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The Military Academy and Staff College

Successful graduates of state preparatory schools made the journey to Istanbul to continue their studies in the imperial capital. Travel in the Ottoman realms was rigorous; the long journey presaged government careers spent in often grueling travel from one far-flung imperial outpost to another. For students from the Ottoman Arab provinces the trip often involved weeks of land travel on foot to a sea port, perhaps Alexandretta, or Beirut, and then by steamship to Istanbul.47 By the first decade of the twentieth century, student cadets could travel part of the distance by train. The Ottoman state placed great emphasis on train construction and efficient communication, but faced greater difficulties than other European powers in the relative absence of navigable rivers, and the many mountains and deserts. Students finally arrived at the military academy, where cadets from the Balkans, Anatolia, Libya, Yemen, Syria, Iraq, or Kurdistan lived and studied together. During the final Ottoman decades, the military academy, Mekteb-i Ulum-i Harbiye, admitted and graduated about 500 students a year, for a total enrollment of about 1,500.48

Cadets began an intensive three-year education culminating in their commission as Ottoman military officers. The academy curriculum followed and refined the secular and practical scientific character of the

idadiye and rii§diye schools. Military drills, field medicine, surveying, fortifications, reconnaissance, and communications were added to the study of French, German, and Russian, geography, and math.49 Ottoman and some world history was taught, but no religious instruction was offered, though students prayed together. 60 to 70 percent of the students came from the Anatolian and Balkan regions, but Sultan Abdul-Hamid was anxious to increase representation of the nonTurkish and non-European provinces and actively recruited young men from the Arab and Kurdish regions. Decades later, retired officers described the policy as part of the Sultan’s efforts to “draw the people closer to himself.”50 By all accounts, the imperial academies comprised a rarefied and politicized atmosphere, and students took a keen interest in the affairs of state, and organized secret political organizations to debate political topics they could not discuss in their classes. Goltz Pasa, Mahmud Sevket Pasa, and their successors convinced generations of Ottoman officer-cadets that they should be the rightful leaders of a militarized nation.

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