Location of Tunceli Province in Turkey
|Region||Central East Anatolia|
|Foundation||25 December 1935|
|• Electoral district||Tunceli|
|• Governor||Mehmet Ali Özkan|
|• Mayor||Fatih Mehmet Maçoğlu|
|• Total||7,774 km2 (3,002 sq mi)|
|• Density||11/km2 (29/sq mi)|
Tunceli Province (Turkish: Tunceli ili, Kurdish: Parêzgeha Dêrsimê), formerly Dersim Province, is located in the Eastern Anatolia region of Turkey. The least densely-populated province in Turkey, it was originally named Dersim Province (Dersim vilayeti), then demoted to a district (Dersim kazası) and incorporated into Elâzığ Province in 1926. The province is considered part of Turkish Kurdistan and has a Kurdish majority. It is moreover the only province in Turkey with an Alevi majority.
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.
The history of the province stretches back to antiquity. It was mentioned as Daranalis by Ptolemy, and seemingly, it was referred to as Daranis before him. One theory as to the origin of the name associates with Darius the Great. Another, more likely hypothesis, considering the region's Armenian background, says the name Daranalis or Daranaghis comes from the historical Armenian province of Daron, of which Dersim belonged.
The area that would become Dersim province formed part of Urartu, Media, the Achaemenid Empire, and the Greater Armenian region of Sophene. Sophene was later contested by the Roman and Parthian Empires and by their respective successors, the Byzantine and Sasanian Empires. Arabs invaded in the 7th century, and Seljuq Turks in the 11th.
As of the end of the 19th century, the region, called Dersim, was included in the Ottoman sancak (sub-province) of Hozat, including the city and the Mamuret-ul-Aziz Vilayet (now Elazığ), with the exception of the actual district of Pülümür, which was in the neighboring sancak of Erzincan, then a part of the Erzurum Vilayet. This status continued through the first years of the Republic of Turkey, until 1936 when the name of the province ("Dersim") was changed to Tunceli, literally 'the land of bronze' in Turkish (tunç meaning 'bronze' and el (in this context) meaning 'land') after the brutal events of the Dersim rebellion. The town of Kalan was made the capital and the district of Pülümür was included in the new province.
Following the Tunceli Law 1935, which demanded a more powerful Government in the region, the Fourth Inspectorate-General (Umumi Müfettişlik, UM) was created in January 1936. The fourth UM span over the provinces of Elaziğ, Erzincan, Bingöl and Tunceli, and was governed by a Governor Commander. Most of the employees in the municipality were to be filled with military personnel and the Governor-Commander had the authority to evacuate whole villages and resettle them in other parts. Also the juridical guarantees did not comply with the law in the other parts in Turkey. The trials were at most 15 days long and sentences could not be appealed. For a release, the Governor Commander had to give his consent. The application of the death penalty was under the authority of the Governor-Commander, while normally it would be the authority of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey to approve such a punishment. In 1946 the Tunceli Law was abolished and the state of emergency removed but the authority of the fourth UM was transferred to the military. The Inspectorates-General was dissolved in 1952 during the Government of the Democrat Party.
It has the lowest population density of any province in Turkey, just 9.8 inhabitants/km2.
Tunceli's language distribution is 69.5% Kurdish, 29.8% Turkish and 0.74% Armenian. Kurmanji Kurdish is the main dialect around Pertek, while Zaza is spoken in Hozat, Pülümür, Ovacık and Nazımiye. Both Kurmanji and Zaza is spoken in Tunceli town and Mazgirt.
They have been practicing a branch of Alevism before the Ottoman Empire came to the Middle East and many believe Munzur, Dersim to be the heartland of the Alevi. Where holy places, all of which are natural features of the landscape, are found in abundance, and where the region's isolation has insulated it from the influence of Turkeys' dominant Sunni sect of Islam, helping to keep its unique Alevi character relatively pure.
Kadir Bulut, one of the few remaining "dedes" in Tunceli, stated that "If you really call yourself Alevi, there is not really room for it in Islam". On Prime Minister Davutoğlu's visit to Tunceli, Engin Dogru, head of the Kurdish Democratic Regions Party, stated that "Davutoglu's visit was an attempt at assimilation, he tried to define a Muslim, and we do not want this."
Many of the region's Armenians were living among the Alevi Zazas of the region, with whom they had good relations. This allowed the Armenians to avoid deportation because their Alevi neighbors didn't have any negative affinity towards Armenians. The Armenians lived quietly in their mountain villages until 1938, when Turkish Armed Forces soldiers invaded the region to put down a Dersim rebellion, and in the process blew up St Karapet's Monastery and killed around 60,000-70,000.
It is said that ancient Greek historians and geographers named the Dersim region Daranis and Derksene. Baytar Nuri includes this information at the entrance of his book Dersim in Kurdistan history. After the Dersim rebellion, any villages and towns deemed to have non-Turkish names were renamed and given Turkish names in order to suppress any non-Turkish heritage. During the Turkish Republican era, the words Kurdistan and Kurds were banned. The Turkish government had disguised the presence of the Kurds statistically by categorizing them as Mountain Turks.
Nişanyan estimates that 4,000 Kurdish geographical locations have been changed (both Zazaki and Kurmanji). The people of Tunceli have been actively fighting to get their province reverted to its old Kurdish name "Dersim". Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) claimed they are working on what it called a “democratization package” that includes the restoration of the Kurdish name of the eastern province of Tunceli back to Dersim in early 2013, but there has been no updates or news of it since then.
Tunceli Province is divided into eight districts:
Tunceli was administered as part of Elazığ until 1947.
In the municipal elections held in March 2019, Fatih Mehmet Maçoğlu won with 32% of the votes cast. He ran as the candidate of the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP), making him the first communist mayor of a municipality in Turkey. In his first year in office, he has established free public transport in parts of the city and the development of industrial and agricultural cooperatives, which are meant to tackle unemployment, have already begun.
Tunceli University was established on May 22, 2008.
During the 1930s and 1940s, the government had disguised the presence of the Kurds statistically by categorizing them as "Mountain Turks."