War and Peace

The Ottoman Army in World War I

“The conditions, especially in the Eastern front which comes from the Black Sea, Trebzon and all the way down to Lake Van and goes to Iran, [and is] a front of something like 900 kilometres, I mean that’s such a long thing. Logistics were terrible: there were no roads, there was no railroad, it was difficult to provide ammunition, it was difficult to provide food, and never forget that in the First World War the horses were the most important thing; I mean, you had to carry stuff with horses.

After the onslaught of the Russian Imperial Army starting in the first week of 1915, the situation became terribly difficult. And then, people started to run away from the front: 2.8 million men were recruited to the army, they were mobilised and, during the war, we had half a million men running away from the front.

These fugitives, these deserters ran away with their rifles; therefore during the First World War, Anatolia was at the same time a place where different chetes, different gangs got together and and were robbing and fighting, killing civilians and stealing; it was terrible. And when you add to this the deportation of 1.5 million Armenians to the Syrian deserts and the massacres you can imagine what kind of an inferno Anatolia was.”


© Ayhan Aktar
Ayhan Aktar
is a Professor at the Institute of Social Sciences at Istanbul-Bilgi University. Since 1991 he has specialised in state-minority relations in modern Turkey and lists his research interests as Turkish and Middle East Studies; Genocide Studies; Turkish Nationalism; Early Republican Turkish History; Gallipoli; and the First World War.