TCLITD: Part 1 of Part 1 (Intro – Chapter 1)

TCLITD: Part 1 of Part 1 (Intro – Chapter 1)

I’m looking at notes I took about how to process a book and I’m just going to do some kind of fill-in-the-blank shit here:

Author: Ronald Grigor Suny (still alive, I take it) (his birthday is soon) (he’ll turn 77) and he went to some pretty rad schools
Oh, and his grandfather was an Armenian composer

I am so bored. Okay, not gonna lie, I was never really taught and never really learned how to read that page with all of the publication information so that kind of sucks. It looks like this is the only edition, though. I don’t think it’s a translation, and it was published by Princeton University Press. AND it was published in 2015.

It got some good, solid reviews. Nice.


“This is the story of why, when, and how the Genocide of the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire happened.” Am I done? Can I be done with this book? Now that I know what it’s about? Kidding. Kind of.

I’m #blessed because the introduction is very short and that’s the only thing that Prof. Al-Tikriti told us we need to read in depth.

Okay, so here’s a cute timeline I made based on information from the Introduction followed by some quotes from the Intro that I highlighted because I guess I thought they seemed important.

  • “In cases of mass murder and war, simplification leads to facile accusations of guilt and assumptions of innocence” (xi).
  • “…when empires attempted to accommodate themselves to a transforming world in which nations and national states challenged their sources of power and legitimacy.”
  • “This book investigates those moments of choice when political actors might have acted differently but decided instead to embark on a course that led to devastation and destruction.” neat.
  • “Revision of history is constant, even necessary, but in some cases, like that of the fate of the Armenians in the last years of the Ottoman Empire, it has led to the creation of two separate, contradictory narratives that appear to defy reconciliation” (xii).
  • This one is long, prepare yourself: “The Turkish state and those few historians who reject the notion of genocide have argued that the tragedy was the result of a reasonable and understandable response f a government to a rebellions and seditious population in time of war and moral danger to the state’s survival. Raison d’etat justified the suppression of rebellion, and mass killing was explained as the unfortunate residue of legitimate efforts toe establish order behind the lines. This position which those who recognize the 1915 Genocide call denialist, might be summarized as follows. There was no genocide, and the Armenians were to blame for it. They were rebellious, seditious subjects who presented a danger to the empire and got what they deserved” (DAMN, that’s aggressive).
    • Honestly that section “there was no genocide, and the Armenians were to blame for it” seems kind of contradictory because if there wasn’t a genocide, what were the Armenians to blame for? And I definitely think that discussion about the legitimacy of calling mass murder “genocide” is a good conversation to have because the term “genocide” isn’t something that we should use lightly, but disregarding this conflict entirely is a little extreme and incredibly immoral. Anyway.
  • “…many historians sympathetic to the Armenians shied away from explanations that might place any responsibility at all on the victims of Turkish policies” (xiii).
    • And the way this one is phrased, “shied away from” is, I think, ignorance at its finest. You know, how you learn in Psychology, how people look for explanations that agree with their own ideas or only really see things that they want to see and kind of disregard stuff that doesn’t align with their preexisting opinions and ideas. This whole “shied away from” makes me think that they just don’t want to place responsibility on the victims. I’m not at all condoning victim blaming because I don’t like to think that the victim is to blame (repetitive, yes, but whatever) but I do think that in war it takes two to tango. Yes, there are exceptions (maybe I’ll talk about this later, who knows) but I think war is blurry and no one should “shy away from explanations that place responsibility” on anyone.
  • “Explanation, it was claimed, is rationalization, and rationalization in turn leads to the denialist position of justification. When explanation was offered, it was either an essential argument — Turks are the kind of people who employ massacre and systematic killing to maintain their imperial dominance — or related arguments that religion and/or ethnicity were the underlying causes of the killings.”
  • Here’s something important that could probably save me a lot of time: “The argument that I make in this book is different: whatever else they were, the young Turks who carried out the Genocide were never purely Turkish ethnonationalists, never religious fanatics, but remained Ottoman modernizers in their fundamental self-conception” (xiv-xv).
  • “In their ideal forms nation and empire stand at opposite ends of a political spectrum, but in the actuality of history they influenced, reinforced, and undermined one another at different times and in different ways” (xv).
  • “There may be no escape from the political aspects of setting the record straight on any genocide, and the Armenian Genocide more than most other mass killings has been the victim of deliberate, sustained falsification” (xvii).
  • “Those who observed the killings, as well as the Allied powers engaged in a war against the Ottomans, repeatedly claimed that they had never witnessed anything like it. The word for what happened had not yet been invented. There was no concept to mark the state-targeted killing of a designated ethnoreligious people” (xxi).

I really have to stop quoting shit because damn, it’s a lot.


I’m only going to read the first two and last one page of every chapter because that’s all Prof. Al-Tikriti said we had to read and I’m not about to do anything more than the bare minimum #winning #at #life

Okay, I lied, and I’m also going to read some stuff in the middle but I like keeping up my badass persona that only does the bare minimum #still #winning #right?

History is written by the victors. William Gladstone (British prime minister at some point) described the Turks as a threat to Christendom and “as a people whose principal quality was unbridled savagery” (1) which just seems excessive to me.

Related image

Turks were tribes of people “who originated in Siberia and Central Asia and spoke one or another Turkic language” (2).

I thought this was interesting, given our current political climate and situation: “Yet throughout most of human history the most long-lived and ubiquitous states were in fact great multiethnic, multireligious empires” (2). I don’t know, I guess I think that’s kind of cute.

The Ottoman empire was a kind of “negotiated arrangement between the central authorities and the elites of the various peripheries” which is also interesting- the whole empire was just an agreement between people that are supposedly in charge and people that are actually in charge because of their status. Sound familiar? Hmm.

“Besides social and geographic differences, the empire involved religious and ethnic distinctions and discriminations as well,” I guess, referring to the Ottoman empire. Then Suny talks more about Muslim vs. non-Muslim privileges and Islamic rulers ruling over Jews and Christians. I wrote “this sounds interesting” next to this because maybe I’ll read about it later and maybe I’ll forget it ever existed. Who knows?

“As a form of state, empire is quote different from the ideal type of nation-state, which usually aspires to create national communities of homogeneous and legally equal citizens” (7-8). Not gonna lie, there’s a lot more to what I highlighted but I feel like I’m cheating the system by just quoting a bunch of shit from the book and doing little to no analysis. But the paragraph is just about inequality within the empire and how it existed despite the fact that the Ottoman empire was one of the longest surviving empires. Is that to emphasize that inequality can exist within a successful empire, or an empire can be successful even with inequality and hierarchy and institutionalized difference?

“Nationalists, most particularly ethnonationalists, viewed their nations as ancient, continuous, and organic — products as much of nature as history” (9) which I think is a thought-provoking idea; nations are a product as much of nature as history. History and nature both have played equal roles in the nations’ development. I know I’m just rephrasing the whole thing but that’s where I am right now in my life and in my day.

“If there is a dominant image of the Ottoman Empire it is one of steady decline, a movement from its original expansion and strength up to the end of the seventeenth century to its pathetic position as the “Sick Man of Europe” by the nineteenth century. Many in power shared this view, as did some of those they ruled. In an age of ruthless international competition, the Ottomans were seen as an imperial victim of Western imperialism, an unfit preindustrial, power, backward, weak, and about to collapse” (25). I can’t remember why I highlighted this but it’s cool.


  • (Regarding page 15) Why did the Ottomans permit [the Nomads] to continue their traditional life? Was it some sort of strategy or were they just initially soft?
  • (Regarding page 19) Why were relations between Kurds and Armenians have such a wide range in character? (from coexistence and tolerance to the most vicious cruelty)?
  • (See the paragraph about pages 7-8)