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An Ottoman Staff Officer in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905): General Pertev Bey’s Impressions and Evaluations

Author: Doruk Akyüz

Source: Global Perspectives on Japan (GPJ), No.4 (2021), pp.38-64
Publisher: Forum Tauri Press
Keywords: Pertev
Bey, Russo-Japanese War, Japan, Japanese, Ottoman Empire, Ottomans,
westernization, modernization, observers


In this paper, I discuss the influence of Japan’s military westernization on Ottoman conceptions of East-West relations, Westernization, and military reform, from the perspective of an Ottoman staff officer. Colonel (later General) Pertev (Demirhan) Bey visited Japan and the battlefields of the Russo-Japanese War as a military observer between 1904-1905. His experience on the battlefield dramatically influenced his way of thinking. In the successful Japanese example of military modernization, as he saw it in action against Russia, and found the answers to the long debate among Ottomans about the path for modernization in the face of threats from Western powers. He saw the Ottoman Empire and Japan as sharing many commonalities. Both faced a threat from Western modern states and their militaries. In reaction, elites and decision makers in both nations had sought to adopt Western practices, doctrines, institutions, science, knowledge, and cultural elements in order to reach the level of their threatening contemporaries. The Japanese military victory validated in the eyes of Pertev Bey, and many of his Ottoman contemporaries, the Japanese method of modernization. Japan replaced the West as the model of modernization for him. This led him to pen a report and unsuccessfully champion the Japanese example of military reform to Sultan Abdülhamid II. When he was given decision making power during the First Balkan War, tasked with planning the war against the Balkan allies, his experience in Japan played a central role in the war plan he presented, which in turn determined the contours of the Ottoman experience in the war.