One War, Multiple Memories: Ottoman Reserve Officers in the First World War

Beşikçi M.

Archiv Orientalni, vol.88, no.3, pp.309-340, 2020 (Journal Indexed in AHCI) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 88 Issue: 3
  • Publication Date: 2020
  • Doi Number: 10.47979/aror.j.88.3.303-334
  • Title of Journal : Archiv Orientalni
  • Page Numbers: pp.309-340


Abstract: This article surveys Ottoman reserve officers’ autobiographical texts and emphasizes the potential these personal narratives present to revise both the existing historiography 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 integrated 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 narratives are diverse, they do not present an all-embracing counter-narrative of disillusionment. 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.

Keywords: reserve officers, Ottoman army, diaries and memoirs, conscription, trench warfare, disillusionment debate.