334 JOURNEYS IN KURDISTAN LETTER xxsr
VAN,1 ARMENIA, Nov. 4.
VAN and its surroundings are at once so interesting
and picturesque that it is remarkable that they are
comparatively seldom visited by travellers. Probably
1 Van may be considered the capital of that part of Kurdistan which we
know as Armenia, but it must be remembered that under the present
Government of Turkey Armenia is a prohibited name, and has ceased to
be "a geographical expression." Cyclopaedias containing articles on
Armenia, and school books with any allusions to Armenian history, or to
the geography of any district referred to as Armenia, are not allowed to
enter Asia Minor, and no foreign maps which contain the province of
Armenia are allowed to be used in the foreign schools, or even to be re-
tained in the country. Of the four millions of the Armenian race 2,500,000
are subjects of the Sultan, and with few exceptions are distinguished for
their loyalty and their devotion to peaceful pursuits.
The portion of Armenia which lies within the Turkish frontier consists
for the most part of table-lands from 5000 to 6000 feet in elevation, inter-
sected by mountain ranges and watered by several rivers, the principal of
which are the Euphrates, the Tigris, and the Aras. Of its many lakes
the Dead Sea of Van is the principal, its dimensions being estimated
at twice the area of the Lake of Geneva, and at eighty miles in length
by twenty-five in breadth. From its exquisitely beautiful shores rise the
two magnificent extinct volcanoes, the Sipan Dagh, with an altitude of
over 12,000 feet, and the Nimrud Dagh, with a crater five miles in diameter
and 1600 feet in depth, the top of its wall being over 9000 feet in height.
The Armenians claim an antiquity exceeding that of any other nation,
and profess to trace their descent from Haik, the son of Togarmah, the
grandson of Japhet, who fled from the tyranny of Belus, King of Assyria,
into the country which in the Armenian tongue is known by his name, as
Haikh or Jffaizdani. It may be said of the Armenians that the splendour
and misery of their national history exceed those of any other race.