An orderly city of around 200,000 people, SİVAS figures on few visitors’ itineraries – a pity, since it’s an immensely likeable place, with a concentration of Selçuk monuments that are up there with the finest in existence. Most were built during the Sultanate of Rum, and the period of Mongol sovereignty that followed under the İlhanids; with their highly decorative facades and elaborately carved portals, they epitomize architectural styles of the era. Most of these buildings are conveniently grouped together in the very centre of town, around a small area just off Konak Meydanı. The remainder are all within easy walking distance – as are all the good places to stay and eat.
Sivas has been settled since Hittite times, and according to local sources was later a key centre of the Sivas Frig Empire (1200 BC), which seems to have been consigned to historical oblivion. The town’s real flowering came during Selçuk times, after the Battle of Manzikert (1071). Sivas intermittently served as the Selçuk capital during the Sultanate of Rum in the mid-twelfth century, before passing into the hands of İlhanid Mongols during the late thirteenth century. The Ottomans took over in 1396, only to be ousted by the Mongols four years later under Tamerlane, who razed much of the city after an eighteen-day siege, and put its Christian inhabitants to the sword. The Ottomans returned in 1408 and Sivas pretty much faded out of history until a nineteenth-century reawakening.
The Sivas Massacre
The Sivas Massacre
Mention Sivas to any Turk, and you’ll likely receive an abbreviated account of the events of 2 July, 1993 – a tragic massacre that has given the city an enduring notoriety, especially given the current friction between its secular and religious elements.
A group of Alevi intellectuals had gathered inside the Madımak Hotel for a small festival, celebrating the work of a sixteenth-century Alevi poet. One of their number, Aziz Nasin, had recently published translated extracts from Salman Rushdie’s The Satanic Verses, and a vengeful mob of over a thousand Islamic fundamentalists gathered outside in protest after Friday prayers. The hotel was set alight; 37 perished, including hotel guests and employees. Aziz himself managed to escape.