Young Turks

A lithograph celebrating the Young Turk Revolution, featuring the sources of inspiration of the movement, Midhat Pasha, Prince Sabahaddin, Fuad Pasha and Namık Kemal, military leaders Niyazi Bey and Enver Pasha, and the slogan liberty, equality, fraternity ("hürriyet, müsavat, uhuvvet")

Young Turks (Turkish: Jön Türkler, from French: Les Jeunes Turcs)[citation needed] was a Turkish nationalist party in the early 20th century that consisted of Ottoman exiles, students, civil servants, and army officers.[1] They favoured the replacement of the Ottoman Empire's absolute monarchy with a constitutional government. Later, their leaders led a rebellion against the absolute rule of Sultan Abdul Hamid II in the 1908 Young Turk Revolution.[2] With this revolution, the Young Turks helped to establish the Second Constitutional Era in 1908, ushering in an era of multi-party democracy for the first time in the country's history.[3]

After 1908, the Young Turks' initial umbrella political party, the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP; Turkish: İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti),[4] began a series of political reforms and military modernization across the Ottoman Empire. However, the CUP soon began to splinter as many of the more liberal and pro-decentralization Young Turks left to form an opposition party in late 1911, the Freedom and Accord Party (also known as the Liberal Union or Liberal Entente),[5] with much of those staying in the CUP favoring a generally nationalist and pro-centralization policy.[6] In a year-long power struggle throughout 1912, Freedom and Accord and the remaining members of the CUP vied for control of the Ottoman government, the year seeing a rigged election by the CUP and a military revolt by Freedom and Accord.

The struggle between the two groups of Young Turks ended in January 1913, when the top leadership of the CUP seized power from the Freedom and Accord in the Raid on the Sublime Porte. The subsequent CUP-led government was headed by interior minister and Grand Vizier Talaat Pasha. Working with him were war minister Enver Pasha and naval minister Djemal Pasha. These "Three Pashas", as they came to be known, exercised absolute control over the Ottoman Empire from 1913 to 1918, bringing the country closer to Germany, signing the Ottoman–German Alliance to enter the Empire into World War I on the side of the Central Powers,[7][8][9] and carrying out the Armenian Genocide.[10] Following the war, the struggle between the two groups of Young Turks revived, with the Freedom and Accord Party regaining control of the Ottoman government and Three Pashas fleeing into exile. Freedom and Accord rule was short lived, however, and the empire soon collapsed.

The term "Young Turk" is now used generally to denote a member of an insurgent group within an organization (often, although not always, a political party) advocating change, sometimes radical change, in that organization.[11]



Inspired by the Young Italy political movement, like other revolutionary societies[which], the Young Turks had their origins in secret societies of "progressive medical university students and military cadets",[12] 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.[2] The Young Turks favored a re-instatement of the Ottoman Parliament and the 1876 constitution,[2] written by the progressive Midhat Pasha.[13]

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,[citation needed] a member of the Institut de France. The opposition was performed in compliance with the French government.[citation needed] 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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Second Constitutional Era

Declaration of the Young Turk Revolution by the leaders of the Ottoman millets in 1908

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.[citation needed]

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,[citation needed] 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."[12]

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.[14] On November 2, Enver, Talaat and Djemal, along with their German allies, fled from Istanbul into exile.[citation needed]

1915–1918: 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.[15] 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.[16]

Around this period, the CUP's relationship to the Armenian Genocide shifted. Early on, Armenians had perceived the CUP as allies;[citation needed] 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[17] 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."

Other Languages
العربية: تركيا الفتاة
asturianu: Mozos Turcos
azərbaycanca: Gənc türklər
башҡортса: Йәш төрөктәр
català: Joves Turcs
čeština: Mladoturci
Deutsch: Jungtürken
Ελληνικά: Νεότουρκοι
español: Jóvenes Turcos
Esperanto: Junaj Turkoj
français: Jeunes-Turcs
galego: Mozos Turcos
hrvatski: Mladoturci
Bahasa Indonesia: Turki Muda
íslenska: Ungtyrkir
italiano: Giovani Turchi
Latina: Neoturcae
македонски: Младотурци
Nederlands: Jonge Turken
oʻzbekcha/ўзбекча: Yosh turklar
ਪੰਜਾਬੀ: ਜਵਾਨ ਤੁਰਕ
polski: Młodoturcy
português: Jovens Turcos
română: Junii Turci
русский: Младотурки
shqip: Xhonturqit
српски / srpski: Младотурци
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Mladoturci
svenska: Ungturkarna
Türkçe: Jön Türkler
українська: Молодотурки