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A Shameful Act: The Armenian Genocide and the Question of Turkish Responsibility Hardcover – Bargain Price, November 14, 2006
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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.
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
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The argument of the writer is that a dangerous shift took place in the Ottoman Empire and its policy changed to a Turkish nationalism. To these Turkish nationalist the existence of the Armenians in Turkish areas was a threat to this state so from about 1915 to the early 1920's they created a planned genocide of the Armenians.
After reading the book which I found tedious in parts, I am not convinced that he has proved his argument that a genocide took place.
Genocide surprisingly is a difficult case to prove. Partly because fortunately we have few examples as they are not that common. However also because the evidence is suppressed and denied for example during WW2, the Nazi destroyed the evidence while they did it and after almost all senior Nazis denied knowledge or responsibility for it.
What the book does show is that last scale deportations of the Armenians took place and that these did result in large-scale crimes against them which include robbery, kidnapping and a million murders. Having said this, I am not so sure it matters whether a genocide took place, clearly many people were murdered because they were Armenians.
After 1920s when they should have some justice, it was denied. It is a shame that so few people that did these robbery, kidnapping and murders were punished.
Unfortunately for the Turkish government, this excuse does not apply to them, most of them being at first the same cast of characters (with a change of name) as the perpetrators of the genocide, and, later, their descendants. But for the majority of the Turkish people, an explanation of sorts is made: In 1915, 95% of all Turks were illiterate. (Armenians, on the other hand, were not, education being a very basic and highly prized value.) After WWI, among the sweeping reforms instituted by the Young Turks was the switch from an Arabic to a Roman alphabet, thus rendering most original documents of the era incomprehensible even to educated modern-day Turks. Of COURSE they're going to deny such barbarism, butchery and inhumanity as being part of their recent history! Who wouldn't?! Who would willingly claim it? (I'm sure their grandparents came home and boasted of their cruelty!! "TODAY? Oh, I raped and beheaded a few 14-year-old Armenian girls and made their little brothers watch before raping them too and throwing them all into the river. How was YOUR day, dear?" Not.) Also worth noting: the grandchildren of Kurds living in the formerly Armenian towns of the Anatolian plateau are open with their admission of their grandfathers' complicity in the genocide: apparently these grandfathers complained to their families that they were promised a gold coin for each Armenian head, but the Turkish government never paid up! (And even now the Turks are trying to wipe out the Dersimi Kurds again (a repeat of their genocidal actions against the Kurds in 1934) by destroying the unique, beautiful and very fragile eco-system of the region by creating unnecessary dams - really just to cover up the evidence of their bloody past against both Armenians and Kurds. Somebody please stop them.)
As the Ottoman Empire crumbled, losing the Balkan states, then the north African part of their empire the Turks felt threatened when the Armenians started agitating for independence. Using "Turkish" identity as an excuse, they very nearly wiped Armenia and it's population from the map!
This is another story of how nationalism, patriotism and religion can be used to justify the demonisation and objectification of a whole population and allow one group of people to attempt to wipe out another.
This has happened throughout history, but so many times in just the 20th Century!
Will we never learn?
Most recent customer reviews
I was disappointed by the triviality and deception visible in most of the contents of the book. Knowing Akcam's background ([...Read more