‫Kessab/ Kasab (Arabic: كسب, Armenian: 'Քեսապ')‬

Native Name: Kessab (Քեսապ) pronounced (Ke'sab) derived from the Latin experession Casa Bella (i.e. the beautiful town)

Official Name: Kessab. Kassab or Kasab

Native People: Kessabtsi

Native tongue: Old village dialect, a unique Armenian dialect, close to the dialect of Anjar(Mousa Dagh)

Favorite Son: His Holiness Karekin I, Catholicos of All Armenians (August 27, 1932 - June 29, 1999)

Status: Summer resort amidst green mountains. These mountains are mostly covered with pine, oak and laurel trees, and their slopes touch the shores of the Mediterranean.

Population: 3500 {However, if the total number of Kessabtsis who have emigrated to U.S.A., Canada, Lebanon, U.A.E., Australia, Armenia (between 1945 - 1948), and elsewhere were to be added, then the figure would be nearer to around 60,000 in all.}

Country: Syria

Region: Eastern Mediterranean

District: Latakia Governorate (Muhafazat al Ladhiqiyah)

Location: Northwest Syria, at the slopes of Mount Cassius(Jabal Accraa), propped up against the Mediterranean Sea, 3 kilometers from the Turkish border, and 10 kilometers from the Mediterranean sea.

Coordinates: 35°56′N, 35°59′E

Elevation: 800 m (2,625 ft)

Monograph: Kessab/ Kasab is an ancient Armenian town, over 1000 years old. The population today is mostly Armenians and some Alawite Arabs. Being at 800 meters above sea level in the middle of a dense coniferous Mediterranean forest makes the town a popular summer destination. Kasab is 60 kilometers from Latakia, 3 kilometers from the Turkish border, and 10 kilometers from the Mediterranean sea.
Kessab is made up of several towns, including: Karadouran, Eskuren (nerkikegh), Ekizoloukh, Duzaghaj, Kiurkina, Sev Aghpiur, Chalma, Veri Baghjaghas and Vari Baghjaghas, Chnar, Karadash, Qala, Chakaljekh, Bashord, Samas, Depese, etc.
Kessab also has its own dialect made up of many different languages including: Arabic, Armenian, Turkish, Kurdish, Persian, Hindi, French, Italian, Spanish, German and English. This dialect is very close to the dialect of Anjar

Historical Overview:

Six Millennia ago the Kessab region was part of the ancient civilization that spread from the Syrian basin up to the valley of the Orontes River. The famous Phoenician City state of Ugarit located on the shores of the Mediterranean, not far from Kessab was linked with Asia Minor, Cilicia and Northern Mesopotamia through The region of Duzaghaj of Kessab.
During the Seleucid- Hellenic period the Kessab region was at the center of the triad comprised of Antioch, Seleucia and Laodicea. The Laodicea- Seleucia sea road passed through the Kaladouran Bay whereas the Laodicea- Antioch land road passed through the Duzaghaj valley.
The Cassius Mountain at this time was believed to have been the sanctuary of the god Zeus. During the reign of Tigranes the Great and later the Roman era, Laodicea, Antioch and Seleucia flourished greatly and have had a positive affect on the development of the Kessab region.
We have no written sources about the primitive history of the Kessab region. The first record we have is from the historical documents of the Crusaders when Duke Belmond the First gives the region of Kasbisi to the family of Peter the Hermit. Casbisi , Cassembella or Cassabella are the names from which we have derived the name “Kessab”.
Kessab is viewed by some as a region developed during the Cilician Armenian period. However it actually remained outside the borders of the kingdom. Research conducted on the peculiarities of the Kessab dialect and the dialects of the region of Suweidiye (Seleucia) shows that the populace of Kessab and the surrounding region are the remainders of migrants that came from the region of Antioch.
During the Memluk period and more specifically the first period of the Ottoman Rule (13th-14th centuries) the region of Antioch was emptied of its Armenian, Greek and Syriac inhabitants, due to intense persecution. In an attempt to avoid persecution, the Armenians of the flat lands of Antioch took refuge in more mountainous regions, such as Kessab and Mousa Dag.
The development of Kessab and its surrounding villages extends from the 16th century up into the 19th century. According to tradition the first area to be inhabited by Armenians during the 16th century is Eskuren/nerkikegh (meaning “old village”) "The first inhabitants of Eskuren/nerkikegh trace their roots from diverse and numerous areas, including: Aramo, Arfali, Hajen, Zeitun, Kurd Dag, and Antioch.
The villagers who first settled in Eskuren/nerkikegh later moved uphill and settled in the area now called Kessab.
Soon Kessab turned into the center both of old and newly- arrived migrants. The inhabitants of Kessab later became land owners in the surrounding areas and by the beginning of the 19th century; new villages began to merge in the regions surrounding Kessab.
The Kessab region was placed under the jurisdiction of the Governor of Antioch who was directly appointed by the Ottoman Sultan until the middle of the 19th Century. The region of Antioch was made a part of the Vilayet (province) of Aleppo.
The region of Kessab had two parts that were under the jurisdiction of two provinces. Namely, the Baghjaghas and Chattalek areas were part of the Latakia region which was located within the Damascus province (villayet). The remainder of the villages were part of the Ordu or Mount Accraa (Cassius) region which was located within the province (villayet) of Aleppo.
In 1922 the French Authorities changed the organizational structure of the Kessab region. In an attempt to defuse the tension amongst the minorities that inhabited the region, the French authorities separated the Ordu region from Kessab. An Armenian is put in place as a ruler of this area and a regiment of soldiers is put under his command.
Until 1840 Kessab was considered the center of the surrounding villages and the villages were simply viewed as the extension of Kessab and its suburbs. However this situation has changed that each village has separated from the former center of Kessab and now each village has its own mayors, churches, schools and Unions.

On the 5th of July 1938, the Turkish army entered the region of Antioch (the province of Alexandretta) in agreement with the French colonial authorities, and the region was renamed as the province of Hattai.

On the 2nd of September, the Hattai government became officially authorized and it identified its boundaries including Kessab within their restriction. The Turkish army and employees outraged and exploited against the Hattai government and some serious armed skirmishes took place in the region. Consequently, many Kessabtsies left to Lebanon or took refuge in the mountains. Many important personalities visited Kessab during that time.

On the 23rd of June 1939, the Hattai government was officially dissolved and the whole region was joined to turkey. Luckily, by the efforts of the Cardinal 15th Krikor Bedros Aghajanian and Remi Leprert, the Papal representative in Syria and Lebanon, the parts of Kessab inhabited by Armenians were separated from Turkey and joined to Syria. The poignant result of this operation was that the Mount Cassius was attached to the Turkish side including the farms, the fields, the properties, the laurel tree forests and the grazing lands located in the mount's bosoms and valleys, which once used to belong to the native Armenians.

The status of the population of Kessab:

The first bit of information about the population of Kessab goes back to the middle of the 19th century. According to the Evangelical missionaries in 1848, the town of Kessab included 300 inhabited houses.

The census done by the Rev. Movses Voskerichian in 1911 provides the most accurate information available about Kessab's population at the time. The census included Kessab and all its surrounding villages without exceptions. According to that survey, the number of the inhabitants of Kessab was 6115 individuals.

At the end of the 19th century, Kessab witnessed a migration movement of the youth towards neighboring Armenian provinces and other foreign countries due to financial difficulties. The emigration process remained on afterwards which badly affected the growth of the population of Kessab.

5000 Kessabtsis were killed during the genocide out of the 8000 Kessabtsis who were forced to move to exile in 1915.
The population of Kessab was estimated to be 2200 individual in 1919.
In 1920, Simon Ayanian, and elementary school teacher, undertook a new census to determine Kessab’s population. His survey excluded Karadouran and Bashord for unknown reasons. According to this survey, the population of Kessab and the surrounding villages except the excluded ones was 2363 individuals of which 779 individuals were living abroad.
In 1921, the population was 2500 individuals.
In 1923, the population was 3500 individuals.
On the 25th of July 1947, 2400 Kessabtsis individuals out of 5100 individuals repatriated to Armenia.
In 1955, the population was 1632 individuals.
In 1993, the population was 1277 individuals.

Today, a significant number of Kessabtsies today live overseas where they have their organizations such as in Lebanon, USA, Canada, UAE and many other counties.
Kessab was merely inhabited by Armenians up until the deportation which took place in 1947. After that, strangers (non-Armenians) started to settle in Kessab. Hitherto, the number of foreigners settling in Kessab has constantly increased to overcome the number of the native Armenian inhabitants.

The calamity of 1909:

The first agonizing disaster in Kessab happened in 1909. A rabble of 5000 Turkish men invaded Kessab from the eastern border on the 10th till the 23rd of April 1909. After the Turks plundered and set fire in Sev Aghpour, Eskouran, Chinarjek and Khayet villages, they surrounded the Town of Kessab from tree sides. The afflicted villagers took refuge in Kessab, but the Turks succeeded to destroy by fire a part of the town despite the armed resistance of almost 300 weapon carrying men. The Armenians then took refuge in the mountains and the seaside of Karadouran. After the Turks robbed and burnt the town of Kessab, they set ahead towards Karadouran and succeeded to burn the houses in the upper part of the village. The Armenians meanwhile moved towards the Turkish village Badrousieh and from there to Bassit where a French boat called Nijer transported them to the city of Lattakia.
This calamity cost the Armenians 161 deaths and a massive material loss.
After the situation had calmed, the refugees whose properties were intact returned to their houses, while those who had lost everything, returned after a year from Lattakia and rebuilt their houses.

Kessab today:

The arrival of WWII soon before any of the previously mentioned problems were solved in Kessab increased the financial crisis of the natives and they started to migrate from Kessab. Many left to Lebanon to work there while others migrated abroad.

In 1947, 2407 individual out of the 5100 natives repatriated to Armenia reducing the number of the locals almost to half.

1950-1960, the financial status of the area started to improve.

In 1952, electrical power arrived to Kessab by the efforts of the Kessabtsies living in America. During 1970-1980, the electricity entered almost all of the villages around Kessab. This act was supported by the Syrian government.

1950-1960, Kessab started to become a summer resort. Gradually, as it is the case today, all of the villages around Kessab have turned into summer resorts. People from all around Syria obtained several estates and properties today in Kessab. Some owners of these properties spend only the summer season in Kessab while others make living from it. In Addition, many Armenian spiritual, athletic and benevolent organizations and institutes in Syria have summer resorts, camps and properties in Kessab and its surrounding villages.

Karekin I, the Catholicos of the Armenian Apostolic Church between 1995 and 1999, baptized Neshan Sarkissian, was born in Kessab, Syria, where he attended the Armenian elementary school. In 1946 he was admitted to the Theological Seminary of the Armenian Catholicate of Cilicia and in 1949 ordained a
deacon. In 1952, after having graduated with high honors, he was ordained a celibate priest and renamed Karekin. He joined the order of the Armenian Catholicosate of Cilicia. From 1963, he became an aide to Catholicos Khoren I in which function he had many ecumenical contacts. In 1971 he was elected Prelate of the Diocese of New Julfa in Isfahan, Iran. In 1973, he received the rank of archbishop and was appointed Pontifical Legate of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenia's Holy Apostolic Church of America (in New York) and in 1975 its Primate. During his time in the United States, he took special care of the younger generation of Armenians and played a key role in the fundraising for Lebanon 1976-1977. In 1977, he was elected Catholicos of the Catholicosate of Cilicia and served as Catholicos Coadjutor (Armenian: Աթոռակից Կաթողիկոս) until the death of Catholicos Khoren I in 1983. After the death of Catholicos Vazgen in 1994, Catholicos Karekin Sarkissian was elected Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians by a National Ecclesiastical Assembly of 400 delegates and hereafter became known as Karekin I, being the first Supreme Patriarch with that name. In November 1998, Karekin I underwent cancer treatment in New York. He appointed archbishop Karekin Nersessian, the later Karekin II, as Vicar General. Karekin I died in June 1999.

Today, besides the Armenian population, other alien (non Armenian) populations have an increasing presence in Kessab. Kessabtsies are selling their lands to the aliens to come and settle on their ancestors land; the land which was preserved by blood now is being sold by money.