Кapan (until 1990 – Ghapan, in 1938 was granted with the status of a town) is located 301 km south of Yerevan on the northern slopes of Mount Khustup at a height of 705 meters above sea level, on the shores of Voghji River, with its Vachagan and Kavart tributaries.
Named after the 5th century Kapan town-fortress. In 998-1001, it was the capital of the Syunik kingdom.
The total area of the town is 35,7 km2. As of the January 1st 2017 census, the population of the town is 42570.
Industry is the leading sector of the economy, where mining is the dominating branch with its extraction of significant non-ferrous and noble metals (see Kapan copper mine).
Copper was mined here since the Middle ages. Small mines and adjacent settlements of Kapan were destroyed in the XVIII century. However, after the accession of Eastern Armenia to Russia, copper mining greatly increased. In the second half of the XIX century, French capital entered the copper industry, and copper mining was managed by private enterprises.
The manufacturing industry also has a certain share in the city’s economy (food production, sewing, non-mineral building materials, aluminum, metal, plastic products, wood processing and the production of wood furniture and equipment), as well as electricity generation.
The city is connected to Yerevan, Goris, Kajaran and Stepanakert via the highway. There was a railway station in Kapan, which stopped operating in 1991. Kapan’s airport has been open since 2018.
The first mention of Kapan refers to the end of the V century. The name of the town comes from the simple word “Kapan”, which means “a gorge, a narrow hole between two mountains”, and also, “a sturdy door in a narrow gorge”.
Since the X century, in bibliography, Kapan is mentioned as the capital of the Syunik kingdom.
In 1103 the town was destroyed by Seljuks. Afterwards, Kapan continued its existence for a few centuries, but it was no longer a city, it was just an ordinary place.
Аfter the fall of Тhe Republic of Armenia in December 1920, the 2nd Pan-Zangezurian congress held in Tatev on 26 April 1921, announced the independence of the self-governing regions of Daralakyaz (Vayots Dzor), Zangezur -including Meghri-, and parts of Mountainous Artsakh, under the name of the Republic of Mountainous Armenia (Lernahaystani Hanrapetutyun). The Republic of Mountainous Armenia capitulated on 13 July 1921, following Soviet Russia’s promises to keep the mountainous region of Syunik as part of Soviet Armenia.
The population of community has never been homogeneous. There was a special Jewish neighborhood in the area.
Ancient Kapan was destroyed at the beginning of the 15th century, and the Turks changed its name to Gapan/Gafan. This name was inherited by the new settlement, formed in 1850’s. However, after Armenia became independent, the city once again restored its historic name Kapan. Currently, the city is located 10 km southeast of the historical city, near the Voghji River.
In 1991-93, the city was repeatedly subjected to bombing and considerable destruction by Azerbaijan.
Kapan has 18 public schools, musical, sport and art schools, medical and musical colleges, a dramatic theater named after Shirvanzade, a SEUA branch, a museum, etc.
The town is also rich with several statues of prominent Armenian patriotic figures, such as the equestrian statue of Davit Bek (born in 1728), a statue of Garegin Nzhdeh (Ter-Harutyunyan, 1886-1955), Soviet Union hero Hunan Avetisyan (1914-1943) and Aram Manukyan (1879-1919).
The “Katar Monastery” church is built in the area of former Katar settlement. One of the most memorable buildings is the Kataravank castle (X-XVIII century), the Kkots Kar Fortress (X century) and the Halidzor fortress with many tombs.
Approximately 5 kilometers west of the town of Kapan located Vahanavank, a 10th-11th century Armenian monastic complex.
Translated by Kristina Ghahramanyan