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

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

4.3 11
by Peter Balakian
 

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A History of International Human Rights and Forgotten Heroes

In this national bestseller, the critically acclaimed author Peter Balakian brings us a riveting narrative of the massacres of the Armenians in the 1890s and of the Armenian Genocide in 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. Using rarely seen archival documents and remarkable first-person accounts,

Overview

A History of International Human Rights and Forgotten Heroes

In this national bestseller, the critically acclaimed author Peter Balakian brings us a riveting narrative of the massacres of the Armenians in the 1890s and of the Armenian Genocide in 1915 at the hands of the Ottoman Turks. Using rarely seen archival documents and remarkable first-person accounts, Balakian presents the chilling history of how the Turkish government implemented the first modern genocide behind the cover of World War I. And in the telling, he resurrects an extraordinary lost chapter of American history.

Awarded the Raphael Lemkin Prize for the best scholarly book on genocide by the Institute for Genocide Studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice/CUNY Graduate Center.

Editorial Reviews

Sir - Martin Gilbert
The terrible fate of the Armenians... is brilliantly described. A great service to the history of the Armenians."
Deborah E. Lipstadt
“Peter Balakian tells the powerful and largely unknown story of [Armenian Genocide]. This important and compelling book is long overdue.”
James Carroll
“The Burning Tigris is an act of acute historical memory, of personal testimony, of prophetic witness - and of high art.”
Paul Fussell
“A gripping treatment of the official Turkish mass murder...a masterpiece of moral history...it needs to be widely read.”
Jean Bethke Elshtain
“Balakian tells a story long ripe for the telling.... He writes with grace and power.”
Sir Martin Gilbert
The terrible fate of the Armenians... is brilliantly described. A great service to the history of the Armenians.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“[An] engrossing and poignant memoir.”
New York Times Book Review
“[A] fascinating and affecting memoir.”
Booklist
“In this important book, Balakian proves adept at presenting both human horror and political tragedy.”
Forward
“A mighty work, a slow burn of muted eloquence, dense with scholarship...compelling.”
The New Yorker
“Richly imagined and carefully documented.”
The New York Times
The Burning Tigris does succeed in resurrecting a little-known chapter of American as well as Armenian history. It also underscores a crucial point about humanitarian responses to violations of human rights: outrage and outpourings of sympathy and aid may save some lives, but -- as the 20th century would show time and again -- they have little real impact in the face of state interests that militate against intervention. With The Burning Tigris Peter Balakian forcefully reminds us that almost a century after the Armenian genocide, the international community has yet to find a means of implementing Charlotte Perkins Gilman's vision, as pertinent today as it was in 1903: ''National crimes demand international law, to restrain, prohibit, punish, best of all, prevent.'' — Belinda Cooper
James R. Russell
It is a mighty work, a slow burn of muted eloquence, dense with scholarship. Balakian's training in English literature and American studies has served him especially well, since a large part of the book is dedicated to the stupendous and nearly universal outpouring of sympathy for the Armenians and condemnation of Ottoman barbarity throughout the nightmare years among American and British writers, intellectuals, clergymen and politicians.
j—The Forward
Publishers Weekly
Now faded from memory in the shadow of the Holocaust, the Turkish slaughter of more than a million Armenians in 1915-1916 was a virtual template for the 20th-century horrors that followed, and much of what Balakian describes so powerfully is now chillingly familiar: inhuman brutality; mass deportations of helpless civilians (often in overcrowded railroad boxcars); headlines screaming of "systematic race extermination"; activists and intellectuals calling for intervention; and, most devastatingly, the lack of political will in the West to intervene to stop the slaughter. Balakian exposes the roots of the genocide in the "total war" atmosphere of WWI, which combusted with the pan-Turkish nationalism of the Young Turk government, inflamed Muslim rage against "infidel" Armenian Christians, and a long-simmering Ottoman hatred of the Armenians dating to Sultan Abdul Hamid II and his slaughters in the 1890s. Balakian, who wrote so movingly of the impact of the genocide on his own family in Black Dog of Fate, also underscores how well known the Armenian destruction was in America through detailed reports by U.S. consuls throughout Turkey and steady newspaper reporting, and how great the response was in providing humanitarian assistance to refugees and survivors. In a horrifying account, city by city, region by region, Balakian quotes firsthand testimony about the decimation of the Armenian population and their towns and culture. Yet he retains the measured tone of a historian throughout; if anything, he lets Woodrow Wilson off too easily for not declaring war on Turkey. But readers will come away sadly convinced that Armenians' brave but doomed stand in Van should be as celebrated as the Warsaw ghetto uprising, and the corpse-strewn Lake Gaeljak as well known as Babi Yar. 16 pages of b&w photos and maps not seen by PW. (Oct. 7) Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Author of the award-winning Black Dog of Fate, Balakian explores America's efforts to save Armenians from genocide. Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An eloquent account of Turkey’s long campaign to rid itself of Armenians—and far longer campaign to disavow any responsibility for crimes against humanity. During the 1890s, writes memoirist (Black Dog of Fate, 1997) and poet Balakian, Sultan Abdul Hamid II launched a campaign of extermination against Armenia’s Christians, killing about 200,000 in a two-year period and setting "the template for most of the genocide that followed in the twentieth century." The Ottoman Empire’s resorting to state-sponsored murder against the Armenians was not without precedent; a few years earlier, the same sultan had ordered the massacre of thousands of Bulgarians who had been pressing for independence. Yet this crime was unprovoked, and it outraged the world; in the US, millions of dollars were raised for Armenian relief, and at the turn of the century nearly every American schoolchild could find Armenia on the map. The fall of the Ottomans and the rise of the Young Turks brought further troubles for the Armenians, for whereas the Ottomans had ruled a multiethnic empire, the Ataturk regime championed Turkish nationalism. Faced with revolutionary movements in the Balkans, the Young Turks justified oppression of the Armenians as a measure to stave off a two-front attack; "in the Turkish mind," writes Balakian, "the struggle to keep the Balkans was never far from the Armenian Question." This time the death toll was far higher; Balakian estimates that between 1.2 and 1.3 million Armenians were killed in the years between 1915 and 1922, though some historians put the figure at 1.5 million. Again, writes Balakian, American sentiment was with the Armenians, many survivors among whom emigrated to the US. Butin the years since, despite the Turkish government’s crimes against its people, the Armenian genocide has been gone unacknowledged, the product of a "sinister . . . Turkish campaign of denial . . . that is perhaps singular in the annals of history"—a campaign that, Balakian says, successfully persuaded Bill Clinton to kill a House measure to commemorate the genocide "for the sake of ‘national security.’ " Thoroughly convincing—and one more reason for the governments of the West, including the Clinton administration, to be ashamed.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780060558703
Publisher:
HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
10/05/2004
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
528
Sales rank:
274,595
Product dimensions:
5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 1.18(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Burning Tigris
The Armenian Genocide and America's Response

Chapter One

A Gathering at Faneuil Hall

Ah, Mrs. Howe, you have given us a prose Battle Hymn.
-- Frederick Greenhalge,
governor of Massachusetts

The light in New England in late fall is austere and clean and rinses the white steeples of Boston's Congregational and Unitarian churches, the red brick of the State House, and the gray stone of the Back Bay town houses. Even the gold dome on the white cupola of Faneuil Hall reflects its luster. It's November 26, 1894, the Monday before Thanksgiving, a windy and clear evening, as men and women file into Faneuil Hall from all over Boston and from the suburbs of Cambridge, Watertown, Winchester, and as far out as Quincy and Andover. They have come to this public meeting place near the harbor to talk about the most pressing international human rights issue of the day.

Schooners and sloops and oyster scows make a grid of rigging that glows in the sunset. The sound of squawking gulls. Buckets of cod and haddock on the docks. The outline of the giant masts of the USS Constitution fading in the twilight of the Charlestown Naval Yard. Across the street the stalls of Quincy Market are closed, the awnings rolled up for the night.

Faneuil Hall was known as the Cradle of Liberty because Samuel Adams and James Otis and the Sons of Liberty had met here in the decade before the American Revolution to form their opposition to the sugar tax, the stamp tax, and other forms of British oppression. The Boston Tea Party was conceived here. The space itself was made even more dramatic when the architect Charles Bulfinch redesigned it in 1805. Even after government by town meeting ended in Boston in 1822, the hall continued to be the main forum for political and social debate. Here in the 1840s William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Charles Sumner, and Frederick Douglass gave some of their most important antislavery speeches to overflowing crowds.

By 1873 women were speaking from the podium, and suffragists Lucy Stone and Julia Ward Howe were among the first to address the movement for woman suffrage on that stage beneath George A. Healy's dramatic painting of Daniel Webster exhorting, "Liberty and union, now and forever" on the Senate floor. In keeping with that spirit of reform, a group of prominent New Englanders filled Faneuil Hall on that blustery late-November evening.

All that summer and fall, news of the massacres of the Armenians at the hands of the Turks in the Ottoman Empire reached Americans through news reports and bold headlines in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, and in the nation's leading magazines -- The Nation, The Century, and Harper's. The news came from American missionaries who were teaching Christians at missionary colleges all across the Anatolian plain of central and eastern Turkey; it came from American and British diplomats stationed in the Armenian provinces of the Ottoman Empire, from European and American journalists, and from Armenian survivors and refugees. And recently it came by way of a new invention -- the wireless telegraph.

The outrage over the Armenian massacres emerged in a culture that was just beginning to look outward to the international arena in which the United States would define a global identity in the coming decade. In the first years of the 1890s, there had been a near war with Chile over the killing of two American sailors in Valparaiso, and U.S. involvement in a border dispute between British Guiana and Venezuela that brought jingoism to a new level. Americans such as Theodore Roosevelt began to broadcast their feeling that the country needed a war. The question of annexing the Hawaiian Islands dominated a tug-of-war between the imperialists and anti-imperialists that lasted throughout the decade.

Americans also expressed great sympathy for the Cubans in their struggle for independence from Spain. By 1895, when Cuban rebels rose up against the deplorable conditions to which they were subjected by their Spanish rulers, the Cuban crisis became a Western Hemisphere liberation cause for Americans. By 1898 the Cuban struggle would lead to the Spanish-American War -- the war that consummated the jingoist spirit and launched the United States as a colonial force in the world. With the defeat of Spain, in a war that lasted ten weeks and gave Cuba its independence, the United States acquired Puerto Rico, the Philippines, and Guam, giving the nation a rising sense of global power.

The 1890s were a transformative time for U.S. foreign policy -- a decade in which it would embrace imperialism and assert itself, at times, with a rhetoric of Protestant Anglo-Saxon superiority over the "backward" peoples of the world. The Armenian Question emerged, in some ways uniquely, as a humanitarian project at a time when imperialist designs were governing most American international interventions.


Sultan Abdul Hamid II, the Turkish caliph, had begun to implement his solution to what was now internationally known as the Armenian Question. In short, the Armenian Question revolved around the issue of much-needed reform for the oppressed Armenians -- the largest Christian minority living under Ottoman Turkish rule in Anatolia. As the British journalist and longtime resident of Constantinople -- Sir Edwin Pears -- put it, all the Armenians "desired was security for life, honour, and property." But, the sultan's lifetime friend and confidant, the Hungarian scholar Arminius Vambery, wrote, the sultan had decided that the only way to eliminate the Armenian Question was to eliminate the Armenians themselves. The means would be government-sanctioned mass murder on a scale never before seen.

The Turkish massacres of some fifteen thousand Bulgarians in 1876 (a response to the Bulgarian uprising for independence) had been an unprecedented act of state-sponsored mass murder that riveted Europe and the United States ...

The Burning Tigris
The Armenian Genocide and America's Response
. Copyright © by Peter Balakian. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

What People are Saying About This

Deborah E. Lipstadt
“Peter Balakian tells the powerful and largely unknown story of [Armenian Genocide]. This important and compelling book is long overdue.”
Martin Gilbert
The terrible fate of the Armenians... is brilliantly described. A great service to the history of the Armenians.”
Paul Fussell
“A gripping treatment of the official Turkish mass murder...a masterpiece of moral history...it needs to be widely read.”
Jean Bethke Elshtain
“Balakian tells a story long ripe for the telling.... He writes with grace and power.”
James Carroll
“The Burning Tigris is an act of acute historical memory, of personal testimony, of prophetic witness - and of high art.”

Meet the Author

Peter Balakian is the author of Black Dog of Fate, winner of the PEN/Martha Albrand Prize for Memoir and a New York Times Notable Book, and June-tree: New and Selected Poems 1974–2000. He is the recipient of many awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship. He holds a Ph.D. in American Civilization from Brown University and teaches at Colgate University, where he is a Donald M. and Constance H. Rebar Professor of the Humanities.

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The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 11 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I purchased the book on clearance at my local B&N as an impulse buy and I'm very happy I did so. I can't express how eye-opening and truly tragic it was to read this book. Genocide is nothing new to humanity, but this particular historical episode is not talked about nearly enough. The book contains tremendous amounts of information that will appeal to anyone, regardless of their love for history.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book is an easy read and very thorough in backing up its historical findings with facts! Unfortunately, the United States proved to have made unethical decisions under the guise of what was best for the US?
Barbra_Gordon More than 1 year ago
One of the best historical books that I have read. Up there with Barbra Tuchman's work in terms of research and narrative. Peter Balakian skillfully weaves the stories of America's first human rights movements- feminism, emancipation and foreign aid to the brutalized minorities of Turkey- in to a compelling page turner. His meticulous research and fine writing make this book a necessary addition to any library collection of books concerning the American rights movements, genocide and the history of the near east. Recommended!
Guest More than 1 year ago
We live in fragile times: while we look to other countries and shudder at the famine, mass deaths, suicide bombings, the ever bubbling curse of AIDS, we also sit and watch highschool killing sprees, 911 reactions, serial rapists and killers on the television nightly news and on the front pages of the following morning's papers. We cannot avoid being aware of atrocities that surround our tiny planet. One particular atrocity of the past is retold in frequent books, movies, musical elegies, paintings, poems, and theater - that incredible crime against humanity being the Holocaust of Hitler's Nazi Germany. But how many of us are aware of the magnitude of the Turkish Genocide of the Armenians that took place in 1915? Or of the massacre of Armenians in the 1890's that became an American focus for humanitarian concerns, advancing Clara Barton and the Red Cross into action with all the backing of the press and religious support that was readily mustered? The time has come to set the record straight on this submerged tragedy in hopes that bringing attention to this omission from American history books will alert the people of the world (and especially America) just how powerful our government's preoccupation with OIL and the countries that supply truly is. Peter Balakian has written the definitive book THE BURNING TIGRIS: THE ARMENIAN GENOCIDE AND AMERICA'S RESPONSE - A History of International Human Rights and Forgotten Heroes and I would urge everyone to read this enormously well researched, documented, and readable volume. Balakian starts his history with the early 1890's and traces the ever-increasing degradation of Armenians in Turkey by the Ottoman Empire. The strangest aspect of this ongoing murder of innocents is that for many years it was a cause celebre in the USA. The Women's Rights Movement led by such luminaries as Grace Kimball, Clara Barton, Julia Ward Howe, and Alice Stone Blackwell gave of their time, money and personal commitment to send relief to the Armenians and to keep the tragedy before the public eye. Great thinkers and writers of the day like William M. Ramsey wrote ' Turkish massacre...does not mean that thousands are killed in a few days by the sword, the torture, or the fire. It does not mean merely that everything [the Armenians] possess is stolen, their houses and shops looted and often burned, every article worth a halfpenny taken, the corpses stripped. It does not mean merely that the survivors are left penniless - without food, sometimes literally stark naked...Sometimes, when the Turks have been specially merciful, they have offered their victims an escape from death by accepting Mohammedanism.' Yet this massacre was only a prelude to the Genocide that occurred in 1915. The real horror of this history is the absolute drive of the Turks toward annihilation of the Armenians in 1914 - 1915. This genocide was a mirror image of the Nazi Final Solution for Jews in WW II complete with ghettos, mass murders, camps, slaughter of all men below age 50, then mass slaughter of the women and children. A particularly heinous note is that the Turks identified, isolated and then exterminated most of the great philophers, teachers,artists, writers, and thinkers - leaving few to transmit the horror of the genocide to the future generations. But despite the initial care and concern of the USA in sending aid to the Armenians and accepting thousands into the country here, the actual events of treaty signing, accords, agreements, and political stands at the close of WW I and WW II focused on the need to pacify Turkey in order to keep the flow of OIL Almighty flowing. The embarrassment of this lack of courage to punish violations of Human Rights is now felt acutely as we are left to view our country's errors in Vietnam, the Middle East, our own 'ethnic cleansing' of the American Indians and our history of supporting slavery of the African Americans. Where in 1915 the New York Times wrote daily about the Armenian atr
Tennesseedog More than 1 year ago
In memory of the Armenian people. What a tremendous non-fiction work this is. Author Peter Balakian has written the definitive work on the horrors that were the Armenian massacres of the late 19th Century and first decade of the 20th Century, the Ottoman Turkish government's policy of genocide during World War I and the final solution attempted by the modern Turkish government of Mustafa (Ataturk) Kemal in the early 1920's. This volume also addresses the American response to these periods of slaughter beginning with the massive fundraising, missionary efforts and public harangues by the American people against the Ottoman and Young Turk policy of deportation, property seizure, death marches and ultimately murder at the hands of Kurd nomads, criminal Turkish civilians or authorized Turkish military forces. The American response to these killings in Turkey then moved to a lukewarm State department response as Turkey was never a declared combatant of WW I in the US government's eyes (and their oil reserves were more important for our corporate leaders) and was given every out when world opinion demanded justice for the murdered, displaced and raped Armenian people. Finally, the US completely forgave the Turkish misdeeds in the name of fighting Communist Russia and being a stalwart partner in the Cold War. And this amnesia in our government decisions and actions and in the statements regarding the slaughter by our Presidents continues today and brings to the fore our disregard for moral misbehaviors by foreign governments as long as our corporate or state objectives are being met. What a horrific journey reading this volume is. The documentation, much of it from eyewitness reports or Turkish government documents, is stunning in its depth and detail. No one can deny that these horrors did occur and resulted in the death of more than a million Christian Armenians, Syrians and Greeks. The fact that the present day government of Turkey with their paid supporters in government circles and academia refuse to face up to facts and to the genocide and crimes against humanity that they have committed speaks loudly about the trustworthiness and fealty of these people in the world wide fight against Islamic terrorism and against the ISIS monster presently shaking the Middle East. Until the world again speaks out loudly and confronts Turkey with demands for them to admit their misdeeds, make needed reparations to victims and provide safety for Christians living within their borders, no one will believe that this large Muslim nation is really secular as they claim or peace-loving as their religion is alleged to be.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Kisses back (gtg will be back tomorrow
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Slowly, almost teasingly kisses you (awwwww
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Sided information !!! NEEDED MORE RESEARCH TO WRITE FACTS OF HISTORY
Hugo-Z-Hackenbush More than 1 year ago
For readers unfamiliar with middle eastern histories, Mr. Balakian has painted a dense, fact filled, and easy to read account of the sufferings of his people. His history is as clearly defined as a razors edge. However, this book is tainted by its omissions, which a well read individual will quickly realize, and by its none to subtle ethnic biases. Americans forgive easily, and the enemy of a few years ago can quickly become an ally. Other nationalities seem unable to advance beyond Mohacs, Manzikert, Kosovo; they let their defeats define them, not their victories. I do not recommend this book. If you want to appreciate Armenia, enjoy its fine, fiery brandy.