“Without mercy and without pity, kill all from the one-month-old to the ninety-year-old. But see to it that this massacre is not conducted in the towns and in the presence of people”. This was written in Chankiri Ittihad Committee’s official document just before the Armenian genocide in Turkey started.
Priest, and Armenian intellectual, Grigoris Balakin’s Armenian Golgotha tells the horrifying story about what happened to him, and to about 1,5 million Armenian Christians, who were brutally killed, or starved to death in the name of Jihad. Turkey still denies the Armenian genocide. Luckily Balakin survived to tell the story of the lesser fortunate ones. Armenia and Turkey still don’t have formal diplomatic relations. The genocide happened during times of turmoil in general, 1915-1018.
Balakin explains in his memoir what he went through in excruciating detail. In fact, I am quite sure that would the book be written now quite a lot of details would be edited out. It is a good translation, and it’s easy to read, not the content itself, but the language. However, I believe quite a few things could be added to appendices, for instance long lists of names as well as songs.
Balakin’s own story differs quite a lot from the other Armenians’ stories, not only because he survived, but also because he made quite a few escapes and lived under aliases while moving from place to place in Turkey. The part about his escape until his ‘freedom’ would make a good thriller, unfortunately in Balakin’s case it was reality. I am pleased to see that there were many kind souls who helped him. I was also surprised to see that many people were willing to risk their lives to protect him, and so few betrayed him.
Many a man asked Balakin to write the story of what happened to them, and everyone around them, because they knew they were on their way to a certain death. Balakin did that, and a lot more. The stories are quite frankly soul-wrenching. What happened to Armenians in Turkey is said to be the first modern genocide. It really shows how dark human minds can be. It also shows that the same dark minds knew it was all kinds of wrong, since the slaughter of humans were done out of sight, or at the “finish line of the march” in northern Syria. The similarities with Nazi Germany are many, only the concentration camps are missing.
I tried to find another book from Armenia, since I was already familiar with the genocide. There are many interesting Armenian authors, but seems like books are hardly translated into English. However, I am now pleased I got to read Balakin’s story. I feel like many people ought to read this book, since the attitude against foreigners, “the wrong kind of people”, seems to be an unfortunate universal issue again. I wonder if it ever really went away…