In November 1918, the future of the Ottoman state was in question and the state’s servants had few options. Ottoman leaders, both military and civilian, had hoped the war would reverse recent defeats in the Balkans and solidify the Ottoman position as a strong power.105 In this they differed little from other European military and civil elites who willfully took the steps leading to war.106 But battlefield defeat, armistice, and enemy occupation, presented a dilemma to Ottoman elites in government and the military. Probably most attempted to preserve their attachment to the Ottoman state, and tried to make their way to Istanbul, or at least to the unoccupied regions of Anatolia. Shakib Arslan, to take only one example, immediately traveled from Berlin towards Istanbul via central Europe and the Black Sea. He aborted his journey when he learned the British would likely imprison him in the occupied capital, and he fled to what would become permanent exile.
Mustafa Kemal, Yasin al-Hashimi, and countless others among them, made similarly fateful decisions over the next few months. Most officer graduates of the military education system who survived the war probably became citizens, and eventually pensioners, of the Turkish Republic, including those born in regions that became Greece, Bulgaria, the Balkans, or the Arab regions. The Ottoman education system nurtured the growth of a military elite, including Ottoman Turkish literacy, transnational Islamic cosmopolitanism, and identity with the Ottoman State, rather than any one region or area, and most preferred to remain within the system they served and to protect Islam and the independence of the former Ottoman lands. Civilian functionaries and politicians were in less direct peril from the allied occupation, and were more likely to return to their places of origin.
Common soldiers tried to return to their families, towns, and villages. Some stayed with their units or settled in some new place, especially if their native region was impossibly distant, or under enemy occupation. In this way, uncounted thousands eventually became citizens of new states far from their places of birth. Floods of refugees also traversed the lands of the empire from east to west and west to east. Demobilized soldiers often returned to the field in popular defense committees in the next years. By late 1922 the Ottoman state was gone, but its living citizens, officers, bureaucrats, buildings, schools, roads, memories, habits, culture, archives, and offices remained.
142 Losing the War and Fighting the Settlement: 1918 1922