Kurdistan or Koordistan
Kurdistan Or Koordistan, an extensive tract of land in the eastern portion of Asiatic Turkey and in Western Persia. It is chiefly occupied by the Kurds, after whom it is called, but its boundary-line is not definitely established, and the estimates of its area and population greatly differ. The population, according to Russegger (Reisen in Europa, Asien, und Afrika, 183541), amounted to about 3,000,000; according to Carl Ritter, to only 800,000; according to Chambers, 100,000; according to Appleton, 40,000. The extent of Turkish Kurdisan is estimated at about 13,000 square miles. It was formerly divided into three governments: namely,
1. Kurdistan, consisting of the Livas Mardin, Sard, and Diarbekir, and containing 265,000 inhabitants, of whom 198,000 were Mohammedans, 51,000 Armenians, 72 Jacobites, 4 Yezides, and 1100 Gipsies;
2. Hasput, consisting of the Livas Meadin, Harput, Behsni, and Densem;
3. Wan, consisting of the Livas Hakkiyari. Later it was divided into the pachalics Wan, Mosul, Diarbekir, and Urfa (Rakka); the beylics Hakkiyari, Bahdinan, Butan (Bogden), and Ssindshar; and the district of Mardin. The most impo twlt towns are Diarbekir, Bitlis, Wan, and Mardin. Persian Kurdistan comprises the south-western portion of the province of Aserbeijan and the western portion of Ardilan, as far as the Kercha river. The most important town is Kirmanshan, with about 30,000 inhabitants. The Kurds are an agricultural people, who, during the summer months, pitch their black tents upon the Alpine pastures. Asia Minor and Syria, and even Constantinople, are receiving from them large supplies of' cattle. The country is made up of isolated villages, without a national bond of union, and their intercourse with each other consists chiefly in plundering expeditions. Old castles on inaccessible peaks serve the beys as places of refuge in cases of emergency. These beys often rule over several villages. The Kurds were known to Greek writers as Carduchians (Καρδοῦχοι, Carduchi, see Smith's Diet. of Class. Geog. s.v.) or Kyrtians. In the highlands of Kurdistan they are divided into two different tribes, the Assireta and the Guranians. The Assiretas are the caste of warriors, and rarely or never agriculturists, but are devoted to cattle-breeding. The Guranians can never become warriors, are agriculturists, and kept in subjection by the Assireta. As the language of the two tribes likewise differs, it may be assumed that the Guranians are the descendants of the primitive inhabitants, who subsequently were subdued by a more warlike tribe. In Southern Kurdistan the Assireta call themselves Sfpah (warriors) and the peasants Rayah (subjects). The language of the Kurds is nearly kindred to the New Persian, but is to a large extent mixed with Arabic, Syrian, Greek, and Russian words, and is divided into numerous dialects. They have no written alphabet, and therefore no literature, but a number of their popular poems and songs have been written down in Arabic.
The majority of the inhabitants are fanatical Sunnite Mohammedans, who hate the Shiites even more than they do the Christians. But the number of Armenian, Jacobite, and Nestorian Christians is also considerable. The Armenians chiefly live in the northern part of the country. One section of the Jacobites has its centre near Mardin, under a patriarch, who resides in the convent of Safarani. Western Kurdistan is the seat of the Nestorians. SEE NESTORIANS. The Kurds show little disposition to embrace Christianity. Among the Armenians and Nestorians the missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions have met with a great success. The mission at Harput for the Armenians commenced in 1853. In 1859 a theological seminary was established for the training of men for the pastoral office, and in 1861 a female seminary for the training of their wives. In 1889 one hundred and fourteen out-stations were connected with 5 principal stations, chief of which is Harpit, where the Euphrates College is located. This field is occupied by 42 American missionaries with 279 native laborers, of whom 78 are ordained or licensed preachers. The membership is 2686. At Mardin the buildings for a theological school and other purposes are completed. The flourishing missions among the Nestorians, embracing more than sixty congregations, are chiefly in Persia, and are now under the charge of the Mission Board of the Presbyterian Church of the United States. Of the Jacobites and Nestorians a considerable portion have recognised the supremacy of the pope. The former are called the United Syrians, the latter the Chaldteans. The United Syrians have a patriarch in Diarbekir, and the Chaldaans a patriarch at El-Kush, near Mosul, in the convent of St. Hormisdas. The sect of the Yezides, or Shemsieh, who are descended from the Parsees, though they follow at the same time some Mohammedan and Christian practices adopted from their neighbors, are fire-worshippers, live south of Mardin. See Shiel, Notes on a Journey fron Tabris to Koordistan (1836), in the .Journal of the Royal Geographical Society (London, vol. viii); Rich, Narrative of a Journey through Koordistan (London, 1836. 2 vols.); Wagner, Reise nach Persien und demn Lande d. Kurden (Lpz. 1852, 2 vols.); Somdreczkh, Reise nach Persien und durch Kurdistan nach Urumiah (Stuttgard, 1857, 4 vols.); Layard, Nineveh, etc., with an Account of' a Visit to the Chaldean Christians of Koordistan, etc. (London, 1850); Grundeman, Missionsatlas, Asien, p. 39; Badger, The Nestorians and their Rituals, with Narrative of' a Mission to Mesopotamia and Coordistan (London, 1854, 2 vols. 8vo). (A. J. S.)