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The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response

por Peter Balakian

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303764,643 (3.92)4
In this groundbreaking history of the Armenian Genocide, the critically acclaimed author of the memoir Black Dog of Fate brings us a riveting narrative of the massacres of the Armenians in the 1890s and genocide in 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. Using rarely seen archival documents and remarkable first-person accounts, Peter Balakian presents the chilling history of how the Young Turk government implemented the first modern genocide behind the cover of World War I. And in the telling, he also resurrects an extraordinary lost chapter of American history. During the United States' ascension in the global arena at the turn of the twentieth century, America's humanitarian movement for Armenia was an important part of the rising nation's first epoch of internationalism. Intellectuals, politicians, diplomats, religious leaders, and ordinary citizens came together to try to save the Armenians. The Burning Tigris reconstructs this landmark American cause that was spearheaded by the passionate commitments and commentaries of a remarkable cast of public figures, including Julia Ward Howe, Clara Barton, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Alice Stone Blackwell, Stephen Crane, and Ezra Pound, as well as courageous missionaries, diplomats, and relief workers who recorded their eyewitness accounts and often risked their lives in the killing fields of Armenia. The crisis of the "starving Armenians" was so embedded in American popular culture that, in an age when a loaf of bread cost a nickel, the American people sent more than $100 million in aid through the American Committee on Armenian Atrocities and its successor, Near East Relief.… (mais)

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My friend Ed picked this one a few summers ago when Joel was preparing to teach a Genocide course. We were all affected by the book. Ed was bothered by Joel's ultimate distinction that genocide as a legal term didn't occur against the Armenians. That sevred their friendship in a sense. I am still glad to have embarked on the opprtunity. ( )
  jonfaith | Feb 22, 2019 |
This is such a well-written and informative book, covering a period in history which many have barely heard of, if at all.

Certainly I hadn't realised the vastness of the genocide: starting with massacres in the 1890s, the whole Turkish brutality continued until the 1920s, killing some 1.5 million Armenians. As the government moved away from an unstable sultan, and into the hands of the Young Turks, with their aim of creating a pure Turkish nation, we see the first 'ethnic cleansing'. Horrific killings, rapes and torture, alongside starvation and disease - interestingly witnessed (and largely condoned) by the German allies of Turkey in WWI - these would surely be the precursor to the later Jewish Holocaust. Many remaining Armenians were taken out in filthy railway cars and left to die in the Syrian desert...

The author doesn't just focus on events in Turkey, however, but simultaneously considers the American response to these events. The huge response to the 1890s atrocities "commenced what I believe can be called the modern era of American international human rights relief". Led by missionaries, the Red Cross and money-raising efforts, this was succeeded by another massive effort in 1915 - this time more government led.

Yet Balakian winds up by considering why it is that this horrific period in history has become largely forgotten - indeed denied by the Turkish perpetrators. Throughout the book he provides massive evidence for the genocide: not just from Armenian witnesses but politicians, missionaries, travellers who saw it - even Turks themselves, in secret letters of the time where government ordered the extermination of the race, or at the (spectacularly unsuccessful) post War trials. He looks at the importance of remaining on good terms with Turkey because of its position: near Russia and the Middle East, and how its threats whenever USA was about to acknowledge the genocide still cause it to back down. He even provides evidence that Turkey has paid professors in top American universities to help it 'sanitize its past.'

An important and very readable work with a large bibliography and some b/w photos ( )
  starbox | Aug 30, 2015 |
My Amazon review:
I gave this 5 stars not just for content but mainly for the incredible fact that almost 100 years later people (i.e. the Turkish nation) dare to deny the reality of what was done to the Armenian people. Not only deny but criminalize the mentioning of it!!! If this book does not make you angry then absolutely nothing on this earth will, especially in light of the ongoing denial. The evidence presented from dozens of FIRST-HAND accounts makes no doubt about what happened. Extermination on a scale and with a level of violence that is really just overwhelming, breathtaking. On a percent of population basis worse perhaps than what Jews experienced in WW2. I don't know...gassed or starved/walked/raped/crucified/hacked/stabbed to death? There is no worse than can be done to humans than what the Turks did. On an unimaginable scale. Fact. The utter depravity of the Turks is stomach-turning, but their continued denial is in a way worse. At least for the now-living. In no way does Turkey belong in the 'West' (EU or anywhere) while continuing to deny their role in this horrific GENOCIDE. And for anyone still believing in a non-militant version of Islam read this book. When Islam becomes the majority in any country this is likely what any non-Islamic population that dares to resist it will face if a crisis arises. Otherwise you may be free to live as a second-class citizen in that country. The deeds recounted in this terror tome are truly horrific. Forced conversion, widespread brutal rape, crucifixions, most if not all done in the name of Allah (with a heavy does of incredible greed). Have no doubt whatsoever people. It reinforces truths about Islam that are hard to accept but must be if we are to face the reality of our world. The amount of attention given to the WW2 Holocaust is fine but this still-denied seminal event in human history demands greater attention. In schools everywhere to start, no wait, in TURKISH schools to start. ( )
2 vote PCorrigan | Jan 19, 2013 |
Everything included in this book made up a fascinating and gripping account of an inappropriately obscure series of events that encompassed a major historical tragedy. However, I found myself wondering about many matters not directly or thoroughly addressed in this book, especially in the material that covers the years after the 1915 massacres. For instance, I wanted to know more about the experience of deportation victims who somehow got on with their lives in the midst of starvation, illness, and the continuing threat of violence; the post-war government in Turkey that allowed trials of the genocidal leaders to occur; the reactions of different groups within Turkey to the genocide; the nature of the Armenian nation that emerged among traumatized survivors and was absorbed by the Soviet Union; and what of the traditional Armenian culture endured throughout the following century. ( )
  MHelm1017 | Sep 1, 2011 |
Interesting and very engaging piece of work, based on great research and a lot of materials to draw upon. th many chapters describing the public sentiment in the US and the State department efforts during the Genocide might discourage the non-American reader from continuing to read the rest of the book, but these chapters do provide a authentic view of US sentiments during those terrible times.

The book provides many witness accounts and testimonies of Genocide survivals, perpetrators and of people who were present in Turkey from late 19th century until 1920s.

Highly recommended. ( )
  DKRafi | May 5, 2011 |
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In this groundbreaking history of the Armenian Genocide, the critically acclaimed author of the memoir Black Dog of Fate brings us a riveting narrative of the massacres of the Armenians in the 1890s and genocide in 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. Using rarely seen archival documents and remarkable first-person accounts, Peter Balakian presents the chilling history of how the Young Turk government implemented the first modern genocide behind the cover of World War I. And in the telling, he also resurrects an extraordinary lost chapter of American history. During the United States' ascension in the global arena at the turn of the twentieth century, America's humanitarian movement for Armenia was an important part of the rising nation's first epoch of internationalism. Intellectuals, politicians, diplomats, religious leaders, and ordinary citizens came together to try to save the Armenians. The Burning Tigris reconstructs this landmark American cause that was spearheaded by the passionate commitments and commentaries of a remarkable cast of public figures, including Julia Ward Howe, Clara Barton, Theodore Roosevelt, Woodrow Wilson, Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Charlotte Perkins Gilman, Alice Stone Blackwell, Stephen Crane, and Ezra Pound, as well as courageous missionaries, diplomats, and relief workers who recorded their eyewitness accounts and often risked their lives in the killing fields of Armenia. The crisis of the "starving Armenians" was so embedded in American popular culture that, in an age when a loaf of bread cost a nickel, the American people sent more than $100 million in aid through the American Committee on Armenian Atrocities and its successor, Near East Relief.

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