The Young Turk Revolution

Of the dynasties which fell just before, during, or just after the First World War, the one that had had the longest history was the Ottoman dynasty.  It had begun in the late 1200s and continued with no breaks until 1918, through 36 generations.  The Young Turk Revolution occurred in 1908 and set for the first time serious limits on the power of the Ottoman sultan, and it would then be only 10 years before the office of sultan was abolished.

The Young Turks were mostly Ottoman military officers who had had higher education, were trained in various disciplines of use to military life, and became more and more opposed to the misrule of the sultan and his top officials.  One after another section of the empire had broken away and established new independent nation states.  These officers decided that it was time for the Turks themselves to establish their own nation state and found that to do so required the abolition of the multinational Ottoman dynasty.

Young Turks
Ataturk Soldier

In the photo on the left, you can see the Young Turk leadership at the time of the revolution in 1907.  Conspicuously absent is Mustafa Kemal who would be the one Young Turk responsible in the late years of the war and then after the war for creating the Republic of Turkey.  But in 1907 he was still a junior army officer.  He is portrayed in the photo on the right, saluting his troops, after World War One and during the period of the Turkish "war of independence."  We will be dealing with this in the preparation for your final paper on The Making of the Modern Middle East.

You can click on Proclamation to read the document that the Young Turk leadership issued in 1908 containing their plans for the state.  Several of the items make it clear that they have in mind the creation of a "nation state", but one quite different from those established already by peoples who had once been in the Ottoman Empire, including the Greeks, Bulgarians and Serbs.  First, in article 7, they state that there will be only one official state language - Turkish.  But, in #9, they say that regardless of nationality and religion, everyone will be treated exactly the same under the law.  All of the peoples will also have full rights to exercise their religions without interference.  On the other hand,  #17 orders that all schools will be under the control of the state government and all students will receive the same education.

As in the case of Shuster in Iran, which you have already read, you may read here the New York Times' account of this revolution.  Click on Young Turk Revolution in the New York Times.  As students at Michigan State University, you have the right to access the full digital New York Times, back to 1853. Every page is available.  You can search by date, subject, even word.  Click on MSU Electronic Resources, and once there, type in the New York Times, and you're ready to search.  You will find that MSU has online hundreds of newspapers and journals, all accessible by MSU students at no cost.

Now that you have thought about these three revolutions, do you see any similarities, any differences?  How do they compare with the revolutions you studied in earlier units?  industrial revolution? French revolution?