Three Pashas

The "Three Pashas" (Turkish: Üç Paşalar, also known as the "dictatorial triumvirate") refers to the three senior officials who effectively ruled the Ottoman Empire during World War I: Mehmed Talaat Pasha (1874–1921), the Grand Vizier (prime minister) and Minister of the Interior; Ismail Enver Pasha (1881–1922), the Minister of War; and Ahmed Djemal Pasha (1872–1922), the Minister of the Navy. They were largely responsible for the Empire's entry into World War I in 1914.


The front page of the Ottoman newspaper İkdam on 4 November 1918 after the Three Pashas fled the country following World War I. Showing left to right Djemal Pasha; Talaat Pasha; Enver Pasha.

Western scholars hold that after the 1913 Ottoman coup d'état, these three men became the de facto rulers of the Ottoman Empire until its dissolution following World War I.[1] They were members of the Committee of Union and Progress,[2] a progressive organization that they eventually came to control and transform into a primarily Pan-Turkist political party,[3] which meant, in the words of Enver Pasha, "relocating the dhimmi"[4] (the non-Muslim population) of the Ottoman Empire.

The Three Pashas were the principal players in the Ottoman–German Alliance and the Ottoman Empire's entry into World War I on the side of the Central Powers. One of the three, Ahmed Djemal, was opposed to an alliance with Germany, and French and Russian diplomacy attempted to keep the Ottoman Empire out of the war; but Germany was agitating for a commitment. Finally, on 29 October, the point of no return was reached when Admiral Wilhelm Souchon took SMS Goeben, SMS Breslau, and a squadron of Ottoman warships into the Black Sea (see pursuit of Goeben and Breslau) and raided the Russian ports of Odessa, Sevastopol, and Theodosia. It was claimed that Ahmed Djemal agreed in early October 1914 to authorize Admiral Souchon to launch a pre-emptive strike.

Ismail Enver had only once taken the control of any military activity (Battle of Sarıkamış), and left the Third Army in ruins. The First Suez Offensive and Arab Revolt are Ahmed Djemal's most significant failures.

Involvement in Armenian Genocide

As de facto rulers, the Three Pashas have been considered the masterminds behind the Armenian Genocide. After the war the three were put on trial (in their absence) and sentenced to death, although the sentences were not officially carried out. Talaat and Djemal were assassinated in exile in 1921 and 1922 by Armenians; Enver was also killed by Armenian in Tajikistan in 1922 while trying to raise a Muslim anti-Russian insurrection.

Reputation in the Republic of Turkey

After World War I and the ensuing Turkish War of Independence, much of the population of the newly established Republic of Turkey as well its founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk[5] widely criticized the Three Pashas for having caused the Ottoman Empire's entrance into World War I,[6] and the subsequent collapse of the state.[7] As early as 1912, Atatürk (then just Mustafa Kemal) had severed his ties to the Three Pashas' Committee of Union and Progress, dissatisfied with the direction that they had taken the party,[8] as well as developing a rivalry with Enver Pasha.[7] Although Enver Pasha later attempted to join the Turkish War of Independence, the Ankara government under Atatürk blocked his return to Turkey and his efforts to join the war effort.

See also


  1. Emin, 310; Kayali, 195
  2. Derogy, 332; Kayali, 195
  3. Allen, 614
  4. Joseph, 240; Bedrossyan, 479
  5. George Sellers Harris; Bilge Criss (2009). Studies in Atatürk's Turkey: The American Dimension. BRILL. p. 85. ISBN 90-04-17434-6.
  6. Barry M. Rubin; Kemal Kirişci (1 January 2001). Turkey in World Politics: An Emerging Multiregional Power. Lynne Rienner Publishers. p. 168. ISBN 978-1-55587-954-9.
  7. 1 2 Muammer Kaylan. The Kemalists: Islamic Revival and the Fate of Secular Turkey. Prometheus Books, Publishers. p. 77. ISBN 978-1-61592-897-2.
  8. Erik Jan Zürcher (1 January 1984). The Unionist Factor: The Rôle [sic] of the Committee of Union and Progress in the Turkish National Movement, 1905-1926. BRILL. p. 59. ISBN 90-04-07262-4.
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