Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Tale of Enver Pasha

Sometimes the eyes tell it all. Consider the photo below. It is 15 October 1917 and Kaiser Wilhelm II is making a state visit to Constantinople to buoy up his Ottoman allies, who are feeling pressure on multiple fronts despite the impending departure of Russia from the war. Sultan Mehmet V is exchanging salutes with the Kaiser, while to his right his successor, the elderly sword-bearing Ottoman Crown Prince looks on. Numerous senior court officials and military officers hover around them solicitously. The dominant figure for the Turks, however, is the chap at the far left, dressed in the simple army field uniform, the one intensely and critically studying the Sultan.  Only 35 years of age, he appears to be both the youngest and most junior individual present, but he is the one standing closest to the Sultan, monitoring every utterance of both monarchs. He is the man in charge.

This is Enver Pasha, the most important of the three colleagues — the "Three Pashas" (honorific chiefs or lords) — who emerged to lead the reform movement known as the Young Turks and, by 1913, to command the Ottoman Empire, just on the eve of the Great War.

Originally the Young Turks were quite diverse, including intellectuals, civil servants, military officers, and members from religious and non-Turkish minority groups, mostly interested in restoring the empire to past glories through modernization, secularization, and parliamentary government. However, their 1908 revolt was perceived by many, both abroad and internally, as another sign of imperial disintegration, an opportunity for territorial acquisition by the big powers or for independence by separatists. The reformers found themselves besieged immediately in 1908, enmeshed with the series of diplomatic crises, the rise of nationalism, and the regional wars that directly led to the Great War. After the most militant, nationalistic wing of the Young Turks seized power in 1913, its leaders, the Three Pashas (primarily Enver), managed to bring the empire into the war — on the losing side.

1 comment:

  1. I see that Enver has an interesting post war accounting...intrigues in Germany and Bolshevik Russia.