Where to Visit in Tunceli

Tunceli Province, formerly Dersim Province, is located in the Eastern Anatolia Region of Turkey. It was originally named Dersim Province (Dersim vilayeti), then demoted to a district (Dersim kazası) and incorporated into Elazığ Province in 1926.  The province is considered part of Turkish Kurdistan and has a Kurdish majority. Moreover, it is the only province in Turkey with an Alevi majority.

The province, apart from the central district, is divided into seven districts named Çemişgezek, Hozat, Mazgirt, Nazımiye,  Ovacık, Pertek and Pülümür. The province has eight municipalities, 366 villages and 1,087 hamlets.

Tunceli, which is a modern name, literally means “bronze fist” in Turkish (tunç meaning “bronze” and eli (in this context) meaning “fist”). It shares the name with the military operation that the Dersim Massacre was conducted under.

It has been proposed that the name Dersim is connected with various placenames mentioned by ancient and classical writers, such as Daranis, Derxene (a district of Armenia mentioned by Pliny), and Daranalis/Daranaghi (a district of Armenia mentioned by Ptolemy, Agathangelos, and Faustus of Byzantium). One theory as to the origin of the name associates it with Darius the Great.

One Armenian folk tradition derives the name Dersim from a certain 17th-century priest named Der Simon, who, fearing the maurading Celali rebels, proposed that his parishioners convert to the Alevi faith of their Kurdish neighbors. The proposal was accepted, and the Armenian converts renamed their home region Dersimon in honor of their religious leader, which later transformed into Dersim.

The adjacent provinces are Erzincan to the north and west, Elazığ to the south, and Bingöl to the east. The province covers an area of 7,774 km2 (3,002 sq mi) and has a population of 76,699. Tunceli is traversed by the northeasterly line of equal latitude and longitude. The Munzur Valley National Park is also situated in the province.

Tunceli Province is a plateau characterized by its high, thickly forested mountain ranges. The historical region of Dersim, which largely corresponds to Tunceli Province, lies roughly between the Karasu and Murat rivers, both tributaries of the Euphrates. Tunceli Province has the lowest population density of any province in Turkey, at just 11 inhabitants/km2.

In 1927, Tunceli’s language distribution was 69.5% Kurmanji Kurdish and Zazaki, 29.8% Turkish and 0.74% Armenian. Kurmanji Kurdish is the main dialect around Pertek, while Zazaki is spoken in Hozat, Pülümür, Ovacık and Nazımiye. Both Kurmanji and Zaza are spoken in Tunceli town and Mazgirt. Tunceli University was established on May 22, 2008. Tunceli is famous for excellent rankings in National Education statistics.

Tunceli is known for its old buildings such as the Çelebi Ağa Mosque, Elti Hatun Mosque, Mazgirt Castle, Pertek Castle, and the Derun-i Hisar Castle.

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