Talaat Pasha

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Mehmed Talaat
Pasha
Mehmet Talat Pasha.jpg
Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire
In office
4 February 1917 – 8 October 1918
Monarch Mehmed V
Mehmed VI
Preceded by Said Halim Pasha
Succeeded by Ahmed Izzet Pasha
Minister of Finance
In office
November 1914 – 4 February 1917
Monarch Mehmed V
Preceded by Mehmet Cavit Bey
Succeeded by Abdurrahman Vefik Sayın (tr)
Minister of Interior
In office
23 January 1913 – 4 February 1917
Monarch Mehmed V
Personal details
Born 1874
Kırcaali, Edirne Vilayet, Ottoman Empire (modern Kardzhali, Kardzhali Province, Bulgaria)
Died 15 March 1921 (aged 47)
Berlin, Germany
Nationality Ottoman
Political party Committee of Union and Progress
Religion Bektashi[1]

Mehmed Talaat Pasha (Ottoman Turkish: محمد طلعت پاشا; Turkish: Mehmed Talât Pasha; 1874 – 15 March 1921), commonly known as Talaat Pasha, was one of the triumvirate known as the Three Pashas that de facto ruled the Ottoman Empire during the First World War.[2]

His career in Ottoman politics began by becoming Deputy for Edirne in 1908, then Minister of the Interior and Minister of Finance, and finally Grand Vizier (equivalent to Prime Minister) in 1917.[2] He fled the empire with Enver Pasha and Djemal Pasha (the other members of the Three Pashas) in 1918, and was assassinated in Berlin in 1921 by Soghomon Tehlirian, a survivor of the Armenian Genocide.[2]

Talaat Pasha, as Interior Minister, ordered on 24 April 1915 the arrest and deportation of Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople, and requested the Tehcir Law (Temporary Deportation Law) of 30 May 1915 that initiated the Armenian Genocide. He is widely considered the main perpetrator of the ethnic cleansing.[3][4][5][6]

Early life[edit]

Mehmed Talaat was born in 1874 in Kırcaali town of Edirne Vilayet into a family of Pomak descent.[7] His father was a junior civil servant working for the government of the Ottoman Empire and was from a village in the mountainous southeastern corner of present-day Bulgaria. Mehmed Talaat had a powerful build and a dark complexion.[8] His manners were gruff, which caused him to leave the civil preparatory school without a certificate after a conflict with his teacher. Without earning a degree, he joined the staff of the telegraph company as a postal clerk in Edirne. His salary was not high, so he worked after hours as a Turkish language teacher in the Alliance Israelite School which served the Jewish community of Edirne.[8]

At the age of 21 he had a love affair with the daughter of the Jewish headmaster for whom he worked. He was caught sending a telegram saying "Things are going well. I'll soon reach my goal." With two of his friends from the post office, he was charged with tampering with the official telegraph and arrested in 1893. He claimed that the message in question was to his girlfriend. The Jewish girl came forward to defend him. Sentenced to two years in jail, he was pardoned but exiled to Salonica as a postal clerk.[8]

He married Hayriye Hanım (later known as Hayriye Talaat Bafralı), a young girl from Yanya on 19 March 1910.[9]

Between 1898 and 1908 he served as a postman on the staff of the Salonica Post Office. Eventually, having served 10 years at this postal unit, he became head of the Salonica Post Office.[10]

Young Turk Revolution[edit]

Main article: Young Turk Revolution

In 1908, he was dismissed from membership in the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), the nucleus of the Young Turks movement. However, after the Young Turk Revolution of 1908, he became deputy of Edirne in the Ottoman Parliament, and in July 1909, he was appointed Minister of Interior Affairs. He became Minister of Post, and then Secretary-General of the CUP in 1912.

After the assassination of the Prime Minister (Grand Vizier) Mahmud Şevket Pasha in July 1913, Talaat Pasha again became Minister of Interior Affairs. Talaat, with Enver Pasha and Djemal Pasha, formed a group later known as the Three Pashas. These men formed the triumvirate that ran the Ottoman government until the end of World War I in October 1918.

Armenian Genocide[edit]

On 24 April 1915, Talaat issued an order to close all Armenian political organizations operating within the Ottoman Empire and arrest Armenians connected to them, justifying the action by stating that the organizations were controlled from outside the empire, were inciting upheavals behind the Ottoman lines, and were cooperating with Russian forces. This order resulted in the arrest on the night of 24/25 April 1915 of 235 to 270 Armenian community leaders in Istanbul, including politicians, clergymen, physicians, authors, journalists, lawyers, and teachers. Although the mass killings of Armenian civilians had begun in the Van vilayet several weeks earlier, these mass-arrests in Istanbul are considered by many commentators to be the start of the Armenian Genocide.[11]

Talaat also issued the order for the Tehcir Law of 1 June 1915 to 8 February 1916 that allowed for the mass-deportation of Armenians, a principal vehicle of the Armenian Genocide.[12]

Talaat, as minister of the interior, bears much of the responsibility for the deportation of the Armenians from the empire's eastern provinces to Syria. Most historians blame him for the barbarity of the operation and the deaths of millions of people (and not only of Armenian origin). Although Talaat was the minister of the interior, many historians argue that Enver Pasha deserves equal blame for the extermination of the Armenians.[13][14] He is reported to have said the following to Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr. in Ambassador Morgenthau's Story[15]

"I have accomplished more toward solving the Armenian problem in three months than Abdulhamid II accomplished in thirty years!"

Turkish feminist Halide Edip wrote in her Memoirs:

"There are two factors which lead man to the extermination of his kind: the principles advocated by the idealists, and the material interest which the consequences of doing so afford certain classes. The idealists are the more dangerous, for one is obliged to respect them even if one cannot agree with them. Talaat was of that kind. I saw Talaat very rarely after the Armenian deportations. I remember well one day when he nearly lost his temper in discussing the question and said in a severe tone: 'Look here, Halide Hanım. I have a heart as good as yours, and it keeps me awake at night to think of human suffering. But that is a personal thing, and I am here on this earth to think of my people and not of my sensibilities. If a Macedonian or Armenian leader gets the chance and the excuse he never neglects it. There was an equal number of Turks and Muslims massacred during the Balkan war, yet the world kept a criminal silence. I have the conviction that as long as a nation does the best for its own interests, and succeeds, the world admires it and thinks it moral. I am ready to die for what I have done, and I know I shall die for it."[16]

Grand Vizier, 1917–1918[edit]

Talat Pasha.jpg

In 1917, Talaat became the Grand Vizier, a post equivalent to that of Prime Minister, but was unable to reverse the downward spiral of Ottoman fortunes in his new position.

Over the next year, Jerusalem and Baghdad were lost. At the beginning of January 1918 with the Tsarist Army of the Caucasus departing, he had been influential in pursuing an offensive policy, convinced that despite all the pacifist rhetoric coming from Moscow 'the Russian leopard had not changed its spots'. The fall of Kars on 25 April 1918 reversed Russia's last conquest from the Berlin Treaty (1878) and Ottoman Turkey restored the 1877 borders against her Russian enemy. In October 1918 however, the British shattered both Ottoman armies they faced - and the armistice the British forced on Turkey at Mudros (30 October 1918) obliged the Ottoman army to evacuate Transcaucasia.[17] With defeat certain, Talaat had resigned on 14 October 1918.

Exile, 1919–1921[edit]

The front page of the Ottoman newspaper İkdam on 4 November 1918 after the Three Pashas fled the country following World War I.

Talaat Pasha fled the Ottoman capital in a German submarine on 3 November 1918, from Constantinople harbour to Berlin. Just a week later the Porte capitulated to the Allies and signed the Armistice of Mudros.

Public opinion was shocked by the departure of Talaat Pasha, even though he had been known to turn a blind eye on corrupt ministers appointed because of their associations to the CUP.[18] Talaat Pasha had a reputation for being courageous and patriotic, the type of individual who would willingly face the consequences of his actions.[18] With the occupation of Constantinople Izzet Pasha resigned. Tevfik Pasha took the position of Grand Vizier the same day that British ships entered the Golden Horn. Tevfik Pasha lasted until 4 March 1919, replaced by Ferid Pasha whose first order was the arrest of leading members of the CUP.

Turkish courts-martial of 1919–1920[edit]

Following the occupation of Constantinople by the Allied Powers, the British exerted pressure on the Sublime Porte and brought to trial the Ottoman leaders who had held positions of responsibility between 1914 and 1918, for having committed, among other charges, the Armenian Genocide. Those who were caught were put under arrest at the Bekiraga division and were subsequently exiled to Malta. The courts-martial were designed by Sultan Mehmed VI to punish the Committee of Union and Progress for the Empire's ill-conceived involvement in World War I. The Pashas who had held the highest positions in the administration and whose names were at the top of the execution lists of the Armenian assassination teams could be condemned in absentia because they had gone abroad.

By January 1919, a report to Sultan Mehmed VI accused over 130 suspects, most of whom were high officials. The indictment accused the main defendants, including Talaat, of being "mired in an unending chain of bloodthirstiness, plunder and abuses". They were accused of deliberately engineering Turkey's entry into the war "by a recourse to a number of vile tricks and deceitful means". They were also accused of "the massacre and destruction of the Armenians" and of trying to "pile up fortunes for themselves" through "the pillage and plunder" of their possessions. The indictment alleged that "The massacre and destruction of the Armenians were the result of decisions by the Central Committee of Ittihadd".[19] The Court released its verdict on 5 July 1919: Talat, Enver, Cemal, and Dr. Nazim were condemned to death in absentia.

However, the British were determined not to leave Talaat alone. The British had intelligence reports indicating that he had gone to Germany, and the British High Commissioner pressured Damad Ferit Pasha and the Sublime Porte to demand from Germany to return him to the Ottoman Empire. As a result of efforts pursued personally by (Sir) Andrew Ryan, a former Dragoman and now a member of the British intelligence service, Germany responded to the Ottoman Empire stating that it was willing to be helpful if official papers could be produced showing these persons had been found guilty, and added that the presence of these persons in Germany could not as yet be ascertained.[20]

Aubrey Herbert interview, 1921[edit]

The last official interview Talaat granted was to Aubrey Herbert, a British intelligence agent.[21] It was nine days before his assassination. The interview was conducted during a series of short meetings in a park in a small German town. The interview gave chance to Talaat to explain the policies of the Ottoman Empire during the last 10 years.

These meetings corroborated earlier intelligence to the effect that Talaat Pasha was seeking support from Muslim countries to form a serious opposition movement against the Allied Powers, and that he was soon intending to take refuge in Ankara, where the Turkish national movement was forming. Furthermore, Talaat Pasha also threatened that he was going to incite the Pan-Turanist and Pan-Islamist movements against England unless it signed a peace treaty favorable for Turkey.

During this interview, Talaat maintained on several occasions that the CUP had always sought British friendship and advice; but Britain was in no mood to offer any assistance whatsoever.[22]

Assassination, 1921[edit]

The headline of a 16 March 1921 New York Times article, announcing Talaat Pasha's assassination by Soghomon Tehlirian.

Before the assassination, the British intelligence services identified Talaat in Stockholm where he had gone for a few days. The British intelligence first planned to apprehend him in Berlin where he was planning to return, but then changed its mind because it feared the complications this would create in Germany. Another view in British intelligence was that Talaat should be apprehended by the Royal Navy at sea while returning from Scandinavia by ship. At the end, it was decided to let him return to Berlin, find out what he was trying to accomplish with his activities abroad, and to establish direct contact with him before giving the final verdict.[23] This was achieved with the help of Aubrey Herbert.

Their intelligence service established contact with its counterpart in the Soviet Union to evaluate the situation. Talaat Pasha's plans made the Russian officials as anxious as the British. The two intelligence services collaborated and signed among them the 'death warrant' of Talaat. Information concerning his physical description and his whereabouts was forwarded to their men in Germany.[23]

It was decided that Armenian revolutionaries carry out the verdict.[23] Talaat was assassinated with a single bullet on 15 March 1921 as he came out of his house in Hardenbergstrasse, Charlottenburg. His assassin was an Armenian Revolutionary Federation member from Erzurum named Soghomon Tehlirian.[24]

Trial of Soghomon Tehlirian[edit]

Soghomon Tehlirian admitted committing the murder. After a cursory two-day trial, he was found innocent by a German court on grounds of temporary insanity due to the traumatic experience he had gone through during the Genocide.

Posthumous memoirs[edit]

Shortly after the assassination of Talaat in March 1921, the "Posthumous Memoirs of Talaat" was published in the October volume of The New York Times Current History.[25] In this memoir, he accepted that the deportation was not carried out lawfully everywhere. He claimed that in the region there was hatred among the Armenians and Kurdish who had a bitter history, that there were officials who abused their authority, and that the region became unlawful and people took preventive measures into their own hands. He accepted that the duty of the government was to prevent these abuses and atrocities, and claimed that as the minister of interior, he ordered the arrest and punishment of those who were responsible according to the law.[25]

I admit that we deported Armenians from our eastern provinces, and we acted in this matter upon a previously prepared scheme. The responsibility of these acts falls upon the deported people themselves. Russians ... had armed and equipped the Armenian inhabitants of this district [Van] ... and had organized strong Armenian bandit forces. ... When we entered the Great War, these bandits began their destructive activities in the rear of the Turkish army on the Caucasus front, blowing up the bridges and killing the innocent Mohammedan inhabitants regardless of age and sex... All these Armenian bandits were helped by the native Armenians.[26]

—Mehmed Talaat

Burial[edit]

He was buried in the Turkish Cemetery in Berlin. In 1943, his remains were taken to Istanbul and reburied in Şişli. His war memoirs were published after his death.

Current opinions in Turkey[edit]

As of 2012, Mehmet Talaat Pasha has many prominent streets named after him in the modern day state of Turkey, although many Turks blame him (as well as the rest of the Three Pashas) for causing the Ottoman Empire's entry into World War I and its subsequent partitioning by the Allies. Turkey's founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk widely criticized Talaat Pasha and his colleagues for their policies immediately during and immediately prior to the First World War.[27]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ It is certainly definite that a number of Young Turks were members of the Bektashi order and that some were both Freemasons and Bektashis — Talat Pasha, Riza Tevfik, and the Sheyhulislam Musa Kazim Efendi were all in this category. (Ernest Edmondson Ramsaur, The Young Turks: Prelude to the Revolution of 1908, Russell & Russell, 1970, p. 113.)
  2. ^ a b c Sylvia Kedourie, S Tanvir Wasti (1996) Turkey: Identity, Democracy, Politics. ISBN 0-7146-4718-7 p. 96
  3. ^ Akçam, Taner (2006). A Shameful Act. New York: Holt & Co. pp. 165, 186–187. 
  4. ^ Kiernan, Ben (2007). Blood and Soil: Genocide and Extermination in World History from Carthage to Darfur. Yale University Press. p. 414. 
  5. ^ Rosenbaum, Alan S. (2001). Is the Holocaust Unique?. Westview Press. pp. 122–123. 
  6. ^ Naimark, Norman (2001). Fires of hatred. Harvard University Press. p. 57. 
  7. ^ Taner Timur, Türkler ve Ermeniler: 1915 ve Sonrası, İmge Kitabevi, 2001, ISBN 978-975-533-318-2, p. 53. (Turkish)
  8. ^ a b c Mango, Andrew (2004). Atatürk. London: John Murray. p. 67. ISBN 978-0-7195-6592-2. 
  9. ^ http://books.google.com.tr/books?id=cYlpAAAAMAAJ&q=talat+pasa+hayriye+hanimla+evlendi&dq=talat+pasa+hayriye+hanimla+evlendi&hl=tr&sa=X&ei=pkKvU-WVFrTN7AbYiIGoBA&ved=0CCcQ6AEwAw
  10. ^ http://www.telekomculardernegi.org.tr/haber-2730-iz-birakan-ptt%E2%80%99ciler--1--talat-pasa-.html
  11. ^ Demourian, Avet (25 April 2009). "Armenians mark massacre anniversary". The Boston Globe. 
  12. ^ Josh Belzman (23 April 2006). "PBS effort to bridge controversy creates more". MSNBC. Retrieved 5 October 2006. 
  13. ^ David Fromkin "A Peace to End all Peace", pg 212-213
  14. ^ The Story of Enver Pasha and his Times at the Wayback Machine (archived October 26, 2009) Part 4: Armenians are nothing to me
  15. ^ Ambassador Morgenthau's Story. 1918. Chapter Twenty-Five
  16. ^ Memoirs of Halide Edip by Halide Edip, The Century Company, NY, 1926, p. 387 for further reading
  17. ^ Sean Mcmeekin, The Berlin-Baghdad Express, p.330,337
  18. ^ a b Kedourie, Sylvia (1996). Turkey: Identity, Democracy, Politics. Routledge. p. 15. ISBN 0-7146-4718-7. 
  19. ^ V. Dadrian, "The History of the Armenian Genocide" p323-324.
  20. ^ Oke, Mim Kemal: The Armenian question 1914-1923. Nicosia: Oxford 1988, ataa.org
  21. ^ Herbert, Aubrey (1925). Ben Kendim: A Record of Eastern Travel. G. P. Putnam's sons ltd. p. 41. ISBN 0-7146-4718-7. 
  22. ^ Kedourie, Sylvia (1996). Turkey: Identity, Democracy, Politics. Routledge. p. 41. ISBN 0-7146-4718-7. 
  23. ^ a b c Oke, Mim Kemal (1988). The Armenian question 1914-1923. Rustem & Brother. ISBN 978-9963-565-16-0. 
  24. ^ Operationnemesis.com
  25. ^ a b Talaat Pasha, "Posthumous Memoirs of Talaat Pasha", The New York Times Current History, Vol. 15, no. 1 (October 1921): 295
  26. ^ Hovannisian, Richard (1987). The Armenian Genocide in Perspective. Transaction Publishers. p. 142. 
  27. ^ Muammer Kaylan. The Kemalists: Islamic Revival and the Fate of Secular Turkey. Prometheus Books, Publishers. p. 77. ISBN 978-1-61592-897-2. 

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Minister of Interior
4 February 1917 – 23 January 1913
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Mehmet Cavit Bey
Minister of Finance
November 1914 – 4 February 1917
Succeeded by
Abdurrahman Vefik Sayın (tr)
Preceded by
Said Halim Pasha
Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire
4 February 1917 – 8 October 1918
Succeeded by
Ahmed Izzet Pasha