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Book Review - The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response

John Shattuck

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The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response
Peter Balakian
HarperCollins, 475 pp. illustrated, $26.95.

During the course of the 20th century, 175 million civilians were murdered by their own governments -- four times the total number of soldiers killed in all the century's international wars combined. "The souls of this monstrous pile of dead have created," in the words of noted genocide scholar R. J. Rummel, "a new land, a new nation, among us." This land of genocide and political murder would rank sixth in population among the nations of the world by the end of "the bloodiest century in history."

The cradle of modern genocide is in Turkey. As Peter Balakian graphically documents in "The Burning Tigris," more than a million Armenians were slaughtered in the crumbling Ottoman Empire in 1915 and 1916 under the direction of nationalist Turkish leaders. The Armenian genocide was a product of tensions between an Islamic majority and a Christian minority, resentment by Turks of the Armenians' economic success, and the willingness of cynical leaders to fan the flames of religious and ethnic difference to advance their own political cause. What happened to the Armenians in Turkey was a harbinger of the Holocaust and of the waves of modern mass murder that have swept the world ever since...

It matters whether the truth about genocide is recorded and publicized. It also matters whether the world intervenes and whether those who organize it are held accountable. These lessons are reflected in "The Burning Tigris," which, despite its chaotic organization and confusing chronology, tells a story of multiplying horror and betrayal...

Read the entire review on the Boston Globe website.

Posted: 2/11/04



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