Before World War I, the Karin dialect was spoken by the local Armenian populations in much of the Erzurum Vilayet of the Ottoman Empire and Kars Oblast of the Russian Empire. After the Armenian Genocide of 1915, most of Erzurum's Armenian population took refuge to the Russian-controlled parts of Armenia. The city of Kars and its Russian oblast became part of the First Republic of Armenia in 1918, but was occupied by Kemalist Turkey as a result of the Turkish–Armenian War in fall 1920.
Today, it is one of the most widely spoken Western Armenian dialects, most of which became virtually extinct after the genocide. Nowadays, it is spoken in the northwestern Republic of Armenia (in and around the city of Gyumri) and by the Armenian minority in Georgia's Samtskhe-Javakheti province.
According to Prof. Haykanush Mesropyan of the Armenian State Institute of Linguistics, the first reference to the provincial dialect (զբառսն զեզերականս) dates back to the 8th century work by Stepanos Syunetsi, who refers to it as զՍպերացն zSperatsn "of Sper". The dialect was also mentioned in the 13th century by Hovhannes Yerznkatsi and in the 17th century by Hakob Karnetsi. In 1887, Alexander Thomson, in his Linguistic studies (Лингвистические исследования) briefly discussed the Akhaltsikhe dialect.
According to the prominent Armenian linguist Hrachia Adjarian's 1909 book Classification des dialectes arméniens, Karin dialect was spoken in the cities of Erzurum (which he refers to as the dialectal center), Kars (both large cities in eastern Turkey today), Alexandropol and Akhaltsikh. After the 1828–29 and 1877–78 Russo-Turkish Wars, Armenians from the Erzurum region migrated to the Russian-controlled Eastern Armenia. They mostly settled in Javakhk (in and around the cities of Akhalkalak and Akhaltsikh) and Shirak.
In the Republic of Armenia, Karin dialect is chiefly spoken in the cities of Gyumri, Artik, Akhuryan and Aghin, all in Shirak Province (in around 130 villages). It is spoken in the western parts of the Aragatsotn Province: mainly in the city of Talin and villages of Aragats and Nor Artik. Residents of three villages in northern Aragatsotn (Geghadzor, Lernapar, Geghadir) also speak in Karin dialect. Karin dialect is spoken in the villages of Martuni (Gegharkunik), Urtsadzor (Ararat), Buzhakan and Kaputan in Kotayk.