Starting in early 1915, the Ottoman Turks began deporting and killing hundreds of thousands of Armenians in the first major genocide of the twentieth century. By the end of the First World War, the number of Armenians in what would become Turkey had been reduced by ninety percent—more than a million people. A century later, the Armenian Genocide remains controversial but relatively unknown, overshadowed by later slaughters and the chasm separating Turkish and Armenian versions of events. In this definitive narrative history, Ronald Suny cuts through nationalist myths, propaganda, and denial to provide an unmatched account of when, how, and why the atrocities of 1915–16 were committed.
As it lost territory during the war, the Ottoman Empire was becoming a more homogenous Turkic-Muslim state, but it still contained large non-Muslim communities, including the Christian Armenians. The Young Turk leaders of the empire believed that the Armenians were internal enemies secretly allied to Russia and plotting to win an independent state. Suny shows that the great majority of Armenians were in truth loyal subjects who wanted to remain in the empire. But the Young Turks, steeped in imperial anxiety and anti-Armenian bias, became convinced that the survival of the state depended on the elimination of the Armenians. Suny is the first to explore the psychological factors as well as the international and domestic events that helped lead to genocide.
Drawing on archival documents and eyewitness accounts, this is an unforgettable chronicle of a cataclysm that set a tragic pattern for a century of genocide and crimes against humanity.
Ronald Grigor Suny is the Charles Tilly Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan, emeritus professor of political science at the University of Chicago, and a senior researcher at the National Research University–Higher School of Economics in St. Petersburg. He is the author of many books, including The Soviet Experiment and Looking toward Ararat: Armenia in Modern History, and the coeditor of A Question of Genocide: Armenians and Turks at the End of the Ottoman Empire. He lives in Ann Arbor, Michigan.
"[A] deeply researched, fair-minded study. . . . Suny creates a compelling narrative of vengeance and terror."--Kirkus, starred review
"The centenary [of the Armenian Genocide] has raised the diplomatic temperature and precipitated many books. Ronald Suny’s is the best of them: Balanced, scholarly, and harrowing, it should be read by all serious students of modern history."--Dominic Green, The Weekly Standard
"Suny is admirably dispassionate in explaining the particular circumstances that led the Ottoman government to embark on a policy of mass extermination."--Dominic Lawson, Sunday Times
"[W]hat distinguishes Suny’s scholarship is a scrupulous attention to context and the genuine imperial anxiety of the Young Turks. They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else (a title taken from another Talat diktat) is a fair-minded account. Unsparing in depicting the viciousness of the killing, forced conversions and kidnapping of children and young women, it is rigorous in its choice of language and nuance, generous in its empathy but implacable in its conclusions."--David Gardner, Financial Times
"Ronald Grigor Suny, an Armenian-American whose great-grandparents fell victim to the genocide, has written a tremendously powerful, scrupulously balanced, rigorous and humane account of a tragedy that still casts a shadow over the modern state of Turkey. It is likely to become the definitive reference book on the subject for years to come."--Justin Marozzi, Spectator
"They Can Live in the Desert but Nowhere Else will very likely be the standard account in English for the 21st Century of the Armenian Genocide and its broader setting. The event itself was the first major genocide in what was to be an entire century of genocides, and Suny is keenly aware of the lessons it can teach about the horrors it initiated. The book is strongly recommended."--Steve Donoghue, Open Letters Monthly
Table of Contents:
Sources, Notes, and Transliteration xxiii
1 Empire 1
2 Armenians 31
3 Nation 64
4 Great Powers 91
5 Revolution 141
6 Counterrevolution 174
7 War 208
8 Removal 246
9 Genocide 281
10 Orphaned Nation 328
Conclusion: Thinking about the Unthinkable: Genocide 350
Historians Look at the Armenian Genocide: A Bibliographical Discussion 367