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Armenian Golgotha

4.18  ·  Rating details ·  265 ratings  ·  43 reviews
Never before in English, Armenian Golgotha is the most dramatic and comprehensive eyewitness account of the first modern genocide.

On April 24, 1915, the priest Grigoris Balakian was arrested along with some 250 other intellectuals and leaders of Constantinople’s Armenian community. It was the beginning of the Ottoman Turkish government’s systematic attempt to eliminate the
Hardcover, 509 pages
Published March 31st 2009 by Knopf (first published 2009)
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Nov 01, 2009 rated it really liked it
ETA: I think, in a nutshell, that this is the MOST comprehensive of all the books I have read about the Armenian genocide, but not the most fun to read. I am not religious. I objected to some part of the book for this reason. I felt that some parts simply did not make sense! I would think: what do you mean with that paragraph. However his description of Berlin when the war began, and how he escaped, and as a summary of all that happened to the Armenians, all of these things I liked a lot.

Brian Kelley
An eyewitness account of the butchering and slaughter of Armenians by the Young Turks, Armenian Golgotha sickened me as much as it informed me.

The challenge in reading accounts of epic atrocities is being left with what happened without the bitter balm of why it happened. Survivor and author, Grigoris Balakian, covers what happened, when it happened, where it happened, who it happened to, etc.

Not many pages were need to cover why, because as is too often the case, the why is hatred. But hatred
Oct 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing

On April 24, 1915, some 250 Armenian intellectuals and community leaders were arrested in Constantinople. Grigoris Balakian, a Christian vartabed, or priest, was among them. "It was as if all the prominent Armenian public figures—assemblymen, representatives, revolutionaries, editors, teachers, doctors, pharmacists, dentists, merchants, bankers, and others in the capital city—had made an appointment to meet in these dim prison cells," he later wrote. Balak
Dan Sihota
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was ok
Over the years, I have studied the Armenian Genocide in great deal, and this book, Armenian Golgotha by Grigoris Balakian, is well known as one of the earliest published accounts of the events. So when I got a copy of this book I was eager to read it for myself.

Given how much I had heard about this book, especially its importance in detailing some of the events of the Armenian Genocide, something which the modern Republic of Turkey continues to deny to this day, I really wanted to like this book
Daniel Anderson
Mar 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, biography
Armenian Golgotha is an eye witness account of the diabolical systematic genocide inflicted by the Ottoman Turkish government on the Christian Armenian people during World War I. The author Grigoris Balakian a priest in the Armenian Apostolic Church was one of the many intellectuals forced to leave his homeland and people at the hands of the Turkish government in 1915. This book translated by Balakian’s great nephew Peter Balakian chronicles the atrocities witnessed by Grigoris Balakian as he an ...more
Christopher Rex
Oct 23, 2010 rated it really liked it
What an amazing book and what an amazing man at its center. The only drawback to this incredible memoir is the length. The reality is, the author endured, witnessed and overcame so much during the Armenian Genocide that I am unsure how it could be effectively shortened without sacrificing the story. Also, he clearly had a mission to tell as many details of as many people and incidents as possible in order to "honor" their memory and to insure that their memories were not erased from history (as ...more
Sep 07, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Although I didn't feel my pulse racing while I read this, I guess this must be a powerful work of memoir, because in my first (now abandoned) draft of this review I attempted to assault the Ottoman Empire with an unabridged dictionary. I had a nice lie down, and realized that the overwhelming majority of potential readers of this review will already be aware that massacres and holocaust denial are BAD, so it was not really necessary to tell them so again. As for the others, they're probably beyo ...more
Jul 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
Armenian Golgotha was a fantastic book that provided a moving first-hand account of the Armenian genocide of 1915. Unfortunately, it was such a heavy topic that I had a hard time getting through it. The first 250 pages are dedicated to Balakian's deportation under the most deplorable conditions imaginable. After that, it follows his escape from the Turks via disguise and deception. A tough read, but an important text.
Jeni Enjaian
As the translators (including the author's great-grandnephew) mentioned in the preface, Balakian often waxes eloquent turning passages of history into sermons. Even so, I appreciated this massive memoir for the insight it gave into the story of an Armenian intellectual who managed to survive the Genocide. For an amateur (master's degree level) historian on the topic, this book proved a tremendous resource.
Erma Odrach
Aug 27, 2009 rated it it was amazing
This is an eyewitness account of the Turkish government's (which they deny to this day) persecution and murder of over a milion Armenians in 1915 - one of the biggest mass-murders of the past century. Very sad, emotional and gripping. Really enjoyed the writing.
Aug 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow, the Truth exists despite turkish claims. A first hand account of the genocide that happened all too recent ago. How in the world is this turkish society not prepared to admit it and the world turn its back and ignore it? Lord, we have met the enemy and he is us.
Apr 03, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Given recent history, it would seem the term "ethnic cleansing" is of late 20th Century origin. Armenian Golgotha , Grigoris Balakian's firsthand account of the Armenian genocide during World War I, disabuses any such notion. Balakian, an Armenian priest, notes several times that the Ottoman Empire embarked on an intentional campaign to "cleanse" itself of Armenians.

Even though this April marked the 95th anniversary of the beginning of this particular persecution of Armenians, whether to call
Nicole Kroger Joy
#readtheworld Armenia

A difficult book as far as subject matter, but writing style was much more approachable than I expected after having read the foreword. Balakian kept his promise to his fellow refugees to tell the story of their suffering and genocide, and presented a quite comprehensive history alongside his first- and second-hand experiences.

It is unfathomable to me that Turkey (to this day) denies the government planned and ordered genocide against the Armenian people. The rest of the wo
Maud (reading the world challenge)
[#88 Armenia] "Are humanity, pity, and conscience limited by nation or fatherland?" This book is thick and dense, to the point that I had to take a break halfway through it. The author is a priest who was arrested and deported at the beginning of what would be a genocide led by the Ottoman Empire to eliminate Armenian people from Turkey. The length of the book is explained by the author's will to recount everything that he had seen, a promise he made to himself and to his people as he escaped. A ...more
Raymond Dolan
Jan 12, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An incredibly thorough and moving memoir that describes the overall details of the Armenian Genocide and the specifics that Balakian experienced during his journey.

Balakian goes into an impressive amount of detail about people, places, and events, often recalling long paragraphs that he was told. He uses his unique position as a priest as well as his general agreeableness to connect with and hear from many different people from Turkish policemen to beaten down Armenian children.

He describes som
William Lynch
May 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
This is a very important book about a mostly forgotten event which took place during the First World War. The event is the massacre of 1.5 million Armenian Catholics by the Turkish government whose leader in 1915. It is interesting this event has largely been forgotten or ignored by the world community. There has been a movement to call this event a genocide by the Turks because we are afraid to offend them because we use Turkey as a military staging. And now we have a US President who praises t ...more
[Around the World challenge: Armenia] This book was challenging to read: first because it's dense and long, and also because of the topic (the recount of the Armenian genocide by a priest who escaped it) is tough. The narration tends to be repetitive in its atrocities but that's the way it happened. I was baffled not to have learned more about this part of history at school. That's why books like this one are necessary.
TJ Petrowski
Apr 15, 2018 rated it it was ok
Book mostly consisted of the author's long march to the Syrian desert with other Armenian deportees and his even longer escape to Paris. Obviously, there isn't a lot of first-person memoirs about the Armenian Genocide, so I appreciate the historical value of this book, but I don't think it is as amazing as it is made out to be. I imagine there are much better books about the genocide than this one.
Christina C
Aug 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
While the book was difficult to read due to its content, I learned much from it. Great historical events laid out in a way that is understandable and touching. English translation is also very understandable.
Steve Cran
While studying in Germany at a theological seminary in Berlin, Grigoris Balakian, found himself getting caught up in the days events. Events in Austria-Hungary and Serbia started the war. Turkey and Germany were on the same side. In the midst of his studies Grigoris Balakian is summoned back to Turkey. While making his way back Grigoris make several poignant observations. The Germans mistreat people of foreign decent, especially if they are from enemy countries. Taking the ship back Grigoris rea ...more
Apr 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
World Books Project #6 - Armenia
this is for my own benefit, written right after i finish these books, so excuse the inelegant format of the review and the sometimes contradictory/off the cuff thoughts

It feels weird to review such an intensely personal manuscript.

In terms of teaching me about Armenia, I couldn't really ask for better - not only does this book give a pretty thorough examination of the nation's history up to its painful birth in 1918, it goes on at length about the characteristics
Rune Clausen

This book made me absolutely sick to my stomach on multiple occasions from the very detailed descriptions of the inhumane massacres of hundred of thousands of innocent armenians, whose only crime was just that, being armenian. Not only is the massacres well described, but so are the absolutely horrendous conditions under which the armenian prisoners had to live while being transported to their place of massacre. Many died on the road, from starvation, physical exhaustion or just from seemi
Jun 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is an absolutely riveting first-person eyewitness account of the atrocities committed in the Armenian genocide in Turkey in the First World War. Most people will avoid this book because it's not escapist or frou-frou enough; it's heavy and depressing in context. But these eyewitness accounts are even more important to read instead of simply dismiss as too real. As history is sanitized by the victors, the very act of reading holds the Turks accountable when they would prefer to silence ...more
A gripping and often harrowing first-hand account of the Armenian Genocide, 1915-1918.

Although I never doubted the veracity of Balakian's memoir, his prejudices and biases were obvious.
He states that the genocide was "in the in the name of the Koran, in the name of jihad" and that the massacred Armenians where "martyrs". At the same time he says "the Turks had always burned, broken, destroyed, violated, and massacred the Arabs, Albanians, Circassians, and Persians under their dominion, even th
In 1915, Grigoris Balakian was a forty year old priest of the Armenian Apostolic Church living in Constantinople. On April 24th of that year, he was among the approximately 250 leaders of Constantinople’s Armenian community that were arrested, imprisoned and deported in what is now regarded as the start of the Armenian Genocide. Less than a third of those arrested that night [writers, poets, teachers, clergymen, journalists, doctors, dentists, booksellers and various other prominent Armenian pub ...more
Dec 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
An astoundingly different book. A journal written in 1922, I believe, recounting his personal experience in surviving, yet witnessing the genocide of Armenians by the Ottoman government during World War I.

Balakian was a high ranking religious leader in the Armenian church, therefore educated and intelligently aware of political and religious power structures. He writes both arrogantly or at least assuredly of his judgements on the Turkish leaders who constructed this plan of eliminating Armenian
Megan Blood
Jul 20, 2012 rated it liked it
Unfortunately, this was the book that put me past my Armenian Genocide saturation point. It's very, very long. I would say needlessly long, but I understand that, as a witness to the genocide, he was acting as a faithful recorder of EVERYTHING that happened. So I was willing to excuse that. What really got to me was the stereotyping. ALL Armenians (with the exception of one or two traitors) were angelic martyrs, doing no wrong. ALL Turks (with very, very few exceptions) were either bloodthirsty ...more
Aug 19, 2012 rated it liked it
This is definitely the "go to" book if you want to learn about the mind boggling experience of the Armenian genocide, 1915. This is Balakian's eyewitness account of his struggle to stay alive as more than a million Armenians were systematically murdered by the Turks during the years of World War I. Some passages are so graphic that your mind fights accepting these truths. It is an amazing story, admittedly journaled and retold so that the world would know the truth of this genocide. Read it for ...more
Heather G

This was an absolutely horrible event and the fact that there has never been any justice is tragic and blood boiling. There were parts of the book I struggled with because I don't have a lot of knowledge on Turkish history and this is the first book I've read on the Armenian Genocide but it is a very well-written, heartbreaking book and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to learn more about this horrible event
Aug 27, 2016 rated it did not like it
Back to the library with this one. It is a tome filled with the genocide of Armenians by Turkey . . . too up close and personal for me written by a man who survived the atrocities. I know this goes on throughout the world even today . . . fear and hate and greed fueling mans inhumanity to man. I do not wish to bury my head in the sand but I can't take it . . . perhaps that is why and how leaders get away with this behavior. It is unconscionable.
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