Turkish Nationalism

Turkish Nationalism

     In the years before 1908 a broad movement arose against the absolute power of Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II. This Young Turk opposition included a wide array of Ottomans, but its core consisted of Turkish-speaking Muslim army officers, organized in the Committee of Union and Progress, who first limited the sultan’s authority and then in 1909 deposed him. During the short time from 1908 until the outbreak of World War I in 1914, the new government faced many foreign policy problems, including war with Italy and several wars in the Balkans. Domestically, there was a struggle for control of central authority and a continuing process of defining the basic ideology of the state, with Ottoman, Islamic, and Turkish identities in dispute.
     The ethnic nationalist separatism that had started with the independence of Greece and the autonomy of Serbia continued in the last years of the Ottoman Empire as Arabs and other Ottoman subjects of different linguistic, ethic, and religious backgrounds agitated for new cultural and political roles.  When the Committee of Union and Progress leaders learned of Arab nationalism, they sought to suppress the Arab secret societies, arguing that the desperate situation of the empire by 1914 necessitated unity(Fisher N., S. The Midde East: A History . New York : McGraw-Hill) .
     The Young Turk revolution of 1908 was a reaction to the political absolutism and repression experienced during the long reign of Sultan Abdulhamid II. Added to this was the growing westernization of certain Ottomans and the effect of contemporary European liberals ideas upon Ottoman youth. After the suspension of the constitution of 1876 dissident Ottomans living in exile in Europe dreamed of governmental reform at home. In 1889, at the Istanbul Military Unity Society, which subscribed to nationalist ideas. Memberships spread to other government schools. The sultan heard of the committee through his secret agents and took reprisals against the students. Nonetheless, the committee slowly grew. By 1896 more important elements of Ottoman society dominated the committee, and it attracted members who had belonged to such earlier groupings of rebellious spirits as the Young Ottomans and Young Turks (Fisher N., S. The Midde East: A History . New York : McGraw-Hill ).

The Young Turks wanted Sultan Abdulhamid II removed, the constitution restored, and believed  all would be better for it.  Many arrests were made which stopped the society’s coup in 1896. The sultan only sent the leaders to remote parts of the empire, whence they slipped away to Paris and Geneva. This  shattered the Committee of Union and Progress. Nevertheless, every class at the Military Academy was infected with the need for revolution. At the General Staff Academy in 1905, a young leader by the name of Mustafa Kemal, was arrested as a revolutionary. After he was released, he was stationed in Syria. At his station he organized a secret underground society  and pledged to overthrow

Mustafa Kemal

 Abdulhamid II and establish a just government.  He and the other members of his organization targeted Macedonia to use as a big launching ground for their revolutionary   propaganda. In 1907,  fugitives from  Salonica won over supporters in Paris to the possibility of armed revolution. Abdulhamid’s enemies joined them in a  congress of Ottoman liberals, at which even a Armenian society was represented. After the meeting in Paris, Salonica groups merged together under the original name of the Committee of Union and Progress. Mustafa will later establish his six arrows including republicanism, secularism, nationalism, statism, industrialism, and revolutionism as goals for the country (Fisher N., S. The Midde East: A History . New York : McGraw-Hill) .
The Triumvirate
 Mahmud Shevket Pasha became grand vizir when the Committee of Union and Progress finally seized power in January 1913. In June Shevket Pasha was assinated and replaced by a mild Egyptian prince, however he gave power to the triumvirate of the committee including Talat, Enver, Jemal. Talat Bey was the minister of interior and was poor, modest, and very intelligent organizer. He believed that the view of morals shifted from the individual to the state, emphasizing the state’s interest over the individual’s interest. Enver Bey was minister of war and was very direct and believed strongly in the German war machine. He was arguably the most influential individual who brought about the German-Ottoman Alliance. Lastly, Jemal Pasha was the governor of Istanbul and was a supporter of the nationalist movement. This was a very powerful group of people and it’s party held a lot of power during this time. By 1914, support for the Young Turks faded, resulting in lost wars and territory(Fisher N., S. The Midde East: A History . New York : McGraw-Hill).
   The Turkish National Anthem
The İstiklâl Marşı (Independence March) is the Turkish National Anthem, officially adopted on 12 March 1921 – two and a half years before the 29 October 1923 establishment of the Republic of Turkey, both as a motivational musical saga for the troops fighting in the Turkish War of Independence, and as an anthem for a Republic that was yet to be established.

VocalNationalAnthems (Director). (2010). Istiklal Marsi – Turkey National Anthem English lyrics [Motion Picture].


Image Credit can be found at the following:

Abdulhamid II


Mustafa Kemal


Turkish Nationalism


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