The Turkish Revolution of 1908-9.


The revolution was in essence the overthrow of the Sultan's autocratic power by the upper class Turks, and the substitution therefor of 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 régime 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.


The revolution seems to have been hastened by the announcement of Austria in February, 1908, that a railroad would be built through Novibazar, linking up the Bosnian and Salonika lines, which would bring all the western part of the Balkan peninsula under Austrian influence, and by the Reval interview.

The disturbance in Macedonia had brought together large numbers of Turkish troops. The common soldiers were unpaid and wasting their time, the officers were unable to preserve order and dissatisfied with the presence of the foreign officers, who were a constant reminder that the days of the Empire were numbered. Emissaries, sent out front Paris found a good reception, and the revolution was proclaimed July 6, 1908. At first foreigners thought little of it, but adhesion was rapid. Troops sent against the rebels refused to fight. Freedom was proclaimed for the Christians, and safety for foreign interests. The Sultan suddenly surrendered by granting a constitution all calling for an election. The rule of Abdul Hamid had been supported by Germany, even through the Armenian massacres. Popular feeling naturally turned against it, while France, the home for many years of the leaders of the Young Turks, and England, the friend of liberty, were much favored. In their turn, they acclaimed the revolution as a marvel, which it was in many respects. During this period, the grand vizier, Kiamil Pasha, was Anglophile. English and French aid largely was used in reconstructing the government.


The new régime was soon discredited by the declaration of independence by Bulgaria, the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria, the declaration of annexation of Crete to Greece. Whether all these were the result of the intrigues of the Central Powers they played the game of those powers. Long negotiations were needed to settle the railroad question in Bulgaria; the return of Novi Bazar did not prevent a boycott of Austrian goods by the Turks; the questions remained for long irritating. The new Parliament assembled December 17, not without frauds and the stirring up of racial hatreds, with the possibility of foreign troubles. Against the party supported by the Committee of Union and Progress, devoted to centralization, Ottomanization, and destruction of special privileges for national, religious, or foreign interests, was the liberal party, in touch with Greek, Armenian, Bulgarian, Arab, and Albanian nationalists, suspected of alliance with the Sultan and reaction. Kiamil Pasha, found his support here and was forced to resign. Himil Pasha was less strongly English. The capital was temporarily secured by the troops of the Sultan (April 13), but troops loyal to the revolution were called up from Macedonia, the city was retaken on the 24th, and three days later Abdul Hamid was deposed and Mehmet V ascended the throne. The Young Turks had been greatly aided in their march on Constantinople, by the expert advice of the Central Powers and especially of the Neue Freie Presse of Vienna. The military party had been pro-German because of their German training, in Germany or under Von der Goltz. As the revolution became more military, those who remembered Paris played less part. The Adana massacres and the failure to adequately punish those responsible, caused a corresponding coolness of the English and French toward the Young Turk. The growing power of Enver Pasha, the "hero of the revolution," was also thrown toward Germany. In spite of all this, it is probable that at the beginning of the World War the majority of responsible officials and thinkers in Turkey were not pro-German.

Source: Anderson, Frank Maloy and Amos Shartle Hershey, Handbook for the Diplomatic History of Europe, Asia, and Africa 1870-1914. Prepared for the National Board for Historical Service. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1918.

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