An excellent overview of the stages of the Armenian genocide during World War 1 and how it sprang from deliberate government policies and a long history of oppression. A preface reminds us how the Armenian people and culture emerged in eastern Anatolia thousands of years ago, how it was the first state to adopt Christianity (in 301 AD), and then after periods of being conquered in turn by neighboring Byzantine, Persian, and Russian Empires, the Armenians attained a small kingdom on the Mediterranean between the 11th and 14th centuries (Cilician Armenia). As the Ottoman Empire began to experience unrest with its Christian subjects in its European territories, its sultans began to get more oppressive to its Christian minorities in Anatolia, including its populations of ethnic Greeks and Assyrians as well as the Armenians. In 1894-95, such massacres swept systematically through Turkey under orchestration of Sultan Ahmed Hamid II, resulting in about 100 thousand Armenians killed directly and an equal number indirectly. Modern Turkey with the tiny Republic of Armenia on its eastern border Historical map with hatched boundaries denoting provinces with predominant Armenian populations during Ottoman rule in the center, Cilician Armenia of the Middle Ages on the left, and the Soviet Socialist Republic of Armenia in the upper right. An American senator, frustrated in a lack of cohesive and effective response, is quoted as saying: Has it come to this, that in the last days of the nineteenth century humanity itself is placed on trial? Just 13 years later, in 1909 another set of massacres of 15-30 thousand Armenians took place in the Adana region north of todays Syria. The rise of the so-called YoungTurks had led to establishment of a secular constitutional government led by the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), and what happened in Adana was a violent reaction by populations who favored restitution of the theocracy and antagonism toward Armenians who expected to gain rights under the new regime. Later, any form of alignment between the oppressed Armenians and the CUP was doomed by the unfavorable outcome to the Ottoman empire from the two Balkan Wars of 1912-13. With the onset of World War 1 and excuses of national security, the Ottoman government had more freedom to pursue a more direct strategy of extermination of the Armenians. Balakian gives us a clear picture of the pervasiveness of the slaughter in 1915 throughout all provinces of Turkey, including the definitive smoking guns in the form of coded orders from the triumvirate among the Young Turks running the nation through the Committee for Union and Progress (CUP): Talaat Pasha (Ministry of Interior), Enver Pasha (Ministry of War), and Jemal Pasha (Ministry of Navy). President Wilson directed two different American commissions to review the prospects of a reconstituted Armenia that included much of eastern Anatolia and parts of these Russian province under a proposed U.S. mandate. Part of it was the vast scale of human destruction from World War 1 and, as I noted, the greater interest by Europe and eventually the U.S. in the more lucrative parts of the Ottoman Empire. With each event of commemorating the massacres, any American presidents who participated have been careful not to single Turkey out as responsible of genocide. The professor who wrote about his community who were obliterated at the lake in Harput (and later died of typhus in 1918 after starting an orphanage) is honored by Balakian for putting his experience into lasting words that defy being erased: Lulejian transformed his witness into a benediction, into a prayer for the dead, reminding us that if language cant bring back the dead, it can insist on the sacredness of life, the civility of burial, and the dignity of memory.
I humbly suggest that anyone who has any question as to whether or not Ottoman Turks committed genocide against Armenian citizens of the Empire read this book.
The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response is superbly grim in documenting this crime against humanity. Balakian asks: (view spoiler)What is the role of the most powerful nation in the world when the ultimate crime is being perpetrated in plain view?
The Young Turks with the help of local villagers murdered numbers of Assyrians in Hakkari, my great grandmother being one of them. Many thank yous to the angels who helped the Armenians in their desperate time of need and thank you, Peter Balakian, for creating this book.
Not a thousand years ago.
It is said that denial is the final stage of the act of genocide against a people.
He is the author of five books of poems and three prose works, including The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and Americas Response, a New York Times best seller; and Black Dog of Fate, a memoir, winner of the PEN/Albrand Prize." Balakian was born in Teaneck, New Jersey, and grew up there and in Tenafly, NJ. Balakian is the author of the memoir Black Dog of Fate, winner of the PEN/Albrand Prize for memoir and a New York Times Notable Book, and The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and Americas Response, winner of the 2005 Raphael Lemkin Prize and a New York Times Notable Book and New York Times and national best seller. He is co-founder and co-editor with the poet Bruce Smith of the poetry magazine Graham House Review, which was published from 1976-1996, and is the co-translator (with Nevart Yaghlian) of the book of poems Bloody News From My Friend by the Armenian poet Siamanto. Balakians prizes and awards include a Guggenheim Fellowship; National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship; Emily Clark Balch Prize for poetry, Virginia Quarterly Review 2007; Movses Khorenatsi Medal from the Republic of Armenia 2007; Raphael Lemkin Prize, 2005 (best book in English on the subject of genocide and human rights); PEN/Martha Albrand Prize for Memoir, 1998; the New Jersey Council for the Humanities Book Award, 1998; Daniel Varoujan Prize, New England Poetry Club, 1986; Anahid Literary Prize, Columbia University Armenian Center, 1990.