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Committee of Union and Progress
|Abbreviation||İ-T or İTC or İTF (in Turkish)
CUP (in English)
|Founded||6 February 1889 (as an organisation)
22 September 1909 (as a political party)
|Dissolved||1 November 1918|
|Succeeded by||Renewal Party
Republican People's Party
|Headquarters||Pembe Konak, Nuriosmaniye, Constantinople
(now Istanbul), Ottoman Empire
formerly in Salonica
Mechveret Supplément Français
|Slogan||Hürriyet, Müsavat, Adalet
("Liberty, Equality, Justice")
275 / 275
The Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) (Ottoman Turkish: إتحاد و ترقى جمعيتی, romanized: İttihad ve Terakki Cemiyeti), later the Union and Progress Party (Ottoman Turkish: إتحاد و ترقى فرقه سی, romanized: İttihad ve Terakki Fırkası) was a secret revolutionary organization established as the society Committee of the Ottoman Union (Ottoman Turkish: İttihad-ı Osmanî Cemiyeti) in Constantinople (now Istanbul) on 6 February 1889 by a group of medical students of the Imperial Military School of Medicine. It would later be transformed into a political organisation and become the foremost faction in the Young Turks movement. In the West, the CUP was conflated with the wider Young Turk movement and its members were called Young Turks, while in the Ottoman Empire its members were known as İttihadçı or Komiteci, which means Unionist and Committeeman respectively.
Begun as a liberal reform movement in the Ottoman Empire, the organization was persecuted and forced into exile by Abdulhamid II's autocratic government for its calls for democratisation, secularisation and reform in the empire. Inspired by other revolutionary groups like the ARF and IMRO by 1906 the CUP transformed into a secret paramilitary, infiltrating Ottoman army contingents based in Rumelia. In 1908, the CUP forced Abdulhamid to reinstate the constitution of 1876 in the Young Turk Revolution, thus inaugurating the empire's Second Constitutional Era. After the Young Turk Revolution the CUP also transformed into a political party. The CUP's rival was the Liberal Union, another Young Turk party calling for federalization and decentralization of the empire, in opposition to the CUP's desire of a centralized and unitary Turkish dominated Ottoman Empire.
The CUP consolidated its power at the expense of the Liberal Union in the 1912 "Election of Clubs" and the 1913 Raid on the Sublime Porte, while also growing increasingly more splintered, radical and, after attacks on the empire's Turkish citizens during the Balkan Wars of 1912–1913, nationalistic. After Grand Vizier Mahmud Şevket Pasha's assassination, Union and Progress created a one party state mandating Turkish nationalism, with major decisions ultimately being decided in the party's Central Committee. This one party state is the world's first, and set an example for future one party regimes, especially in interwar Europe. Its leader, Talat Pasha, as well as Enver Pasha and Cemal Pasha (known as the Three Pashas) gained de facto rule over the Ottoman Empire and sided with Germany in World War I. With the help of their paramilitary, the Special Organization, the Committee regime enacted policies resulting in the destruction and expulsion of the empire's Armenian, Greek Orthodox, and Syriac Christian citizens to realise Türk Yurdu: the Turkification of Anatolia.
Following Ottoman defeat in WWI, its leaders escaped into exile in Europe, where many would be assassinated in Operation Nemesis in revenge for their genocidal policies, including Talat and Cemal Pasha. Many CUP members were court-martialled and imprisoned in war-crimes trials by a rehabilitated Liberal Union with support from the Sultan Mehmed VI and the Allied powers. However most former Unionists were able to join the Turkish nationalist movement led by Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk), ultimately continuing their political careers in Turkey as members of Kemal's Republican People's Party.
Origins (1889 - 1905)
The Committee of Ottoman Union, soon renamed as the Committee of Union and Progress, was founded in 1889 by Ibrahim Temo, Dr. Mehmed Reşid, Abdullah Cevdet, İshak Sükuti, Ali Hüseyinzade, Kerim Sebatî, Mekkeli Sabri Bey, Dr. Nazım Bey, Şerafettin Mağmumi, Cevdet Osman and Giritli Şefik, all of whom were medical students of the Imperial Military School of Medicine in Constantinople. The organization aligned itself with the Young Turks movement, as they called for a reinstatement of the constitution and Ottomanism, which would be achieved by overthrowing Abdulhamid II for one of his brothers: either future Sultan Mehmed V or former Sultan Murad V. The organization rapidly gained membership, but after a failed putch against Abdulhamid in 1895, it was repressed and most of its members fled into exile to Paris, London, Geneva, Bucharest, and British occupied Egypt. After the Ottoman Empire's victory over Greece in 1897 Abdulhamid attempted to use the prestige he gained from the victory to coerce the exiled Young Turks network back into his fold. Cevdet Bey and Sükuti Bey accepted, leaving Ahmet Rıza in Paris as leader of the exiled Young Turks network and the CUP. Rıza Bey was a more moderate and conservative member of the CUP, as well as an avid follower of positivist theory. Rıza called for Abdulhamid's overthrow and the reinstatement of the constitution, but also a more centralized and sovereign, Turkish-dominated Ottoman Empire without European influence.
In 1901, members of the Ottoman dynasty Damat Mahmud Pasha and his sons Sabahaddin and Lütfullah defected from Abdulhamid and fled to Europe to join the Young Turks. Prince Sabahaddin, inspired by Anglo-Saxon values of capitalism, and liberalism, would go on to found the Private Enterprise and Decentralization League calling for a more decentralized and federal Ottoman Empire in opposition to Rıza's CUP. Prince Sabahaddin believed that the only reason why separatist movements existed amongst Ottoman Armenians was due to the oppressive policies of Abdulhamid II, and if only the empire would treat its Armenian minority better, then Armenians would become loyal Ottomans. Sabahaddin's new group created a division within the exiled Young Turks. His attempt to bridge the divide by organizing the First Congress of Ottoman Opposition in 1902, in Paris, was unsuccessful and deepened the rivalry between Sabahaddin's group and Rıza's CUP.
Revolutionary Era: 1905–1908
Starting in 1905, the CUP would be transformed from a group of intellectual exiles into a secret activist organization through the efforts of Dr. Bahaeddin Şakir. In September 1906, the Ottoman Freedom Society was formed as another secret Young Turk organization based in Salonica (modern Thessaloniki), with Mehmet Talat Bey, Ahmed Cemal Bey, Mustafa Rahmi Bey, Ömer Naci, İsmail Canbulat Bey and Dr. Midhat Şükrü forming its core. Especially from 1906 onward, the OFS enjoyed great success in recruiting army officers from the Ottoman Third Army based in Macedonia. Officers of the Third Army believed the state needed drastic reforms in order to survive and bring peace to a region that was in a seemingly perpetual low intensity conflict. This made joining imperially biased revolutionary secret societies especially appealing to them. This widespread sentiment led the senior officers of the Third Army to turn a blind eye to the fact that many of their junior officers had joined the CUP. Under Talat's initiative, the Salonica-based OFS merged with Rıza's Paris-based CUP in September 1907, and became the internal center of the CUP in the Ottoman Empire. After the Young Turk Revolution, the more radical and militant internal CUP would see themselves supplant Rıza's leadership of his network of exiles. For now this merger transformed the CUP from an intellectual opposition group into a sort of clandestine paramilitary. Intending to emulate revolutionary nationalist organisations like the Bulgarian IMRO and Armenian Dashnak, the CUP's modus operandi was komitecilik, or rule by revolutionary conspiracy. The Central Committee referred to itself as the "Sacred Committee" (Cemiyet-i mukaddese) or the "Kaaba of Liberty" (Kâbe-i hürriyet). The CUP professed to be fighting for the restoration of the 1876 constitution, but its internal organisation and methods were intensely authoritarian, with its cadres expected to strictly follow orders from the "Sacred Committee".
The CUP would build an extensive cell based organisation, having a presence in towns throughout European Turkey. By comparison, the CUP was noticeably absent from intellectual circles and army units based in Anatolia and the Levant. Under this umbrella name, one could find ethnic Albanians, Bulgarians, Arabs, Serbians, Jews, Greeks, Turks, Kurds, and Armenians united by the common goal of overthrowing Abdulhamid's despotic regime.
Joining the early CUP was by invitation only, and those who did join had to keep their membership secret. Those who joined the CUP underwent an initiation ceremony, where they swore a sacred oath with the Koran (or Bible or Torah if they were Christian or Jewish) in the right hand and a sword or dagger in the left hand. They swore 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 devoted party members 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.
In the Second Congress of Ottoman Opposition in 1907 Rıza and Sabahaddin were finally able to put their differences aside and signed an alliance, declaring that Abdulhamid had to be deposed and the regime replaced with a representative and constitutional government by all means necessary. Included in this alliance was another faction, the Armenian nationalist Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnak) (Dashnaktsutyun). ARF member Khachatur Maloumian officially signed the alliance, with the hope that decentralizing reforms could be conceded to Ottoman Armenians once the Young Turks took power (even though the CUP's core mantra was centralization). However Ahmet Rıza eventually pulled out of the tripartite agreement, and this alliance played no critical role in the upcoming revolution.
Young Turk Revolution
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 recruited many army officers) to act. CUP members İsmail Enver Bey, Ahmet Niyazi Bey, and Eyub Sabri Bey fled to the Albanian hinterlands to organise militias in support of a constitutionalist revolution. The CUP threatened Hayri Pasha, field marshal of the Third Army, into passive cooperation, while also assassinating Şemsi Pasha, whom Abdulhamid had sent to suppress the revolt in Macedonia. At this point, the mutiny which originated in the Third Army in Salonica took hold of the Second Army based in Adrianople (modern Edirne) as well as Anatolian troops sent from Izmir. Under pressure of being deposed, on July 24, 1908 Abdulhamid capitulated and reinstated the 1876 Ottoman Constitution to great jubilation. After the revolution, Enver, Niyazi, and Sabri were hailed throughout the Empire and its people's as "heroes of the revolution".
The CUP succeeded in reestablishing democracy and constitutionalism in the Ottoman Empire but refused to take direct power after the revolution, choosing instead to monitor the politicians from the sidelines. This was because most of its members were younger and held little to no skill in statecraft, while the organization itself held little power outside of Rumelia. Besides, only a small fraction of the army's lower ranking officer corps were loyal to the committee, and total membership numbered around approximately 2,250. The CUP decided to continue its clandestine nature by keeping its members secret but sent to Constantinople a delegation of seven high-ranking Unionists known as the Committee of Seven, including Cemal Bey, Talat Bey, and Mehmed Cavid Bey. After the revolution, power was informally shared between the palace (Abdulhamid), the Sublime Porte, and the CUP, who's Central Committee was still based in Salonica, and now represented a powerful deep state faction.
With the reestablishment of the constitution and parliament, most Young Turk organizations turned into political parties, including the CUP. However, after meeting of the goal reinstating the constitution, in the absence of this uniting factor, the CUP and the revolution began to fracture and different factions began to emerge. Prince Sabahaddin founded the Ottoman Liberty Party and later in 1911 the Freedom and Entente Party, both commonly referred to as the Liberal Union and its members as Liberals by Ottoman historians. Ibrahim Temo and Abdullah Cevdet, two original founders of the CUP, founded the Ottoman Democratic Party in February 1909. Ahmet Rıza who returned to the capital from his exile in Paris became president of the Chamber of Deputies, the parliament's lower house, and would gradually distance himself from the CUP as it became more radical.
Much to the CUP's dismay, the instability during the revolution resulted in more territorial loses for the Empire, which would not be reversed due to the European powers refusing to uphold the status quo set by the Berlin Treaty. Austria-Hungary annexed Bosnia, Crete announced a union with Greece, and Bulgaria declared independence. As a result, the CUP organized a boycott against Austro-Hungarian made goods.
Second Constitutional Era: 1908–1913
In the Ottoman general election of 1908 the CUP captured only 60 of the 275 seats in the Chamber of Deputies, despite its leading role in the revolution. Other parties represented in parliament at this time included the Armenian Dashnak and Hunchak parties (with four and two members respectively) and the main opposition, Prince Sabahaddin's Ottoman Liberty Party.
An early victory of the CUP over Abdulhamid happened on 1 August, when Abdulhamid was forced to assign ministries according to the Central Committee's will. Four days later, the CUP told the government that the current Grand Vizier (at this point a de jure prime ministerial title under the constitution) Mehmed Said Pasha was unacceptable to them, and had Kâmil Pasha appointed Grand Vizier. Kâmil would leter prove to be too independent for the CUP and was forced to resign. He was replaced by Hüseyin Hilmi Pasha who was more partial towards the committee.
A sign of how the CUP power worked occurred in February, 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 confer with a man from the Central Committee who was due to arrive shortly.
In 1909 a reactionary mob revolted in Istanbul against the constitutional system in support of the restoration of Abdulhamid's absolutist rule, securing Constantinople. Abdulhamid accepted the mob's demands, again suspending the constitution in favor of sharia. The CUP lost control of the situation and was forced from the capital. However, Unionist factions within in the army led by Mahmud Şevket Pasha formed the "Army of Action" (Turkish: Hareket Ordusu) which culminated in the 31 March Incident. Some lower ranking Unionist officers within the army included Enver Bey, Niyazi Bey, and Cemal Bey, as well as future presidents of the Republic of Turkey Mustafa Kemal Bey and İsmet Bey. Istanbul was taken back within a few days, order was restored through many courts marshals and executions, and the constitution was reinstated for the third and final time.
The consequences of the failed countercoup massively shifted fortune in the CUP's favor. Abdulhamid II was deposed via a fatwa issued by the Shaykh-al-Islam and a unanimous vote of the Ottoman Parliament. Abdulhamid's younger brother, Reşat, replaced him and took the name Mehmed V, committing to the role of a constitution monarch and figurehead of the future CUP party-state. Mahmud Şevket Pasha's role in deposing Abdulhamid for good gave him considerable power. Şevket Pasha, representing the military, would also start butting heads with the CUP as he represented the only opposition to them other than the small Ottoman Democratic Party after the 31 March Incident. Due to Prince Sabahaddin's Ottoman Liberty Party's reluctant support for the counter revolution, the party was banned. The CUP's Central Committee expected more influence in the government for their role in foiling the countercoup, and maneuvered Mehmet Cavid into the Ministry of Finance in June, becoming the first Unionist affiliated minister in the government. Two months later, Talat Bey took Ferid Pasha's position as Minister of Interior. In 1909 many amendments to the constitution were passed to empower the parliament at the expense of the Sultan.
CUP and the ARF held a strong alliance throughout the Second Constitutional Era, with their cooperation dating back to the Second Congress of Ottoman Opposition of 1907; as both were united in overthrowing the Hamidian regime for a constitutional one. During the countercoup, massacres against Ottoman Armenians in Adana occurred that was facilitated by members of the local CUP branch, straining the alliance between the CUP and Dashnak. The committee made up for this by nominating Ahmet Cemal, an influential Unionist from the old Ottoman Freedom Society and Committee of Seven, as governor of Adana. Cemal Bey restored order, providing compensation to victims and bringing justice to the perpetrators, thus mending the relations between the two parties.
In its 1909 congress in Salonica, the CUP decided to transform itself from a conspiracy group into a mass politics organization. A separate parliamentary group from the committee was created, known as the Union and Progress Party, whos membership was open to the public. Though officially unrelated to the CUP, it was very much an instrument of the Central Committee. Within the committee, initiation ceremonies and other conspiratorial characteristics were terminated, and there was a general vow to be more transparent with the public. However, neither the pledge for more transparency nor the pledge to discontinue initiation ceremonies were fully achieved. By the end of 1909, Union and Progress was both an organization and a party with 850,000 members and 360 branches spread across the empire.
In February 1910 several parties splintered from the Union and Progress Party, including the People's Party, Ottoman Committee of Alliance, and the Moderate Liberty Party.
In September 1911, Italy submitted an ultimatum containing terms clearly meant to provoke a rejection, and following the expected rejection, invaded Tripolitania. The Unionist officers in the army were determined to resist the Italian aggression, and the parliament 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 Special Organisation (Ottoman Turkish: تشکیلات مخصوصه, romanized: Teşkilât-ı Mahsusa), which was used to conduct guerrilla operations against the Italians in Libya. 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 in the future worked closely with the Ministry of War and Ministry of Interior. A great many including Enver, his younger brother Nuri, Mustafa Kemal, Süleyman Askerî, and Ali Fethi all departed to Libya to fight the Italians. With many of the Unionist officers in Libya, this weakened the power of the CUP and the army at home. As a consequence of the Italian invasion, İbrahim Hakkı Pasha's Unionist government collapsed and two more parties splintered from the CUP: the conservative New Party, and the Progress Party. Union and Progress was forced into a coalition government with some minor parties under Mehmed Said Pasha.
In spring 1911 a joint council between the CUP and Dashnak drew up plans for a bipartisan reform package for the eastern provinces which would be administered in cooperation with European inspectorates. This reform package would turn out to be stillborn, being abandoned by October 1914 as the future Ittihadist (Unionist) regime embraced its Turkish nationalist character at the expense of Ottomanism. When it came to the opposition, in mid-October, many of the parliament's most esteemed politicians including Hakkı Pasha, Talat, Cavid, Krikor Zohrab, Halil Bey, Vartkes Serengülian, and Karekin Pastermajian met, where the main discussion was commitment to the Constitution rather than intervention by the CUP in government as well as more cooperation between the CUP and liberals. When this proposal was rejected, the liberals coalesced around the big tent Freedom and Accord Party, also known as the Liberal Union by Ottoman historians, immediately attracting 70 deputies to its ranks.
When it came time for general elections in 1912, Dashnak and the Union and Progress Party campaigned for the elections under an electoral alliance. Alarmed at the success of Liberal Union and increasingly radicalised, Union and Progress won 269 of the 275 seats in parliament through electoral fraud and violence, which led to the election being known as the "Election of Clubs" (Turkish: Sopalı Seçimler), leaving the Liberal Union just six seats. Although it was unlikely Sultan Mehmed V could have prevented the revision of the constitution after such a lopsided election result, change did not happen immediately. Though the ARF received ten seats from the Union and Progress's lists, Dashnak terminated the alliance as they expected more reforms from the CUP as well as more support for their candidates to be elected.
In May 1912, colonel Mehmed Sadık separated from the CUP and organized a group of pro-Liberal Union officers in the army calling themselves the Saviour Officers Group, which demanded the immediate dissolution of the Unionist dominated parliament on July 11. The fraudulent electoral result of the "Election of Clubs" had badly hurt the popular legitimacy of the CUP, and faced with widespread opposition and Mahmud Şevket Pasha's resignation as Minister of War in support of the officers, Said Pasha's Unionist government resigned on 9 July 1912. It was replaced by Ahmed Muhtar Pasha's "Great Cabinet" that deliberately excluded the CUP by being made up of older ministers, many of which were associated with the old Hamidian regime. On 5 August 1912, Muhtar Pasha's government shuttered the Unionist dominated parliament and called for new elections which would never happen due to the outbreak of war. For the moment, the CUP had become isolated, driven from power, and risked being shut down by the government.
With the CUP out of power, in the lead up to the elections, the party challenged Muhtar Pasha's government to a jingoistic game of pro-war populism against the Balkan states by utilizing its still powerful propaganda network. Unbeknownst to the CUP, the Sublime Porte, and most international observers, Bulgaria, Serbia, Montenegro, and Greece were already preparing themselves for a war against the Empire in an alliance known as the Balkan League. On 28 September 1912, the Ottoman army conducted military maneuvers on the Bulgarian border, to which Bulgaria responded by mobilizing. On 4 October the CUP organized a pro-war rally in Sultanahmet Square. Finally on 8 October, Montenegro declared war on the Ottoman Empire, starting the First Balkan War, with the rest of its allies joining in during the week. The Ottoman Empire and Italy concluded their war so that the Empire could focus on the Balkan states with the Treaty of Ouchy, in which Tripolitania was annexed and the Dodecanese were occupied by Italy. This rest of the parliamentary session proved to be 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 Rumelia; Albania, Macedonia, and western Thrace was lost, Edirne was put under siege, and Constantinople was in serious risk of being overrun by the Bulgarian army (First Battle of Çatalca). Edirne was a symbolic city, as it was an important city in Ottoman history, serving as the Empire's third capital for nearly one hundred years, and together with Salonica represented Europe's Islamic heritage.
Muhtar Pasha's government resigned on the 29th of October following total military defeat in Rumelia for Kâmil Pasha's return, who was close to the Liberal Union and keen on destroying the CUP once and for all. With the loss of Salonica to Greece the CUP was forced to relocate its Central Committee to Istanbul, but by mid-November the new headquarters would be shut down by the government and its members were forced into hiding. With the government signing a truce with the Balkan League and an imminent ban of the CUP by Kâmil Pasha's government, the CUP was now radicalized and willing to do all it could do to safeguard Turkish interests and as soon as possible.
Making of a one party regime
Grand Vizier Kâmil Pasha, his Minister of War Nazım Pasha (not to be confused with Dr. Nazım Bey, a high-ranking member of the CUP and original founder who was part of its Central Committee), and interior minister Ahmed Reşid Bey wished to close down the CUP, so the CUP launched a preemptive strike a coup d’état known as the Raid on the Sublime Porte on 23 January 1913. During the coup Kâmil Pasha was forced to resign as Grand Vizier at gunpoint and a Unionist officer Yakub Cemil killed Nazım Pasha. The coup was justified under the grounds that Kâmil Pasha was about to "sell out the nation" by agreeing to a truce in the First Balkan War and giving up Edirne. The intention of the new leadership, dominated by a group consisting of high ranking Unionists consisting of Talat Bey, Enver Bey, Cemal Bey, and Halil Menteşe Bey, under Mahmud Şevket Pasha's premiership (who reluctantly accepted the role), was to break the truce and renew the war against Bulgaria. The CUP once again did not not to takeover the government, instead opting for the creation of a national unity government; only four Unionist ministers were appointed into the new government, including Talat Bey returning to his post as Minister of Interior, a job he would keep until 1918.
The immediate aftermath of the coup resulted in a much more severe state of emergency than previous governments had ever implemented. Cemal Bey in his new capacity as military commander of Constantinople would be responsible for arresting many and heavily stifling opposition. At this point the CUP was no longer concerned with its actions being considered constitutional.
The pro-war regime immediately withdrew the Empire's delegation from the London conference on the same day it took power. The first task of the new regime was to found the Committee for National Defence on 1 February 1913 which was intended to mobilize the resources of the empire for an all-out effort to turn the tide. On 3 February 1913 the war resumed. The new government staked 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 League army together with news that morale in the army was poor due to Edirne's surrender to Bulgaria on 26 March, the pro-war regime finally agreed to an armistice on 1 April 1913 and signed the Treaty of London on May 30, acknowledging the loss of all of Rumelia except for Constantinople.
News of the failure to rescue Rumelia by the CUP prompted the organization of a countercoup by Kâmil Pasha that would terminate the CUP and bring the Liberal Union back into power. Kâmil Pasha would be put under house arrest on May 28, however the conspiracy would continue and aim to assassinate Grand Vizier Mahmud Şevket Pasha and major Unionists. On June 11, only Mahmud Şevket Pasha would be assassinated; by one of Nazım Pasha's relatives as revenge for being associated with Nazım's murderers' party. Mahmud Şevket Pasha represented the last independent personality in the Empire; with his assassination, the CUP took full control over the empire. The power vacuum in the army created by Şevket Pasha's death was filled by the Committee. Any remaining opposition to the CUP, especially the Liberal Union, was suppressed. All provincial and local officials reported to "Responsible Secretaries" chosen by the party for each vilayet. Mehmed V appointed Said Halim Pasha, who was loosely affiliated with the CUP, to serve as Grand Vizier until Talat Pasha replaced him in 1917. A courts marshal sentenced to death 16 Liberal Union leaders, including Prince Sabahaddin who was sentenced in absentia, as he already fled to Geneva in exile.
After surrendering in the First Balkan War, the CUP became fixated on retaking Edirne, while other important issues like economic collapse, reform in Eastern Anatolia, and infrastructure were largely ignored. On 20 July 1913, following the outbreak of the Second Balkan War, the Ottomans attacked Bulgaria and on 21 July 1913 Colonel Enver retook Edirne from Bulgaria, further increasing his status as 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.
The CUP regime
The new regime was a dictatorship dominated by a triumvirate that turned the Ottoman Empire into a one party state of Union and Progress, known in history as the Three Pashas Triumvirate. The triumvirate consisted of Talat, Enver, and Cemal, all of whom would soon become Pashas. Some say Halil Bey was a fourth member of this clique. Historian Hans-Lukas Kieser asserts that this state of rule by the Three Pashas triumvirate is only accurate for the year 1913–1914, and that Talat would increasingly become a more central figure within the Union and Progress party state, especially once he also became Grand Vizier in 1917. Alternatively, it would also be accurate to call the Unionist regime a clique or even an oligarchy, as many prominent Unionists held some form of de jure or de facto power. Other than the Three Pashas and Halil Bey, personalities such as Dr. Nazım, Bahaeddin Şakir, Mehmed Reşid, Ziya Gökalp, and the party's secretary general Midhat Şükrü at times also dominated the Central Committee without formal positions in the Ottoman government. Loyalty to the committee was seen more valuable than competence. The CUP regime was also less hierarchically totalitarian than future European dictatorships. Instead of relying on strict and rigid chains of command the regime functioned through the balancing of factions through massive corruption and kickbacks. Individual governors were allowed much autonomy, such as Cemal Pasha's governorship of Syria and Rahmi Bey's governorship of the Izmir vilayet. This lack of rule of law, lack of respect to the constitution, and extreme corruption would worsen as the regime aged. The Ottoman Empire's committee regime would last from 1913 to the empire's surrender in World War I in October 1918.
Road to World War I: 1913-1914
To the CUP, the loss of Rumelia reduced the need for Ottomanism, while defeat in the First Balkan War had showed that the empire's Christian population were potential fifth columns. Lack of action by the European powers in upholding the integrity of the Empire and the status quo of the Berlin Treaty during the Balkan wars meant that the Turks were on their own. The reconquest of Edirne was a great confidence booster to the CUP, considering the European powers demanding Edirne's surrender to Bulgaria in the First Balkan War. The CUP lost much respect for the European powers and there appeared more public display of Turkish nationalism at the expense of Ottomanism. This abandonment of Ottomanism was much more feasible due to the new borders of the Empire after the Balkan Wars, inflating the proportion of Turks and especially Muslims of the empire and in the parliament at the expense of Christians.
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. 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 instill that sense of revenge, love of fatherland and sense of sacrifice for it.
In the aftermath of the First Balkan War with the humiliating loss of Rumelia, thousands of refugees from Rumelia arrived with tales of atrocities committed by the Greek, Montenegrin, Serb and Bulgarian forces. A marked anti-Christian and xenophobic mood settled in amongst many Ottoman Muslims. The CUP encouraged boycotts against Austrian, Bulgarian, and Greek businesses, but after 1913 also against the empire's own Christian and Jewish citizens.
The decreased importance of Ottomanism in reaction to the perception of a Christian fifth column, as well as the suspicion directed against other Muslim groups such as Arabs and Kurds after it was shown that Muslim Albanians did not become any more loyal to the empire after the Young Turk Revolution, resulted in the new regime starting to glorify the "Turkish race". Particular attention was paid to Turan, the mythical homeland of the Turks that was located north of China. 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. The chief ideologue of the CUP, 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 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. This was the motivation for the Ottoman Empire's entry into World War I, the "pan-Turkic" ideology of the party which emphasized the Empire's manifest destiny of ruling over the Turkic people of central Asia once Russia was driven out of that region.
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 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. 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. Ahmet 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."
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". 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. 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".
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. Reflecting Colmar Freiherr von der Goltz Pasha's influence, especially his "nation in arms" theory, the purpose of the society under the new regime was to support the military.
In January 1914, Enver Bey would be appointed Minister of War, supplanting the calmer Ahmet Izzet Pasha, which made Russia, especially its Foreign Minister Sergey Sazonov, greatly suspicious. An extensive purge of the army was carried out, 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.
Absent the wartime atmosphere, the CUP did not yet purge minority religions from political life; at least 23 Christians joined it and were elected to the third parliament in 1914, in which the Union and Progress Party was the only contender.
Many Unionists were traumatized from the outcome of the Macedonian Question and the loss of most of Rumelia. The winners of the First Balkan War and the 1877-78 Russo-Turkish war applied anti-Muslim ethnic cleansing measures against its citizens, which the CUP would react with similar fever against the Empire's Christian minorities but on a much greater scale in the future. With the Macedonian Question's conclusion, attention was now given to Anatolia and the Armenian Question. Not wanting Anatolia to turn into another Macedonia, the CUP came up with Türk Yurdu: that Anatolia would become the homeland of the Turks through policies of homogeneity in order to save both "Turkdom" and the empire. The CUP would engage in an "... increasingly radicalized demographic engineering program aimed at the ethno-religious homogenization of Anatolia from 1913 till the end of World War I". To that end, before the Committee's exterminatory anti-Armenian policies, anti-Greek policies were in order. Mahmut Celal Bey, who would be appointed local secretary of the Union and Progress Party branch of Smyrna (modern İzmir), as well as Talat Pasha and Enver Pasha, would formulate a terror campaign against the Greek population in the Izmir vilayet 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 it is estimated at least 300,000 Greeks fleed 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, as well as the threat of war from Greece. In many ways, the operation against Ottoman Greeks in 1914 was a trial run for the operations that were launched against Armenians in 1915.
In September, irregular warfare against Russia on the Caucasian border would commence; the ARF was asked to collaborate in these operations but refused. Only in late September in response to cross-border raids would Russian Foreign Minister Sazonov permit the organisation of Ottoman Armenian irregular volunteer regiments (many Ottoman Armenians fled to Russian Tblisi at this point).
Tensions in Europe rapidly increased as the events of the July Crisis unfolded. The CUP saw the July Crisis as the perfect chance to revise the outcome of the loss of Rumelia in the Balkan wars and the loss of the six vilayets in the Berlin Treaty through an alliance with a European power. With the fall of the Anglophile Kâmil Pasha and the Liberal Union, Germany took advantage of the situation by reestablishing its friendship with the Ottoman Empire that dated back to the Hamidian Era. It would be a small faction within the government and the CUP, first and foremost headed by Talat, Enver, and Halil, that would solidify an alliance with Germany with an equally small faction within the German government in the form of Freiherr von Wangenheim that would bring the Empire into World War One.
After much politicking by Wangenheim, German influence in the Empire noticeably increased through media acquisitions and increasing presence of the German military mission in the capital. On August 1, 1914, the Empire ordered a partial mobilization. Two days later it would order a general mobilization. On 2 August, the Ottoman and German governments signed a secret alliance. The purpose of this alliance was to bring the Empire into World War I. On August 19, another secret alliance with Bulgaria negotiated by Talat Pasha and Halil Bey and Bulgarian Prime Minister Vasil Radoslavov would be signed.
On August 2 Wangenheim informed the Ottoman cabinet that the German Mediterranean squadron under Admiral Wilhelm Souchon was steaming towards Constantinople, known as the famous pursuit of the Goeben and Breslau, and requested that the Ottomans grant the squadron sanctuary once it arrived (which the government gladly obliged to). 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. On 24 September 1914, Admiral Souchon was appointed commander of the Ottoman navy.
On 21 October, Enver Pasha 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, Enver and Cemal Pasha (at this point Minister of the Navy) ordered Admiral Souchon to attack the Russian Black Sea ports with the newly christened Yavuz and Midilli and other Ottoman gunboats in the expectation that Russia would declare war in response; the attack was carried out on the 29th. After the act of aggression against his country, Sazonov submitted an ultimatum to the Sublime Porte demanding that the Empire intern all of the German military and naval officers in their service; after its rejection Russia declared war on 2 November 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, and 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". This meeting prompted the Minister of Finance Mehmed Cavid Bey to resign (though he still retained his seat in the Central Committee and would return to his post in 1917) and greatly infuriated the Grand Vizier Said Halim Pasha. On 5 November, Britain and France declared war on the Empire. On 11 November 1914, Mehmed V, declared war on Russia, Britain, and France. Later that month, in his capacity as Caliph of all Muslims, he issued a declaration of jihad against the Entente ordering all Muslims everywhere in the world to fight for the destruction of those nations.
With the expectation that the new war would free the Empire of its constraints on its sovereignty by the great powers, Talat Pasha went ahead with accomplishing major goals of the CUP; unilaterally abolishing the centuries-old Capitulations, prohibiting foreign postal services, terminating Lebanon's autonomy, and suspending the reform package for the Eastern Anatolian provinces that was in effect for just seven months. This unilateral action prompted a joyous rally in Sultanahmet Square.
World War I and genocidal policies
Although the CUP had worked with the ARF during the Second Constitutional Era, factions in the CUP began to view Armenians as a fifth column that would betray the Ottoman cause after war with nearby Russia broke out in 1914; these factions gained more power after the 1913 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. In the early months of 1915, the Unionist-controlled press would still emphasize the importance of the Armenian nation to the Ottoman war effort. A report presented to Talat Pasha and Cevdet Bey (governor of Van Vilayet) by ARF members Arshak Vramian and Vahan Papazian on atrocities committed by the Special Organisation against Armenians in Van created more friction between the two organisations. However, the Unionists were still not yet confident enough to purge Armenians from politics or pursue policies of ethnic engineering.
The CUP pushed the Ottomans into the war with the expectation that jihad would spell the collapse of the colonial empires of the Entente, and that the Muslim Turkic peoples of Central Asia would assist the Ottomans with an invasion of the Caucasus and Central Asia. For the most part jihad did not create significant uprisings against the Allied powers. In fact, World War I began badly for the Ottomans. British troops seized Basra and began to advance up the Tigris river, Cemal Pasha's invasion of British Egypt failed, and Enver Pasha's Third Army was annihilated by the Russians in the Battle of Sarikamish. These defeats greatly depressed the committee and ended their pan-Turanist dreams. However, Allied attempts to force the Bosphorus in a naval breakthrough failed on 18 March, improving the confidence of the Unionists. The March 18 would start the machinations for plans of a purge of Armenians from Ottoman politics and the economy and ethnic engineering in eastern Anatolia that would be executed in April. The goal of these plans would be to realize Türk Yurdu: the Turkification of Anatolia and transforming the Ottoman Empire into a homogeneous Turkish nation state.
After the failure of the Sarikamish expedition, the three Pashas were involved in ordering the deportations and massacres of about 1 million Armenians and other Christian groups between 1915-1918, known to history as the Armenian genocide or the Late Ottoman Genocides. Talat Pasha's position as the Interior Minister would be the key in organising the endeavour. The government would have liked to resume the "cleansing operations" against the Greek minority in western Anatolia, but this was vetoed under pressure from Germany, the Empire's only source of military equipment, as Germany wished for a neutral Greece in the war.
The Special Organisation played a key role in the Late Ottoman Genocides. The Special Organisation, which was made of especially fanatical Unionist cadres, was expanded from August 1914 onwards. Talat Pasha 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 Special Organisation killing units included 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.
In late 1914, Enver Pasha ordered that all Armenians serving in the Ottoman Army be disarmed and sent to labour battalions. In early 1915, Enver ordered the killing of all 200,000 Ottoman Armenian soldiers, who were now disarmed in the labour battalions. On 24 April 1915, Talat sent a telegram to Cemal Pasha (who was governor of Syria) instructing him to deport rebellious Armenians not to Central Anatolia (Konya), as had been done to a previous group which rose up in Zeytun (modern Süleymanlı), but instead to the much more inhospitable deserts of northern Syria. The Syrian deserts would end up being the destination of future Armenian deportees as well. Talat would also send a followup circular to the governors he telegrammed in September 1914 to execute the arrests of important Dashnak and Hunchak members as well as "important and harmful Armenians known by the government." That night, many of Istanbul's prominent Armenian elites were rounded up, arrested, and killed soon after, including Vramian. Military, provincial, and Unionist commissaries were then dispatched to spread stab-in-the-back myths about Armenians to feed into the spirit of jihad. On 27 May, the legal basis for demographic engineering was enacted in the form of a provisional law that allowed for the government the powers of mass repression and deportation if national security was at risk (Tehcir Law). In the summer of 1916, Talat appointed Salih Zeki as governor of Der ez-Zor, who would create the infrastructure to ensure surviving deportees would eventually be exterminated.
Deported Armenians would have their property confiscated by the state and redistributed to Muslims or simply snatched by local provincial authorities (such as Central Committee member Mehmet Reşid's governorship in Diyarbekir). Return of property to the deportees would be de facto forbidden. By late 1916 most Armenians outside of cities like Constantinople and Izmir would lose their private property. In areas where Christian minorities were deported from, the government would settle Balkan Muslim refugees to take their place and property. Some local governors stood up to the Central Committee's orders of deportations against Christians such as in Küthahya, Izmir, and Dersim (modern Tunceli), but most resistors were simply replaced by Talat Pasha. This program of redistribution of Armenian property, Millî İktisat (national economy), was a core tenet of the CUP's Türk Yurdu project. The deportations, massacres, and confiscation of property that were performed against Armenians and other Christian groups were on a larger scale than ever, but this was not the first of such occurrences. The Talat and CUP hypocritically but easily portrayed their actions in a Hamidian context; just like how Abdulhamid's pretext for massecres against his own (Armenian) subjects was justified through legal means.
The Assyrian Christian community was also targeted by the Unionist government in what is now known as the Seyfo. Talat would order the governor of Van to also remove the Assyrian population in Hakkâri, leading to the deaths of hundreds of thousands, however this anti-Assyrian policy would not be able to be implemented nationally.
Even though many Kurdish tribes played an important role in the Special Organisation's exterminatory operations against Christian minorities, Kurds would also find themselves victims of deportation of the government (though not of masscre). Talat Pasha would outline that nowhere in the Empire's vilayets should the Kurdish population be more than 5%. To that end, Balkan Muslim and Turkish refugees were also prioritised to be resettled in Urfa, Maraş, and Antep, while some Kurds would be deported to Central Anatolia. Kurds were supposed to be resettled in abandoned Armenian property, however negligence by resettlement authorities still resulted in the deaths of many Kurds by famine.
The CUP was against all groups which could potentially demand independence. Cemal Pasha's role as governor in the multicultural provinces of Greater Syria would see many groups, not just Armenians, be effected by Committee rule. During the war, Cemal Pasha would famously hang local Syrian notables for treason, which helped facilitate the Arab Revolt against the empire. He would also make more judicious use of the Tehcir law (compared to Talat Pasha) to selectively and temporarily deport certain Arab families he considered suspicious. Due to the Allied blockade of the region and a lack of supplies for the civilian population, certain parts of Ottoman Syria experienced desperate famine.
In December 1914, Cemal Pasha, encouraged by Bahaeddin, 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) on grounds that most of the Jews came from the Russian Empire, but in reality because the CUP considered the Zionist movement as a threat to the Ottoman state. The deportation order was vetoed by Wangenheim and other members of the Central Committee; 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. Within the Central Committee, many had personal Judeophilic sentiments. The CUP had its origins in Salonica, at the time the center of the Jewish world with a Jewish plurality. Some in the committee were even Dönmeh, that is, Muslims with Jewish ancestry, including Cavid Bey and Dr. Nazım, and most in the committee enjoyed cordial relations with contemporary Zionists. In general, most Jews were sympathetic with the Unionist regime, especially those concentrated in urban areas and those outside the empire, and sentiments of an Islamic-Jewish alliance were common. However while the Jews of the Yishuv were not deported, the Ottoman authorities made sure to harass the Jews in various other ways, prompting the creation of the pro-entente NILI resistance network centered around Ottoman Palestine.
The deportations of the Rûm were put on hold as Germany wished for a Greek ally or neutrality, however for the sake of their aliance, German reaction to the deportations of Armenians was muted. The participation of the Ottoman Empire as an ally against the Entente powers was crucial to German grand strategy in the war, and good relations were needed. Following Russian breakthrough in the Caucasus and signs that Greece would side with the Allied powers after all, the CUP was finally able to resume operations against the Greeks of the empire, and Talat ordered the deportation of the Pontus Greeks of the Black Sea coast. Acts of plunder by the Special Organisation and regional authorities occurred in the region around Trabzon, with Topal Osman being an especially infamous figure.
On 24 May 1915, after learning of the "Great Crime", 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 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 Nureddin Pasha and Goltz Pasha, thus ending the British advance on Baghdad. On 3 December 1915, what was left of Townshend's force was besieged in Kut al-Amara (his forces would surrender to Halil Pasha five months later). 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.
In 1916 Yakub Cemil (who killed Nazım Pasha during the Raid on the Sublime Porte) would be arrested for plotting a coup against the regime that would have settled a peace treaty with the Allied powers and promoted Mustafa Kemal Bey to become Minister of War. Talat Pasha had Yakub Cemil executed against Enver's will.
As the Allied armies started advancing into Palestine in March 1917, Cemal 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 Jews as they did upon 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.
During World War I, while the alliance between the Ottoman Empire and Germany was crucial to the goals of both empires, it would constantly stand on tense ground. The CUP and the Wilhelminian elites of Germany shared chauvinistic attitudes against Anglo-Saxon values of democracy and pluralism, as well as more general Anglophobic and Russophobic sentiments. However, the enactment of the Türk Yurdu project through the deportation and extermination of Christian minorities deeply disturbed politicians back in Berlin (though not so much the German military elites).
On 4 February 1917, Said Halim Pasha was finally outmaneuvered from his premiership, and Talat Pasha was appointed Grand Vizier, bringing the radical faction of the CUP directly to power, though Said Halim was always a puppet of the Central Committee. Although the withdrawal of Russia from the war and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk, negotiated and signed by Grand Vizier Talat Pasha, would not only be a massive success for the CUP but also the Ottoman-German alliance, it simply delayed conflict. The Ottoman Empire regained the Caucasian provinces (Batumi, Kars, Ardahan) lost in the war against Russia forty years ago, but nothing was guaranteed for the CUP's Turanist ambitions in the Caucasus and Central Asia. The CUP decided to take matters into their own hands. Enver Pasha established the Army of Islam to conquer Baku and its oil fields and potentially fulfill Pan-Turkist dreams in Central Asia. German officers were deliberately excluded from the army group, as the Ottomans were suspicious (correctly) of similar German intentions to occupy Baku. This tension reached a boiling point in the spring of 1918, in an incident where Ottoman and German forces clashed in the area. The Army of Islam would eventually win the race to Baku by September, but by then the Central Powers were losing on all fronts. Both countries would capitulate to the Allied powers before relations could deteriorate any further.
Purges and Disbandment
As the military position of the Central Powers disintegrated, on 8 October 1918 Talat Pasha and the Unionist cabinet resigned. On October 30 Marshal Ahmet Izzet Pasha, as the new Grand Vizier, negotiated the Armistice of Mudros. The position of the CUP was now untenable, and its top leaders fled to Odessa and scattered from there.
During the party's last congress held on 1–5 November 1918, the remaining party members decided to abolish the party, which was severely criticized by the public because of the Empire's defeat. However just a week later the Renewal Party would be created, with Unionist assets and infrastructure being transferred over to the new party. It would be abolished in turn by the Ottoman government in May 1919.
After the war a purge of Ottoman officials was conducted by the Allied Powers. 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, led by a rehabilitated Liberal Union under Damat Ferid Pasha's premiership and Mehmed VI Vahdettin as Sultan, obligingly arrested over 100 Unionist party and military officials by April 1919 and began a series of trials. The effectiveness of these trials was initially promising, with one district governor, Mehmed Kemal [tr], being hanged on April 10.
However, any possibility of a general effort at truth, reconciliation, or democratisation was 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 Pasha would rally 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 Kemalist forces, obliging the British to give up their plans for international trials.
Much of the Unionist leadership was assassinated between 1920 and 1922 in Operation Nemesis. The ARF sent out assassins to hunt down and kill the Unionists responsible for the Armenian genocide. Minister of the Interior and later Grand Vizier Talat Pasha 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. Bahaeddin Şakir, the commander of the Special Organisation was killed in Berlin on 17 April 1922 by a Dashnak gunman. Another member of the ruling triumvirate, Cemal Pasha was killed on 21 July 1922 in Tbilisi by Dashnaks. The final member of the Three Pashas, Enver Pasha was killed while fighting against the Red Army in Central Asia before Dashnak could assassinate him.
Most Unionists chose to rally around Mustafa Kemal and his Turkish national movement, although a rogue Unionist faction briefly revived the CUP in January 1922. However Unionist journalist Hüseyin Cahit declared the CUP would not contest the 1923 general election for the Ankara based parliament against Atatürk's Association for the Defence of Rights of Anatolia and Rumelia (soon to be the Republican People's Party). The last purge against the CUP occurred after a plot to assassinate Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in Izmir by this rogue Unionist faction was uncovered in 1926. This resulted in many remaining Unionists being executed in the Independence Tribunals, including Mehmed Cavid and Dr. Nazım.
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 Committee 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 wrote 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.
Cult of Science
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. According to the Turkish historian Handan Nezir Akmeșe, the essence of Union and Progress 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. 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. The CUP saw themselves as a scientific elite, whose superior knowledge would save the empire; one Unionist later recalled the atmosphere as: "Being a Unionist was almost a type of God-given privilege".
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.
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 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 than 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".
During the reign of Sultan Abdulhamid II, Pan-Islamism had become an important part of the state ideology as Abdulhamid had often stressed his claim to be the Caliph. The claim that Abdulhamid 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 British controlled India. Despite deposing Abdulhamid 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. The CUP endorsed Abdulhamid's legacy upon his death in February 1918, even though the CUP launched a revolution against Abdulhamid in 1908 and ultimately deposed him in 1909. Şükrü Hanioğlu asserts that the CUP would generally appeal to Islam simply when ever it was convenient.
Modernisation and secularism
While the CUP eventually relied on Pan-Islamism, there always existed a secular culture within the Sacred Committee. The CUP heavily cracked down on religious fanaticism following the 31 March Incident which strained its relationship with the ulema, but at the same time would use Islamist ferver for their benefit during World War I. Nevertheless, the CUP saw itself as a modernizing force for bringing Ottoman, Turkish, and Muslim society to European standards, which mandated social reform. An example of pre-Kemalist style social reform was the controversial "Temporal Family Law" passed in 1917 was a significant advance in womens rights and secularism in Ottoman matrimonial law. Women were given a limited right to divorce their husbands and while polygamy was restricted.
Before the revolution, the CUP held extremist views of the economy, for example advocating for boycotts against Armenian goods and shutting down the Public Debt Administration. Post revolutionary success gave way to a pragmatic economic policy. Other than encouragement of domestic production projects, the CUP largely followed a liberal economic policy to Mehmed Cavid Bey's designs, resulting in a large increase in foreign investment between 1908 and 1913 despite the volatility of the Ottoman Empire's international standing.
However following the radicalization of the CUP post-Balkan Wars, the committee switched back to extremist rhetoric in the economy, advocating for Muslim Turkish domination of the economy at the expense of non-Muslim and non-domestic business. National Economy, "Millî İktisat", was a combination of corporatism, protectionism, and statist economic policies. This became a formal platform of CUP policy in their 1916 Congress in Selanik, whos goal was to create an indigenous Turkish-Muslim bourgeoisie and middle class. For the CUP, the way to kick start capitalism for the Turks was to seize capital from the well endowed Christians for themselves. To this end, pseudo-Marxist rhetoric would be used against Armenian enterprise such as there being a "class struggle" and disproportionate ownership by Armenians of wealth that had to be shared with Muslims at all costs. Import substitution industrialization and property confiscation centralized of economic capital in the hands of "loyal" ethnic groups, which deepened political support for the CUP. When it came to foreign trade, previously well established liberal policy gave way to protectionism: tariffs were increased in 1914 from 8 to 11%, by 1915 they reached 30%.
The policies associated with National Economy were essential for the CUP's Türk Yurdu project that carried over to the later Republican People's Party regime, and created a fertile ground for the Republic of Turkey's industrialization post independence war.
In the words of the Turkish historian Handan Nezir Akmeșe, the commitment of the Unionists to the 1876 constitution that they professed to be fighting for was only "skin deep", and was more of a rallying cry for popular support than anything else.
As the defeat loomed in 1918, the CUP founded an underground group known as the Karakol organisation, and set up secret arms depots to wage guerrilla war against the Allies when they reached Anatolia. The Karakol group constituted an important faction within 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 organisation. Besides Karakol, most leaders of the Turkish National Movement as well as the early Turkish Republic's intelligentsia were former Unionists. Future presidents of the Republic of Turkey Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, İsmet İnönü, and Celal Bayar, were members of Union and Progress. CUP Central Committee members Ziya Gökalp, Halil Menteşe, Midhat Şükrü Bleda, and Rahmi Arslan would manage to integrate themselves within the new post-Ottoman regime. Other important Republican Turkish figures formerlly associated with the CUP included Rauf Orbay, Fethi Okyar, Kâzım Karabekir, Adnan Adıvar, Şükrü Kaya, Çerkez Ethem, Bekir Sami, Yusuf Kemal, Celaleddin Arif, Ağaoğlu Ahmet, Recep Peker, Şemsettin Günaltay, Hüseyin Avni, Mehmet Emin Yurdakul, Mehmet Akif Ersoy, Celal Nuri İleri, Ali Münif Yeğenağa, Yunus Nadi Abalıoğlu, and Falih Rıfkı Atay.
In addition to Atatürk's Republican People's Party, Union and Progress also has at times been identified with the two opposition parties that 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 by İnönü and even served as speaker of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.
It was also Karabekir who crystallised the modern Turkish position on the 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.
The Young Turk 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 Party. Indian Muslims imitated the CUP oath administered to recruits of the organisation.
Ottoman Chamber of Deputies
party list votes
60 / 288
269 / 275
275 / 275
- Tanin (newspaper)
- Atatürk's Reforms
- Kemalist historiography
- Persecution of Muslims during Ottoman contraction
- Persecution of Christians in the later Ottoman Empire
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In ideological terms there is thus a great deal of continuity between the periods of 1912–1918 and 1918–1923. This should come as no surprise... the cadres of the national resistance movement almost without exception consisted of former Unionists, who had been shaped by their shared experience of the previous decade.
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- Committee of Union and Progress Turkey in the First World War website
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