Most of Mustafa Kemal’s friends in the academy were from Manastır İdadi. The closest one was Ahmet Tevfik. Then followed his childhood friend Mustafa Nuri (conker), whom he studied together in Rüştiye (middle school) and İdadi (senior high school), Lütfi Müfit (Özdeş), Ali Fuat (Cebesoy), Arif (Ayıcı), Hayri (Tırnovacık), Kazım (Karabekir), Ömer Naci, İsmail Hakkı (Pars), Kazım (İnanç), Kazım (Özalp), and Ali Fethi (Okyar). Some of them were from his own term, some were before or after.
General Hayri (Tırnovacık) ,in his memoirs, answered the reporter Naci Sadullah’s question of “Who would Mustafa Kemal talk to most in the classroom?” as follows: “To Tevfik Bey, who also graduated from Manastır İdadi and whom we lost the year we graduated from the academy. God bless him. After him, there was Müfit Bey he was close, who is now the Kırşehir representative.”
Ali Fuat Cebesoy wrote the following about their friends and friendships: “As the days passed by, I had had more friends .Among them was Ali Fethi from Pirlepe (God bless him), who was studying on the second grade. One day, after the midday prayer, Mustafa Kemal took my hand. To Ali Fethi, walking past us, called: “ Here is the friend I have talked about, Ali Fuat from Salacak. We shook hands. He was kind and well behaved. We went out together at the weekend leaves, wandered in Beyoğlu. Then they took me to ferry and said goodbye. Cafer Tayyar Edirne (General CAfer Tayyar Eğilmez) was also in Fethi’s class. We were very close friends. I happened to know Enver from my older brother’s class, who was Minister of War and Deputy Commander of Chief in the First World War. He was handsome. Selahattin Adil (retired lieutenant general, God bless him) was too in the same class. Enver’s uncle Halil (who was the army commander in the First World War, God bless him) was in the third section in our grade. Our friendship started at that time.
“The cadets I knew from Erzincan Military Rüştiye started to study on the third grade, during that time I had to study foreign language in French High School for two years. Among them was Fahrettin (retired full general Fahrettin Altay) too.
During the time Mustafa Kemal started the Military Academy, the school commander was Mustafa Zeki, who commanded this honored school for 24 years (1884-1908), the school principle, then called course minister, was General Esat, who would later be a corps commander in Çanakkale.
It is understood that there were valuable teachers who affected his character and prepared him to life. Among them were a French teacher Necip Asım (Yazıksız)Bey(1861-1865), who later became a professor in Istanbul University, was one of the founders of Turkish History Institution and a representative, the training instructor General Rahmi and his aide Major Fazıl Bey, captain Naci (İldeniz) Bey, who later became lieutenant general and representative, and lieutenant Osman Bey.
Ali Fuat Cebesoy says the following about their teachers: “we were content with our teachers. The best training instructor was General Rahmi, who had studied in Germany. His aides were Major Fazıl Bey, who died in the First World War, Captain Naci (lieutenant general and MP Naci Eldeniz, God bless him), and lieutenant Osman Efendi from Erzurum. Osman Efendi used to call us “kop da gel” (come here quickly) during the training. Because of this, we nicknamed him as “kop da gel”. Later, he must have approved this nickname so much that he received it as his surname.
Especially, Mustafa Kemal liked and respected Captain Naci Bey. If my memory serves me correctly, they had met in Manastır. Their tie continued until death. Long time ago, General Naci visited Atatürk for some reason. I was there, too. Atatürk had shown him great respect. He said: “Please have a seat.” , and turned to me and said: “Dear, General Naci made enormous contribution to both of us.” After two weeks I started the academy, General Esat from Yanya was appointed as school principle. At that time, he was a Colonel. Being a descendant of Mehmet Kaçın’s family from Taşkent, he was a wise and patriot soldier. He was my commander during Yanya defence in the First World War. I was the chief of staff of his corps. Similarly, I had the defense duty in Pasita and Pizanı positions under his command as his deputy commander of 23rd division. He felt so sorry when I was wounded.
General Esat also commanded Atatürk during Çanakkale wars. Atatürk’s prominent 19th division was in the structure of 3rd corps.”
From the accounts of his school friends, it is understood that Cadet Mustafa Kemal both improved his French and matured his thoughts on state matters. In order to understand what kind of a student he was and what thoughts he had for the future, some memories about his War Academy studentship are worth to read.
According to one of his closest friends Lütfi Müfit (Özdeş):
“His majesty the Gazi attended the Military Academy from the Military High School in 315. All the classes from Istanbul, Erzurum, Şam, Bagdat senior high schools gathered there. The total number of cadets was over 900. In order to make the administration of the education easier, the class was divided into six sections. His majesty was in the first one. In 317, having competed three years of education, thirty nine cadets were chosen for the first grade of Erkan-ı Harbiye (War Academy at the time).
Describing his years in the Military Academy and War Academy is not an easy subject to be described in a few sentences. On the contrary, it requires volumes to fill, which is a history subject in itself.
It is worth to note his revolutionary ideas which stem from his soul and his conscious against an evil and poor administration even at those times in school. He would reach conclusions by carefully analyzing every subject, science and knowledge he studied on. He would help his classmates to resolve the problems reasonably and logically. Lütfi Müfit Bey states that Mustafa Kemal enlightened his classmates by publishing newspapers during the despotic years, and adds:
“The great commander felt so overwhelmed about poor administration that he organized secret gatherings, expressed criticism. He even published newspapers once or twice a week in spite of the risks.
He expressed himself so well that it was clear, at that time, how he was going to serve Turkish Nation, of which he was a member. His cordial friends believing in him and adoring his ideas gathered around That Great Man.”
General Hayri (Tırnovacık) tells the reporter Naci Sadullah:
“His majesty the Gazi was the cleverest in the class. He was mature in his manners, even more than expected of his age. He had an extraordinary skill at persuasion. He was never involved in a fight.
In schools, there are some students who try to compensate their lack of understanding and intelligence with brute force. Being exempt from such things, I do not remember The Majesty relied exclusively on memorization about the books he studied on. On the contrary, he even focused more on the subjects which drew his attention. He was quite interested in literature and mathematics. He especially liked to read Tevfik Fikret’s “Fog” poem. He also enjoyed literary works of Namık Kemal and Abdülhak Hamit.
He was also interested in the philosophy and intellectual movements of his time. He thought a lot about the social issues which needed to be resolved.
How did he behave in the class, what was he like?
His majesty the Gazi was the most fashionable, neatly dressed and the cleverest cadet in the section. Since he had been to Selanik, which had helped him experience the modern rules of the social intercourse before coming to Istanbul, he was more skilled in good manners than us. While in Beirut, his good dancing, friendly manners and sweet talk influenced many men and women, having us felt proud of ourselves.
Dear General, who did he talk to most in the classroom?
To Tevfik bey, the dear friend, who graduated and came from the Manastır İdadi at the same time with him, whom we lost when we graduated.
Müfit Bey, who is now a MP from Kırşehir, was one of his close friends.
General Kazım Özalp, who was one grade below him at Manastır and Military Academy, narrates the following: In 1899, Mustafa Kemal started the Military Academy in Istanbul. One year later, I also started there. Our friendship continued. Those who came to Military Academy from Manastır İdadi usually used to meet at Stefan’s Café in Babiali or at Yani’s Café in Sirkeci at the weekend leaves. Our conversations were more mature and meaningful than had been before. In addition to backgammon, we used to play billiards.
Asım Gündüz, who was one term ahead of Mustafa Kemal, started the Military Academy at the same time with him because he had to have one year off because of his sickness. They studied together in the following years. In his memoirs, he talks about The Cadet Mustafa Kemal as follows:
“After Kuleli (Military High School), I transferred to Military Academy. All cadets from Manastır, Şam and Erzurum İdadis (Senior High Schools) gathered there. But, this time, a competition started between them, which sometimes causing dissension among us.
I was the top student in the first grade and became a sergeant major based on the graduation grades I had. Being on the top of my class continued during my Military Academy years.
At the time I graduated from Military Academy I became ill and had a sick leave. I went to my hometown and stayed there for one year. At that time, the first best ten cadets graduating from the Military Academy used to be chosen for War Academy. Even though I was the first, due to the sick leave, I could have started the War Academy one year later. So, I was together with Mustafa Kemal, Ali Fuat Cebesoy and Ali İhsan Sabis in the War Academy. Since I had been the top cadet and had a higher average than Ali İhsan Sabis by 14 more points, I was chosen as the senior cadet one more time.
Something drew my attention during those years both in Military Academy and War Academy. The cadets from Eastern Provinces and Anatolia, as well as the ones from Istanbul, were only interested in their courses. Only the cadets from Manastır were shrewder and Western oriented. Beside the courses, they also discussed state affairs and expressed their opinions. Mustafa Kemal was among them.
It was my old friend, Fethi Okyar, that introduced me to Mustafa Kemal. He would dress and speak well, would never hurt anyone and had good manners. He had revolutionary ideas, maybe because his hometown was a Western province. He would speak encouragingly among his friends and influence them in a very short time with his fluent speeches. He would reread those patriotic poems which we did not read. He collected all the poems of Namık Kemal in a journal. We copied these poems down in our notebooks and memorized them as well. Mustafa Kemal once said: “Statesmen and philosophers are the ones who can inspire the nations.” He had great interest in foreign languages. It was for this reason that he stayed in a French woman’s pension. This French woman had the newspapers published by Young Turks brought by the French Embassy couriers and gave them to Mustafa Kemal. She also gave him French lessons. We heard the ideas of nationalism, being a Turk and patriotism for the first time from him during the Military Academy years. Ali Fuat was the best French speaker in the section because he was a graduate of a French High School. Mustafa Kemal was the second in French after him. He said that he had attended French courses during holiday breaks in Military Academy years to master the language.”
From all of these statements, it is understood that Military Academy years were an important period when his patriotic, nationalistic and Turkish ideals matured and his Westernization ideas were developed. His efforts to spread his ideas among his friends and publish a paper for this purpose indicate that his leadership skills also started to be developed during these years. He also seems to have found a place for himself in the social settings of Istanbul. It is known that he had his first experiences on “drinks and dance” there.
The latest research indicates that the belief Mustafa Kemal wrote poems and sent them to newspapers is wrong. Mustafa Kemal who read poems and had his friends read poems was confused with another Mustafa Kemal who wrote poems.