Talaat Pasha

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Mehmed Talaat

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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 byAbdurrahman Vefik Sayın
Minister of Interior
In office
23 January 1913 4 February 1917
Monarch Mehmed V
Personal details
Born10 April 1874
Kırcaali, Adrianople Vilayet, Ottoman Empire (modern Kardzhali, Kardzhali Province, Bulgaria)
Died15 March 1921 (age 46)
Berlin, Germany
Nationality Ottoman
Political party Committee of Union and Progress
Spouse(s)Hayriye Talat Bafralı

Mehmed Talaat (Ottoman Turkish : محمد طلعت; Turkish : Mehmet Talât; 10 April 1874 – 15 March 1921), commonly known as Talaat Pasha (Ottoman Turkish : طلعت پاشا; Turkish : Talât Paşa), was one of the triumvirate known as the Three Pashas that de facto ruled the Ottoman Empire during the First World War. [1] He was one of the leaders of the Young Turks and ruled the empire during the Armenian Genocide, which he initiated as Minister of Interior Affairs in 1915.

Ottoman Turkish, or the Ottoman language, is the variety of the Turkish language that was used in the Ottoman Empire. It borrows extensively, in all aspects, from Arabic and Persian, and it was written in the Ottoman Turkish alphabet. During the peak of Ottoman power, words of foreign origin heavily outnumbered native Turkish words, with Arabic and Persian vocabulary accounting for up to 88% of the Ottoman vocabulary.

Turkish language Turkic language mainly spoken and used in Turkey

Turkish, also referred to as Istanbul Turkish, and sometimes known as Turkey Turkish, is the most widely spoken of the Turkic languages, with around ten to fifteen million native speakers in Southeast Europe and sixty to sixty-five million native speakers in Western Asia. Outside Turkey, significant smaller groups of speakers exist in Germany, Bulgaria, North Macedonia, Northern Cyprus, Greece, the Caucasus, and other parts of Europe and Central Asia. Cyprus has requested that the European Union add Turkish as an official language, even though Turkey is not a member state.

A triumvirate is a political regime ruled or dominated by three powerful individuals known as triumvirs. The arrangement can be formal or informal. Though the three are notionally equal, this is rarely the case in reality. The term can also be used to describe a state with three different military leaders who all claim to be the sole leader.


His career in Ottoman politics began by becoming deputy for Adrianople (Edirne) in 1908, then minister of the interior and minister of finance, and finally grand vizier (equivalent to prime minister) in 1917. [1] Acting as the minister of interior, Talaat Pasha ordered on 24 April 1915 the arrest and deportation of Armenian intellectuals in Constantinople, most of them being ultimately murdered, and on 30 May 1915 requested the Tehcir Law (Temporary Deportation Law); these events initiated the Armenian Genocide. He is widely considered the main perpetrator of the genocide, [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] and thus is held responsible for the death of between 800,000 and 1,800,000 [7] [8] [9] [10] Armenians.

Edirne City in Marmara, Turkey

Edirne, historically known as Adrianople, is a city in the northwestern Turkish province of Edirne in the region of East Thrace, close to Turkey's borders with Greece and Bulgaria. Edirne served as the third capital city of the Ottoman Empire from 1369 to 1453, before Constantinople became the empire's fourth and final capital between 1453 and 1922. The city's estimated population in 2014 was 165,979.

Deportation of Armenian intellectuals on 24 April 1915 part of Armenian Genocide

The deportation of Armenian intellectuals, sometimes known as Red Sunday, was the first major event of the Armenian Genocide. Leaders of the Armenian community in the Ottoman capital of Constantinople, and later other locations, were arrested and moved to two holding centers near Angora. The order to do so was given by Minister of the Interior Talaat Pasha on 24 April 1915. On that night, the first wave of 235 to 270 Armenian intellectuals of Constantinople were arrested. Eventually, the total number of arrests and deportations amounted to 2,345. With the adoption of the Tehcir Law on 29 May 1915, these detainees were later relocated within the Ottoman Empire; most of them were ultimately killed. A few, such as Vrtanes Papazian and Komitas, were saved through intervention.

Tehcir Law

The Tehcir Law, or, officially by the Republic of Turkey, the "Sevk ve İskân Kanunu" was a law passed by the Ottoman Parliament on May 27, 1915 authorizing the deportation of the Ottoman Empire's Armenian population. The resettlement campaign resulted in the deaths of anywhere between 800,000 and over 1,800,000 civilians in what is commonly referred to as the Armenian Genocide. The bill was officially enacted on June 1, 1915 and expired on February 8, 1916.

On the night of 2–3 November 1918 and with the aid of Ahmed Izzet Pasha, Talaat Pasha and Enver Pasha (the two main perpetrators of the genocide) fled the Ottoman Empire. Talaat was assassinated in Berlin in 1921 by Soghomon Tehlirian, a member of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, as part of Operation Nemesis. [1]

Ahmed Izzet Pasha Ottoman general and statesman

Ahmed İzzet Pasha, known as Ahmet İzzet Furgaç after the Turkish Surname Law of 1934, was an Ottoman general during World War I. He was also one of the last Grand Viziers of the Ottoman Empire and its last Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Enver Pasha Ottoman military officer and a leader of the Young Turk revolution

Ismail Enver Pasha was an Ottoman military officer and a leader of the 1908 Young Turk Revolution. He became the main leader of the Ottoman Empire in both the Balkan Wars (1912–13) and in World War I (1914–18). In the course of his career he was known by increasingly elevated titles as he rose through military ranks, including Enver Efendi, Enver Bey, and finally Enver Pasha, "pasha" being the honorary title Ottoman military officers gained on promotion to the rank of Mirliva.

Berlin Capital of Germany

Berlin is the capital and largest city of Germany by both area and population. Its 3,748,148 (2018) inhabitants make it the second most populous city proper of the European Union after London. The city is one of Germany's 16 federal states. It is surrounded by the state of Brandenburg, and contiguous with Potsdam, Brandenburg's capital. The two cities are at the center of the Berlin-Brandenburg capital region, which is, with about six million inhabitants and an area of more than 30,000 km², Germany's third-largest metropolitan region after the Rhine-Ruhr and Rhine-Main regions.

Early life

Mehmed Talaat was born in 1874 in Kırcaali town of Adrianople (Edirne) Vilayet into a family of Pomak and Gypsy descent. [11] [12] 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. [13] 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 Adrianople. 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 Adrianople. [13]

Kardzhali Town in Bulgaria

Kardzhali, sometimes spelt Kardzali or Kurdzhali, is a town in the Eastern Rhodopes in Bulgaria, centre of Kardzhali Municipality and Kardzhali Province. The noted Kardzhali Dam is located nearby.

Adrianople Vilayet Ottoman province

The Vilayet of Adrianople or Vilayet of Edirne was a first-level administrative division (vilayet) of the Ottoman Empire.

Bulgaria country in Southeast Europe

Bulgaria, officially the Republic of Bulgaria, is a country in Southeast Europe. It is bordered by Romania to the north, Serbia and North Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, and the Black Sea to the east. The capital and largest city is Sofia; other major cities are Plovdiv, Varna and Burgas. With a territory of 110,994 square kilometres (42,855 sq mi), Bulgaria is Europe's 16th-largest country.

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 (Thessaloniki) as a postal clerk. [13]

Thessaloniki City in Macedonia, Greece

Thessaloniki, also known as Thessalonica, Saloniki or Salonica, is the second-largest city in Greece, with over 1 million inhabitants in its metropolitan area, and the capital of the geographic region of Macedonia, the administrative region of Central Macedonia and the Decentralized Administration of Macedonia and Thrace. It is also known in Greek as η Συμπρωτεύουσα, literally "the co-capital", a reference to its historical status as the Συμβασιλεύουσα (Symvasilévousa) or "co-reigning" city of the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire, alongside Constantinople.

He married Hayriye Hanım (later known as Hayriye Talaat Bafralı), a young girl from Ioannina on 19 March 1910. [14]

Ioannina Place in Greece

Ioannina, often called Yannena within Greece, is the capital and largest city of the Ioannina regional unit and of Epirus, an administrative region in north-western Greece. Its population is 65,574, according to 2011 census. It lies at an elevation of approximately 500 metres above sea level, on the western shore of lake Pamvotis (Παμβώτις). Ioannina is located 410 km (255 mi) northwest of Athens, 260 kilometres southwest of Thessaloniki and 80 km east of the port of Igoumenitsa in the Ionian Sea.

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. [15]

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 for Adrianople in the Ottoman Parliament, and in July 1909, he was appointed minister of interior affairs. He became minister of posts, 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

According to various sources, Talaat Pasha had developed plans to eliminate the Armenians as early as 1910. Danish philologist Johannes Østrup wrote in his memoirs that in the autumn of 1910, Talaat talked openly about his plans to "exterminate" the Armenians with him. [16] [17] According to Østrup, Talaat stated: "If I ever come to power in this country, I will use all my might to exterminate the Armenians." [16] [17] In November of that year, a decision to carry out such a plan was made in Salonica (Thessaloniki) where a secret conference was held by prominent members of the CUP. The conference concluded that the Ottoman Empire, which promoted equality among Muslims and non-Muslims alike, was not ideologically compatible anymore, and that the Ottoman Empire should adopt a policy of Turkification. [18] Talaat, who attended the conference, was a leading advocate of this policy shift and stated in a speech that "there can be no question of equality, until we have succeeded in our task of ottomanizing the Empire." [19] Such a decision ultimately required the assimilation of non-Turkish elements within the empire and if necessary, it could be done through force. [18] British ambassador Gerard Lowther concluded after the conference that the "committee have given up any idea of Ottomanizing all the non-Turkish elements by sympathetic and Constitutional ways has long been manifest. To them 'Ottoman' evidently means 'Turk' and their present policy of 'Ottomanization' is one of pounding the non-Turkish elements in a Turkish mortar." [19] [20]

Talaat, along with Enver and Cemal, eventually represented the radical faction of the committee. In 1913, the faction ultimately seized power through a violent coup establishing the rule of the Three Pashas, which was also known as the "dictatorial triumvirate". [21] The Three Pashas then became largely responsible for the Ottoman Empire's entry into World War I. With the start of World War I, the Three Pashas found a suitable opportunity to begin their campaign of exterminating the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire. [21] [22] [23] [24]

Original copy of instruction from Talaat on 24 April 1915 to arrest Armenian intellectuals and community leaders Instruction of the Ministery of the Interior on april 24.png
Original copy of instruction from Talaat on 24 April 1915 to arrest Armenian intellectuals and community leaders

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 Constantinople (Istanbul), including politicians, clergymen, physicians, authors, journalists, lawyers, and teachers, the majority of whom were eventually murdered. [25] Although the mass killings of Armenian civilians had begun in the vilayet of Van several weeks earlier, these mass arrests in Constantinople are considered by many commentators to be the start of the Armenian Genocide. [25] [26] [27]

Talaat then 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 means of carrying out the Armenian Genocide. [28] The deportees did not receive any humanitarian assistance and there is no evidence that the Ottoman government provided the extensive facilities and supplies that would have been necessary to sustain the life of hundreds of thousands of Armenian deportees during their forced march to the Syrian desert or after. [27] [29] Meanwhile, the deportees were subject to periodic rape and massacre, often the result of direct orders by the CUP. Talaat, who was a telegraph operator from a young age, had installed a telegraph machine in his own home and sent "sensitive" telegrams during the course of the deportations. [22] [30] This was confirmed by Talaat's wife Hayriye, who stated that she often saw him using it to give direct orders to what she believed were provincial governors. [31] In a session of the Ottoman parliament, Ottoman statesman Reshid Akif Pasha testified that he had uncovered documents which demonstrated the process by which official statements made use of vague terminology when ordering deportation only to be clarified by special orders of "massacres" sent directly from CUP headquarters or often from the residence of Talaat himself. [32] He testified:

While humbly occupying my last post in the Cabinet, which barely lasted 25 to 30 days, I became cognizant of some secrets. I came across something strange in this respect. It was this official order for deportation, issued by the notorious Interior Ministry and relayed to the provinces. However, following [the issuance of] this official order, the Central Committee [of Union and Progress] undertook to send an ominous circular order to all points [in the provinces], urging the expediting of the execution of the accursed mission of the brigands. Thereupon, the brigands proceeded to act and the atrocious massacres were the result. [33] [n 1]

Hasan Tahsin Uzer, Governor of Erzurum, similarly testified during the Mamuretulaziz (now Elazig) trial that the special forces unit Special Organization (Teşkilât-ı Mahsusa), under the command of Behaeddin Shakir, was mobilized to kill Armenians and that this organization was in constant contact with the Ministry of Interior. He explained:

Then there was another Teskilat-ı Mahsusa, and that one had Bahaeddin Sakir's signature on it. In other words, he was sending telegrams around as the head of the Teskilat-ı Mahsusa...Bahaeddin Sakir had a code. He'd communicate with the Sublime Porte and with the Ministry of the Interior with it. [34]

Other sources also point to such telegrams directing massacre being sent from Talaat Pasha. Rafael de Nogales Méndez, a Venuzelan officer who served the Ottoman Army, visited Diyarbakır on 26 June 1915 and spoke with the governor Mehmet Reşid, who was later known as the "butcher of Diyarbakir". [35] [36] Nogales Méndez recounts in his memoirs that Reşid mentioned to him that he received a telegram directly from Talaat ordering him to "burn-destroy-kill". [20] [37] Abdulahad Nuri, an official in charge of the deportations, testified during the Turkish courts-martial of 1919–20 that he had been told by Talaat that the goal of the deportations was "extermination" and that he "personally received the orders of extermination" from Talaat himself. [38] [n 2] In many instances, there had been additional instructions to "destroy" the telegrams after they had been read. [32]

Corpses of massacred Armenians, 1918 Armeniagen6a.jpg
Corpses of massacred Armenians, 1918

In a memorandum sent to Berlin demanding the removal of German ambassador Paul Wolff Metternich because he interceded on behalf of the Armenians, Talaat reaffirmed such a commitment: "the work must be done now, after the war it will be too late." [39] By the end of the war, the subsequent German ambassador Johann von Bernstorff described his discussion with Talaat: "When I kept on pestering him about the Armenian question, he once said with a smile: 'What on earth do you want? The question is settled, there are no more Armenians'". [40] A similar statement by Talaat was made to Swedish military attaché Einar af Wirsén: "The way the Armenian problem was solved was hair-raising. I can still see in front of me Talaat's cynical expression, when he emphasized that the Armenian question was solved." [41] [42] Talaat is reported to have said the following to American ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr. (as recorded in Ambassador Morgenthau's Story ), who confronted Talaat on several occasions: "I have accomplished more toward solving the Armenian problem in three months than Abdulhamid II accomplished in thirty years!" [43] Morgenthau then relates an exchange he had with Talaat:

"Suppose a few Armenians did betray you," I said. "Is that a reason for destroying a whole race? Is that an excuse for making innocent women and children suffer?"

"Those things are inevitable," he replied. [44]

In another exchange, Talaat demanded from Morgenthau the list of the holders of American insurance policies belonging to dead Armenians in an effort to appropriate the funds to the state. Morgenthau categorically refused his request describing it as "one of the most astonishing requests I have ever heard." [45]

Notable Turkish politicians and figures also condemned the policy. Turkish feminist Halide Edip, writing in her memoirs, captured a defiant reaction from Talaat Pasha when she probed him on the deportations and extermination. He allegedly told her that he was of the conviction that as long as a nation does what is best for its own interests and succeeds, the world admires it. [46] Abdülmecid II, the last Caliph of Islam of the Ottoman Dynasty, said: "I refer to those awful massacres. They are the greatest stain that has ever disgraced our nation and race. They were entirely the work of Talat and Enver." [47]

Grand vizier, 1917–1918

Interior Minister Talaat Pasha, who ordered the arrests of the Armenians during the Armenian genocide. Mehmed talaat pasja.jpg
Interior Minister Talaat Pasha, who ordered the arrests of the Armenians during the Armenian genocide.

In 1917, Talaat became the Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire, 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. On January 11, 1918, the special decree On Armenia was signed by Lenin and Stalin which rearmed and repatriated over 100,000 Armenians from the former Tsar's Army to be sent to the Caucasus for operations against Ottoman interests. [48] [49] 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 its 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. [50] With defeat certain, Talaat had resigned on 14 October 1918.

Exile, 1919–1921

The front page of the Ottoman newspaper Ikdam on 4 November 1918 after the Three Pashas fled the country following World War I. Ikdam, 4 Kasim 1918.jpg
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 Ottoman 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 with the CUP. [51] Talaat Pasha had a reputation for being courageous and patriotic, the type of individual who would willingly face the consequences of his actions. [51] 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

Following the occupation of Constantinople by the Allied Powers, the British exerted pressure on the Ottoman 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 Bekirağa 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". [52] The Court released its verdict on 5 July 1919: Talaat, Enver, Cemal, and Dr. Nazim were condemned to death in absentia.

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 that Germany 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. [53]

Aubrey Herbert interview, 1921

The last official interview Talaat granted was to Aubrey Herbert, a British intelligence agent. [54] 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 the United Kingdom 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 that Britain was in no mood to offer any assistance whatsoever. [55]

Assassination, 1921

The headline of a 16 March 1921 New York Times article, announcing Talaat Pasha's assassination by Soghomon Tehlirian. Talaat Pasha Slain in Berlin Suburb.png
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. In 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. [56] This was achieved with the help of Aubrey Herbert.

The British 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 between them the 'death warrant' of Talaat. Information concerning his physical description and his whereabouts was forwarded to their men in Germany. [56]

It was decided that Armenian revolutionaries should carry out the verdict. [56] 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. [57] Soghomon Tehlirian admitted committing the shooting, but after a cursory two-day trial, he was found innocent by a German court on grounds of temporary insanity because of the traumatic experience he had gone through during the genocide. [58]


Immediately following World War I

The New York Times, December 15, 1915 NY Times Armenian genocide.jpg
The New York Times, December 15, 1915

Talaat Pasha received widespread condemnation across the world for his leading role in the Armenian Genocide. He was found guilty of massacre of Armenians and sentenced to death in absentia by the Turkish Court on July 5, 1919. [59] Commenting on the widespread rape, torture and killings of the Armenians, U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Henry Morgenthau wrote in his 1919 memoir:

Whatever crimes the most perverted instincts of the human mind can devise, and whatever refinements of persecution and injustice the most debased imagination can conceive, became the daily misfortunes of this devoted people. I am confident that the whole history of the human race contains no such horrible episode as this. The great massacres and persecutions of the past seem almost insignificant when compared with the sufferings of the Armenian race in 1915. [60]

Post mortem

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. [61] In his memoir, Talaat admitted to purposefully deporting the Armenians to the Ottoman Empire's eastern provinces in a prepared scheme. He however blamed Armenian civilians themselves for the deportations, implying the civilian population could have caused a revolution and it was therefore justified to exterminate them. [62] [63]

Tomb of Talaat Pasha in the cemetery of Monument of Liberty, Istanbul Talaat Pasha grave.jpg
Tomb of Talaat Pasha in the cemetery of Monument of Liberty, Istanbul

He was buried in the Turkish Cemetery in Berlin. In 1943, his remains were taken to Istanbul and reburied in Şişli. [64]

Modern views

Talaat Pasha, Enver Pasha and Djemal Pasha are widely considered the main authors of the Armenian Genocide by historians. [65]

Historians have cited the influence of the Armenian Genocide on the Holocaust, which took place a few decades later. Records show the Nazis discussing and praising the Turkish model of extermination as early as the 1920s. [66]

Within modern Turkey, criticism also focuses on Talaat and 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 during and immediately prior to the First World War. [67]

A multitude of streets in Turkey display his name, as well as a street in the city of Paphos in the Republic of Cyprus that contains a large Turkish minority. [68]

See also

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The "Three Pashas" refers to the triumvirate of senior officials who effectively ruled the Ottoman Empire during World War I: Mehmed Talaat Pasha (1874–1921), the Grand Vizier and Minister of the Interior; Ismail Enver Pasha (1881–1922), the Minister of War; and Ahmed Djemal Pasha (1872–1922), the Minister of the Navy. They were largely responsible for the Empire's entry into World War I in 1914. All three met violent deaths after the war - Talaat and Djemal were assassinated, while Enver died leading the Basmachi Revolt near Dushanbe, present-day Tajikistan.

Defense of Van (1915) siege

The Defense of Van (also known as the Siege of Van or Van Resistance to the Armenians was a battle between forces of the Ottoman army against the inhabitants of the strategically located city of Van. The resistance broke out during the Caucasus Campaign, in which the Dashnak militias were supported by the Imperial Russian army to oppose the Ottomans. Such measures had not been intended or planned by the Armenians. Several contemporaneous observers and later historians have concluded that the Ottoman government deliberately instigated the armed Armenian resistance by enforcing the conditions on their subjects and then used this insurgency as a main pretext to justify the forced deportations of Armenians from all over the empire. However, the decisions of deportation and extermination were made before the Van resistance.

Turkish courts-martial of 1919–1920

Turkish courts-martial of 1919–20 were courts-martial of the Ottoman Empire that occurred soon after the Armistice of Mudros, in the aftermath of World War I. The leadership of the Committee of Union and Progress and selected former officials were charged with several charges including subversion of the constitution, wartime profiteering, and the massacres of both Armenians and Greeks. The court reached a verdict which sentenced the organizers of the massacres – Talat, Enver, and Cemal – and others to death.

<i>The Remaining Documents of Talaat Pasha</i> book by Murat Bardakçı

The Remaining Documents of Talaat Pasha, also known in Turkey as The Abandoned Documents of Talaat Pasha and Talaat Pasha's Black Book, is the title of a 2008 book by the Turkish journalist Murat Bardakçı. It reproduces in modern Turkish script a selection of documents from the WWI period by Mehmed Talaat Pasha, the Ottoman Empire's Grand Vizier and Minister of Interior, that deal with the relocations of both Muslim Turks and Armenians and the expropriation of abandoned Armenian and Greek property. Its full English title is The Remaining Documents of Talaat Pasha: Documents and Important Correspondence Found in the Private Archives of Sadrazam Talaat Pasha about the Armenian Deportations.

After World War I, the effort to prosecute Ottoman war criminals was taken up by the Paris Peace Conference (1919) and ultimately included in the Treaty of Sèvres (1920) with the Ottoman Empire. The Ottoman government organized a series of courts martial in 1919–1920 to prosecute war criminals, but these failed on account of political pressure. The main effort by the Allied administration that occupied Constantinople fell short of establishing an international tribunal in Malta to try the so-called Malta exiles, Ottoman war criminals held as POWs by the British forces in Malta. In the end, no tribunals were held in Malta.

Mehmed Reshid Ottoman governor

Mehmed Reshid was an Ottoman physician, official of the Committee of Union and Progress, and governor of the Diyarbekir Vilayet (province) of the Ottoman Empire during World War I. He is infamous for organizing the wartime destruction of the Armenian, Assyrian, and Greek communities of Diyarbekir. He was known as the "butcher of Diyarbakir".

<i>The Memoirs of Naim Bey</i> book

The Memoirs of Naim Bey: Turkish Official Documents Relating to the Deportation and the Massacres of Armenians, also known as the "Talat Pasha telegrams", is a book written by historian and journalist Aram Andonian in 1919. Originally redacted in Armenian, it was popularized worldwide through the English edition published by Hodder & Stoughton of London. It includes several documents (telegrams) that constitute evidence that the Armenian Genocide was formally implemented as Ottoman Empire policy.

<i>Ambassador Morgenthaus Story</i> book by Henry Morgenthau

Ambassador Morgenthau's Story (1918) is the title of the published memoirs of Henry Morgenthau Sr., U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire from 1913 to 1916, until the day of his resignation from the post. The book was dedicated to the then U.S. President Woodrow Wilson, and it took over two years to complete. The ghostwriter for Henry Morgenthau was Burton J. Hendrick; however, a comparison with official documents filed by Morgenthau in his role as ambassador shows that the book must have been structured and written extensively by Morgenthau himself.

Kurdish recognition of the Armenian Genocide

There is a recognition by several groups of Kurds of the participation of their ancestors in the Armenian Genocide during World War I. Some Kurdish tribes, mainly as part of the Ottoman army, along with the Turks and other people, participated in massacres of Armenians. Other Kurds opposed the genocide, in some cases even hiding or adopting Armenian refugees. Also, inmates in Ottoman prisons, including Kurds and Turks, were given amnesty and released from prison if they would massacre the Armenians.

Witnesses and testimonies of the Armenian Genocide

Witnesses and testimony of the Armenian Genocide provide an important and valuable insight into the events during and after the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian Genocide was prepared and carried out by the Ottoman government in 1915 and the following years. As a result of the genocide, Armenians living in their ancestral homeland were deported and systematically killed. The Republic of Turkey today denies the genocide, although the systematic massacres are recognized as genocide by most scholars.

Ottoman Exile

Sürgün or verb form sürmek was a practice within the Ottoman Empire that entailed the movement of a large group of people from one region to another, often a form of forced migration imposed by state policy or international authority. The practice was also a form of banishment or exile often applied to the elites of Ottoman society, the Pashas. It was most famously used as a method of ethnic cleansing in the oft disputed Armenian Genocide perpetrated by the Young Turk government in 1915, in order to deal with a perceived threat from Armenian nationals receiving military support from the, Ottoman hostile, Russian Empire.

Ottoman Empire during World War I

The Ottoman Empire participated in World War I as one of the Central Powers. The Ottoman Empire entered the war by carrying out a surprise attack on Russia's Black Sea coast on 29 October 1914, with Russia responding by declaring war on 5 November 1914. Ottoman forces fought the Entente in the Balkans and the Middle Eastern theatre of World War I. The Ottoman Empire's defeat in the war in 1918 was crucial in the eventual dissolution of the empire in 1921.

Reshid Akif Pasha Ottoman statesman during the last decades of the Ottoman Empire

Reshid Akif Pasha, was an Ottoman statesman during the last decades of the Ottoman Empire. Throughout his career as a politician, Reshid Akif Paşa served as governor, minister of the interior, and in the Council of State. He is also noted for providing important testimony in the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide.

Mustafa Arif Deymer Turkish politician

Mustafa Arif Deymer (1874–1954) was a Turkish politician who served both the Ottoman government and the Turkish Republic. He served as the Ottoman interior minister from 1918 to 1919 and as minister of education in 1921. During the Turkish Republican era, he became governor of Kırklareli Province. He is also noted for providing important testimony in the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide.



  1. Original Turkish: 25–30 güne vasıl olmayan (İzzet Paşa) kabine(sin)deki yakın dönemdeki hizmetinde öğrendiğim bazı gizli şeyler vardır. Bu cümleden olmak üzere tuhaf bir şeye tesadüf ettim. Bu tehcir emri resmi olarak mahut Dahiliye Nazırı (Talat) tarafından verilmiş, vilayetlere tebliğ edilmiş. Bu resmi emri takiben ise çetelerin koşup melun vazifelerini yerine getirmeleri için Merkez-i Umumi (İttihat Terakki yönetimi) tarafından uğursuz emirler her yöne tamim (emir) olunmuştur. Binaenaleyh, çeteler meydan almış ve mukatale-i zalime (zalim katliam) yüz göstermiştir.
  2. Original Turkish: "Talat Bey'le temas ettim, imha emirlerini bizzat aldım. Memleketin selameti bundadır."


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    This was almost too much, and I lost my temper.
    'You will get no such list from me,' I said, and I got up and left him.
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  62. "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." Hovannisian, Richard; The Armenian Genocide in Perspective, Page 142, Transaction Publishers, 1987
  63. "Naturally the Christians became alarmed when placards were posted in the villages and cities ordering everybody to bring their arms to headquarters. Although this order applied to all citizens, the Armenians well understood what the result would be, should they be left defenseless while their Moslem neighbours were permitted to retain their arms. In many cases, however, the persecuted people patiently obeyed the command; and then the Turkish officials almost joyfully seized their rifles as evidence that a "revolution" was being planned and threw their victims into prison on a charge of treason. Thousands failed to deliver arms simply because they had none to deliver, while an even greater number tenaciously refused to give them up, not because they were plotting an uprising, but because they proposed to defend their own lives and their women's honour against the outrages which they knew were being planned. The punishment inflicted upon these recalcitrants forms one of the most hideous chapters of modern history. Most of us believe that torture has long ceased to be an administrative and judicial measure, yet I do not believe that the darkest ages ever presented scenes more horrible than those which now took place all over Turkey." Henry Morgenthau, Ambassador Morgenthau's Story, Page 112, Blackmask Online, http://m.library.antibaro.gr/text/Mikra_Asia/Ambassador%20Morgenthau's%20Story%20-%20Armenia.pdf
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  66. "In the German interwar and Nazi discourses on the New Turkey, one finds a chilling propagation of what a post-genocidal country, one cleansed of its minorities, could achieve: To the Nazis, the New Turkey was something of a post-genocidal wonderland, something that Germany would have to emulate. The Nazis were discussing the Turkish model already in the early 1920s. A German-Jewish newspaper reader and critic of Anti-Semitism, Siegfried Lichtenstaedter, understood the "Turkish lessons" formulated in Nazi articles (in 1923 and 1924) to mean that the Jews of Germany and Austria should be, and had to be, killed and their property given to "Aryans.""; Ihrig, Stefan; How the Armenian Genocide Shaped the Holocaust; 2016; http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/01/24/how-the-armenian-genocide-shaped-the-holocaust.html
  67. Muammer Kaylan. The Kemalists: Islamic Revival and the Fate of Secular Turkey. Prometheus Books, Publishers. p. 77. ISBN   978-1-61592-897-2.
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
Preceded by
Said Halim Pasha
Grand Vizier of the Ottoman Empire
4 February 1917 – 8 October 1918
Succeeded by
Ahmed Izzet Pasha