Reading, researching and overcoming prejudices
Military historian Edward Erickson is one of the new-generation historians; he has developed new theses, especially on the Armenian question, against genocide claims.
His books are about modern-era Turkish military history. He wrote the most detailed military history of our defeat in the Balkan War. Also, his books “Ottoman Army in World War I” and “Ordered to Die” have been printed in our language.
There is also another pictured book co-authored by Muzaffer Albayrak titled “Birinci Dünya Savaşı’nda Osmanlı” (Timaş Publications).
I am writing the names of his books as recommendations for those interested in the subject. The reason for that is, unfortunately, we have a prevalent habit of bragging without reading. We consider ourselves scholars when we add second-hand knowledge to our political and ideological prejudices. This is our mental illness in the form of “knowing without reading.”
Erickson stated the Turkish artillery at Çanakkale used about 18,000 cannon balls in the one month period from the beginning of May 1915 to the beginning of June 1915, and immediately added, “This is quite few; the scarcity of ammunition increased constantly. To ease this, 105 howitzer cannon balls and 1,320 cannon balls were sent to the 5th Army…”
It is apparent how little even these were. The problem was increasing because most of the ammunition was coming from Germany.
On the other hand, we can learn from historian İsmet Görgülü’s book “On Yıllık Harbin Kadrosu” that on March 18, 1915, the enemy navy fired 3,340 cannon balls on Turkish positions in seven hours. Yes, in seven hours, 3,340 cannon balls.
This incident brings us to the history of the economy and industrialization. Why was the railroad network in Czarist Russia 67,000 km long, while it was only 5,000 km in 1914 in the Ottoman Empire?
Did they not know its importance? If not, then why did Sultan Aziz say, “Let the railroad pass, it can as well pass over my back?”
Can we say anything wise on this subject without reading economic history, not knowing what kind of an obstacle the capitulations were?
Which mind can dare to underestimate the new republic’s “iron nets” enthusiasm? Who can comment on the Treaty of Lausanne without learning that the treaty’s biggest success was lifting the capitulations?
How many intellectuals do we have who have read Mustafa Kemal Atatürk’s “Nutuk” (Speech) book and understood not only the language of it but all the topics?
And, do we really know that we need to read comparatively? I’m talking about both reading the Speech and alongside with it, what was written by leaders of the liberation war such as İsmet İnönü, Kazım Karabekir, Ali Fuat Cebesoy and Rauf Orbay.
The incidents Atatürk explained through angry language were explained by İnönü in a much calmer manner and even with an understanding approach to his opponents. Their characters were influential on this, as well as the era they were written. The heated environment of 1927 and the distanced environment of 1971 are different.
Especially opponents like Karabekir, Orbay and Cebesoy explain the same incidents with quite different interpretations.
All of them are our national heroes. It is disrespectful to history to take sides and support one and underestimate the other because they drifted apart politically after the victory.
Well, one should not expect indeed everybody to be immersed in research as such but at least, in this era, we should be a “reading society.”
More importantly, we should release our minds from being imprisoned by ideological and political prejudices.
As a matter of fact, with a mindset which is ready to accept any word that suits our prejudices and reject any knowledge that does not, but at the same time is closed to questioning our prejudices and researching new information, we cannot, in this era, become one of the “biggest economies in the world.”