In ancient times, Kars (Armenian:Կարս) was part of the province of Ararat in the Kingdom of Armenia. The first known people were the followers of Vanand (Վանանդ), for whom Kars was their main settlement and fortress. In 928, Kars became the capital of Armenia. In 968, the capital of Armenia was moved to Ani (Անի), but Kars remained the capital of the feudal principality of Vanand. Later on, in 1209, Georgian army commanded by David Soslan and brothers Ivane and Zakare Mkhargrzeli captured Kars after a long siege. George IV son of Tamar, was appointed the governor general of Kars. It was conquered in 1242 by the Mongols; was regained by Georgian Kingdom during the reign of George V the Brilliant (1314–1346), it remained part of the Kingdom before its disintegration, which then passed into the hands of Georgian Atabegs belonging to the House of Jaqeli. during the rule of the Persian Empire and the Ottoman Empire, the fortress of Kars, located in what was then the eastern part of the city, fell into disrepair. However, as Kars was within a border region its defensive structures were often renewed, and they continued to advance to such a degree, that in the 19th century Kars was well known around the world as a castle.
As a result of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877 to 1878, the province of Kars was incorporated into the Russian Empire as part of the militarily administered Kars Oblast and remained so until 1918. It was seen as a border province of a Russian Empire which was seeking to expand yet further by the conquest of more territory belonging to the Ottoman Empire. The period from 1878 to 1918 was marked in the province of Kars by the settlement by the Russian authorities of a very heterogeneous mix of Christian populations, including Armenians, Caucasus Greeks, Russians, Georgians, and even smaller numbers from other Christian communities hitherto with little or no historical links to the region, such as ethnic Germans, Poles, Estonians, Lithuanians, and Russian sectarian communities such as Molokans and Doukhobors. Many from the non-Russian Christian Orthodox communities (Georgians, Caucasus Greeks, and the minority of Armenians who were Lessor Orthodox) had themselves fought in or collaborated with the Russian Imperial army to capture Kars province from the Muslim Ottomans. They saw this as a means of fulfilling their own ambitions to recapture Christian territory on the back of the Russian imperial enterprise.
Turkish and Caucasian peoples make up the majority of the province's population. It is suggested that about 20% of the population is Kurdish (as of 2010).
Kars province is divided into 8 districts (ilçe), each named after the administrative center of the district:
There are 383 villages in Kars.
Kars has a wealth of wildlife that is being documented by the Kars-Igdir Biodiversity Project run by the KuzeyDoga Society. The project has recorded 323 of Turkey's 468 bird species in the region. At least 223 of these occur at Lake Kuyucuk, that is the most important wetland in the region. Sarikamis Forests in the south harbor Indian wolves, Syrian brown bear, Caucasian lynx and other animals, and Aras (Araxes) River wetlands comprise a key stop-over site for many migrating birds. Aras River Bird Research and Education Center at Yukari Ciyrikli village has recorded 228 bird species at this single location alone.
The economy of Kars Province is dominated by agriculture, livestock breeding and forestry. 85% of the active population in Kars Province are farmers or herders. 60% of the gross domestic income is received from those sectors. Industry, tourism and commerce is developing.
The climate limits the cultivation of plants in the region. In Kağızman and Tuzluca, cotton, sugar beet, beans and vetches are grown. Vegetable gardening and orchards are not very developed. Wheat, barley, cotton and in small quantity tobacco are grown in the province.
Livestock breeding in the region is more important than agriculture. Grassland, meadows and the rich vegetation led to the development of livestock breeding. The grassland and meadows, which make out 70% of the area of Kars Province, are capable of providing at least ten times of the current livestock potential's breeding. Kars is the biggest cattle breeding province in Turkey, and is the center of livestock trade. Efforts are being made to increase goose breeding, which is very special to Kars region. Aside its meat taking a special place in the Kars cuisine, goose liver and down feather started already to be exported to Europe.
Kars Province is not abundant with woods although the region is favorable for forests. Only 4% of the province area is covered with woods. Scots Pine, spruce and alder are the tree species most found in the woods of Kars. Around 15,000 m3 (530,000 cu ft) timber is produced by logging in forestry.
Ore beds of rock salt, arsenic, asbestos, magnesite, gypsum and perlite are explored, however, only rock salt is mined.
Main industrial plants in Kars are of meat processing, livestock feed processing, gristmill, yarn, tannery, footwear, cement and brick factories.
Among the most famous food products special to Kars region are Kars honey, Kars Kasseri, Kars Gruyère cheese, which tastes like Swiss Emmental cheese, and Kars style roasted goose.
Kars contains numerous monuments, the most notable being the ruined Armenian city of Ani and the 9th century Church of the Apostles.
Kars was also the setting for the popular novel Snow by Orhan Pamuk. The Siege of Kars, 1855 is a book published by The Stationery Office, 2000, and is an account of its defence and capitulation as reported by one General Williams, one of many British officers lent to the Turkish army to lead garrisons and train regiments in the war against Russia.