Description of the Plain of Kindirantz (Göllü Ovasi)

An extract from his book "Armenia, Travels and Studies" (volume 2, pages 138-140) describing the plain of Kindirantz (Göllü Ovasi) in the 1890s

For over an hour we were involved in this sea of mountains, our course being clearly indicated by a line of telegraph posts, dipping and rising to the troughs and up the crests. But at a quarter before twelve we emerged from this wild and uninhabited district, and again overlooked the lake. We were approaching the easterly end of the beautiful bay of Baghmesheh (garden of oak), and were about to follow the upper slopes of the lofty block of hills which confine the narrow respite of the shore. Our present position was about two miles distant from the calm water, and at a considerable elevation above its level. We rode for half-an-hour along these slopes, through a bush of oak which nowhere attains the proportions of trees. A few boats were moored against the sand, and we could descry a few huts. Zenith and sea were intensely blue; but grey vapours came floating towards us, concealing all but the shining summit of Sipan. From the further extremity of the bay we again saw the isle of Akhtamar, and, behind it, dimly perceived, the rock of Van.

It cost us little effort to ascend from our track on the hillside to the summit of the ridge which forms a headland on the west. The view from that eminence in a westerly direction recalled none of the landscapes through which we had passed. At our feet lay a plain of perfectly level surface, enclosed on all sides by hills. On the side of the lake a line of heights shut out this plain from the shore, resembling a huge dam. After a descent of half-an-hour we reached the floor of the formation, which is a little more elevated than the surface of the lake. Under this eastern wall lies the Armenian hamlet of Göli, while, on an opposite slope, at the head of the valley into which the plain narrows, is situated the village of Kindirantz. We rode for half-an-hour from the first to the last of these settlements, deviating south of our direct course. I was anxious to visit in his capital the Kaimakam of Garchigan. For Kindirantz is no less a place than the seat of government for that caza, although it cannot boast of more than thirty houses ¹. We arrived before two o’clock, having completed a distance of some seventeen miles from Enzakh.

The Kaimakam was at his post and delighted to receive us. We found in him an official who did honour to his country, active and strenuous in spite of his white hair. He had built himself a house with solid walls of masonry, a rare luxury in these wilds. It had of course been erected by Armenian workmen; but he complained of the backwardness and laziness of the Armenians inhabiting his administrative district. He told me that it comprised no less than seventy-six villages, of which only twelve were peopled by that race. But I noted that of the five settlements in the plain of Kindirantz, three, including his place of residence, were Armenian. The largest village in his caza was, he said, Kordikran, inhabited by Kurds. But it was not so well situated for purposes of administration as Kindirantz. The Kurds in his district were all settled on the land, and formed the large majority of the population. They sent recruits to the Nizam or regular army. He assured me that since his arrival in the country complete security for life and property prevailed - I have no reason to doubt his word.

Kindirantz must be five or six miles distant from the lake, and the plain may have a length from north to south of five miles, with an average breadth of about two miles. A nice stream descends from the hills in the neighbourhood of the little town. In connection with this plain I may mention a natural phenomenon which repeats itself every year. When the snows melt in spring and the torrents rush down from the mountains, the plain becomes completely submerged. The line of heights on the side of the lake prevent the egress of the waters, which attain in places a depth of about ten feet. The flood ultimately escapes through three principal subterraneous passages, besides several minor outlets. The water rushes through these natural tunnels in the dam formed by the cliffs, but it takes a considerable time for it all to disappear. When the land is again revealed, the peasants sow their crops, which, in some years, yield an excellent harvest. But it often happens that they are withered by the fierce sun of summer, which has already commenced by the time that the lake has run out. To this cause the Kaimakam attributed the poverty of the neighbouring villages. I have no doubt that the little stream, if properly utilised, would go far towards irrigating their lands; and if a proper tunnel were cut, and reservoirs constructed, the soil might be made as fertile as any in the world.

¹ Cuinet places the population of Kindirantz at 4064 souls, which is absurd. Nor are there any Jews in the place. His statistics for the caza include 600 gypsies and some Yezidis; but the Kaimakam assured me that 100 was a better figure for the gypsies, while he was not aware of the presence of any Yezidis.