Exploring cultures and communities – the slow way

The island in Lake Van, shown on modern maps with the name Akdamar, has a more historic name: Akhtamar. The island is rich with Armenian associations, but Turkey has been keen to distance the island from its cultural history. That change of name is part of a wider tale. Karlos Zurutuza reports from eastern Turkey.

article summary —

From the small quayside at Geva? it is no more than a twenty minute boat ride to Akhtamar, an island in Lake Van. A short journey laden with meaning, for Akhtamar is full of heady symbolism. It is a peaceful spot. The island's rocky shores have never been beaten by violent waves. Here in a mountain basin at over sixteen hundred metres above sea level, Turkey's largest lake and its wild surroundings are all tranquillity.

A display of white painted stones on the slopes of Akhtamar Island proclaims a stark message reminding visitors that the Motherland is indivisible, and so alluding to the contested status of the island. Historically part of Kurdistan, politically part of Turkey, but spiritually part of Armenia. Whose Motherland?

This is just an excerpt. If you are a subscriber to hidden europe magazine, you can log in to read the full text online. Of course you can also read the full article in the print edition of hidden europe 25.


Karlos Zurutuza is hidden europe's special correspondent. He writes in Basque, Spanish and English. His work has been published in various magazines and newspapers.

This article was published in hidden europe 25.