Young Turk Revolution

Young Turk Revolution
Part of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire

Declaration of the Young Turk Revolution by the leaders of the Ottoman millets
LocationOttoman Empire
Young Turks Ottoman Empire Ottoman government
Commanders and leaders
Ottoman Empire Sultan Abdul Hamid II
Part of a series on the
History of the
Ottoman Empire

The Young Turk Revolution (July 1908) of the Ottoman Empire was when the Young Turks movement restored the Ottoman constitution of 1876 and ushered in multi-party politics in a two stage electoral system (electoral law) under the Ottoman parliament. More than 3 decades earlier in 1876, constitutional monarchy had been established under Sultan Abdul Hamid II during a period of time known as the First Constitutional Era, which only lasted for two years before Abdul Hamid suspended it and restored autocratic powers to himself. On 24 July 1908, Abdul Hamid capitulated and announced the restoration of Constitution, which established the Second Constitutional Era.

Once underground, organizations (named committee, group, etc.) established (declared) their parties.[1] Among them "Committee of Union and Progress" (CUP), and "Freedom and Accord Party" also known as the Liberal Union or Liberal Entente (LU) were major parties. There were smaller parties such as Ottoman Socialist Party. On the other end of the spectrum were the ethnic parties which included; People's Federative Party (Bulgarian Section), Bulgarian Constitutional Clubs, Jewish Social Democratic Labour Party in Palestine (Poale Zion), Al-Fatat, and Armenians organized under Armenakan, Hunchakian and Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF). ARF, previously outlawed, became the main representative of the Armenian community in the Ottoman Empire,[2] replacing the pre-1908 Armenian elite, which had been composed of merchants, artisans, and clerics who had seen their future in obtaining more privileges within the boundaries of the state's version of Ottomanism.


Countering the conservative politics of Abdulhamid's reign was the amount of social reform that occurred during this time period. The development of a more liberal environment in Turkey strengthened the culture, and also provided the grounds for the later rebellion. Abdulhamid's political circle was close-knit and ever changing. When the sultan abandoned the previous politics from 1876, he suspended the Ottoman Parliament in 1878. This left a very small group of individuals able to partake in politics in the Ottoman Empire.[3]

In order to preserve the legacy of the Ottoman Empire, many Turks felt a need for modernization of the country. However, Abdulhamid's method of rule was not in line with the developing nation. The origins of the revolution lie in the organization of two political factions. Neither agreed with Abdulhamid's reign, but each had separate interests. The Liberals were the upper class groups in the Ottoman Empire, and desired a more relaxed form of government with little economic interference. They also pushed for more autonomy of the different ethnic groups, which became popular among foreigners in the empire. In a slightly lower class formed a different group- the Unionists. Members were of working class, and foremost wanted a secular government. These two groups initially formed out of the same intent- to return to the old constitution, but cultural differences divided them.[3]


Members of the military tradition, military officers, among the Young Turks revolted. The defense of their shrinking state had become a matter of intense professional pride which caused them to raise arms against their state. The event that triggered the Revolution was a meeting in the Baltic port of Reval between Edward VII of the United Kingdom and Nicholas II of Russia in June 1908. Though these imperial powers had experienced relatively few major conflicts between them over the previous hundred years, an underlying rivalry, otherwise known as "the Great Game", had exacerbated the situation to such an extent that resolution was sought. The Anglo-Russian Convention of 1907 brought shaky British-Russian relations to the forefront by solidifying boundaries that identified their respective control in Persia (eastern border of the Empire) and Afghanistan. Military officers fearing the meeting was a prelude to the partition of Macedonia, Army units in the Balkans mutinied against Sultan Abdülhamid II. A desire to preserve the state, not destroy it, motivated the revolutionaries.

The revolt began in July 1908.[4] Major Ahmed Niyazi, fearing discovery of his political moves by an investigatory committee sent from the capital, decamped from Resen on July 3 with 200 followers demanding restoration of the constitution. The sultan's attempt to suppress this uprising failed due to the popularity of the movement among the troops themselves. Rebellion spread rapidly due to the ideology of Ottomanism.

On July 24, sultan Abdul Hamid II capitulated and announced restoration of the 1876 constitution.[5]

Demonstration in the Sultanahmet
Hristo Chernopeev's band, which will be part of march in deposing the countercoup
Flyer for the new constitution
Flyer for the new constitution
Greek lithograph celebrating the new constitution and the promised equality and brotherhood among the Ottoman subjects
Report about anarchic situation caused by Arnaut movement and terror in the Bitola Vilayet. (16 October 1909)


The Ottoman general election, 1908 took place during November and December 1908. On the seventeenth of December, the Committee of Union Progress, a unionist organization, won a majority in the parliament. The Senate of the Ottoman Empire reconvened for the first time in over 30 years on December 17, 1908 with the living members from the First Constitutional Era. The Chamber of Deputies' first session was on 30 January 1909. These developments caused the gradual creation of a new governing elite. In some communities, such as the Jewish (cf. Jews in Islamic Europe and North Africa and Jews in Turkey), reformist groups emulating the Young Turks ousted the conservative ruling elite and replaced them with a new reformist one.

While the Young Turk Revolution had promised organizational improvement, once instituted, the government at first proved itself rather disorganized and ineffectual. Although these working-class citizens had little knowledge of how to control a government, they imposed their ideas on the Ottoman Empire. In a small Liberal victory, Kâmil Pasha, a Liberal supporter and ally to England, was appointed as the Grand Vizier on 5 August 1908. His policies helped to maintain some balance between the Committee of Union Progress and the Liberals, but conflict with the former led to his removal barely 6 months later, on 14 February 1909.[6]

The Sultan maintained his symbolic position, and in April 1909 attempted to seize power (Ottoman countercoup of 1909) by stirring populist sentiment throughout the Empire. The Sultan's bid for a return to power gained traction when he promised to restore the caliphate, eliminate secular policies, and restore the sharia-based legal system. On April 13, 1909, army units revolted, joined by masses of theological students and turbaned clerics shouting, "We want Sharia", and moving to restore the Sultan's absolute power. The 31 March Incident, on April 24, 1909 reversed the actions and restored the parliament by the Hareket Ordusu commanded by Mahmud Shevket Pasha. The deposition of Abdul Hamid II in favor of Mehmed V followed.



  1. (Erickson 2013, p. 32)
  2. Zapotoczny, Walter S. "The Influence of the Young Turks" (PDF). W zap online. Retrieved 11 August 2011.
  3. 1 2 Ahmad, Feroz (July 1968). "The Young Turk Revolution". Journal of Contemporary History. 3, The Middle East (3): 19–36. JSTOR 259696.
  4. The Encyclopædia Britannica, 15th Edition, 1983, page 788, Volume 13
  5. Quataert, Donald (July 1979). "The 1908 Young Turk Revolution: Old and New Approaches". Middle East Studies Association BUlletin. 13 (1): 22–29. JSTOR 41890046.
  6. Somel, Selçuk Akşin (2003). Historical Dictionary of the Ottoman Empire. The Scarecrow Press. p. 147. ISBN 0-8108-4332-3.

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