History of Bitlis

Though the current population of Bitlis is mostly Kurdish, prior to World War I, this region was mainly inhabited by Armenians. In fact, as per the Armenian sources, the city was originally known as Bagesh. Around 640 A.D. the Muslim Arabs conquered the region. Their dominance continued till 14th century when the Kurdish dynasty took over Bitlis. Around 1500, the Ottoman ruler conquered the city but showed leniency on the local rulers and let them be autonomous. This autonomy was however abolished by the central Ottoman government in 1847. During World War I, Russia took over this small town and caused major damage to its industries, progress and population.