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Daily Life in the Abyss

Genocide Diaries, 1915-1918

Vahé Tachjian

220 pages, 15 illus., 1 map, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78533-494-8 $110.00/£78.00 Hb Not Yet Published (May 2017)

eISBN 978-1-78533-495-5 eBook Not Yet Published

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“Vahe Tachjian and his translator have done a great service to the recovery of the historical experience of the Armenian Genocide. The immediacy of the diaries of survivors testifies to the extraordinary suffering not only of a people displaced and destroyed but also of individuals who managed to live through and record their horrendous journey into the desert. As a gifted, sensitive, and analytical scholar, Tachjian sets the events in the larger context of Ottoman policy and the Arab world and probes the sources of strength—like family and local community ties—that Armenians deployed in their desperation. These diaries preserve the ‘authenticity of the moment,’ the deep texture of place and time, often lost in subsequent accounts. For historians, general readers, and all those interested in the possibilities of human cruelty, the depths of human suffering, and the potential of human resilience, this book is a treasure.” · Ronald Grigor Suny, William H. Sewell Jr. Distinguished University Professor of History and Political Science, The University of Michigan

“This is a meticulously researched and thoughtfully articulated work. It sheds new light on the situation in the Middle East, especially Syria, during World War I, and adds to our understanding of the progressive dehumanization of genocide victims.” · Vahram Shemmassian, California State University, Northridge

Historical research into the Armenian Genocide has grown tremendously in recent years, but much of it has focused on large-scale questions related to Ottoman policy or the scope of the killing. Consequently, surprisingly little is known about the actual experiences of the genocide’s victims. Daily Life in the Abyss illuminates this aspect through the intertwined stories of two Armenian families who endured forced relocation and deprivation in and around modern-day Syria. Through analysis of diaries and other source material, it reconstructs the rhythms of daily life within an often bleak and hostile environment, in the face of a gradually disintegrating social fabric.

Vahé Tachjian received his doctorate at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris. His numerous articles and books examine French colonialism, Armenians in the Ottoman Empire, and refugee issues in the Middle East. He is the project director and the chief editor of the Berlin-based Houshamdyan website, which aims to reconstruct Ottoman Armenians’ local history and life stories.

Series: Volume 25, War and Genocide
Subject: Genocide Studies WWI History
Area: Middle East & Israel

LC: DS195.5 .T223 2017

BISAC: HIS055000 HISTORY/Middle East/Turkey & Ottoman Empire*; POL061000 POLITICAL SCIENCE/Genocide & War Crimes; HIS037070 HISTORY/Modern/20th Century

BIC: HBTZ Genocide & ethnic cleansing; HBWN First World War


List of Illustrations and Tables


Chapter 1. The Diarist, his Environment, and the Reasons for Keeping a Diary
Chapter 2. The Deportees in the Region of Bilad al-Sham: A Race Against Time at Breakneck Speed
Chapter 3. The Circle of Salvation in Extreme Conditions: Money-Food-Connections
Chapter 4. Descriptions of the Deportees’ Decline: The Deaths of Shoghagat, Hagop, Krikor, Diruhi, and Many Others
Chapter 5. From Forced Islamization to Emancipation: Two Historical Episodes and their Contradictions



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