Like other revolutionary societies, the Young Turks had their origins in secret societies of "progressive medical university students and military cadets", namely the Young Ottomans, driven underground along with all political dissent after the Constitution of 1876 was abolished and the First Constitutional Era brought to a close by Abdul Hamid II in 1878 after only two years. The Young Turks favored a re-instatement of the Ottoman Parliament and the 1876 constitution, written by the progressive Midhat Pasha.
Congress of Ottoman Opposition
The first congress of the Ottoman opposition (1902) in Paris
The First Congress of Ottoman Opposition was held on 4 February 1902, at 20:00, at the house of Germain Antoin Lefevre-Pontalis,Institut de France. The opposition was performed in compliance with the French government. Closed to the public, there were 47 delegates present. The Armenians wanted to have the conversations held in French, but other delegates rejected this proposition.
a member of the
The Second Congress of Ottoman Opposition took place in Paris, France, in 1907. Opposition leaders including Ahmed Rıza, Sabahaddin Bey, and Khachatur Malumian of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation were in attendance. The goal was to unite all the parties, including the Young Turks' Committee of Union and Progress, in order to bring about the revolution.
The Young Turks became a truly organized movement with the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) as an organizational umbrella. They recruited individuals hoping for the establishment of a constitutional monarchy in the Ottoman Empire. In 1906, the
Ottoman Freedom Society (OFS) was established in Thessalonica by Mehmed Talaat. The OFS actively recruited members from the Third Army base, among them Major Ismail Enver. In September 1907, OFS announced they would be working with other organizations under the umbrella of the CUP. In reality, the leadership of the OFS would exert significant control over the CUP.
Young Turk Revolution
Young Turks flyer with the slogan "Long live the fatherland, long live the nation, long live liberty" written in Ottoman Turkish and French.
In 1908, the Macedonian Question was facing the Ottoman Empire. Tsar Nicholas II and Franz Joseph, who were both interested in the Balkans, started implementing policies, beginning in 1897, which brought on the last stages of the balkanization process. By 1903, there were discussions on establishing administrative control by Russian and Austrian advisory boards in the Macedonian provinces. The ruling House of Osman was forced to accept this idea, although for quite a while they were able to subvert its implementation.
However, eventually, signs were showing that this policy game was coming to an end. On May 13, 1908, the leadership of the Committee of Union and Progress, with the newly gained power of its organization, was able to communicate to Sultan Abdul Hamid II the unveiled threat that "the [Ottoman] dynasty would be in danger" if he were not to bring back the Ottoman constitution that he had previously suspended since 1878. On June 12, 1908, the Third Army, which was in Macedonia, began its march towards the Palace in Constantinople. Although initially resistant to the idea of giving up absolute power, Abdul Hamid was forced on July 24, 1908, to restore the constitution, beginning the Second Constitutional Era of the Ottoman Empire.
Second Constitutional Era
The unity among the Young Turks that originated from the Young Turk Revolution began to splinter in face of the realities of the ongoing dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, especially with the onset of the Balkan Wars in 1912.
World War I
On November 2, 1914, the Ottoman Empire entered World War I on the side of the Central Powers. The Middle Eastern theatre of World War I became the scene of action. The combatants were the Ottoman Empire, with some assistance from the other Central Powers, against primarily the British and the Russians among the Allies. Rebuffed elsewhere by the major European powers, the Young Turks, through highly secret diplomatic negotiations, led the Ottoman Empire to ally itself with Germany. The Young Turks needed to modernize the Empire’s communications and transportation networks without putting themselves in the hands of European bankers. Europeans already owned much of the country’s railroad system, and since 1881, the administration of the defaulted Ottoman foreign debt had been in European hands. During the War, the Young Turk empire was "virtually an economic colony on the verge of total collapse."
At the end of the War, with the collapse of Bulgaria and Germany's capitulation, Talaat Pasha and the CUP ministry resigned on October 13, 1918, and the Armistice of Mudros was signed aboard a British battleship in the Aegean Sea. On November 2, Enver, Talaat and Djemal, along with their German allies, fled from Istanbul into exile.
1914–1917: Armenian Genocide
The Armenian Genocide
was the Young Turk government's systematic extermination of its Armenian subjects. An estimated 1.5 million people were killed.
The conflicts at the Caucasus Campaign, the Persian Campaign, and the Gallipoli Campaign affected places where Armenians lived in significant numbers. Before the declaration of war at the Armenian congress at Erzurum, the Ottoman government asked Ottoman Armenians to facilitate the conquest of Transcaucasia by inciting a rebellion among the Russian Armenians against the tsarist army in the event of a Caucasian Front.
Jakob Künzler, head of a missionary hospital in Urfa, documented the large scale ethnic cleansing of both Armenians and Kurds under the Three Pashas during World War I. He gave a detailed account of deportation of Armenians from Erzurum and Bitlis in the winter of 1916. The Armenians were perceived to be subversive elements (a fifth column) that would take the Russian side in the war. In order to eliminate this threat, the Ottoman government embarked on a large scale deportation of Armenians from the regions of Djabachdjur, Palu, Musch, Erzurum, and Bitlis. Around 300,000 Armenians were forced to move southwards to Urfa and then westwards to Aintab and Marash. In the summer of 1917, Armenians were moved to the Konya region in central Anatolia. Through these measures, the CUP leaders aimed to eliminate the Armenian threat by deporting them from their ancestral lands and by dispersing them in small pockets of exiled communities. By the end of World War I, up to 1,200,000 Armenians were forcibly deported from their home vilayets. As a result, about half of the displaced died of exposure, hunger, and disease, or were victims of banditry and forced labor.
Around this period, the CUP's relationship to the Armenian Genocide shifted. Early on, Armenians had perceived the CUP as allies; and the beginnings of the Genocide, in the 1909 Adana massacre, had been rooted in reactionary Ottoman backlash against the Young Turks. But during World War I, the CUP’s increasing nationalism began to lead them to participate in the genocide. In 2005, the International Association of Genocide Scholars affirmed that scholarly evidence revealed the CUP "government of the Ottoman Empire began a systematic genocide of its Armenian citizens and unarmed Christian minority population. More than a million Armenians were exterminated through direct killing, starvation, torture, and forced death marches."