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The Armenian Genocide: A Complete History

The Armenian Genocide: A Complete History [Hardcover]

Raymond Kévorkian (Author)
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Book Description

April 15, 2011 1848855613 978-1848855618

The Armenian Genocide was one of the greatest atrocities of the twentieth century, an episode in which up to 1.5 million Armenians lost their lives. In this major new history, the renowned historian Raymond Kévorkian provides an authoritative account of the origins, events and consequences of the years 1915 and 1916. He considers the role that the Armenian Genocide played in the construction of the Turkish nation state and Turkish identity, as well as exploring the ideologies of power, rule and state violence. Crucially, he examines the consequences of the violence against the Armenians, the implications of deportations and attempts to bring those who committed the atrocities to justice.

Kévorkian offers a detailed and meticulous record, providing an authoritative analysis of the events and their impact upon the Armenian community itself, as well as the development of the Turkish state.  This important book will serve as an indispensable resource to historians of the period, as well as those wishing to understand the history of genocidal violence more generally.

Editorial Reviews


"This is the most comprehensive book to date on the Armenian Genocide of 1915. In this detailed account, Raymond Kévorkian describes the process which drove 1.5 million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire to their deaths." -- Le Monde

"This mighty volume constitutes the most complete summary to date."  -- Histoforum, Paris

About the Author

Raymond Kévorkian is an historian who teaches at the Institut Français de Géopolitique, University of Paris-VIII-Saint-Denis. He is Director of the Bibliothčque Nubar, the Armenian Library in Paris and the author of numerous works on the history of modern and contemporary Armenia and Armenians.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1008 pages
  • Publisher: I. B. Tauris (April 15, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1848855613
  • ISBN-13: 978-1848855618
  • Product Dimensions: 10 x 7.2 x 2.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #732,416 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely stunning--10 stars! June 28, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Amazon Verified Purchase
Raymond Kevorkian's "The Armenian Genocide" is a truly magnificent, seminal book, and a work of first-rate scholarship. It's likely this book will be seen and respected as the Armenian equivalent of Raul Hilberg's definitive and towering study of the Holocaust, "The Destruction of the European Jews," a book I read many years ago and was blown away by. I had the same feelings of awe reading this book as I did when I read Hilberg's massive 3-volume study. And while the Armenian Genocide is a subject that I feel I have understood fairly well, I am stunned by how much I learned reading this book. So this is proving to be an epic journey of discovery for me, and as painful as the subject matter is, this book is an amazing achievement in every way.

It took me three months to finish reading Professor Kevorkian's book. The fact is, it's a 1,500 page book masquerading as a 1,000 page book (800 pages of texts, 200 pages of footnotes). The font is smaller than one typically sees in a book, and the pages themselves seem to have smaller margins and more text than usual. But any way you cut it, Professor Kevorkian's book is a remarkable achievement in every way. While he has levels of detail that seem hard to imagine possible (down to the names of families deported in many communities--and it shocked me that I found my maternal grandmother's mother's family's name listed as one of the families that was put on a certain convoy on a specific date), and the names of the local leaders, organizers, and individuals responsible for the atrocities and mass murders in many of these same communities), none of these details obscures the larger story that Kevorkian tells--and he really tells a story masterfully. Like Raul Hillberg does in his three-volume Holocaust masterwork, "The Destruction of the European Jews," Kevorkian tells a story with a clear narrative, and doesn't just overwhelm you with facts, statistics, and information. I am astonished at what Professor Kevorkian has achieved with this book. It's a lifetime's work, and it's magnificent in every way.

More shocking to me was how much I learned--and I come to this subject fairly well informed to start with. There were revelations after revelations for me, and as difficult as the book was to read given its subject matter and intensity, I never came close to losing interest in it (even as reading it was a project due to its length, depth, and breadth). Here are just a few of the things that I learned specifically:

1. I had no idea that within the Young Turk movement before the Ittihadists took power, there were two completely different factions within the party with very different ideas for how to reform Turkey if/when the the Ittihadists came to power, with one group believing that only de-centralization would lead to renewal, growth and economic and cultural development, whereas the other group believed that it was necessary to centralize, consolidate power, and drive change from the center (and you can guess which faction won out). It's stunning to contemplate how much different history would have been had the de-centralists prevailed. This is one of those rare moments in history where one can see there was a critical fork in the road, and had the other direction been chosen, so much would be so different, avoiding all the death, suffering, pain, and loss that resulted.

2. The deportations were not carried out with the same murderous ferocity across Turkey. The six Armenian vilayets of Eastern Turkey (Asia Minor), i.e. historic Armenia, were treated in the most brutal way possible, and miniscule percentages of the people survived the death marches. But the deportations of the Armenians from Anatolia (west of the six vilayets, and not part of historical Armenia) were far less murderously brutal, though by no means could they be classified as anything but "brutal." But far larger percentages of the Armenians deported from Anatolia survived the death marches to the deserts--where most were later massacred in a second-wave of Turkish genocidal attacks in 1916.

3. While most communities were rendered defenseless by the Turks and not in a position to offer resistance (and mostly did not), in fact, Armenians did fight back on several occasions. We of course all know of the resistance at Van and Musa Dagh, but scattered throughout this story are other stories where the Armenians fought back. While in most situations the outcomes ended in complete disaster for the Armenians, nonetheless, they fought back as best they were capable of. This moved me. The Armenian resistance in Urfa was especially emotional for me, because the Armenians fought back heroically even if in the end they were still destroyed.

4. There was only one sanctuary for Armenians in all of Turkey: Dersim. A mountainous area that the Turks did not control and which was inhabited by nomadic Kurds, Dersim served as a refuge for massacre survivors who managed their way to it. I did not read anything that suggested that the Armenians knew that Dersim would be a safe place for them, although they obviously had to know it was a region that Turkey did not control. It appears that many who managed to escape to Dersim survived and were taken in by the Kurds. The Turks even tried to negotiate with the Kurdish leaders to give up the Armenians, but the Kurds refused and the Turks could not do anything about it because they did not control the area--the only part of Turkey they did not control, and never had.

5. I never realized the extent to which the Turks tortured their victims before killing them. It was so hard to read and understand this, because while I was aware of the brutality of the massacres, the details were shocking. Grigoris Balakian, in his astonishing book "Armenian Golgotha" (Armenian Golgotha (Vintage)) gets into it to some degree, but there's far more detail in Professor Kevorkian's book. And it's not for the squeamish. When you think about how the Germans murdered the Jews during the Holocaust--methodically, efficiently, and unemotionally, just simply putting people to death in the most impersonal and efficient way possible, the Turkish approach was nearly the opposite. The Turks routinely tortured their victims before killing them, dismembered them while they were alive, and killed them in the most brutal ways imaginable that caused the most possible pain before death. I don't mean to sound naive, but it is just hard for me to understand how any human beings who KNEW they were going to kill a lot of other people were capable of doing it in the most painful way possible for the victims. What is this telling us? Who were these people?

6. Professor Kevorkian puts forward a theory which is well argued by the evidence, and it makes sense, but it was something I had never heard argued before, and it shocked me. We know that many young Armenian girls (but not young boys) were taken from the deportation caravans by local families and raised as Turks. Professor Kevorkian establishes that in fact this was something encouraged by the authorities. Talaat had a lot of admiration for the Armenians, their skills, and their capabilities (and there is a quote that Professor Kevorkian provides in which Talaat admiringly indicates that the Armenians are more capable than the Turks). While Talaat was pathologically opposed to an Armenian identity existing within Turkey, he was hoping to take a small number of Armenians and raise them as Turks, and ultimately "improving" the Turkish race in this manner--but only through the introduction of women, not men, because by societal norms, women were subservient. Talaat was not seeking genetic purity per se with the elimination of the Armenians (as the Germans were during the Nazi era), but rather, national purity--there was no room for an "Armenian" identity, only a Turkish one. But clearly the Ittihadists were engaged in an experiment of "genetic improvement" of Turks through incorporation of a limited Armenian gene pool influx, albeit shorn of its ethnic identity. This is shocking to me.

If it's not already clear, let me indicate that "The Armenian Genocide" is not for the casual reader. But if you are interested in the subject matter, and truly want to understand what happened before, during, and after the Genocide, I have never read anything better--or anything close to this good. By any standards, this is a seminal work, and a magnificent achievement in every respect.
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