Committee of Union and Progress
|Leaders after 1913||"Three Pashas" (Enver Pasha, Talaat Pasha, Djemal Pasha)|
|Headquarters||Istanbul (formerly in Salonica)|
|Slogan||Hürriyet, Müsavat, Adalet (Liberty, Equality, Justice)|
The Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) (Turkish: İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti), later Party of Union and Progress (Turkish: İttihat ve Terakki Fırkası) began as a secret society established as the "Committee of Ottoman Union" (Turkish: İttihad-ı Osmanî Cemiyeti) in Istanbul on February 6, 1889 by medical students Ibrahim Temo, Çerkez Mehmed Reşid, Abdullah Cevdet, İshak Sükuti, Ali Hüseyinzade, Kerim Sebatî, Mekkeli Sabri Bey, Selanikli Nazım Bey, Şerafettin Mağmumi, Cevdet Osman and Giritli Şefik. It was transformed into a political organisation (and later an official political party) by Behaeddin Shakir, aligning itself with the Young Turks in 1906, during the period of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire. In the west, members of the CUP were usually called "Young Turks" while in the Ottoman Empire, its members were known as Unionists.
Begun as a liberal reform movement in the Ottoman Empire, the party was persecuted by the Ottoman imperial government for its calls for democratisation and reform in the empire. A major influence on the committee was Meiji-era Japan, a backward state that successfully modernised itself without sacrificing its identity. The CUP intended to copy the Japanese example and modernise the Ottoman Empire to end its status as the perpetual "sick man of Europe". The ultimate aim of the CUP was to return the Ottoman Empire to its former status as one of the world’s great powers. Once the party gained power in the Young Turk Revolution in 1908 and consolidated its power in the 1912 "Election of Clubs" and the 1913 Raid on the Sublime Porte, it grew increasingly more splintered and volatile (and after attacks on the empire’s Turkish citizens during the Balkan Wars of 1912–13, nationalist) as its three leaders, Enver Pasha, Talaat Pasha, and Djemal Pasha, formed the triumvirate known as the Three Pashas and gained de facto rule over the Ottoman Empire and the party itself.
At the end of World War I, most of its members were court-martialled by the sultan Mehmed VI and imprisoned. A few members of the organisation were executed in Turkey after trial for the attempted assassination of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1926. Members who survived continued their political careers in Turkey as members of the Republican People’s Party (Turkish: Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi, CHP) and other political parties in Turkey.
The Committee of Union and Progress was an umbrella name for different underground factions, some of which were generally referred to as the "Young Turks". The name was officially sanctioned to a specific group in 1906 by Behaeddin Shakir. The organisation was based upon the revolutionary Italian Carbonari. In 1902, there occurred a party congress in Paris, in which two factions clashed. One led by Prince Sabahaddin favoured a policy of Ottomanism, where all the people of the multi-ethnic, multi-religious empire would be united by a common loyalty to the empire regardless of one's ethnicity or religion, and where power would be devolved down to the provinces. Prince Saabahaddin believed that the only reason why separatist movements existed amongst such peoples as the Armenians was due to the oppressive policies of Abdulhamid II, and if only the empire would treat its Armenian minority better, then the Armenians would become loyal Ottomans. Another faction, which proved to be the dominant one, was led by Ahmed Riza, who while not being opposed to Ottomanism outright insisted upon a very centralised, unitary state in which Turks would be the dominant group, arguing that devolving power down to the groups like the Armenians would be only the first step towards the establishment of an Armenian state. Ultimately, Prince Sabahaddin and his followers ended leaving the CUP over disagreements over what sort of state the empire should be after the planned revolution against Sultan Abdulhamid.
Revolutionary Era: 1906–08
The CUP, which always greatly admired Japan for modernising itself after the so-called Meiji Restoration of 1867–68, were much impressed by Japan’s victory over Russia in 1905, and after the Russian-Japanese war, the CUP was obsessed with the idea of copying the Japanese. The Young Turks were especially impressed with the way the Japanese had been able to embrace western science and technology without losing their "Eastern spiritual essence", an example that was especially inspiring to them because many in the Ottoman Empire believed that the embrace of western science and technology were diametrically opposed to Islam. To the CUP, for whom science was something of a religion, the Japanese example seemed to show how the Ottoman Empire could embrace the science of the west without losing its Islamic identity. The CUP had an obsession with science, above all the natural sciences (CUP journals devoted much text to chemistry lessons), and the Unionists often described themselves as "societal doctors" who would apply modern scientific ideas and methods to solve all social problems. Alongside the unbounded faith in science, the CUP embraced social Darwinism and the völkisch, scientific racism that was so popular at German universities in the first half of the 20th century. In the words of the sociologist Ziya Gökalp, the CUP’s chief thinker, the German racial approach to defining a nation was the "one that happened to more closely match the condition of ‘Turkishness’, which was struggling to constitute its own historical and national identity". The French racist Arthur de Gobineau whose theories had such a profound impact upon the German völkisch thinkers in the 19th century was also a major influence upon the CUP. The Turkish historian Taner Akçam wrote that the CUP were quite flexible about mixing pan-Islamic, pan-Turkic and Ottomanist ideas as it suited their purposes, and the Unionists at various times would emphasise one at the expense of the others depending upon the exigencies of the situation. All that mattered in the end to the CUP was that the Ottoman Empire become great again, and that the Turks be the dominant group within the empire. Though the Central Committee of the CUP was made up of intense Turkish nationalists, until the defeat in the First Balkan war in 1912–13, the CUP did not stress its Turkish nationalism in public as it would offend the non-Turkish population of the empire. A further problem for the CUP was that the majority of the ethnic Turks of the empire did not see themselves as Turks at all, but rather simply as Sunni Muslims who happened to speak Turkish. The Turkish historian Taner Akçam that at the time of the First World War that "It is even questionable whether the broad mass of Muslims in Anatolia at the time understood themselves as Turks, or Kurds, rather than as Muslims". Though the CUP was dedicated to a revolutionary transformation of Ottoman society by its "science-conscious cadres", the CUP were conservative revolutionaries who wished to retain the monarchy and Islam’s status as the state religion as the Young Turks believed that the sultanate and Islam were an essential part of the glue holding the Ottoman Empire together.
The CUP had built an extensive organisation, having a presence in towns, in the capital, and throughout Europe. Under this umbrella name, one could find ethnic Albanians, Bulgarians, Arabs, Serbians, Jews, Greeks, Turks, Kurds, and Armenians united by the common goal of changing the Ottoman absolute monarchical regime. The CUP professed to be fighting for the restoration of the democratic 1876 constitution, but its internal organisation and methods were intensely authoritarian with its cadres expected simply to follow orders from the Central Committee. Joining the CUP was by invitation only, and those who did join had to keep their membership secret. Those who joined the CUP had to swear a sacred oath with the Koran in the right hand and a sword or dagger in the left hand to unconditionally obey all orders from the CUP Central Committee; to never reveal the CUP’s secrets and to keep their own membership secret; to be willing to die for the fatherland and Islam at all times; and to follow orders from the Central Committee to kill anyone whom the Central Committee wanted to see killed, including one’s own friends and family. The penalty for disobeying orders from the Central Committee or attempting to leave the CUP was death. To enforce its policy, the Unionists had a select group of especially dedicated Young Turks known as the fedâiin, whose job was to assassinate those CUP members who disobeyed orders, disclosed its secrets or were suspected of being police informers. Operating as an underground revolutionary group led the CUP to adopt a paranoid mindset with almost everyone outside of the CUP being seen as an enemy. The CUP saw themselves as a scientific elite, whose superior knowledge would save the empire; one Unionist later recalled the atmosphere as: "Being an Unionist was almost a type of God-given privilege".
During the early years of the 20th century, and especially from 1906 onwards, the CUP had enjoyed great success in recruiting army officers, especially from the Third Army based in Macedonia. The Ottoman region of Macedonia comprised what is now modern northern Greece, Macedonia, southern Serbia, south-western Bulgaria, Kosovo, and Albania. The lawless, backward, impoverished, crime-ridden and very violent region of Macedonia was full of Greek, Serbian and Bulgarian guerrillas sponsored by their respective national governments, which when they were not fighting the Ottomans, were busy fighting each other. In the early 20th century, Macedonia was in a state of "protracted low-level civil war." In some of the rural areas of Macedonia, not only was there no Ottoman government, but there was no government at all, with the rule of the gun reigning in an atmosphere of anarchy. The atrocities committed against Muslim civilians in Macedonia, whatever they be Turkish or Albanian by the anti-Ottoman guerrillas greatly angered the Ottoman officers sent to suppress them, and gave many of them their first taste of Turkish nationalism. In turn, the Ottoman forces perpetuated atrocities against the Christian population, leading to a never-ending cycle of revenge.
One of the principal diplomatic problems in 19th century Europe was the so-called "Eastern Question", which concerned what to do with the declining Ottoman Empire. In 1897, Russia and Austria, both of whom had rival designs upon the empire had agreed to put the Eastern Question "on ice", and agreed to co-operate in the Balkans instead of competing. In October 1903, the Austrian and Russian governments announced the Mürzsteg Scheme for reform to settle the Macedonian Question. The Russians and Austrians announced that the only reasons for why Macedonia was in such a state of chaos was because the Ottoman administration was corrupt, brutal, incompetent, nepotistic and very biased against Christians, and to remedy these problems, the Sublime Porte was to carry out a set of wide-ranging reforms under the supervision of "civil agents" appointed by the European Great Powers. In November 1903, the Ottoman government reluctantly accepted the Mürzsteg Scheme, something that enraged the CUP which saw the Mürzsteg Scheme as outrageous western interference in the internal affairs of the empire. In November 1905, warships of the British, French, Italian, and Austrian navies threatened to bombard Salonica unless the Ottoman government agreed to extend the powers of the European "civil agents" in Macedonia and allow European policemen to command the local gendarmerie; Abdulhamid again reluctantly bowed to the demands of the west. After 1905, the gendarmerie in Macedonia were commanded by British, French, Austrian, Italian and Russian police officers, something that was widely resented by Ottoman Muslims, who believed that this was part of a western plot to take Macedonia away from the empire. In such a context, the officers of the Third Army believed the Ottoman state needed drastic reforms in order to survive, and thus made the appeal of a modernising organisation like the CUP especially seductive to them. The fact that the Christian population of Macedonia – whatever they be Greek, Serb, Macedonian, Bulgarian or Vlach – were engaged in more or less constant rebellion against the Ottoman Empire, together with the revolutionary activities of Armenian nationalists in Anatolia led many Ottoman officers to see the entire Christian population of the empire as disloyal and treasonous. Furthermore, the contrast between the poverty of almost all the Muslim population of Macedonia vs. the relative prosperity of the parts of the Christian population made a considerable impression on the Third Army junior officers, who complained bitterly in private that the Muslims were falling further and further behind the Christians in their own empire, and that something had to be done about this. Most of the Ottoman officers serving in the CUP were junior officers, but the widespread belief that the empire needed reforms led the senior officers of the Third Army to turn a blind eye to the fact that most of the junior officers had joined the CUP.
Sultan Abdulhamid II persecuted the members of the CUP in an attempt to hold on to absolute power, but was forced to reinstate the Ottoman constitution of 1876, which he had originally suspended in 1878, after threats to overthrow him by the CUP in the 1908 Young Turk Revolution. The revolution had been sparked by a summit in July 1908 in Reval, Russia (modern Tallinn, Estonia) between King Edward VII of Great Britain and the emperor Nicholas II of Russia. Popular rumour within the Ottoman Empire had it that during the summit a secret Anglo-Russian deal was signed to partition the Ottoman Empire. Though this story was not true, the rumour led the CUP (which had many army officers as its members) to act. From its HQ in Salonica (modern Thessaloniki, Greece), the CUP ordered the Third Army to march on Constantinople. However, after the meeting of the goal to change the regime of Abdulhamid, in the absence of this uniting factor, the CUP and the revolution began to fracture and different allegiances began to emerge. The first success of the new regime came in September 1908 when the European powers were asked to withdraw their civil agents and police officers from Macedonia, a request that was promptly agreed to.
The Young Turk Revolution played a significant role in the evolution of the Committee of Union and Progress from a revolutionary organisation to a political party.
Change through revolution
The revolution and CUP’s work had a great impact on Muslims in other countries. The Persian community in Istanbul founded the Iranian Union and Progress Committee. Indian Muslims imitated the CUP oath administered to recruits of the organisation. The leaders of the Young Bukhara movement were deeply influenced by the Young Turk Revolution, and saw it as an example to emulate. Reflecting their intense Japanophilia, the new regime proclaimed its intention to remake the Ottoman Empire into the "Japan of the Near East". In their own minds, the Central Committee of the CUP saw themselves as playing a role analogous to that of the oligarchy of Meiji Japan, and the revolution of 1908 as an event comparable to the brief civil war that had toppled the Tokugawa shogunate in 1867–68. One Unionist Colonel Pertev Bey wrote after the revolution of 1908: "We will rise shortly... with the same brilliance as the Rising Sun of the Far East did a few years ago! In any case, let us not forget that a nation always rises from its own strength!" An additional attraction for Japan as a role model for the Unionists was that the Japanese had modernised while keeping their women in an extremely subservient position within their society; the all-male Young Turks did not wish for Ottoman women to become anything like the women of the west, and instead wanted to preserve the traditional roles for women. In an inversion of western paranoia about the "Yellow Peril", the Young Turks often fantasised about creating an alliance with Japan that would unite all the peoples of "the East" to wage war against and wipe out the much hated western nations that dominated the world, a "Yellow wave" that would wash away European civilisation for good. For the Young Turks, the term yellow (which was in fact a derogatory western term for east Asians, based upon their perceived skin colour) stood for the "Eastern gold", the innate moral superiority of eastern peoples over the corrupt west. In the eyes of the Unionists, it was the civilisations of the middle east, the Indian subcontinent, and the far east that were the superior civilisations to western civilisation, and it was merely an unfortunate accident of history that the west had happened to become more economically and technologically advanced than the Asian civilisations, something that they were determined to correct.
The Unionists believed that the secret behind the success of the west was science, and that the more scientifically advanced a nation was, the more powerful it was. The Turkish historian Handan Nezir Akmeșe that the essence of the CUP was the "cult of science" and a strong sense of Turkish nationalism. Strongly influenced by French intellectuals such as Auguste Comte and Gustave Le Bon, the Unionists had embraced the idea of rule by a scientific elite. For the Young Turks, the basic problem of the Ottoman Empire was its backward, impoverished status (today, the Ottoman Empire would be considered a third world country) and the fact that most of its Muslim population were illiterate; thus, most Ottoman Muslims could not learn about modern science even if they had wanted to. Furthermore, the Young Turks had embraced Social Darwinism and pseudo-scientific biological racism as the basis of their philosophy with history being seen as a merciless racial struggle with only the strongest "races" surviving. For the CUP, the Japanese government had ensured that the "Japanese race" were strongest in east Asia, and it was their duty to ensure that the "Turkish race" become the strongest in the near east. For the CUP, just as it was right and natural for the superior "Japanese race" to dominate "inferior races" like the Koreans and the Chinese, likewise it would be natural for the superior "Turkish race" to dominate "inferior races" like Greeks and the Armenians. This Social Darwinist perspective explains how the Unionists were so ferocious in their criticism of western imperialism (especially if directed against the Ottoman Empire) while being so supportive of Japanese imperialism in Korea and China. When Japan annexed Korea in 1910, the Young Turks supported this move under the Social Darwinist grounds that the Koreans were a weak people who deserved to be taken over by the stronger Japanese both for their own good and the good of the Japanese empire. Along the same lines, the Social Darwinism of the Unionists led them to see the Armenians and the Greek minorities, who tended to be much better educated, literate and wealthier then the Turks and who dominated the business life of the empire as a threat to their plans for a glorious future for the "Turkish race".
For purposes of enlisting public support from a Turkish public that was for the most part devoutly Muslim (the Koran says all Muslims are equal in the eyes of Allah, so the theory of a superior "Turkish race" might seem blasphemous), and out of the fear of alienating those Ottoman Muslims who were not Turks like the Arabs, the Albanians and the Kurds, the CUP’s pseudo-scientific theories about the "Turkish race" were usually not publicly proclaimed. Already within the early years of the 20th century, the Japanese had started to champion the ideology of Pan-Asianism, under which all of the Asian peoples were to united under the leadership of Japan, the strongest of the Asian nations and as the "great Yamato race", the most racially superior of the Asian peoples as a justification for their imperialism. The CUP were greatly influenced by Japanese Pan-Asianism, which served as a template for their ideology of Pan-Islamism, where all of the world's Muslims were to united in the Ottoman Empire, led of course by the "Turkish race". An American historian, Sven Saaler, noted the "important connections" between the Japanese pan-Asian and the Ottoman pan-Islamist movements in the early 20th century as well as the "astonishing parallels" between the two movements. The ultimate aim of the CUP was to modernise the Ottoman Empire to recapture its former greatness, and just as the modernised Meiji Japan had defeated Russia in 1905, so too would the modernised Ottoman state defeat the western nations. To help with their plans for modernisation, the CUP created a number of semi-official organisations such as the Ottoman Navy League, the Ottoman Red Crescent Society and the Committee for National Defence that were intended to engage the Ottoman public with the entire modernisation project, and to promote their nationalist, militaristic ways of thinking amongst the public. The CUP planned on taking back all of the territory that the Ottomans had lost during the course of the 19th century and under the banner of pan-Turkic nationalism to acquire new territory in the Caucasus and central Asia. As part of its plans to make the Ottoman Empire great again, the CUP leadership stated to engage in an "... increasingly radicalized demographic engineering program aimed at the ethnoreligious homogenization of Anatolia from 1913 till the end of World War I".
In 1909, there was a countercoup by Islamists against the CUP, which culminated in the 31 March Incident, when reactionaries rebelled against the restoration of the constitutional system and retook power in Istanbul in support of Sultan Abdulhamid II’s absolute rule. However, the CUP easily defeated the reactionaries by organising the "Army of Action" (Turkish: Hareket Ordusu) and taking back Istanbul within a few days.
During the reign of Sultan Abdul Hamid II, Pan-Islamism had become a hugely important part of the state ideology as Abdul Hamid had often stressed his claim to be the caliph. The claim that Abdul Hamid was the caliph, making him the political and spiritual leader of all Muslims not only caught on within the Ottoman Empire, but throughout the entire Dar-al-Islam (the "House of Islam", i.e. the Islamic world), especially in India. At that time, British India comprised all of modern-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Despite deposing Abdul Hamid in 1909, the CUP continued his pan-Islamic policies. For the CUP, keeping the sultanate-caliphate in being had the effect of not only reinforcing the loyalty of Ottoman Muslims to the empire, but was also a useful foreign policy tool. The fact that Indian Muslims seemed to have far more enthusiasm for the Ottoman sultan-caliph than they did for the British king-emperor was a matter of considerable concern for British decision-makers. The fear that the sultan-caliph might declare jihad against the British, and thereby plunge India into a revolt by its Muslims was a constant factor in British policy towards the Ottoman Empire. On the other side, starting in 1897 Germany had a policy of Weltpolitik (World Politics), in which the Reich sought to become the world’s dominant power. As part of its programme of Weltpolitik, Germany had courted the Ottoman Empire through a policy of providing generous loans to the Ottoman state (which had gone bankrupt in 1881, and which had trouble getting loans as a result), weapons and German officers to train the Ottoman army. The price of these loans, weapons and the German military mission to train the army was that the Ottoman state had to favour German corporations when awarding railway concessions and other public works, thus pushing the empire further into the German political and economic sphere of influence. An official German-Ottoman alliance was not signed until 1914, but from 1898 onwards, there was an unofficial German-Ottoman alliance. In 1898, the German emperor had visited the empire, in course of which Wilhelm II had proclaimed himself the "protector of Islam" before a cheering crowd. A large part of the reason for the German interest in the Ottomans was the belief by decision-makers in Berlin that the sultan-caliph could mobilise all of the world's Muslims to Germany's cause. Beyond that, having the Ottoman Empire as an ally would mean that in the event of a war, Russian and especially British forces that otherwise would be deployed against Germany would be sent to fight the Ottomans instead. In 1914, the German emperor Wilhelm II saw a message on the margin on a diplomatic cable from St. Petersburg reading: "Our consuls in Turkey and India, our people must incite the entire Islamic world to a savage revolt against this... cursed, perfidious, conscience-less nation [Russia].
The Unionist Vision of the Future
In the words of the Turkish historian Handan Nezir Akmeșe, the commitment of the Unionists to the constitution of 1876 that they professed to be fighting for was only "skin deep", and was more of a rallying cry for popular support than anything else. The primary influences on the Unionists were the French scientist Gustave Le Bon and the German General Baron Colmar von der Goltz. Le Bon argued that democracy was only just mindless mob rule and the best form of the government was a rule by a scientific elite. As a leading Unionist Enver Pasha was to write in 1912:
As a soldier, I believe in the absoluteness of the army. For a governing system, I believe in a 'mild' system of Constitutionalism. [However] it is an obligation to get rid of all those who desire to be part of the ruling body. As a Frenchman [Gustave Le Bon] once said; 'Before the Republic, there used to be only one autocrat in France, now, there are hundreds of them as all MPs struggle to gain supreme power.'
Equally important given the large number of army officers as Unionists was the influence of Goltz, who trained an entire generation of Ottoman officers, the so-called "Goltz generation". Goltz was a militarist, Social Darwinist and an ultra-nationalist who saw war as something necessary, desirable and inevitable, writing: "It [war] is an expression of the energy and self-respect which a nation possesses... Perpetual peace means perpetual death!". Goltz’s most important idea, which was to greatly influence the Unionists was that of the "nation in arms", that henceforward in modern war, the side that could mobilise best the entire resources of its society would be the one that would win, and as such the best thing that could done was to militarise one’s society in peacetime to ensure that it would be a "nation in arms" when the inevitable war came. Goltz, who spoke fluent Turkish and was very popular with the officers he had trained expressed a great deal of admiration for the Turks as a naturally warlike people, in contrast to his country where he believed that hedonism was rendering the next generation of young German men unfit for war. After Goltz published an article praising the Young Turk Revolution in 1908, one Unionist Major Ali Fuad wrote in response:
This article written by our Honourable Master should be repeatedly read by all soldiers from field marshal to lieutenant... it always should be read... and should be taken as a guide in all our efforts and initiatives... I assure you, Honourable Master... that we shall stick exactly to your advice and we shall regard it as our guide.
Goltz was also an intense Anglophobe who believed that the great struggle of the coming 20th century would be a world war between Britain and Germany for the mastery of the world; for him it was self-evident that the world was just too small for the British and German empires to co-exist, and he urged his protégés in the Ottoman Army to ensure that the empire fought on the side of his country when the inevitable Anglo-German war broke out.
However, as great as the influence of Goltz and Le Bon were on the Unionists, the primary example for the Young Turks was Japan. Germany was the role model for the technical and organisational aspects of modernisation while Japan was the overall societal model. The fact that an Asian nation like Japan had defeated Russia in 1905, the traditional enemy of the Ottoman Empire was very inspiring to the Unionists, and Unionist newspapers all portrayed Japan’s victory as a triumph not only over Russia, but also over western values. Influenced by Goltz’s "nation in arms" theory, the Unionists held that in war the moral state of the nation was just as important as such aspects as technology and the level of training. The Young Turks greatly admired the Japanese in they had embraced the western technology and science while at the same time rejecting western cultural values. Instead, the Japanese held fast to their traditional values of bushido ("the way of the warrior"), and had an educational system designed to indoctrinate every Japanese young man with the belief that there was no higher duty than to die for the emperor and every Japanese young woman there was no higher duty than to bear sons who would die for the emperor. The Unionists were much impressed with how the Japanese had fought the Russian-Japanese war, especially at the siege of Port Arthur (modern Lüshun, China) where the Japanese infantry advanced on the Russian trenches, only to be mown down time after time by the Russian machine guns, suffering thousands of dead in each assault, yet the Japanese soldiers, full of their belief in bushido, were honoured to die for their Emperor. As such, the Japanese kept on assaulting the Russian lines at Port Arthur, despite their enormous losses. The Japanese soldiers indoctrinated since their earliest days into Japanese ultra-nationalism and bushido had fought fanatically for their nation, an example the CUP was keen to emulate. By contrast, the Unionists noted how the Russian soldiers had no idea of what they were fighting for in Manchuria or why their country was at war with Japan, and with nothing to believe in, clung only to their lives and fought poorly as they had no wish to die for a cause that was unfathomable to them. Many Unionist officers took the "lesson" of Port Arthur as being that an army that was fanatically motivated enough would always win; the power of a properly dug defence, even one manned by such poorly motivated soldiers such as the Russians at Port Arthur to inflict terrible casualties on an attacking force made less of an impression on them.
A major factor in Unionist thinking was the "devaluation of life", the belief that eastern peoples like the Japanese and the Turks attached no value to human life including their own, and unlike the westerners who allegedly clung pathetically to their lives when confronted with danger, easterners supposedly died willingly and happily for the cause. The Unionists intended to emulate the Japanese example by creating a militaristic educational system designed to make every man a soldier and every woman into essentially a soldier-making machine; the concept of jihad would play the same role in motivating the Turkish soldier to fight and die for the caliph (regarded as Allah's representative on the Earth) as bushido did for the Japanese soldier to die for his emperor (regarded by the Japanese as a living god). Ultimately for the Unionists, war was a test of wills, and the side that had the stronger will and hence lesser fear of death would always prevail, and as an eastern people who supposedly cared nothing for the value of human life, the Unionists believed that the Turks had an innate advantage over the decadent west. It was accepted by the Unionists that provided that an eastern army had the same level of training and technology as a western army, the eastern army had the advantage because of their greater will to win. It was believed by the Unionists that the combination of German training and weapons together with the greater willingness to die motivated by their own superior Islamic and Turkish traditions would make the Ottoman military invincible in war. Reflecting the Unionists' intense sense of Turkish nationalism, the Unionist writer proudly argued in a book that: "We Turks are a first-class warrior nation." Past Ottoman victories over western nations like those over the Serbs at Kosovo in 1389, which ended Serbia as an independent kingdom; over the French, Hungarian, German and other Christian knights at Nicopolis in 1396, which crushed the crusade proclaimed by Pope Boniface IX; the fall of Constantinople in 1453 which ended the eastern Roman Empire; and the battle of Mohacs in 1526 which led to conquest of Hungary were used by the Unionists to argue that the Turks were naturally the greatest soldiers in the world and were much superior to western soldiers. As it were, the Turks had in the viewpoint of the Unionists become lazy since those glorious days, and what the Turks needed now was a series of reforms to allow the Turkish society to become the "nation in arms".
Second Constitutional Era: 1908–12
The first 1908 election to the Ottoman parliament, the General Assembly of the Ottoman Empire, after the Young Turk Revolution netted the Committee of Union and Progress only 60 of the 275 seats, despite its leading role in the revolution. Other parties represented in parliament at this time included the Armenian nationalist Dashnak and Hunchak parties (four and two members respectively) and the main opposition, the Liberty and Entente party, sometimes referred to by Ottoman historians as the "Liberal Union". The CUP did not take direct power after the revolution, but chose to monitor the politicians from the sidelines, ruling indirectly. The Turkish historian Handan Nezir Akmeșe wrote:
The CUP believed that it could exercise the role of the guardian of the Revolution most effectively outside the government. It was numerically weak and was based on a restricted geographical base. A majority of its members were resident in Macedonia and it had, as yet, no branch in the capital. More importantly, however, in a society where rank and age were two important measures of respect and reliability to govern, the mostly young and relatively inexperienced members of the CUP lacked the social prestige necessary to wield authority in the government. Most possibly, the CUP, by becoming a legitimate political party did not want to compromise its organisational integrity for in its internal structures, it was an authoritarian and hierarchical body. Besides, it would be easier to put the blame on a government in which they did not want an active and official part, for any wrong doings; they could continue to play the main role behind the scenes.
On 5 August 1908, the CUP told the government that the current Grand Vizier Mehmed Said Pasha was unacceptable to them, and had Kamil Pasha appointed Grand Vizier. On 14 February 1909 Kamil who proved too independent was forced to resign and replaced with Hüseyin Hilmi Pasha. A sign of how the CUP power worked occurred in February 1909, when Ali Haydar who had just been appointed ambassador to Spain went to the Sublime Porte to discuss his new appointment with the Grand Vizier Hüseyin Hilmi Pasha, only be to be informed by the Grand Vizier he needed to talk to a man from the Central Committee who was due to arrive shortly.
On 16 August 1909, the government passed the "Law of Associations", which banned ethnically based political parties. On 16 September 1909, the government passed the "Law for the Prevention of Brigandage and Sedition", which created "special pursuit battalions" to hunt down guerrillas in Macedonia, made it illegal for private citizens to own firearms and imposed harsh penalties for those who failed to report the activities of guerrillas. At the same time, the government expanded the educational system by founding new schools while at the same time announcing that henceforward Turkish would be the only language of instruction. From the summer of 1909 onwards the nature of the rebellions in Macedonia changed. The Christian communities largely ceased their rebellious activities while the Albanians, who were 70% Muslim and until that time had been the most loyal group in Macedonia, now started to rebel against the Ottoman state. Until that time, it had always been assumed by the Unionists that Islam would ensure the loyalty of the Muslim Albanians, so the frequent Albanian revolts came as a surprise. One of the principal causes of the Albanian rebellions was the decision to impose Turkish as the language in schools together with another law announcing that Albanian could only be written in the Arabic alphabet while the majority of Albanians had wished to adopt the Latin alphabet. After crushing one Albanian revolt in 1909, another one broke out in March 1910. While 40 000 troops were being sent into Macedonia, an ethnic Albanian deputy representing Skopje named Necib Draga stated in parliament in April 1910: "... Is it wise, during the establishment of a new regime, to pressure immediately with unprecedented taxes and disciplinary measures a people whose special conditions have been taken into account for five hundred years, whether due to maladministration or sagacity? I leave this to your conscience. I am saying, with courage, in your presence that the desired outcome will not be obtained through martial law and diverse pressures." By the autumn of 1910, the uprising had been crushed, many Albanian nationalists executed and a systematic attempt was being made to crush Albanian national feeling by banning Albanian newspapers and private schools. In March 1911, yet another Albanian revolt broke out, but this time, the government chose negotiation by sending the sultan Mehmed V to visit Macedonia in June 1911 to proclaim an amnesty for those Albanian rebels who agreed to lay down their arms. In September 1911, Italy submitted an ultimatum containing terms clearly meant to inspire rejection, and following its duly expected rejection, invaded Tripolitania. The Unionist officers in the Army were determined to resist the Italian aggression, and a great many of the best Young Turk officers including Enver Pasha, his younger brother Nuri, the future president Mustafa Kamel, Suleyman Askeri, Ali Fethi and Yakub Cemil all departed to Libya to fight the Italians. With many of the Unionist officers in Libya, this weakened the power of the CUP.
As a result of the "Law of Associations", which shut down ethnically based organisations and clubs, by the time of the second general election in 1912, the smaller ethnic parties had coalesced with the Liberal Union. Now alarmed at the success of Liberal Union and increasingly radicalised, the CUP won 269 of the 275 seats through electoral fraud and violence, which led to the nickname "Election of Clubs" (Turkish: Sopalı Seçimler). In most republics, this is the margin required for wholesale transformation of the constitution, but the Ottoman Empire was technically a constitutional monarchy, although it is unlikely Sultan Mehmed V could have prevented the revision of the constitution. In April 1912, the Albanians again rebelled, and by the end of June much of the ethnic Albanian areas of Macedonia were in the hands of the insurgents. In May 1912, a group of anti-Unionist officers in the army calling themselves the Saviour Officers Group started to openly challenge the authority of the government. The fraudulent electoral result of the "Election of Clubs" had badly hurt the popular legitimacy of the CUP, and faced with widespread opposition, the CUP-backed government of Said Pasha resigned on 9 July 1912. For the moment, the CUP had been driven from power.
On 5 August 1912, the government shuttered parliament. Just prior to that, it had succeeded in passing the "Law for the Prevention of Brigandage and Sedition", a measure ostensibly intended to prevent insurgency against the central government, which assigned that duty to newly created paramilitary formations. These later came under the control of the Teşkilat-i Mahsusa. This parliamentary session was very short due to the outbreak of the First Balkan War; sensing the danger, the government won passage of a bill conscripting dhimmis into the army. This proved too little and too late to salvage the Ottoman toehold in southeast Europe; the Ottomans lost Albania, Macedonia, and western Thrace. In the spring and summer of 1912, a Balkan League uniting Greece, Serbia, Bulgaria and Montenegro was formed. Following rumours of war, the Grand Vizier Ahmed Muhtar Pasha ordered a partial mobilisation. On 30 September, the armies of the Balkan League mobilised. On 1 October the Ottoman Empire began to mobilise. Knowing that war was near, the government made peace with Italy and ceded Libya in order to pull its troops out of Africa. On October 8, 1912 Montenegro declared war. A week later, the other states of the Balkan League presented an ultimatum containing terms meant to be unacceptable such as the end of the Ottoman mobilisation; on 15 October the Ottoman government responded by declaring war on the states of the Balkan League. Since the Ottoman mobilisation was only partly completed due to the poor roads and a sparse railway network in the empire, the result was an utter disaster and by the beginning of December, the Ottomans had lost almost all their possessions in Europe with the Bulgarians at the very gates of Constantinople by the time an armistice was signed on 3 December 1912. In less than two months, the nearly 600-year-old Ottoman presence in the Balkans had ended. Rumelia, the Turkish name for the Balkans was considered to be just as much part of the empire's heartland as Anatolia, and its loss was keenly felt.
During the war against Italy, the Central Committee had established the so-called Special Organisation to conduct guerrilla operations against the Italians in Libya. In 1913 in the aftermath of the Balkan wars, the Special Organisation was established in Anatolia with the aim of conducting guerrilla warfare should Anatolia be occupied by the armies of the Balkan League. Those who once served as fedâiin assassins during the years of underground struggle were often assigned as leaders of the Special Organisation. The ultra-secretive Special Organisation answered to the Central Committee, but worked closely with the War and Interior ministries.
Right from the time of the Young Turk Revolution, the secretive Committee dominated by its shadowy Central Committee sparked many dubious conspiracy theories about the CUP. Between 1910 and 1916, antisemitic Judeo-Masonic conspiracy theories regarding the party were fuelled within the British government through diplomatic correspondence from Gerard Lowther (British Ambassador to Istanbul) and Gilbert Clayton (chief of British intelligence in Egypt). Lowther’s anti-Semitism led him to see the entire CUP as a creation of the Jews, something that he took for granted because prior to the Young Turk Revolution, the CUP was based in Salonica, a city Lowther noted whose population was half Jewish. Lowther took the viewpoint that because Russia was the world’s greatest anti-Semitic power, that everything the Jews supposedly did as part of their alleged plotting was directed against Russia. Since an informal Anglo-Russian alliance had emerged with the 1907 Anglo-Russian Entente, Lowther reasoned that the Jews were now also working against the British empire. Lowther’s highly inaccurate reporting about the CUP as one solid bloc ignored the existence of factions within the CUP Central Committee, and as such the British never attempted to play off one faction against another.
Coup and aftermath: 1913–14
In spite of parliamentary elections, non-partisan figures from the pre-revolutionary period known as the "Old Turks" still dominated the Ottoman cabinet, known as the Sublime Porte. The Grand Vizier Mehmed Kamil Pasha and his minister of war, Nazım Pasha, became targets of the CUP, which overthrew them in a military coup d’état known as the Raid on the Sublime Porte on 23 January 1913, which brought the CUP directly to power. The coup was justified under the grounds that Kamil Pasha was about to "sell out the nation" by agreeing to a truce in the First Balkan War. The intention of the new leadership was to break the truce, and renew the war against Bulgaria. The new regime was dominated by a triumvirate that comprised Enver Pasha, Taalat Pasha and Djemal Pasha. The term Pasha was an honorific title in the Muslim world for especially distinguished men and was not a surname; the "Three Pashas" were not related. Most Turks in this period did not have surnames. It was not until 1934 that a law was passed requiring all Turks to take a surname. The first task of the new regime was to found the National Defence League on 1 February 1913 which was intended to mobilise the entire resources of the empire for an all-out effort to turn the tide. On 3 February 1913 the war resumed. The new government staked all on a daring operation in which the 10th Army Corps were to make an amphibious landing at the rear of the Bulgarians at Şarköy while the Straits Composite Force was to break out of the Gallipoli peninsula. The operation failed due to a lack of co-ordination with heavy losses. Following reports that the Ottoman army had at most 165 000 troops to oppose the 400 000 of the Balkan League together with news that morale in the army was poor, the government agreed to an armistice on 1 April 1913. On 20 July 1913, following the breakout of the Second Balkan War, the Ottomans attacked Bulgaria and on 21 July 1913 Enver Pasha retook Edirne, which had been humiliatingly lost to the Bulgarians in March 1913, making him a national hero. After taking back Edirne, the Special Organisation of Unionist fedais and junior officers were sent to organise the Turkish population of Thrace to wage guerrilla warfare against the Bulgarians. By the terms of the Treaty of Bucharest in September 1913, the Ottomans regained some of the land lost in Thrace during the First Balkan War.
Enver Pasha, the Minister of War was easily the most charismatic of the three who ruled, and as a war hero was the one most popular with the public. The Turkish historian Handan Nezir Akmeșe wrote: "Within the triumvirate, Enver’s position was unique, thanks to his absolute control over the army: he could not always override his colleagues, but they could never override him". A megalomaniac whose personal heroes were Napoleon and Frederick the Great, Enver Pasha saw himself as one of history's great men whose destiny was to not only lead the Ottoman Empire back to its former greatness, but also to new heights. Enver had once served as the Ottoman military attaché to Germany, an experience which left him with a profound love of German militarism and a firm belief that Germany could never be defeated in a war. Enver planned to take back all of the Balkan states which had won their independence from the Ottoman Empire; Egypt and Cyprus from the British; Algeria and Tunisia from the French; Libya from the Italians and all of the lands that the Russians had taken from the Ottomans such as the Ukraine, Bessarabia and the Crimea plus the entire Caucasus region and the Kuban plain, which had never been Ottoman. The Volga river was to be the final northern frontier of the empire. In addition, Enver planned to conquer all of Russian central Asia, and then to follow it up by invading China to annex Chinese Turkestan (the modern Xinjiang region of China). Regarding the empire’s arch - enemy Russia – which had defeated the Ottomans so many times in the wars of the 18th and 19th centuries – Enver envisioned nothing less than the end of Russia as a great power. Finally, Enver planned to conquer Persia (modern Iran) and Afghanistan as the prelude to invading India, which would also be added to the empire. The Israeli historian Major Efraim Karsh wrote that these grandiose plans for the empire reflected Enver’s massive ego just as much as it did his intense Turkish nationalism.
The emerging government could hardly be called constitutional. Indeed, 1913 was a period of government by assassination as Nazım and then his successor Mahmud Sevket Pasha were both slain, Nazım at the very instant the CUP seized power. The following year, new legislation made the CUP the Empire’s only legal political party; all provincial and local officials reported to "Responsible Secretaries" chosen by the party for each vilayet. Right from the start, the triumvirate which dominated the CUP did not accept the outcome of the Balkan wars as final, and a major aim of the new regime was to take back all of the territory which had been lost. Enver Pasha made a speech in 1913 in which he said:
How could a person forget the plains, the meadows, watered with the blood of our forefathers, abandon those places where Turkish raiders had hidden their steeds for six hundred years, with our mosques, our tombs, our dervish retreats, our bridges, and our castles, to leave them to our slaves, to be driven out of Rumelia to Anatolia, this was beyond a person's endurance. I am prepared to gladly sacrifice the remaining years of my life to take revenge on the Bulgarians, the Greeks and the Montenegrins.
Another Unionist stated that "The people of the Balkans turned Rumelia into a slaughterhouse of the Turks". He added that the entire movement was obsessed with taking back Rumelia (the Ottoman name for the Balkans), and to have revenge for the humiliating defeat of 1912. A school textbook from 1914 captured the burning desire for revenge:
In the year 1330  the Balkan states allied against the Ottoman government... In the meantime, they shed the blood of many innocent Muslim and Turkish people. Many women and children were massacred. Villages were burnt down. Now in the Balkans under every stone, there lay thousands of dead bodies, with eyes and stomachs carved out, awaiting revenge... It is our duty to our fatherland, as sons of the fatherland, to restore our stolen rights, and to work to take revenge for the many innocent people whose blood were shed in abundance. Then let us work to instil that sense of revenge, love of fatherland and sense of sacrifice for it.
The loss of Rumelia had reduced the need for Ottomanism while the defeat in the First Balkan War had seemingly showed that the empire’s Christian population were always disloyal, thus allowing for a more public display of Turkish nationalism. In the aftermath of the First Balkan War with the humiliating loss of Rumelia together with thousands of refugees from Rumelia bearing tales of atrocities committed by the Greek, Montenegrin, Serb and Bulgarian forces, a marked anti-Christian and xenophobic mood settled in amongst many Muslims in Anatolia. Reflecting the decreased importance of Ottomanism, the new regime started to glorify the "Turkish race" with particular attention paid to Turan-the mythical homeland of the Turks that was located north of China. The Turks did indeed originate north of China with the first mention of the Turks occurring in AD 585 in a letter to the Chinese emperor Wen where the Turks are described as a fierce, warlike people living to the north of the Chinese empire and the Turks had over the centuries migrated across Asia to Anatolia while adopting Islam. But much of this Turanist history was fabricated. Ziya Gökalp complained in a 1913 essay that "the sword of the Turk and likewise his pen have exalted the Arabs, the Chinese and the Persians" rather than themselves and that the modern Turks "needed to turn back to their ancient past". Gökalp argued it was time for the Turks to start following such great "Turanian" heroes as Attila, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane the Great and Hulagu Khan. As such, the Turks needed to become the dominant political and economic group within the Ottoman Empire while uniting with all of the other Turkic peoples in Russia and Persia to create a vast pan-Turkic state covering much of Asia and Europe. In his poem "Turan", Gökalp wrote: "The land of the Turks is not Turkey, nor yet Turkestan. Their country is the eternal land: Turan". The pan-Turanian propaganda was significant for not being based upon Islam, but was rather a call for the unity of the Turkic peoples based upon a shared history and supposed common racial origins together a pan-Asian message stressing the role of the Turkic peoples as the fiercest warriors in all of Asia.
The first part of the plan for revenge was to go on a massive arms-buying spree, buying as many weapons from Germany as possible while importantly asking for a new German military mission to be sent to the empire, which would not only train the Ottoman army, but also command Ottoman troops in the field. In December 1913, the new German military mission under the command of General Otto Liman von Sanders arrived to take command of the Ottoman army; in practice, Enver who was determined to uphold his own power did not allow the German officers the sort of wide-ranging authority over the Ottoman army that the German-Ottoman agreement of October 1913 had envisioned. At the same time, the Unionist government was seeking allies for the war of revenge it planned to launch as soon as possible. General Ahmed Izzet Pasha, the Chief of the General Staff recalled: "... what I expected from an alliance based on defence and security, while others’ expectations depended upon total attack and assault. Without doubt, the leaders of the CUP were anxiously looking for ways to compensate for the pain of the defeats, which the population blamed on them."
An extensive purge of the army was carried out in January 1914 with about 1,100 officers including 2 field marshals, 3 generals, 30 lieutenant-generals, 95 major-generals and 184 colonels whom Enver had considered to be inept or disloyal forced to take early retirement. Right from the time of the 1913 coup d’état, the new government planned to wage a total war, and wished to indoctrinate the entire Turkish population, especially the young people, for it. In June 1913, the government founded the Turkish Strength Association, a paramilitary group run by former army officers which all young Turkish men were encouraged to join. The Turkish Strength Association featured much physical exercise and military training intended to let the Turks become the "warlike nation in arms" and ensure that the current generation of teenagers "who, in order to save the deteriorating Turkish race from extinction, would learn to be self-sufficient and ready to die for fatherland, honour and pride". Besides for engaging in gymnastics, long-distance walking, running, boxing, tennis, football jumping, swimming, horse-riding, and shooting practice, the Turkish Strength Association handed out free medical books, opened dispensaries to treat diseases like tuberculosis and ran free mobile medical clinics. The chief ideologue of the CUP, Ziya Gökalp wrote the anthem of the Turkish Strength Association, Yeni Atilla, ("New Atilla"). In May 1914, the Turkish Strength Association was replaced with the Ottoman Strength Clubs, which were very similar except for the fact that the Ottoman Strength Clubs were run by the Ministry of War and membership was compulsory for Turkish males between the ages of 10-17. Even more so than the Turkish Strength Association, the Ottoman Strength Clubs were meant to train the nation for war with an ultra-nationalist propaganda and military training featuring live-fire exercises being an integral part of its activities. In the aftermath of the First Balkan War, a much greater emphasis was put on Turkish nationalism with the Turks being glorified in endless poems, pamphlets, newspaper articles and speeches as a great warrior nation who needed to recapture their former glory. Along the same lines was a new emphasis on the role of women, who had the duty of bearing and raising the new generation of soldiers, who had to raise their sons to have "bodies of iron and nerves of steel". Reflecting Goltz’s influence, especially his "nation in arms" theory, the purpose of the society under the new regime was to support the military.
Absent the wartime atmosphere, the CUP did not purge minority religions from political life; at least 23 Christians joined it and were elected to the third parliament. This is one possible motivation for the entry into the war, another being the "pan-Turkic" ideology of the party which emphasised the Empire’s manifest destiny of ruling over the Turkic people of central Asia once Russia was driven out of that region. Notably, two of the "Three Pashas", Enver Pasha and Djemal Pasha, would in fact die in the Soviet Union leading Muslim anti-communist movements years after the Russian Revolution and the Ottoman defeat in World War I.
In January 1914, Enver had decided to save the empire; Anatolia would become ethnically Turkish. To that end, the Special Organisation was deployed in the spring of 1914 to begin a terror campaign against the Greek population in the Smyrna (modern İzmir) area with the aim of "cleansing" the area. The purpose of the campaign was described in a CUP document:
The [Committee of] Union and Progress made a clear decision. The source of the trouble in western Anatolia would be removed, the Greeks would be cleared out by means of political and economic measures. Before anything else, it would be necessary to weaken and break the economically powerful Greeks.
The campaign did not proceed with the same level of brutality as did the Armenian genocide during 1915 as the Unionists were afraid of a hostile foreign reaction, but during the "cleansing" operations in the spring of 1914 carried out by the CUP’s Special Organisation is estimated to have caused at the deaths of at least 300,000 Greeks with thousands more terrified Greeks fleeing across the Aegean to Greece. In July 1914, the "cleansing operation" was stopped following protests from the ambassadors to the Porte with the French ambassador Maurice Bompard speaking especially strongly in defence of the Greeks. In many ways, the operation against the Greeks in 1914 was a trial run for the operations that were launched against the Armenians in 1915.
In the summer of 1914, the German ambassador Hans von Wangenheim launched a public relations campaign designed to swing public opinion towards the Reich. Wangenheim on behalf of the German government secretly purchased Ikdam, the empire’s largest newspaper, which under the new ownership began to loudly abuse Britain, France and Russia as Islam's greatest enemies while reminding its readers that the German emperor was the self-proclaimed "protector" of Islam. Increasing large numbers of Germans, both civilians and soldiers began to arrive in Constantinople, who as the American ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr. reported filled all the cafes and marched through the streets "in the small hours of the morning, howling and singing German patriotic songs" while German officers were "rushing through the streets every day in huge automobiles". As the German military mission to train and lead the Ottoman army expanded, the Ottoman army changed as Morgenthau described it: "What... had been an undisciplined, ragged rabble was now parading with the goose step; the men were clad in German field gray, and they even wore a casque-shaped head covering, which slightly suggested the German Pickelhaube". Morgenthau further noted that the German officers "were immensely proud" because they changed "the wretched Turkish soldiers of January into these neatly dressed, smartly stepping, splendidly maneuvering troops". As the German influence increased, diplomats from Britain, France and Russia became correspondingly very unwelcome in Constantinople. Morgenthau wrote that the British ambassador Sir Louis du Pan Mallet had played his hand poorly as he "had not purchased Turkish officials with money, as had Wagenheim; he had not corrupted the Turkish press, trampled on every remaining vestige of international law, fraternized with a gang of political desperadoes, and conducted a ceaseless campaign of misrepresentations and lies against his enemy."
On 2 August 1914, the Ottoman and German governments signed a secret offensive-defensive alliance. The purpose of this alliance was to bring the Ottomans into World War I. On 4 August 1914, Wangenheim informed the Ottoman cabinet that the German Mediterranean squadron was sailing towards the Ottoman Empire during the famous pursuit of the Goeben and Breslau, and requested that the Ottomans grant the squadron sanctuary once it arrived. On 6 August 1914, the grand vizier Said Halim Pasha told Wangenheim that the Goeben and Breslau would only be allowed to enter Ottoman waters if the German government agreed to back the Ottoman demands made during the negotiations for the Ottoman-German alliance for German support of Ottoman plans for expansionism into the Balkans, the Caucasus and central Asia. With the British Mediterranean fleet in hot pursuit of the German ships, Wangenheim agreed to accept the 6-point programme demanded by the Ottoman government, and on 10 August 1914, the German Mediterranean squadron sailed into Constantinople. On August 16, a phony deal was signed with the Ottoman government supposedly buying the Goeben and Breslau for US$86 million, but with the German officers and crews remaining aboard; under international law as neutrals the Ottomans could only allow the warships to remain for 24 hours before interning them. In practice, the German warships despite officially becoming part of the Ottoman navy remained part of the Germany navy, not the least because no money had actually been exchanged. On 24 September 1914, the commander of the German Mediterranean squadron, Admiral Wilhelm Souchon was appointed commander of the Ottoman navy. On 27 September 1914, the Ottoman government in defiance of the 1841 treaty regulating the use of the Turkish straits linking the Black Sea to the Mediterranean closed the Turkish straits to international shipping, which was an immense blow to the Russian economy as Russian exports from Odessa were carried by ships via the Turkish straits. The Finance Minister who was opposed to entering the war later recalled: "Everything possible was done at the time to act in a way that would violate our neutrality towards the Entente countries... German soldiers and officers continued to arrive in Istanbul, in civilian dress, by way of Rumania and Bulgaria".
In order to rally public support for the war, the triumvirate wanted it to appear like the empire was the victim of Allied aggression. To achieve this goal, the CUP deployed the so-called "Special Organisation" to stage raids over the border into Russia in August–September 1914 out of the hope that the Russians would respond by declaring war. As it was the Russians were fully engaged with Germany and Austria, and the Russian government chose to ignore the raids. To further assist with the planned worldwide jihad against the Allies, in August 1914 Enver established the Central Office for the Islamic Movement headed by an anti-French Tunisian émigré Ali Bas Hamba whose task was to encourage rebellion by Muslims under British, French and Russian rule. In the meantime, a conflict had arisen between Enver and the Germans. Enver told the German ambassador Wangenheim that before the Ottoman Empire went to war, he needed at least $20 US million in gold (this was in 1914 money; the equivalent sum today would be hundreds of billions) from Germany to pay for military modernisation; the money had to come from Germany as the Ottoman state simply did not have the required $20 million. After handing over the requested $20 million in gold, the Germans were enraged to be told by Enver that he needed at least another $20 million to pay for his military reforms. As Germany was doing very well in the opening months of the war, and it appeared likely to win the war in 1914 with German armies advancing rapidly onto Paris in August–September 1914, the German government was not inclined to grant Enver's second request. On 11 October 1914, the triumvirate met with Wangenheim to inform him quite firmly there was no chance of the Ottomans entering the war until the gold was handed over. It was not until October 1914 when it was clear that Germany was not going to win the war in 1914 that the second $20 million worth of gold was handed over. On 12 October, Wangenheim told Enver that the gold was on its way from Berlin to Constantinople. On 21 October, Enver informed the Germans that his plans for the war were now complete and he was already moving his troops towards eastern Anatolia to invade the Russian Caucasus and to Palestine to attack the British in Egypt. To provide a pretext for the war, on 25 October Enver told Souchon to attack the Russian Black Sea ports in the expectation that Russia would declare war in response. On 29 October 1914, the German warships SMS Goeben and SMS Breslau with Ottoman gunboats in support attacked the Russian Black Sea ports of Odessa, Sebastopol and Novorossiysk. On 30 October 1914, the triumvirate called a special session of the Central Committee to explain that the time for the empire to enter the war had now come. On 31 October, the Ottoman cabinet defined the war aim as: "the destruction of our Muscovite enemy [Russia] in order to obtain thereby a natural frontier to our empire, which should include and unite all the branches of our race". Nicholas II did not want a war with the Ottoman Empire as his country was already busy fighting (and losing) the war against Germany, but the very public naval attacks against his country were a provocation that could not be ignored. After the act of aggression against his country on 29 October, the Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Sazonov submitted an ultimatum to the Sublime Porte demanding that the Ottomans intern all of the German military and naval officers in their service; after its rejection Russia declared war on 2 November 1914. On 5 November, Britain and France declared war on the empire. On 11 November, the sultan-caliph issued a declaration of jihad against Russia, Britain and France, ordering all Muslims everywhere in the world to fight for the destruction of those nations. The diplomats from the Auswärtiges Amt who saw the formal declaration of jihad as it was delivered by sheikh-ul-Islam Mustafa Hayri Bey in a public park and other imams elsewhere were deeply disturbed by the speeches announcing the jihad. Even though Germans and Austrians were declared exempt from the jihad, the speeches announcing the jihad had very marked xenophobic, anti-western and anti-Christian tones, with many of the speakers making statements that all Muslims should kill all Christians everywhere (except for Germans and Austrians).
War and Genocide
Right from the beginning of the war, the Unionist leadership had envisioned the war as a total war in which the resources of the entire society were to be engaged, and so the war proved to be. So many men were conscripted into the war, that the government was forced to employ hundreds of thousands of women in previously male-dominated fields, indeed for many Turkish women this was the first time that they had ever worked. In 1915, the Ottoman Strength Clubs were renamed as the Ottoman Youth Clubs designed to train the entire Turkish youth for the war. During the war, the military reforms of 1913-14 paid off in that the Ottoman Army fought considerably better than it had done in the First Balkan War in 1912, and at the end of the war, had been defeated, but crucially not destroyed. At the same time, it required substantial Allied forces to defeat the Ottomans; by 1918 the British had deployed 1,400,000 British, Australian, New Zealand and Indian troops to the near east and spent £750,000,000 to defeat the Ottomans.
Although the CUP had worked with the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire to reinstall constitutional monarchy against Abdul Hamid II, factions in the CUP began to view the Armenians as a fifth column that would betray the Ottoman cause after World War I with nearby Russia broke out; these factions gained more power after the 1913 Ottoman coup d'état. After the Ottoman Empire entered the war, most Ottoman Armenians sought to proclaim their loyalty to the empire with prayers being said in Armenian churches for a swift Ottoman victory; only a minority worked for a Russian victory. The war began badly for the Ottomans on 6 November 1914 when British troops seized Basra and began to advance up the Tigris river.
The first major offensive the Turks undertook in World War I was an unsuccessful attempt to drive the Russians from the portion of partially classic Armenia, which they had retaken in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877. General Liman von Saunders wanted the Ottomans to invade the Ukraine as a way of drawing away Russian troops that would otherwise be engaged against Germany, but Enver rejected that plan in favour of an invasion of the Russian Caucasus. Enver believed that enough elan and fighting spirit inspired by jihad would give the elite Ottoman Third Army with its 125,000 troops victory over the mere 8 Russian divisions in the Caucasus, and as such, he staked all on an invasion of the Caucasus that began in December 1914, which he personally took command of. Enver failed to appreciate the logistical problems imposed by operating out of the underdeveloped region of eastern Anatolia, by the fact that it was freezing winter and that mountains always favour the defensive. The Russians were outnumbered, but they had prepared well-dug defensive lines, and the ensuing Battle of Sarikamish was a complete disaster for the Ottomans with the Third Army suffering 80,000 men dead as the Ottoman infantry charged the Russian lines in frontal attacks and were mown down by the Russian machine-guns just as devastatingly as the Japanese infantry had been cut down at Port Arthur in 1904. Enver's attempts to emulate the Japanese at Port Arthur were successful in the sense that he sent his men forward on frontal attacks against the Russian lines which likewise resulted in the same heavy losses as the Japanese had suffered at Port Arthur, but there was a crucial lesson that Enver had failed to learn. Port Arthur fell not so much because of the reckless, suicidal bravery of the Japanese in assaulting the Russian defences, but rather because General Anatoly Stessel lost his nerve. General Aleksander Myshlayevsky commanding the Russian forces in the Caucasus by contrast stayed resolute. As the remnants of the Third Army were sent into a headlong retreat with the Russians in hot pursuit, Enver was almost captured by a Russian patrol. A humiliated Enver blamed his defeat on the Armenians who had supposedly acted as a Russian fifth column.
After the failure of this expedition, the CUP's leaders (Enver, Djemal, and Talaat, known collectively as the "Three Pashas") were involved in ordering the deportations and massacres of between 1 and 1.5 million Armenians in 1915–1916, known to history as the Armenian Genocide. The government would have liked to resume the "cleansing operations" against the Greek minority in western Anatolia, but this was vetoed by Wangenheim, who informed the Sublime Porte if the operations against the Greeks resumed, then Germany would cease the supply of arms. As the Ottoman Empire had almost no modern industry, the empire was almost entirely dependent upon weapons from Germany to fight the war. In Greece public opinion was badly split between pro-German and pro-Allied factions, the Greek King Constantine I was married to the sister of Wilhelm II, and the Greek royal family were receiving bribes from the Auswärtiges Amt, and so for all these reasons, it was seen as quite possible to bring Greece into the war on the side of the Central Powers. Seen from the perspective of Berlin, it would be undesirable to have the Reich’s ally the Ottoman empire to send thousands more ethnic Greek refugees fleeing into Greece. In December 1914, General Djemal Pasha encouraged by his anti-Semitic subordinate Baha el-Din ordered the deportation of all the Jews living in the southern part of Ottoman Syria known as the Mutasarrifate of Jerusalem (roughly what is now Israel) under the supposed grounds that most of the Jews came from the Russian Empire, but in reality because the CUP feared the Zionist movement as a threat to the Ottoman state. The deportation order was vetoed by Wangenheim; Germany's leaders believed that the Jews had vast secret powers, and if the Reich were to assist the Jews in the war, the Jews in their turn would assist the Reich. The Jews in the Yishuv were not deported, but the Ottoman authorities harassed the Jews in various ways. Djemal Pasha told one Zionist: "I have no trust in your loyalty; had you had no conspiratorial designs you would not have come to live here, in this desolate land, among the savage Arabs who hate you so intensely. We, the Young Turks, deem the Zionists deserving of hanging, but I am tired of hangings. Hence, we will disperse you throughout the Turkish state and will not allow you to congregate in any one place".
In late 1914, Enver ordered that all Armenians serving in the Ottoman Army be disarmed and sent to labour battalions. In early 1915, Enver ordered that all 200,000 Ottoman Armenian soldiers, now disarmed in the labour battalions be killed. The decision to enter the war and the decision to begin the genocide were part and parcel of the same progress as the war held out the promise of national greatness once the Allies were defeated while the Armenians were seen as an inner enemy holding the Turks back from the national glory that was the dream of the Unionist central committee. Furthermore, the war-time radicalising atmosphere of emergency and national crisis made it possible to pursue policies that would be seen as unacceptable in peace-time. Since Britain and France were the principal liberal states in Europe and the Armenians as a minority the principal advocates of liberalism within the Ottoman Empire, the government linked the external enemy with the alleged internal enemy as liberalism everywhere was portrayed as the enemy of the Ottoman state; since the German government portrayed the war in similar terms as an ideological battle between the forces of "German order" vs. Anglo-French liberalism and democracy, it is not surprising that the Unionists should choose Germany as their ally. Finally, the war was intended to lead to the Ottoman state becoming greater and more powerful than had ever been; in the world envisioned by the Unionist leaders, Ottoman society was to become exclusively Turkish and Muslim; there was no place for the Christian Armenians in this society. Further increasing the sense of crisis was the beginning of the Gallipoli campaign in March 1915, when British and French warships tried to force the Dardanelles, only to be prevented by sea mines in the Dardanelles and by the Ottoman howitzers on Gallipoli, which prevented minesweepers from clearing the minefields. Constantinople was not only the empire's capital, largest city and the economic heart of the empire, it was also the place where the weapons from Germany essential to sustaining the war arrived. If Constantinople fell, the empire was doomed. For many, the landings of British, Australian, New Zealand and French troops on Gallipoli in April 1915 seemed to mark the harbinger of the empire's destruction and a sense of extreme national crisis emerged amongst the Ottoman population. Owing to the importance of Constantinople, the CUP regime made desperate efforts to win the Battle of Gallipoli, which was a bloodbath right from the start with extremely heavy losses on both sides; one Ottoman officer called Gallipoli an "inferno" and "a ritual of fire and death". The Ottoman troops were told by their imām that as the war was jihad every man who "martyred" himself for Allah by being killed in the battle would be rewarded with 72 virgins in heaven, which helps to explain why the Ottoman soldiers at Gallipoli fought with such indifference to death.
The Special Organisation played a key role in the Armenian genocide. The Special Organisation, which was made of especially fanatical Unionist cadres was expanded from August 1914 onwards. Talaat Pasha, the Interior Minister gave orders that all of the prisoners convicted of the worse crimes such as murder, rape, robbery, etc. could have their freedom if they agreed to join the Special Organisation to kill Armenians and loot their property. Besides the hardened career criminals who joined in large numbers to have their freedom, the rank and file of the Special Organisation killing units comprised Kurdish tribesmen attracted by the prospect of plunder and refugees from Rumelia, who were thirsting for the prospect of revenge against Christians after having been forced to flee from the Balkans in 1912. The recruitment of thuggish career criminals straight from the prison system into the Special Organisation explains the very high incidence of rape during the Armenian genocide. As explained in the key indictment at the trial (in absentia) of the Three Pashas, the Armenian Genocide massacres were spearheaded by the Special Organisation (Ottoman Turkish: تشکیلات مخصوصه, Teşkilât-ı Mahsusa) under its leader, the Turkish physician Dr. Behaeddin Shakir. The Special Organisation was much feared by all and were by all accounts the ones responsible for the worse violence against the Armenians. The American historian Gerard Libaridian wrote about the lethal combination in the Special Organisation of fanatical Unionist cadres commanding convicts newly released from prison: "The release of the vilest, unbridled animal passions served well the government's purpose of ensuring extermination in the most humiliating, dehumanizing fashion. The torture of thousands of women and children became a source of satisfaction for hundreds who sought and found official sanction from government officials as well as Muslim clergymen, since the murder of Armenians was characterized, like the war against the Entente, as a jihad or holy war. Human imagination labored to devise new ways of mutilating, burning and killing". To prevent ordinary Muslims, whatever they be Turks, Kurds or Arabs from saving the lives of the Armenians, a decree declaring the penalty for sheltering Armenians was death by hanging and the destruction of one's home was passed; despite this decree, a number of ordinary Turks, Kurds and Arabs did shelter Armenians from the fury of the Special Organisation. Other ordinary Turks, Kurds and Arabs did assist the army, the gendarmes and the Special Organisation in the deportations and killings, motivated by the desire to loot Armenian property, to have Armenian women and girls as sex slaves or because of incitements by Muslim clergymen saying that the genocide was an act of jihad. As the gendarmes rounded up the Armenians for deportation, it was common for slave markets to be established where for the right price a Muslim man could buy Armenian women and/or girls to use as his sex slaves. Besides genocide against the Armenians, the CUP regime waged the Assyrian genocide against the Assyrian minority and the Pontic Greek genocide against the Pontic Greeks in Pontus.
On 24 May 1915, after learning of the "Great Crime" as Armenians call the Armenian genocide, the British, French and Russian governments issued a joint statement accusing the Ottoman government of "crimes against humanity", the first time in history that this term had been used. The British, French and Russians further promised that once the war was won they would put the Ottoman leaders responsible for the Armenian genocide on trial for crimes against humanity. However, with the Anglo-Australian-New Zealand-Indian-French forces stalemated in the bloody Battle of Gallipoli and another Anglo-Indian expedition slowly advancing on Baghdad, the CUP's leaders were not threatened by the Allied threat to bring them to trial. On 22–23 November 1915, General Sir Charles Townshend was defeated in the Battle of Ctesiphon by General Nureddin Pasha and Goltz, thus ending the British advance on Baghdad. On 3 December 1915, what was left of Townshend's force was besieged in Kut al-Amara. In January 1916, Gallipoli ended in an Ottoman victory with the withdrawal of the Allied forces; this victory did much to boost the prestige of the CUP regime. After Gallipoli, Enver proudly announced in a speech that the empire had been saved while the mighty British empire had just been humiliated in an unprecedented defeat. On 28 April 1916, another Ottoman victory occurred at Kut with the surrender of Townshend's starving, disease-ridden troops to General Halil Kut. The Anglo-Indian troops at Kut-already in broken health-were forced on a brutal march to POW camps in Anatolia, where most of them died. Only 30% of the British and Indian soldiers taken prisoner at Kut survived the next two years of captivity.
In March 1917, Djemal Pasha ordered the deportation of the Jews of Jaffa, and after the discovery of the Nili spy network headed by the agronomist Aaron Aaronsohn who spied for the British out of the fear that Unionists would inflict the same fate on the Jews as they did upon the Armenians, ordered the deportation of all the Jews. However, the British victories over the Ottomans in the autumn of 1917 with Field Marshal Allenby taking Jerusalem on 9 December 1917 saved the Jews of Palestine from being deported.
The dissolution of the CUP was achieved through military trials.
As the military position of the Central Powers disintegrated in October 1918, the government resigned. A new Grand Vizier, Ahmed Izzet Pasha, negotiated the Armistice of Mudros at the end of the month. The position of the CUP was now untenable, and its top leaders fled three days later.
British forces occupied various points throughout the Empire, and through their High Commissioner Somerset Calthorpe, demanded that those members of the leadership who had not fled be put on trial, a policy also demanded by Part VII of the Treaty of Sèvres formally ending hostilities between the Allies and the Empire. The British carried off 60 Turks thought to be responsible for atrocities to Malta, where trials were planned. The new government obligingly arrested over 100 party and military officials by April 1919 and began a series of trials. These were initially promising, with one district governor, Mehmed Kemal, being hanged on April 10.
Any possibility of a general effort at truth, reconciliation, or democratisation was, however, lost when Greece, which had sought to remain neutral through most of World War I, was invited by France, Britain, and the United States to occupy western Anatolia in May 1919. Turkish nationalist leader Mustafa Kemal rallied the Turkish people to resist. Two additional organisers of the genocide were hanged, but while a few others were convicted, none completed their prison terms. The CUP and other Turkish prisoners held on Malta were eventually traded for almost 30 British prisoners held by Nationalist forces, obliging the British to give up their plans for international trials.
Much of the Unionist leadership was assassinated between 1920-22 in Operation Nemesis. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) sent out assassins to hunt down and kill the Unionists responsible for the Armenian genocide. Talaat Pasha, the Interior Minister in 1915 and a member of the ruling triumvirate was gunned down in Berlin by a Dashnak on 15 March 1921. Said Halim Pasha, the Grand Vizier who signed the deportation orders in 1915 was killed in Rome on 5 December 1921. Dr. Behaeddin Shakir, the commander of the much dreaded Special Organisation was killed in Berlin on 17 April 1922 by a Dashnak gunman. Another member of the ruling triumvirate, Djemal Pasha was killed on 21 July 1922 in Tbilisi by the Dashnaks. The final member of the Three Pashas, General Enver Pasha might have been killed by the Dashnaks had he not been killed while fighting against the Red Army in Central Asia first.
As the defeat loomed in 1918, the CUP founded an underground group known as the Karakol (guard) and set up secret arms depots to wage guerrilla war against the Allies when they reached Anatolia. The Karakol constituted the core of the post-war Turkish National Movement. After its dissolving itself in 1918, many former Unionists were actively engaged in the Turkish national movement that emerged in 1919, usually from their work within the Karakol group. The Turkish historian Handan Nezir Akmeșe wrote about the legacy of a decade of Unionist government in 2005:
The War of Independence proved to be the total war which Enver and other nationalist officers had envisaged over many years: one which would secure the independence of the Turkish population of the Empire and prove the ultimate stimulus to, and the test of, their loyalty and devotion to their fatherland. Its successful outcome reflected the involvement and mobilisation of all sections of society, and the military victory resulted in the foundation of a new and independent Turkish state. Critics have blamed the Unionists, and Enver in particular, for wantonly involving the Ottoman Empire in the First World War and so ensuring its destruction. However, it can equally be argued that if the nationalist officers had not identified the army with civilian Turkish society, secured the restoration of the constitution in 1908, engaged in a fundamental reevaluation of Ottoman ideology, seen the army as the school of the nation and defender of the rights of the people, and consequently assumed the responsibility for infusing their own particular martial and moral values into society as a whole, as well as achieving technical reforms that enabled the Ottoman armies to perform so remarkably well in the First World War, neither the Ottoman army nor the Ottoman society of 1918 would have been ready to wage the War of Independence. In other words, if it had not been for the Unionist officers there would have been no Turkish nation-state.
The CUP has at times been identified with the two opposition parties that Mustafa Kemal Atatürk attempted to introduce into Turkish politics against his own party in order to help jump-start multiparty democracy in Turkey, namely the Progressive Republican Party and the Liberal Republican Party. While neither of these parties was primarily made up of persons indicted for genocidal activities, they were eventually taken over (or at least exploited) by persons who wished to restore the Ottoman caliphate. Consequently, both parties were required to be outlawed, although Kazim Karabekir, founder of the PRP, was eventually rehabilitated after the death of Atatürk and even served as speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.
It was also Karabekir who crystallised the modern Turkish position on the controversial Armenian Genocide, telling Soviet peace commissioners that the return of any Armenians to territory controlled by Turks was out of the question, as the Armenians had perished in a rebellion of their own making. Historian Taner Akçam has identified four definitions of Turkey which have been handed down by the first Republican generation to modern Turks, of which the second is "Turkey is a society without ethnic minorities or cultures." While the postwar reconstruction of eastern Europe was generally dominated by Wilsonian ideas of national self-determination, Turkey probably came closer than most of the new countries to ethnic homogeneity due to the subsequent population exchanges with neighbouring countries (e.g. population exchange between Greece and Turkey).
Atatürk was particularly eager that Islamism be marginalised, leading to the tradition of secularism in Turkey. This idea was culminated by the CUP in its more liberal heyday, as it was one of the first mass movements in Turkish history that abandoned political Islam.
In popular culture
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