Armenians and Turks in the Aftermath of Genocide


Each semester when we speak about the Armenian (and Assyrian and Greek) genocide of 1915, my students are initially fascinated and then appalled by the politics of its historiography, particularly considering that 2007 and the murder of Hrant Dink. A newly published paperback edition of a book that initially appeared in 2015 assists us appreciate the in no way-ending nature of this complicated controversy: Thomas de Waal, Fantastic Catastrophe: Armenians and Turks in the Shadow of Genocide (Oxford UP, 2018), 328pp.| two maps 22 photographs.

About this book the publisher tells us this:

The destruction of the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire in 1915-16 was the greatest atrocity of Planet War I. About one particular million Armenians have been killed, and the survivors have been scattered across the planet. Even though it is now a century old, the situation of what most of the planet calls the Armenian Genocide of 1915 is nevertheless a reside and divisive situation that mobilizes Armenians across the planet, shapes the identity and politics of contemporary Turkey, and has consumed the consideration of U.S. politicians for years.

In Fantastic Catastrophe, the eminent scholar and reporter Thomas de Waal appears at the aftermath and politics of the Armenian Genocide and tells the story of current efforts by courageous Armenians, Kurds, and Turks to come to terms with the disaster as Turkey enters a new post-Kemalist era. The story of what occurred to the Armenians in 1915-16 is effectively-identified. Right here we are told the “history of the history” and the lesser-identified story of what occurred to Armenians, Kurds, and Turks in the century that followed. De Waal relates how distinct generations tackled the situation of the “Fantastic Catastrophe” from the 1920s till the failure of the Protocols signed by independent Armenia and Turkey in 2010. Quarrels among diaspora Armenians supporting and opposing the Soviet Union broke into violence and culminated with the murder of an archbishop in 1933. The devising of the word “genocide,” the development of contemporary identity politics, and the 50th anniversary of the massacres re-energized a new generation of Armenians. In Turkey the situation was initially forgotten, only to return to the political agenda in the context of the Cold War and an outbreak of Armenian terrorism. Extra lately, Turkey has began to confront its taboos. In an astonishing revival of oral history, the descendants of tens of thousands of “Islamized Armenians,” who have been in the shadows considering that 1915, have begun to reemerge and reclaim their identities.

Drawing on archival sources, reportage and moving individual stories, de Waal tells the complete story of Armenian-Turkish relations considering that the Genocide in all its extraordinary twists and turns. He appears behind the propaganda to examine the realities of a terrible historical crime and the divisive “politics of genocide” it made. The book throws light not only on our understanding of Armenian-Turkish relations but also of how mass atrocities and historical tragedies shape modern politics.


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