In 1064, Turkish armies laid siege to Ani, a bustling, largely Armenian city of 200,000. They were ordered to destroy Ani, and kill everyone they found. In 2011, Elle Turkey used the ruins left behind for a fashion story.

Sensitive! Especially considering the modern-day Turkish state's highly contentious relationship with its neighbor, Armenia. The Ottoman genocide against Armenians is still a fraught subject in Turkey, which doesn't accept that the deportations, forced marches, and massacres that together killed around 1-1.5 million Armenians during World War I were in fact a genocide. (Hitler later said that he expected his attempt to exterminate the Jews would go unremarked, arguing, "Who now remembers the Armenians?") Today, Ani lies within Turkish territory, very near the Armenian border.

Ani was famous for its ecclesiastical architecture, including its cathedral, which was completed in 1001. The Turkish dynasty responsible for the city's destruction, the Seljuks, spent the 11th Century expanding across what are now Turkey, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Georgia, Syria, and Armenia; taking Ani, which had been under Byzantine control, was part of those plans. For more on Ani's fascinating and complex history, Kuriositas has a detailed photo essay:

In its heyday it was a metropolis which rivaled Constantinople, Cairo or Baghdad as a center of culture and enterprise...The city is the victim of a colossal and centuries old struggle for power between various factions in the region. Founded in the fourth or fifth century AD the following millennium saw Armenians, Kurds, Georgians, Mongols and Turks struggle for and ascend to power in the city-state.

To summarize: As it turns out, after the Seljuk Turks overran Ani, they didn't quite kill all of the civilians — many had escaped to the countryside before the siege began. The Seljuks eventually sold Ani to the (predominantly Muslim) Kurds, who tolerated the (predominantly Christian) Armenians. Eventually, neighboring (predominantly Christian) Georgia forced the Kurds out and the city was returned to Armenian control. Then, in the 13th Century, the Mongols invaded. Later, it was another Turkish dynasty. Finally, Ani came under Ottoman control.

All the war and unrest, together with institutional neglect on the part of the Ottomans, meant that Ani never recovered its position of power within the region. By the mid-18th Century, the last inhabitants abandoned the city.

The siege and the destruction of the city in 1064, however, stands out in the minds of many Armenians as a particularly poignant example from the long history of Turkish attempts to suppress their culture. Just the place for photographer Senol Altun and stylist Melis Agazat to show off this season's bag, then.

The setting, ruined as it is, is very beautiful. Ani is on the Global Heritage Fund's list of world monuments most in danger of irreparable loss and destruction. Armenia accuses Turkey of hastening Ani's demise as a historical and archaeological site through neglect. Turkey says Ani has been destabilized by earth-moving activity at a nearby Armenian quarry.

Armenian newspapers and blogs have picked up the story — and so have some Turkish ones. Mostly, this is just sad: A threatened heritage site is no place for a fashion spread like this. Given Ani's history, and given the fact that the city stands on ground that is still in dispute, what did Elle Turkey think was going to happen?


Ana Zalewska & Karolin Machova For Elle Turkey By Senol Altun [Fashion Gone Rogue]
Elle Turkey's Fashion Faux Pas Stirs Controversy [IANYANMAG]
Ani: Ghost City Of 1001 Churches [Kuriositas]