YOUNG TURK REVOLUTION (1908-1909) | Essay for CSS and PMS
YOUNG TURK REVOLUTION (1908-1909) | Essay for CSS and PMS
The Young Turk Revolution of 1908 reversed the suspension of the Ottoman parliament by Sultan Abdul Hamid II, marking the onset of the Second Constitutional Era. A landmark in the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the Revolution arose from an unlikely union of reform-minded pluralists, Turkish nationalists, Western-oriented secularists, and indeed anyone who accorded the Sultan political blame for the harried state of the Empire.
The Revolution restored the parliament, which had been suspended by the Sultan in 1878. However, the process of supplanting the monarchic institutions with constitutional institutions and electoral policies was neither as simple nor as bloodless as the regime change. The periphery of the Empire continued to splinter under the pressures of local revolutions.
The Revolution restored the parliament, which had been suspended by the Sultan in 1878. However, the process of replacing existing institutions with constitutional institutions proved much more difficult than expected and before long power was invested in a new elite, led by the Grand Vizier. The movement wanted to modernize and democratize on the one hand while on the other it wanted to preserve what was left of the empire. The promised decentralization was abandoned when the leaders realized that this compromised security. In fact, the periphery of the Empire continued to splinter under pressure from local revolutions. Indifference from former allies such as the British which, as did France had ambitions in the region, the Young Turks were compelled to embrace Germany as an ally in the hope that this would preserve the empire. Instead. this alliance led to the ottoman defeat 1n World War I and to the end of their own power after the war. However, they laid some of the ground on which the new nation-state of Turkey would be built under the leadership of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, himself a Young Turk. The potential democratization project represented by the Young Turk Revolution had at the time no parallel among other imperial powers, such as the British and French, whose leaders were nowhere near contemplating granting self-determination to their African and Asian possessions.
Following are the causes
The Young Turk movement began among exiled Ottomans in places such as Paris and Geneva. It was influenced by the French Revolution and in tum influenced the Constitution of 1876. That Constitution had been suspended by the autocratic Sultan, Abdul Hamid II in 1878. The movement. however, continued to gather momentum. The Young Turks wanted a democratic solution to the Empire’s problems, which included the need for economic reform, tax reform and halting any further disintegration. From 188 I, Ottoman finances was handled by the Ottoman Public Debt Administration, appointed by European creditors. Almost all Balkan provinces were now independent states. Although nationalistic, the Young Turk movement opted for a multi-ethnic understanding of the Ottoman space. By granting greater autonomy to different ethnic groups it hoped to preserve the Empire.
The movement was “fighting for the modernization and strengthening of the Empire, under Western constitutional principles, and these included the equality of all races.” On the one hand, Europe’s emerging constitutional monarchies provided the model they wanted to imitate; on the other hand, they wanted to end European influence and interference in Ottoman affairs. Support for the movement came from diverse groups, including some of the different ethnic and religious communities. In 1906, the various Diaspora-based organization united with the Salonika-based Ottoman Society for Liberty to form the “Committee of Union and Progress” (CUP), effectively a political party. This new organization was dominated by the officers of the Third Army. Fearing the army, the Sultan was starving it of funds. In an effort to “throttle the conspiracy” the Sultan deployed thousands of secret agents but it continued to thrive. Although some members wanted to abolish the sultanate, most wanted to impose constitutional limitations on the sultan’s power. From the outset, members believed that a revolution would be necessary to end the sultan’s authoritarian rule.
The revolution was, in essence, the overthrow of the Sultan’s autocratic power by the upper-class Turks, and the substitution therefor, of a parliamentary government under their control. The earlier attempt to secure constitutional government, connected with the name of Midhat Pasha and resulting in the constitution of December 23, 1876, was a failure, due to the lack at that time of any feeling for its necessity among the ruling caste. Thirty years of increasingly centralized government, the universal espionage which made all life miserable, the assassination or exile of all who opposed the regime in the slightest detail, the loss of territory and of prestige, the consciousness that the economic penetration of the foreign powers could end only in the dissolution of the Empire, forced the Turks of all classes to consider the constitution their only salvation. The leaders in Paris studied in detail successful revolutions of the past, arranged their differences as between radical and conservative, invited in the other nationalistic revolutionary parties, especially the Armenians, but retained control in their own hands.
Discontent within the 3rd Army Corps in Macedonia was the main reason for the revolt. Major Ahmed Niyazi, fearing discovery of his political moves by an investigatory committee sent from the capital, decamped from Resen on July 3, 1908, with 200 followers demanding restoration of the constitution. The sultan’s attempt to suppress this uprising failed due to the popularity of the movement among the troops themselves. The rebellion spread rapidly. On July 24, Abdiil Hamid announced the restoration of the constitution.
A significant result of the 1908 Young Turk Revolution was
- The gradual creation of a new governing elite.
- Indirectly led to the deposition of Sultan Abdul Hamid II in favour of Mehmed V the following year
- Opening a path for consolidation over the Ottoman civil and military administration, Coup of 1913.
- Young Turks, small organizations, consolidated under the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP).
- Committee of Union and Progress became the new power centre in Ottoman politics.
- Armenian Revolutionary Federation replaced the pre-1908 Annenian elite, which had been composed of merchants, artisans, and clerics who had seen their future in obtaining more privileges within the boundaries of the state’s version of Ottomanism.
- The Muslim Albanian elite, who had greatly benefited from the Hamidian regime in return for their fidelity to the sultan, was also replaced by an intellectual-nationalist elite. With members such as Bajram Curri, Nexhib Draga, and Myfit Libohova, the revolution aimed at uniting Albanians of three different faiths under the flag of Skenderbeu and called for reforms for the benefit of all Albanians.
- In some communities, such as the Jewish (cf. Jews in Islamic Europe and North Africa and History of the Jews in Turkey), reformist groups emulating the Young Turks ousted the conservative ruling elite and replaced them with a new reformist one.