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Genocide in the Ottoman Empire: Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks, 1913-1923

Asia Minor and Pontos Hellenic Research Center Announces New Book

The Asia Minor and Pontos Hellenic Research Center is pleased to announce a new book, Genocide in the Ottoman Empire: Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks, 1913-1923. Edited by George N. Shirinian. New York and Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2017. 433 pages.

The final years of the Ottoman Empire were catastrophic for its non-Turkish, non-Muslim minorities. From 1913 to 1923, its rulers deported, killed, or otherwise persecuted staggering numbers of men, women and children in an attempt to preserve “Turkey for the Turks,” setting a modern precedent for how a regime can commit genocide against its own citizens in pursuit of political ends, while largely escaping accountability. While this brutal history is most widely known in the case of the Armenian Genocide, few today appreciate the extent to which the fate of the Empire’s Assyrian and Greek subjects was intertwined with that of the Armenians. The US Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau, stated that

The Armenians are not the only subject people in Turkey which have suffered from this policy of making Turkey exclusively the country of the Turks. The story which I have told about the Armenians I could also tell with certain modifications about the Greeks and the Syrians. Indeed, the Greeks were the first victims of this nationalizing idea … In fact, Bedri Bey, the Prefect of Police at Constantinople, himself told one of my secretaries that the Turks had expelled the Greeks so successfully that they had decided to apply the same method to all the other races in the empire.

One of the chapters examines the legal basis for treating the partial destruction of a group by deportation as genocide and concludes that there is important evidence of genocidal intent to be found in the strains of extremist ideology that emerged in the Ottoman Empire during the last quarter of the nineteenth century and first quarter of the twentieth century. This is especially relevant today, with the extermination and depopulation of Assyrians and Yezidis in the Middle East resurfacing through the extremist ideology and actions of the Islamic State since 2014. Studying the genocides of the Ottoman Empire can help us better contextualize and understand contemporary identity-based violence in the region today, and hopefully offer insights into how to recognizeand prevent current or future crimes against humanity.

This comprehensive volume is the first to broadly examine the genocides of the Armenians, Assyrians, and Greeks in a holistic manner,providing detailed descriptions, careful analysis, and essential context. Five of the studies in this collection are comparative in nature.The text is rich in quotations of original source material and fully annotated. It includes previously unpublished photographs and documents. The contents and contributors are listed below.

This book has its origins in the “International Conferenceon the Ottoman Turkish Genocides of Anatolian Christians,” held at the IllinoisHolocaust Museum and Education Center in May 2013, co-organized by the AsiaMinor and Pontos Hellenic Research Center, the Armenian National Committee, andthe Assyrian Center for Genocide Studies. Itis the latest in a series of activities
that are partof the long-term effort of the AMPHRC to promote the study of the larger pattern of genocide in the late OttomanEmpire and early Turkish Republic and to raise awareness of it

The AMPHRC is a not-for-profit, 501(c)(3) organization established in January 2011. The Center’s goal—unique in its kind—is to document and raise awareness of the “Great Catastrophe” that resulted in the uprooting and destruction of the Greek communities in their homelands of Asia Minor, Pontos, and Eastern Thrace in the early decades of the twentieth century after a 3,000-year-long presence there.

This is a “must-have” book for those with an interest in Armenian, Assyrian or Greek History;Late Ottoman and Turkish Republican History; the History of the Modern Middle East; Genocide and Comparative Genocide Studies; Political Science;and Sociology.

George N. Shirinian is Executive Director of the International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (A Division of the Zoryan Institute). His book publications include Studies in Comparative Genocide(Macmillan 1999) and The Asia Minor Catastrophe and the Ottoman Greek Genocide: Essays on Asia Minor, Pontos, and Eastern Thrace, 1913–1923 (Asia Minor and Pontos Hellenic Research Center 2012). His articles include “Turks Who Saved Armenians: Righteous Muslims During the Armenian Genocide,” and “Starvation and its Political Use in the Armenian Genocide” (forthcoming). The 14 contributors represent specialists on Armenian, Assyrian and Greek history, Genocide Studies, and International Criminal Law. They conduct research and teach in Armenia, Australia, Greece, and the United States.

Contents

List of Illustrations Preface

Introduction George N. Shirinian

PART I: CONTEXTS

Chapter 1. The Background to the Late Ottoman Genocides George N. Shirinian

Chapter 2. Convulsions at the End of Empire: Thrace, Asia Minor, and the Aegean Dikran Kaligian

Chapter 3. Assyrians in the Ottoman Empire and the Official Turkish Policy of Their Extermination, 1890s-1918 Anahit Khosroyeva

PART II: DOCUMENTATION AND EYEWITNESS ACCOUNTS

Chapter 4. Considering Genocide Testimony: Three Case Studies
Paul Bartrop

Chapter 5. The Assyrian Issue 1914-1935: Australian Documents and Press Stavros Stavridis

Chapter 6. American Women, Massacres, and the Admiral: Deep in Anatolia during the Turkish Nationalist Revolution Robert Shenk

Chapter 7. Found in Translation: Eyewitness Accounts of the Massacres in Nicomedia as Reported by Greek Journalist Kostas Faltaits Eleni Phufas

Chapter 8. The Destruction of Smyrna in 1922: An Armenian and Greek Shared Tragedy Tehmine Martoyan

PART III: LEGACIES AND INTERPRETATIONS

Chapter 9. Lemkin on Three Genocides: Comparing His Writings on the Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Genocides Steven Leonard Jacobs

Chapter 10. The Ottoman Genocide of the Armenians and Greeks: The Similarities and Structural Peculiarities Gevorg Vardanyan

Chapter 11. The Genocide of the Ottoman Greeks 1913-1923: Myths and Facts Thea Halo

Chapter 12. Redeeming the Unredeemed: The Anglo-Hellenic League’s Campaign for the Greeks in Asia Minor Georgia Kouta

Chapter 13. Genocide by Deportation into Poverty: Western Diplomats on Ottoman Christian Killings and Expulsions, 1914-1924 Hannibal Travis

Chapter 14. The Socio-Psychological Dimension of the Armenian Genocide Suren Manukyan

Bibliography Index

Slavic Review

Genocide in the Ottoman Empire: Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks, 1913–1923.

Ed. George N. Shirinian. New York: Berghahn Books, 2017. xi, 433 pp. Notes. Bibliography. Index. Photographs. $69.95, hard bound.doi: 10.1017/slr.2018.306

This is a very timely edited volume that will fill a very significant gap in the study of Greek, Assyrian, Armenian, and Turkish history on the one hand, and, on the other, provide an analysis of the collective violence these non-Muslim minorities had been subjected to in the Ottoman Empire and later on.

Two aspects of the book make it highly original: one, the time span covered and two, the framework within which collective violence is analyzed. First, the usual his- torical focus on World War I, namely 1914–18, misses very significant violent events before and after the Great War. The volume’s starting point of 1913 brings into focus the Ottoman violence exercised against the Greek Rum residing in western Anatolia before the War, a violence which was later replicated in the Armenian Genocide. Likewise, the endpoint of 1923 includes the crucial 1919–23 period after the War when the Ottoman Empire was occupied, yet before the official establishment of the Turkish Republic in October 1923. During this time, the Turkish independence struggle lead- ing to the Republic was fought. Two competing governments coexisted in Anatolia during this time: the Ottoman government with Constantinople as its capital, and the burgeoning Turkish government with Ankara as its capital. Since telegraphic communication between the Ottoman capital and Anatolia was interrupted by the Turkish forces early on, there are not many reliable studies relating to the collective violence committed by the Turks against local non-Muslims during the independence struggle. For the first time, then, this volume provides valuable information on the nature and extent of this collective violence by introducing novel primary sources, especially on the 1922 genocide of the Pontus Greeks.The collective violence analyzed in the volume expands beyond the particular violence committed separately against the Armenians, Assyrians, and the Greek Rum. Instead, it combines all into the “late Ottoman genocides” brought collectively upon the non-Muslim communities of Asia Minor, especially in the transition from the Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Republic. For a very long time, probably predicated on the Ottoman non-Muslim inter-communal strife fostered during imperial times, these non-Muslim communities wrote their own particular histories of violence with- out referencing each other. Some even engaged in debates regarding who suffered the most violence. With this volume, however, the field now moves to a most welcome new, higher level of analysis, one that is able to overcome the particularities of Ottoman and later Turkish collective violence to instead see the genocidal patterns uniting these cases. The common perpetrator is ably depicted as a Turkish state and society striving to establish a nation-state through the violent exclusion of Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians that, along with Kurds, regarded Anatolia as their ancestral lands.The volume is divided into three parts. After a very good and thorough intro- duction by George N. Shirinian, Part I, entitled “Contexts,” sets the stage. All three articles articulate the new multi-ethnic approach to genocide. First, George Shirinian provides the analytical framework for what he terms “late Ottoman genocides” (of Greeks, Assyrians, and Armenians). Then, Dikran M. Kaligian presents a spatial analysis of Thrace, Asia Minor, and the Aegean, thereby commenting on the Christian populations of the empire. Finally, Anahit Khosroeva specifically analyzes the Assyrians. It would have been beneficial to include here a scholar of Greek history as well, since the coverage of the Greek Rum is less than that of the Armenians and Assyrians.

Part II, titled “Documentation and Eyewitness Accounts,” forms the core of the volume with five scholars providing ample contemporaneous historical sources, with an eye on the continuities among the three cases of collective violence. Paul R. Bartrop’s comparative critical discussion of the survivor testimonies of an Armenian, an Assyrian, and a Pontic Greek truly makes the idea behind the volume of analyz- ing the three cases simultaneously come to life, revealing how much more one learns from employing such a framework than simple case studies. Stavros T. Stavridis focuses on the Assyrian issue between 1914–35 as covered by the Australian press, revealing fascinating insight into their inability to ultimately establish a national home on their ancestral lands. Robert Shenk brings in the most valuable insights of another social group, contemporaneous American missionary women who witnessed the violence against the non-Muslims, but could not get Admiral Bristol, the head American official in the region, to acknowledge it due to his pro-Turkish stand (in hopes of establishing commercial ties with a future Turkish state). Next, while Ellene S. Phufas ponders the eyewitness accounts of the massacres in Nicomedia, Tehmine Martoyan focuses on the destruction of Smyrna by Turkish forces in 1922. The last three articles in this part by Shenk, Phufas, and Martoyan all suffer from a lack of ref- erences to recent critical works by Turkish scholars. Had they included such sources, their interpretations would have been much richer, finer, and nuanced.Part III on “Legacies and Interpretations” contains six chapters that attempt to reflect on the consequences of employing the new framework of late Ottoman geno- cides. These chapters, however, do not cohere well. To start with, Steven Leonard Jacobs very ably compares Raphael Lemkin’s writings on the three genocides, ensuring that his article will become an instant classic in genocide studies. Gevorg Vardanyan’s article comparing the Greek and Armenian genocides as well as Thea Halo’s work on the genocide of the Ottoman Greeks both suffer, once again, from a lack of references regarding the recent literature produced by scholars of Turkey and, as such, fail to bring forth novel ideas and interpretations.

The final three articles in this part do not seem to belong here. Georgia Kouta’s interesting and valuable study on the contemporaneous Anglo-Hellenic League’s campaign for the Greeks in Asia Minor shares more with the earlier Part II on docu- mentation and eyewitness accounts. Likewise, Hannibal Travis’s long discussion of deportation as a genocidal act, where he compares the late Ottoman genocides to those that followed in Nazi Germany, Iraq, Cambodia, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Kosova, Rwanda, and Darfur fits more in Part I on contexts. As for the final study by Suren Manukyan on the socio-psychological dimension of the Armenian Genocide, this article does not seem to be in conversation with any of the articles in the volume—it would have been much better not to include it in this volume.In summary, then, I heartily recommend this book to scholars interested in the histories of these communities as well as the Ottoman Empire and Turkish Republic; genocide scholars would also benefit from the novel framework of studying the col- lective violence against Greeks, Armenians, and Assyrians together, from a single comparative vantage point as late Ottoman genocides.

Fatma Muge GöçekUniversity of Michigan.

 


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