - Armenian poet, killed in the events of 1915.
Hovasap of Sebastia - 16th-century Armenian poet.
Emel Sayın - Turkish singer of Ottoman Classical Music.