The sandjak (district) of Dersim at the beginning of the 20th century

To Dersim

Launching a chapter regarding the region of Dersim in the Houshamadyan website has been a priority for us. However, the daily work grind and striving to obtain as many primary source materials as possible has postponed this desire becoming reality.

We always regarded preparing and publishing scholarly articles on the local history and social environment of Dersim Armenians during the Ottoman Empire era as an important step for Houshamadyan. And behold, we have taken that step.
Many readers have impatiently waited for this day. We hope that our articles and accompanying photos and sketches portray the rich former life of Dersim Armenians adequately. Today, the history of Dersim Armenians continues to attract the attention of many, given that present-day Dersim residents are masters of a unique identity. Many of them do not hide their Armenian identity and there are quite a few who want to learn more about their native land and its history. For this reason the Houshamdayn team is pleased to assist in the overall attempt to reconstruct the Armenian memory of this unique place.

Studying a past life and memory has never been an easy task and we daily strive to overcome the obstacles involved. In the case of Dersim, the first problem we faced was the place name itself. By the 19th century, Dersim had already become a sandjak (administrative district) encompassing mostly Armenian populated plain or semi-plain settlements like Charsandjak and Chmshgadzak. What is interesting, however, is that local Armenians didn’t regard themselves as Dersim residents, but rather saw themselves connected to the Harput/Kharpert Plain. Back then, it was commonly understood that people who lived in the mountainous northern and eastern reaches of the sandjak were considered “Dersimtsi” (people of Dersim). Today, however, all residents of Tunceli, whether living in the mountains of plains, are considered to be ”Dersimtsi”. The Dersim presented in the pages of Houshamadyan also encompasses the Armenians of Charsandjak and Chmshgadzak. While true that the “Dersimtsi” identity didn’t directly refer to them, they were administratively a part of the Dersim sandjak.

To enrich our pages regarding Dersim we need the participation of our readers. We cherish old photos (family or others) letters, keepsakes and other items from Dersim that have survived from the Ottoman era – their importance cannot be overstated. Thus, we would ask our readers to send us digitized copies of such items. Our special thanks to George Aghjayan for preparing a map of Dersim for Houshamadyan. Thanks also to NAASR (Belmont, MA), Cihangir Günduoğdu and Vazken Andréassian for providing us with important material on Dersim.