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A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility Paperback – August 21, 2007

3.6 out of 5 stars 43 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. The story of the Ottoman Empire's slaughter of one million Armenians in 1915—a genocide still officially denied by the 83-year-old modern Turkish state—has been dominated by two historiographical traditions. One pictures an embattled empire, increasingly truncated by rapacious Western powers and internal nationalist movements. The other details the attempted eradication of an entire people, amid persecutions of other minorities. Part of historian Akçam's task in this clear, well-researched work is to reconcile these mutually exclusive narratives. He roots his history in an unsparing analysis of Turkish responsibility for one of the most notorious atrocities of a singularly violent century, in internal and international rivalries, and an exclusionary system of religious (Muslim) and ethnic (Turkish) superiority. With novel use of key Ottoman, European and American sources, he reveals that the mass killing of Armenians was no byproduct of WWI, as long claimed in Turkey, but a deliberate, centralized program of state-sponsored extermination. As Turkey now petitions to join the European Union, and ethnic cleansing and collective punishment continues to threaten entire populations around the globe, this groundbreaking and lucid account by a prominent Turkish scholar speaks forcefully to all. (Oct.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

Akcam has attracted considerable attention for being one of the first Turkish intellectuals to devote his career to studying the systematic slaughter of one million Armenians during World War I. For this reason, he has been harshly criticized by those who would deny the existence of an Armenian genocide. Akcam's earlier work, From Empire to Republic (2004), contextualized the genocide within a climate of Turkish nationalism and attempted to provide the basis for a Turkish national conversation about trauma and culpability. Although essentially similar to that book in its analysis of Turkish culpability, his latest study is considerably broader in historical scope. He seeks to harmonize the conventional narrative of the collapsing Ottoman Empire with victims' perspectives of Turkish dominance over minorities. He does this by showing a state--rent by internal power struggles and terrified of being partitioned--that pursues genocide as a way of avoiding catastrophic collapse. Clearly a companion to Peter Balakian's Burning Tigris (2003) and other accounts of the genocide, this book also deserves to be read in concert with recent works analyzing the politics of genocide and national shame in Germany. Brendan Driscoll
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Picador; 1st edition (August 21, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080508665X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805086652
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1.1 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #119,211 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Finally a brave and matter-of-fact account of the history of WW1 Ottoman Turkey and the evil Tehcir Law which led to the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1916 and the extetmination and forced deportation of Ottoman Armenians from Turkey. İndeed Dr. Akçam makes no excuses or rebuttals for justifying the massacres and ateocities but rather in full honesty retells the true history of the Armenian massacres of WW1 on the lands of Ottoman Turkey based on his own research and to-date unrevealed Ottoman historic archives and documents from the 1913-1921 period. This is a must-read for all Ottoman historians, particularly for liars and deniers of truth such as Justin McCarthy and Stanford Shaw's bastards that are alive today.
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Format: Paperback
Great source on the Armenian Genocide. When considering this book, note that the negative reviewers are Turkish. The denial runs deep but truth prevails through this book.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
a very good, well researched and to the point account of the planning and execution of the first genocide of the twentieth century. We have the moral obligation not to ignore and to remember these "dark sides" of the history oh humankind
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Format: Paperback
HODGEPODGE OF MISREPRESENTATIONS

I was disappointed by the triviality and deception visible in most of the contents of the book. Knowing Akcam's background ([...]) and how he was funded by Armenians ([...] ), perhaps I should not have been surprised. After all, a convicted terrorist escaping from prison in Turkey, seeking asylum in Germany, using his German Sociology PhD as foundation for his History "professorship" in America, all seem to have extremely dark points with which Akcam still did not come clean yet. But that's the messenger; let us delve into the message now.

Akcam chooses to ignore Turkey's legendary religious tolerance providing a home for the expelled Jews of Iberia, during the notorious Spanish Inquisitions in 1492, and then again for the fleeing Jews of Nazi Germany during 1930s, and for many other ethnic and/or religious groups in the past millennium. It must have also escaped Akcam that the Greek Orthodox and Armenian Gregorian churches survived a millennium of Turkish cohabitation and/or rule, which is a far cry from the fates of Muslims of Spain, Greece, and Armenia. That the message here is diametrically opposed to Akcam's claims must be clear to any fair mind. All of these are forgotten in Akcam's partisan book, censored by Akcam's passionate efforts to demonize Turkey and Turks at all cost.

The claims of Armenian "genocide" cannot be substantiated by historical evidence. About 70 scholars published a signed statement on May 19, 1985 [...]) in the New York Times and Washington Post, stating that the Turkish Armenian conflict of World War One was one of "...inter-communal warfare fought by Christian and Muslim irregular forces...
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Any work on the Ottomans and Armenians in 1915-1916 runs into three major problems: Turkish denial, Armenian intransigence, and lack of documentation. Taner Akçam attempts to address the third. In doing so, he has become the hero of the second and the victim of the first.

I have traveled extensively in Turkey, speak some Turkish, and love the Turkish people. I am always dismayed, though, at the lack of understanding many Turks have of their own history. When the alphabet was changed from Arabic to Latin in 1928, most Turks became instantly "illiterate". After a generation, there were few who could read their own history or the documents that it produced. Turkish school books were written to sanitize and idealize the founding of the Republic. The Armenian "genocide" was rewritten to mean a period in which Turks were victims of Armenian terror and massacres. I have visited museums in Turkey that proclaim that the only "genocide" was that attempted on the Turks by the Armenians.

On the other hand, the most vocal of those publicly taking the Armenian side are almost hysterical in their hatred of all things Turkish. They vituperously attack writers who point out that, indeed, there were many Armenians who sided with the Russians, or that there were some Armenian terrorist groups, or that Ottoman incompetence created many of the problems, or that not all Turks agreed with the actions against the Armenians.

Akçam has made an admirable effort to sort through the available Turkish documents (most of which have been cleansed by the various governments - Ottoman, Young Turk and Republic). He also reviewed German, French, English, Russian and American documents to compare with the Turkish.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The reviews I read seem very partisan. I can appreciate a bias in Akcam's writing: the Armenian seizure of the Banc Ottoman and its effect on public opinion in Constantinople get very little attention, for example. But Akcam is very careful in the details he presents - and they are comprehensive - and he puts them together in a way that makes what happened quite clear: The Young Turks regarded the existence of a large and subjugated Armenian minority with aspirations of self-determination as a threat to the territory they claimed as their own, so they destroyed the Armenian population, systematically. The responses one hears - that Turks also suffered, sometimes at the hands of Armenians; that Turks are not bad people; that others have done bad things (the destruction of native Americans by the US and Canada, for example) - are reasonable, but they don't change the fact that this was a strategic genocide.

The book is replete with detail - so much so that it's sometimes it's hard to keep all the names straight. For this reason, the narrative isn't as reader-friendly as it might be. But without the detail the author's conclusion about Turkish responsibility would be less convincing, so I think the detail is actually necessary.
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