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Paradise Lost, Smyrna 1922: The Destruction of Islam's City of Tolerance

de Giles Milton

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20311106,122 (4.03)3
"On Saturday, 9 September, 1922, the victorious Turkish cavalry rode into Smyrna, the richest and most cosmopolitan city in the Ottoman Empire." "In the aftermath of the First World War, Greece invaded Turkey with the aim of restoring a Christian empire in Asia Minor with Smyrna at its heart. The Great Powers, including Britain, supported Greece's war on Turkey. But by 1922, the Greeks had been vanquished. Many feared that the newly-victorious Turkish army would now unleash a terrible fury on Smyrna's infidel inhabitants: conquering Islamic armies were traditionally granted three days of pillage following the capture of a resisting city." "What happened over the next two weeks must rank as one of the most compelling human dramas of the twentieth century. Almost two million people were victims of a disaster of truly epic proportions."--BOOK JACKET.… (més)
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A friend loaned me this book after I read Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides as I wanted to learn more about the city of Smyrna (modern day Izmir). I can highly recommend it for anyone interested in modern history. By all accounts, this cosmopolitan multicultural city was a 19th century hub of trade and an example of different religions and cultures living together harmoniously until the division of spoils after WWI tore it apart. ( )
  essjay1 | Jan 11, 2017 |
Devastating account of one of the worst tragedies of the 20th century--the complete destruction of Smyrna in the last three weeks of September, 1922, [Izmir in today's Turkey]. It was burnt to the ground. Most of its 19th and 20th century history was reported by and has come down to us from the Levantines, the wealthy upper class of Europeans. Smyrna was a completely religiously tolerant city in the Ottoman Empire, with a Christian majority, although the mayor was a Muslim, Rahmi Bey. During the Great War and until he was replaced he bent over backward trying to protect ALL his citizens from the horrors.

The British Lloyd George was unabashedly pro-Greek and supported Eleftherios Venizelos in his "Megali ["Great"] Idea" of an expanded Greece--Greece AND the part of Asia Minor, including Smyrna. Fighting between Greeks and Turks ended in a Turkish victory under Mustafa Kemal [not yet termed Ataturk] and the flight of the Greek army back to their country. Other cities and villages were devastated by both armies; both were villains here. Then the Turkish army entered Smyrna; the population for the most part fled in the face of looting, killing, rape, then finally arson that destroyed the non-Turkish quarters. The Allies were apathetic. The "Paradise" of the title was the American section of the city. Today Izmir is a shadow of its former self.

This book was a revelation; I hadn't known much about this period in history. The author appeared to be even-handed; there was enough blame to go around. A cautionary tale: it showed what can happen when a third party [who has no business influencing events] insinuates itself into the affairs of another country and how things can go terribly wrong--does that sound familiar, considering today's events in the Middle East? Two heroic men revealed themselves: Rahmi Bey, who tried to protect the Christians in his city and Asa Jennings, the American Methodist minister who mostly through bluff was instrumental in rescuing a large number of refugees, who had lost everything. He was latter decorated by the Greek government. I felt the most interesting parts were the first 50 pp. or so where everything was set up, then the last part detailing what happened day by day in Smyrna, along with the aftermath. Newspaper reports were fascinating. I enjoyed the personal accounts of some folks lucky and fast-thinking enough to escape--the Armenian doctor; the Armenian family; and even Aristotle Onassis, who I never realized was a Smyrniot. I also recommend a historical novel set in this period, The Ghosts of Smyrna by Loren Edizel.

Recommended. ( )
3 vota janerawoof | Apr 9, 2016 |
A superb retelling of what to the Greeks is known as 'The Catastrophe' and was to be the making of modern Turkey. The destruction of Smyrna (now Izmir) in 1922 was also the destruction of a European cosmopolitan culture in the near east. The story focuses on the personal stories of the many families and personalities in the city as well as the larger geopolitical events of the time. My Grandfather was a soldier in this war of 1919 to 1922 and he kept an extensive diary of his experiences in that particularly bloody conflict. Alas I lost the diary in a house fire in 1922 along with all of my other possessions. ( )
  georgee53 | Dec 24, 2015 |
Ik denk dat ik wel wat aankan, als het aankomt op het lezen van gruwelijke taferelen, maar de stortvloed aan verminkingen, folteringen, verkrachtingen, en slachtingen die Milton in dit boek over je uitstort, was op de duur bijna ondragelijk. Het tragische lot van honderdduizenden Grieken en Armeniërs , na de bezetting van de bloeiende havenstad Smyrna (nu Izmir) door de Turkse nationalisten van Mustafa Kemal (later Ataturk) in 1922, tart elke verbeelding. Milton beschrijft het in het tweede deel van dit boek in extenso, met veel ooggetuigenverslagen. Beklijvend is het alleszins.
Milton doet zijn uiterste best om zoveel mogelijk schuldigen voor het bloedbad aan te wijzen. En hij is daarin in zoverre genuanceerd, dat hij de schuld niet zomaar unilateraal bij de Turken legt. In het eerste deel van het boek wijst hij in de eerste plaats op de megalomanie van de Grieken (die een groot Grieks rijk in Klein-Azië wilden oprichten) en de naïeve steun van de Britse premier Lloyd George. Uiteindelijk blijft zowat iedereen boter op het hoofd te hebben, de Amerikanen incluis, die zich uit commerciële overwegingen neutraal opstelden.
Toch heb ik grote bedenkingen bij dit boek. Milton baseert zijn verhaal op tal van bronnen, maar het valt op dat vooral de Europese families die het zakenleven in Smyrna controleerden, de zogenaamde Levantine-dynastiëen, in beeld komen en geciteerd worden. Daarnaast put hij ook ruim uit Griekse, Armeense en Britse bronnen, maar … de Turkse invalshoek blijft bijna volledig achterwege! Sporadisch komt een medewerkster van Kemal aan het woord, maar dan bijna alleen om de gemoedstoestand van de grote Turk te illustreren. En dat is toch wel onvergeeflijk. Ook al heeft het er alle schijn van dat de Turken zich in Smyrna te buiten zijn gegaan aan onnoemelijke oorlogsmisdaden, dan nog kan het niet dat op geen enkel moment het Turkse perspectief wordt verwoord, of dat zo goed als geen enkele Turkse bron geraadpleegd is. ( )
1 vota bookomaniac | Jun 18, 2015 |
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"On Saturday, 9 September, 1922, the victorious Turkish cavalry rode into Smyrna, the richest and most cosmopolitan city in the Ottoman Empire." "In the aftermath of the First World War, Greece invaded Turkey with the aim of restoring a Christian empire in Asia Minor with Smyrna at its heart. The Great Powers, including Britain, supported Greece's war on Turkey. But by 1922, the Greeks had been vanquished. Many feared that the newly-victorious Turkish army would now unleash a terrible fury on Smyrna's infidel inhabitants: conquering Islamic armies were traditionally granted three days of pillage following the capture of a resisting city." "What happened over the next two weeks must rank as one of the most compelling human dramas of the twentieth century. Almost two million people were victims of a disaster of truly epic proportions."--BOOK JACKET.

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