One War, Multiple Memories

Ottoman Reserve Officers in the First World War

  • Mehmet Beşikçi Associate Professor of History in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Yıldız Technical University
Keywords: reserve officers, Ottoman army, diaries and memoirs, conscription, trench warfare, disillusionment debate

Abstract

This article surveys Ottoman reserve officers’ autobiographical texts and emphasizes the potential these personal narratives present to revise both the existing historiog- raphy on the Ottoman First World War and the official memory of the war in Turkey. After briefly exploring the evolution of the Ottoman reserve officer system as an in- tegrated part of Ottoman conscription, the article shows how reserve officers’ war memories shed light on the neglected aspects of Ottoman soldiers’ experience of the front, particularly the daily life of trench warfare. Reserve officers’ personal narratives include critical observations and remarks about the Ottoman war experience, and the article discusses how these critical memories may be significant for the revision of the official narrative of the war in Turkey. Yet it also argues that as these personal nar- ratives are diverse, they do not present an all-embracing counter-narrative of disil- lusionment. The article also draws attention to the shaping effect of the context in which these autobiographies were written down and explores the organic ties between personal and collective memories of the Great War in Turkey.

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Author Biography

Mehmet Beşikçi, Associate Professor of History in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Yıldız Technical University

Mehmet Beşikçi received his PhD degree in history from Boğaziçi University in 2009. His main area of research is war and society in the late Ottoman Empire, on which he authored various articles and books both in English and Turkish, including The Ottoman Mobilization of Manpower in the First World War: Between Voluntarism and Resistance (Brill, 2012). Currently he teaches as associate professor of history in the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences at Yıldız Technical University in İstanbul.  

 

Published
2021-02-16
How to Cite
Beşikçi, M. (2021). One War, Multiple Memories: Ottoman Reserve Officers in the First World War. Archiv orientální, 88(3), 309-340. https://doi.org/10.47979/aror.j.88.3.303-334