Kirkuk is a Kurdish city 236 kilometres (147 mi) north of Baghdad, and 83 kilometres (52 miles) south of Erbil. It is the capital of Kirkuk Governorate.
Kirkuk lies in a wide zone with an enormously diverse population, which has moreover experienced dramatic demographic changes in the course of the twentieth century. The city has been multilingual for centuries, and the development of distinct ethnic groups was a process that took place over the course of Kirkuk’s urbanization in the twentieth century.Kurds, Turkmen, Assyrians and Arabs lay conflicting claims to this zone, and all have their historical accounts and memories to buttress their claims.
The city sits on the site of the ancient Hurrian southern capital of Arrapha, which sits near the Khasa River on the ruins of a 5,000-year-old settlement (Kirkuk Citadel). It became known as Arrapha under the domination of the Hurrians—pre-Aryan peoples. The city reached great importance again under the later, but short-lived Assyrians in the 10th and 11th centuries BC. Because of the strategic geographical location of the city, Kirkuk was the battle ground for three empires—the Neo-Assyrian Empire, Babylonia, and Media—which controlled the city at various times.