Bitlis (Armenian: Բաղեշ Baghesh/Paghesh; Kurdish: Bidlîs; Ottoman Turkish: بتليس) is a city in eastern Turkey / North Kurdistan and the capital of Bitlis Province, 15 km from Lake Van, in the steep-sided valley of the Bitlis River, a tributary of the Tigris.
The local economy is mainly based on agricultural products which include fruits, grain and tobacco. Industry is fairly limited, and deals mainly with leatherworking, manufacture of tobacco products as well as weaving and dyeing of coarse cloth.
Bitlis historically produced wheat, which the British, in 1920, described as being “particularly excellent.” However, poor trade routes in the area during the early 20th century meant that the wheat was mainly produced and used by locals. During this time, the British stated that the people of Bitlis were unable to use all of the wheat they produced, and most was “left to rot in the underground storehouses.”
Historically, Bitlis was one of the most important cities of the Kingdom of Armenia’s province of Aghdznik’. The Armenian name was Balalesa or Baghaghesh, and later Baghesh. A third of the population was Armenian prior to World War I. During the Armenian genocide, around 15,000 Armenians were massacred in Bitlis.