Three Pashas

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The "Three Pashas" (Ottoman Turkish : اوچ پاشلار) refers to the triumvirate of senior officials who effectively ruled the Ottoman Empire during World War I: Mehmed Talat Pasha (1874–1921), the Grand Vizier (prime minister) and Minister of the Interior; Ismail Enver Pasha (1881–1922), the Minister of War; and Ahmed Cemal Pasha (1872–1922), the Minister of the Navy.


The Three Pashas were largely responsible for the Empire's entry into World War I in 1914 and also largely responsible for the death of over one million Armenians in the Armenian genocide. 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.

However, after their deaths, Talaat and Enver's remains have been reburied at the Monument of Liberty in Istanbul and many of Turkey's streets have been renamed in their honour.


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 Djemal 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 Djemal 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. [1] [ page needed ] They were members of the Committee of Union and Progress, [2] [ page needed ] a progressive organization that they eventually came to control and transform into a primarily Pan-Turkist political party, [3] [ page needed ].

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. [4] 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 Djemal agreed in early October 1914 to authorize Admiral Souchon to launch a pre-emptive strike.

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

Involvement in Armenian Genocide

As de facto rulers, the Three Pashas have been considered 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 Djemal were assassinated in exile in 1921 and 1922 by Armenians; Enver was also killed by an Armenian in Tajikistan in 1922 while trying to raise a Muslim 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 [5] widely criticized the Three Pashas for having caused the Ottoman Empire's entrance into World War I, [6] and the subsequent collapse of the state. [7] 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, [8] as well as developing a rivalry with Enver Pasha. [7] Although Enver Pasha later attempted to join the Turkish War of Independence, the Ankara government under Atatürk blocked his return to Turkey and his efforts to join the war effort.

See also

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  1. Emin, 310; Kayali, 195
  2. Derogy, 332; Kayali, 195
  3. Allen, 614
  4. "Ottoman Empire enters the First World War - The Ottoman Empire | NZHistory, New Zealand history online". Retrieved 2017-10-25.
  5. George Sellers Harris; Bilge Criss (2009). Studies in Atatürk's Turkey: The American Dimension. BRILL. p. 85. ISBN   90-04-17434-6.
  6. Barry M. Rubin; Kemal Kirişci (1 January 2001). Turkey in World Politics: An Emerging Multiregional Power. Lynne Rienner Publishers. p. 168. ISBN   978-1-55587-954-9.
  7. 1 2 Muammer Kaylan. The Kemalists: Islamic Revival and the Fate of Secular Turkey. Prometheus Books, Publishers. p. 77. ISBN   978-1-61592-897-2.
  8. Erik Jan Zürcher (1 January 1984). The Unionist Factor: The Rôle [sic] of the Committee of Union and Progress in the Turkish National Movement, 1905-1926. BRILL. p. 59. ISBN   90-04-07262-4.