A Mosque and an Islamic School Now Stand in the Place of the Armenian Church of Samsun

Special for the Armenian Weekly

In a short TV report, the local “Samsun Haber TV” station (samsunhaber.tc) recently covered the Armenian past of the Selahiye neighborhood in the northern Turkish city of Samsun.

In the report, Emin Kirbiyik, the head of the Samsun Local History Community, said that the 30 August Islamic Imam-Hatip Middle School, which offers an Islamic curriculum to pupils, and the Selahiye mosque in the neighborhood, were built on the property that housed an Armenian church before 1915. The church Kirbiyik refers to is the Surp Nigogayos Armenian Apostolic Church.

The Surp Nigogayos Armenian Apostolic Church

Also, the Gazi Pasa (Ghazi Pasha) Primary School near the 30 August Imam Hatip Middle School served as the home of the church’s Armenian priest and as an Armenian orphanage, said Kirbiyik. Some houses in the area still carry traces of Armenian architecture.

The church was destroyed in 1936 and replaced by the 30 August Primary School. The official website of the school also confirms the TV report:

“The construction of the 30 August Primary School was begun in 1936 and completed in 1938. The building was built on the foundation of the Armenian Church, which was destroyed.”

According to the website of Gazi Pasa Primary School:

“There used to be a church where the 30 August Primary School is today. And the Gazi Pasa Primary School was the guesthouse of the priest of the church. This school was once used as ‘Darul Eytam’ [orphanage] by Armenians back in those days. The decision to use this building as a school was made by Kazim Pasha, the governor of the city. In 1930, it was opened as an official primary school.”

Today, Samsun does not have an Armenian community, but the Selahiye neighborhood, as well as the rest of Samsun, was home to many Armenians before the Armenian Genocide.

The Selahiye mosque (Photo: Haber)

According to the statistics of the Patriarchate and the Ottoman population census of 1914, there were 35,907 Armenians in Samsun (Canik). There were also 49 churches and 74 schools. The Armenian community also greatly contributed to the culture of the city. Tomas Fasulyeciyan, one of the founders of Ottoman theater, for example, established the first theater in Samsun in 1890’s.

Professor Raymond Kevorkian describes the extermination process of Armenian communities from Samsun in his book The Armenian Genocide: A Complete History.


Armenian, Greek, and Assyrian Roots of Samsun

Samsun is located in northeastern Anatolia, or the ancient Pontos region.

Samsun, like other ancient Pontian cities, was established by Greeks from Miletus in about the 7th century B.C. Many famous churches, monasteries and schools are testaments to the resilience of Hellenism and Christianity in the region. Pontos gave the world many great thinkers, such as the philosopher Diogenes of Sinope (Sinop) and the geographer Strabo of Amasia (Amasya).

Assyrians too are deeply rooted in the region.  According to the International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, edited by Geoffrey W. Bromiley, in Pontos, “There are traces of Assyrian culture from the third millennium B.C.”

The history of Samsun is also closely linked with Armenia and Armenian highlands. Under Byzantine rule, Samsun was a part of the administrative region of Armenia.

Samsun, 1912. Female pupils and teachers of the Armenian school. The identity of only one is known; Youliane Sarkissian (seated on right) (Photo: Norayr Dadourian collection, Los Angeles/Houshamadyan)

According to “Armenian Pontus: The Trebizond-Black Sea Communities,” edited by Professor Richard G. Hovannisian, “There were Armenian communities in the Pontus-Black Sea region across the centuries until their violent elimination in the first decades of the twentieth century.”

The book is an invaluable source for those who want to discover the Armenian roots of northern Turkey.

Today, Samsun is an all-Muslim, Turkish city. The indigenous Greek, Armenian, and Assyrian communities have been exterminated. This change in demographics and culture was accomplished through mass murder, forced deportations, forced conversions to Islam, and forced seizures of the property by the perpetrators.

It has been 102 years since the Armenian Genocide, but the Turkish government is still in proud denial. How long will it take Turkey to finally stop denying the destruction and the infinite suffering brought to the victims of the Armenian Genocide as well as all other natives of Turkey?


Uzay Bulut

Uzay Bulut

Uzay Bulut is a Turkish journalist and political analyst formerly based in Ankara. She is a fellow at the Middle East Forum (MEF) and is currently based in Washington D.C. Bulut’s journalistic work focuses mainly on Turkish politics, ethnic and religious minorities in Turkey, and antisemitism.


  1. Great article by Uzay Bulut, we must NEVER FORGET.

    I am having trouble trying to share it I keep getting ” Error

    App Not Set Up: This app is still in development mode, and you don’t have access to it. Switch to a registered test user or ask an app admin for permissions.”

    Please can you look into this?

  2. Turkey is pursuing a course that appears determined to rid itself of every memory of the Armenian people who added joy, warmth, education, dedication and hard work to the former Ottoman empire.
    This is doubtless the result of increasing national guilt. Each piece of Armenian property subsumed by the Turkish government was paid for with Armenian blood.
    When will it end?

    I am not Armenian. I have read nearly all the histories, analyses and remembrances that have been published to date. I have schooled myself in Balkan, Ottoman and European war history from 1860’s to 1923. I am trying to understand this insanity: Bernard Lewis should be stripped of his academic credentials for his vociferous support of the denialists. He and others were paid hacks.
    I will not stop reading. I will not stop learning. I’m forever grateful to live in the USA where I am free to continue my enlightening.

  3. The Armenian Church of Samsun, is one of the 2,500 Armenian churches of Western Armenia that were demolished by the Turks. Not only did the Turks empty out the six Western Armenian provinces of their entire Christian Armenian population, but in addition, they wiped out almost every single Armenian church, school, and monument from those lands.

    It’s extremely important that all of the “hidden” Islamicised Armenians of present-day eastern Turkey (who are the descendants of Armenian Genocide survivors, forced into converting to Islam) be made fully aware that their true religion is not Islam. Actually, many of them, after rediscovering and reclaiming their Armenian roots over the past ten years, have also taken it upon themselves to rightfully renounce Islam, and get baptized as Christians. Hopefully, the rest of these “hidden” Islamicised Armenians will also follow the same path.

    On the subject of religion, there’s really no place for any other religion in the Armenian culture other than Christianity, and specifically, Armenian Christianity. Our religious symbol is, and will always be the adorable Armenian Cross. On the other hand, let’s not forget that the history of Armenia does not begin in 301 AD, when it became the first nation to adopt Christianity as a state religion. Actually, Armenia’s pre-Christian period of history is much longer than its Christian period of history. Therefore, the Armenian cultural traditions from that period of time (prior to 301 AD), should be incorporated into the present-day Armenian culture. I also believe that Garegin Nzhdeh’s “Tseghakron ideology” should constitute a huge part of our religion. In other words, based on this ideology, the religion of the Armenian people revolves around the Armenian Nation; and therefore, the Armenian Nation’s values and aspirations are placed above everything else.

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