Three Pashas

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The Three Pashas
Mehmed talat.jpg
Talaat Pasha
Enver Pasha 1911.jpg
Enver Pasha
Djemal Pasha2.png
Djemal Pasha

The Three Pashas, [1] also known as the Young Turk triumvirate [2] [3] or CUP triumvirate, [4] consisted of Mehmed Talaat Pasha (1874–1921), the Grand Vizier (prime minister) 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, who effectively ruled the Ottoman Empire after the 1913 Ottoman coup d'état. According to historian Hans-Lukas Kieser, Talaat's power increased over time and eclipsed the others after 1913–1914. [5]


The Three Pashas, all members of the Committee of Union and Progress, were largely responsible for the Empire's entry into World War I in 1914 and also largely responsible for the genocide of over one million Armenians. The Turkish public widely criticised the Three Pashas for drawing the Ottoman Empire into World War I. [6] All three met violent deaths after the war—Talaat and Cemal were assassinated, whilst Enver died leading the Basmachi Revolt near Dushanbe, present-day Tajikistan.

After their deaths, Talaat and Enver's remains have been reburied at the Monument of Liberty in Istanbul [7] [8] and many of Turkey's streets have been controversially renamed in their honour. [9]


The front page of the Ottoman newspaper Ikdam on 4 November 1918 after the Three Pashas fled the country following World War I. Showing left to right Cemal Pasha; Talaat Pasha; Enver Pasha 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. Showing left to right Cemal Pasha; Talaat Pasha; Enver Pasha

Western scholars hold that after the 1913 Ottoman coup d'état, these three men became the de facto rulers of the Ottoman Empire until its dissolution following World War I. [10] They were members of the Committee of Union and Progress, [11] a progressive organisation that they eventually came to control and transform into a primarily Pan-Turkist political party. [12]

The Three Pashas were the principal players in the Ottoman–German Alliance and the Ottoman Empire's entry into World War I on the side of the Central Powers. [13] One of the three, Ahmed Djemal, was opposed to an alliance with Germany, and French and Russian diplomacy attempted to keep the Ottoman Empire out of the war; but Germany was agitating for a commitment. Finally, on 29 October, the point of no return was reached when Admiral Wilhelm Souchon took SMS Goeben, SMS Breslau, and a squadron of Ottoman warships into the Black Sea (see pursuit of Goeben and Breslau) and raided the Russian ports of Odessa, Sevastopol, and Theodosia. It was claimed that Ahmed Cemal agreed in early October 1914 to authorize Souchon to launch a pre-emptive strike.

Ismail Enver had only once taken control of any military activity (Battle of Sarıkamış), and left the Third Army in ruins. The First Suez Offensive and the Arab Revolt are Ahmed Cemal's most significant failures.


Enver Pasha and Djemal Pasha visiting the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem during the First World War. Enver Pasha and Jamal (Cemal) Pasha visiting the Dome of the Rock.jpg
Enver Pasha and Djemal Pasha visiting the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem during the First World War.

While the triumvirate consisted of Talat, Enver, and Cemal, some say Halil Bey was a fourth member of this clique. Historian Hans-Lukas Kieser asserts that this state of rule by the Three Pashas is only accurate for the year 1913–1914, and that Talat Pasha would increasingly become a more central figure within the Union and Progress party state, especially once he also became Grand Vizier in 1917. [14] Alternatively, it would also be accurate to call the Unionist regime a clique or even an oligarchy, as many prominent Unionists held some form of de jure or de facto power. Other than the Three Pashas and Halil Bey, personalities such as Dr. Nazım, Bahaeddin Şakir, Mehmed Reşid, Ziya Gökalp, and the party's secretary general Midhat Şükrü also dominated the Central Committee without formal positions in the Ottoman government. The CUP regime was also less hierarchically totalitarian than future European dictatorships. Instead of relying on strict and rigid chains of command the regime functioned through the balancing of factions through massive corruption and kickbacks. [15] Individual governors were allowed much autonomy, such as Cemal Pasha's governorship of Syria and Rahmi Bey's governorship of the Izmir vilayet. This lack of rule of law, lack of respect to the constitution, and extreme corruption worsened as the regime aged.

Involvement in the Armenian genocide

Kaiser Wilhelm II (left) with Enver Pasha (right), October 1917. Enver was one of the main perpetrators of the Armenian genocide. The Emperor on board the Javus Sultan Selim (Goeben). German Emperor Wilhelm II. in conversation with Enver Pascha. October 1917 - NARA - 17391108 (restored).jpeg
Kaiser Wilhelm II (left) with Enver Pasha (right), October 1917. Enver was one of the main perpetrators of the Armenian genocide.

As de facto rulers, the Three Pashas have been considered[ by whom? ] the masterminds behind the Armenian genocide. After the war the three were put on trial (in their absence) and sentenced to death, although the sentences were not carried out. Talaat and Cemal were assassinated in exile in 1921 and 1922 by Armenian revolutionaries; Enver died in a Red Army ambush in Tajikistan in 1922 while trying to lead an anti-Russian insurrection.

Reputation in the Republic of Turkey

After World War I and the ensuing Turkish War of Independence, much of the population of the newly established Republic of Turkey as well its founder Mustafa Kemal Atatürk [16] widely criticised the Three Pashas for having caused the Ottoman Empire's entrance into World War I, [6] and the subsequent collapse of the state. [17] As early as 1912, Atatürk (then just Mustafa Kemal) had severed his ties to the Three Pashas' Committee of Union and Progress, dissatisfied with the direction that they had taken the party, [18] as well as developing a rivalry with Enver Pasha. [17] Although Enver later attempted to join the Turkish War of Independence, the Angora (Ankara) government under Atatürk blocked his return to Turkey and his efforts to join the war effort.

See also

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  1. Ottoman Turkish : اوچ پاشلار, Turkish : Üç Paşalar
  2. Kieser 2018, p. xii.
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