Three Pashas

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Three Pashas
Talaat Pasha
Enver Pasha
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 Cemal 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 criticized 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 İkdam on 4 November 1918 after the Three Pashas fled the country following World War I. The paper reads in part, "Their response to eliminate the Armenian problem was to attempt the elimination of the Armenians themselves." 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 organization 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 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 Cemal's most significant failures.


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 triumvirate 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 would worsen as the regime aged.

Involvement in Armenian genocide[edit]

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 Armenians; Enver died in a Red Army ambush in Tajikistan in 1922 while trying to raise a Muslim anti-Russian insurrection.

Reputation in the Republic of Turkey[edit]

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 criticized 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 Pasha 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[edit]


  1. ^ Ottoman Turkish: اوچ پاشلار, Turkish: Üç Paşalar
  2. ^ Kieser 2018, p. xii.
  3. ^ Yacoubian, George S. Jr (2020–2021). "Toward Permanent Peace and Stability in Artsakh". Human Rights Brief. 24: 147.
  4. ^ Tanvir Wasti, Syed (2020). "A review of the Turco-Italian war of 1911–1912 and related letters of Enver Pasha". Middle Eastern Studies. 56 (1): 131–141. doi:10.1080/00263206.2019.1627336. S2CID 198716187.
  5. ^ Kieser 2018, p. xiii.
  6. ^ a b 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. ^ Garibian, Sévane (2018). ""Commanded by my Mother's Corpse": Talaat Pasha, or the Revenge Assassination of a Condemned Man". Journal of Genocide Research. 20 (2): 220–235. doi:10.1080/14623528.2018.1459160. S2CID 81928705.
  8. ^ Uslanmam-History of the Republic Archived 13 January 2019 at the Wayback Machine (in Turkish)
  9. ^ Minute, Turkish (28 April 2021). "Hero, founder, or criminal? Talaat is still alive and well in Turkey". Turkish Minute. Retrieved 4 June 2023.
  10. ^ Emin, 310; Kayali, 195
  11. ^ Derogy, 332; Kayali, 195
  12. ^ Allen, 614
  13. ^ "Ottoman Empire enters the First World War – The Ottoman Empire | NZHistory, New Zealand history online". Retrieved 25 October 2017.
  14. ^ Kieser 2018.
  15. ^ Kieser 2018, p. 220.
  16. ^ George Sellers Harris; Bilge Criss (2009). Studies in Atatürk's Turkey: The American Dimension. BRILL. p. 85. ISBN 978-90-04-17434-4.
  17. ^ a b Muammer Kaylan (8 April 2005). The Kemalists: Islamic Revival and the Fate of Secular Turkey. Prometheus Books, Publishers. p. 77. ISBN 978-1-61592-897-2.
  18. ^ 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.


  • Allen, W.E.D. and R. Muratoff. Caucasian Battlefields: A History Of The Wars On The Turco-Caucasian Border, 1828–1921. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1953. 614 pp.
  • Bedrossyan, Mark D. The First Genocide of the 20th Century: The Perpetrators and the Victims. Flushing, NY: Voskedar Publishing, 1983. 479 pp.
  • Derogy, Jacques. Resistance and Revenge: "Fun Times" The Armenian Assassination of the Turkish Leaders Responsible for the 1915 Massacres and Deportations. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction Publishers and Zoryan Institute, April 1990. 332 pp.
  • Düzel, Neşe (2005-05-23). "Ermeni mallarını kimler aldı?". Radikal. "Enver Paşa, Talat Paşa, Bahaittin Şakir gibi bir dizi insanın ailelerine maaş bağlanıyor... Bu maaşlar, Ermenilerden kalan mülkler, paralar ve fonlardan bağlanıyor."
  • Emin [Yalman], Ahmed. Turkey in the World War. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1930. 310 pp.
  • Joseph, John. Muslim-Christian Relations and Inter-Christian Rivalries in the Middle East. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press, 1983. 240 pp.
  • Kayalı, Hasan. "Arabs and Young Turks: Ottomanism, Arabism, and Islamism in the Ottoman Empire, 1908–1918" 195 pp.
  • Kieser, Hans-Lukas (26 June 2018), Talaat Pasha: Father of Modern Turkey, Architect of Genocide, Princeton University Press (published 2018), ISBN 978-0-691-15762-7