"Let books be your dining table, / And you shall be full of delights. / Let them be your
And you shall sleep restful nights" (St. Ephraim the Syrian).

Monday, November 11, 2013

95 Years Ago Today....

Ninety-five years ago today the armistice that brought an end (of sorts) to the Great War took effect. That war, whose consequences can still be felt in many parts of the world, is increasingly with us in memory as the slow trickle of new books in anticipation of next year's centenary of its outbreak has picked up to a steady stream, and in the coming weeks and months will become a full flood. Already several have been released this year, and I commented on some of them here.

But November 11, 1918 did not in fact end all the conflicts that were caused by the war--several raged on directly afterwards, while others simmered at a slow burn until they erupted again in the Second World War. In the former category, of conflicts continuing on through 1918 and into the early 1920s, we have several that would profoundly change the lives of Eastern Christians and many others. Some of these are analyzed in a book coming out in a few weeks: Robert Gewarth and John Horne, eds., War in Peace: Paramilitary Violence in Europe after the Great War (Oxford UP, 2013), 256pp.

About this book we are told:
The First World War did not end in November 1918. In Russia and Eastern Europe it finished up to a year earlier, and both there and elsewhere in the world it triggered conflicts that lasted down to 1923. Paramilitary formations were prominent in this continuation of the war. Paramilitary violence was an important ingredient in the clashes unleashed by class revolution in Russia. It structured the counter-revolution in central and Eastern Europe, including Finland and Italy, which in the name of order and authority reacted against a mythic version of Bolshevik class violence. It also shaped the struggles over borders and ethnicity in the new states that replaced the multi-national empires of Russia, Austria-Hungary, and Ottoman Turkey. It was prominent on all sides in the wars for Irish independence. Paramilitary violence was charged with political significance and acquired a long-lasting symbolism and influence. War in Peace explores the differences and similarities between these various kinds of paramilitary violence within one volume for the first time. It contributes to our understanding of the difficult transitions from war to peace, re-situates the Great War in a longer-term context, and explains its enduring impact.
Among the many horrors of the war was something quite new in the "dark and lamentable catalogue of human crime" (to use Churchill's phrase from 1940), viz., the Armenian genocide. Already this month alone several books are set for release just on the question of genocide--beginning, of course, with the Armenian Christians slaughtered in 1915. Here's just a sample that have been brought to my attention: Wolfgang Gust, The Armenian Genocide: Evidence from the German Foreign Office Archives, 1915-1916 (Berghahn Books, 2013), 820pp.

About this book we are told:
In 1915, the Armenians were exiled from their land, and in the process of deportation 1.5 million of them were killed. The 1915-1916 annihilation of the Armenians was the archetype of modern genocide, in which a state adopts a specific scheme geared to the destruction of an identifiable group of its own citizens. Official German diplomatic documents are of great importance in understanding the genocide, as only Germany had the right to report day-by-day in secret code about the ongoing genocide. The motives, methods, and after-effects of the Armenian Genocide echoed strongly in subsequent cases of state-sponsored genocide. Studying the factors that went into the Armenian Genocide not only gives us an understanding of historical genocide, but also provides us with crucial information for the anticipation and possible prevention of future genocides.
Set for release on Christmas Eve is a second edition of a book published by Samantha Power that looks at the wider problem of genocide, and attempts to prick the commonplace assumption that had we but been there, we would have prevented the problem, and that we will never allow it to happen again--even as genocides piled up one atop another just as these promises against them also piled up ineffectively:  A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide (Basic Books, 2013), 656pp.

About this book we are told:
From the Armenian Genocide to the ethnic cleansings of Kosovo and Darfur, modern history is haunted by acts of brutal violence. Yet American leaders who vow “never again” repeatedly fail to stop genocide. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, A Problem From Hell draws upon exclusive interviews with Washington’s top policymakers, thousands of once classified documents, and accounts of reporting from the killing fields to show how decent Americans inside and outside government looked away from mass murder. Combining spellbinding history and seasoned political analysis, A Problem from Hell allows readers to hear directly from American decision-makers and dissenters, as well as from victims of genocide, and reveals just what was known and what might have been done while millions perished.
As I noted, we will be seeing many more books on this and related topics as we get closer to the summer of 1914, so stay tuned. 

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