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Source: DK/RA-UM/Gruppeordnede sager 1909-1945. 139. D. 1, ”Tyrkiet - Indre Forhold”. Pakke 1, til 31 Dec. 1916
Edition: Danish diplomatic sources
Departure of telegram: 09/22/1915
Arrival of telegram: 10/05/1915
Embassy/consular serial number: Nr. 125
Translated by: Matthias Bjørnlund
Last updated: 03/23/2012

The minister in Constantinople (Carl Ellis Wandel) to the Foreign Minister (Erik Scavenius)


Nr. 125
Constantinople, 22 September, 1915.
Mr. Foreign Minister,

In my earlier reports I have already tried to demonstrate how H. M. the Sultan rules, and how the Committee is managing affairs.

I have tried to demonstrate that Turkey has been incautious in giving up its neutrality, given that the country’s position will be very difficult if the war ends with a victory of one of the groups of Great Powers.

Regarding the fate of the country if the Entente powers win, Mr. Foreign Minister is far better informed than I; the matters that I have the opportunity to observe will only have a minor influence in the event of such an outcome, and I therefore prefer to deal with the question of what will happen in the event of a victory for the Central Powers.

If the Central Powers are victorious, and the Balkan coalition is not being reformed against the ”German danger,” Turkey will in all probability be faced with the choice of either giving up the major parts of its political and economic independence to the benefit of Germany, who will then gain firm ground here, or to enter into a probably rather hopeless struggle for independence against its mighty ally, and when this choice is to be made, the matters that I observe daily could be decisive.

There is already full awareness in the German embassy here that a serious conflict between Germany and Turkey, who in a future union undoubtedly will demand an equal status, hardly will be avoidable, even at best, if the chauvinists remain in power. Some remarks made to me recently by the embassy’s advisory specialist in Balkan policies is certainly indicative thereof.

When I, after having expressed my admiration for the great and outstanding achievements of the German diplomatic and military missions to the benefit of Germany’s interests, added that I still found it hard to forgive German Balkan policy that it, by strengthening and flattering the Committee, has helped bring about its arrogance and xenophobia to such an extent that the government here has become thoroughly intractable, he answered that, from the German position, this was readily regretted.

”But you must not forget,” he said, ”that we had no other option; we needed Turkey’s help – it was for us a matter of life and death, and we had to let things slide.”

By and large, there can therefore hardly be much doubt about where it goes from here; since the foreign warships (station ships) left the roadstead of Constantinople, the presumptuousness of the Young Turks has been ever increasing, and there can probably be no talk of moderation in thought and principles before the ships return.

A thorough study of the prospects in the event of a victory for the Central Powers, though, faces many difficulties, since it is almost impossible to obtain reliable information about the composition and practical circumstances of the true, but irresponsible, government of the country – the Committee. The history of the Committee has not yet been written, and the persons who know it dare not speak out.

Considering the topicality of the subject, I will still try to give, based on what I learn here, a short description of the Committee and its men – who make up a kind of directorate, consisting of 15-20 members, that decides the actions of the government – and of the change in its policy since July 1908, when it intervened for the first time in the fate of the country with a firm grip and, measured with the standards of this country, a uniquely thorough organization.

The distinctive feature of the Young Turk Committee has always been, and still is, its organizational strength. Without this firmness, the Committee would not have been able to withstand being persecuted by despotism, and to even grow in strength to such an extent that it could topple the old regime. This organizational firmness, which the Committee created in its earliest days when it toiled with its great work of liberation, it has kept since that time, for better or for worse, and when in power it has, aided by that firmness, been able to get away unpunished with abuse similar to that of the toppled despotism, [and,] aided by it, it could regain power by determined action when it had been dethroned. And the Committee is not only equipped with this organizational strength, it also is and has always been the only Turkish political organization in possession of this quality; all the other parties, that have been formed since the introduction of the constitution, have lacked it – and they have quickly succumbed.

An effect of this state of things is that the top positions of the Committee are no longer held by the theorists who originally drew up the program of the Committee, but by its political-organizational leaders, those men who have worked in the service of the organization from the beginning, not as great idealists or founding statesmen, but as organizers who use all means to further the well-being of their organization. This fact also explains that the Committee now, albeit under much the same leaders as in its earliest years of struggle, actually fights for a completely different program than then – it is not the ideals, but the frame, i.e. the power, that has been and is being fought for.

Among the men in the leadership of the Committee, one first of all has to mention the present leader of the government, Interior Minister Talaat Bey, without doubt a significant politician.

Talaat Bey, former telegraphist in the provinces, was working for the Committee from its earliest days, and he came to the forefront immediately after the revolution as one of the leaders of Turkish politics, but only after 1909 did he and other Young Turk leaders become direct members of the government – Talaat Bey as Interior Minister – to replace the old Pashas, who still for some time had been allowed to remain in office as puppets. It was Talaat Bey who, when the Committee had been toppled by ”the liberating officers” (in the Spring of 1912), led the secret effort of the Committee to regain power, and he who, together with his friends, in effect, by nationalistic demonstrations, forced Kiamil [Kamil] Pasha, the then Grand Vizier, to engage in the unfortunate war against the Balkan states (the end of 1912), instead of accepting to effectively implement the reforms demanded by the Powers. And once again, it was Talaat Bey who, together with Enver Pasha, was the leader behind the new coup d’état that once again brought the Young Turks to power – in accordance with Talaat’s plan at the exact moment when the Kiamil cabinet sent the note to the Great Powers, where it gave up Adrianople as a result of the urgent requests of those Powers. Kiamil Pasha’s abandonment of the holy Adrianople would have put the men of the coup d’etat in a more flattering light as national liberators who toppled the cabinet that had unnecessarily surrendered parts of the country, but, as chance would have it, the toppled cabinet had not delivered the note of reply to the Powers (it had been sent, but because of an editorial error it was called back before the delivery to the Austrian ambassador), and it was the new Young Turk ministry that was left with responsibility for the decision. It was luck – the internal struggle of the Balkan states – and not foresight that saved Talaat and the Committee’s power and regained Adrianople for Turkey.

Since then, Talaat has more and more become the centre of the Young Turk Committee. The military members – and especially Enver Pasha – have had to focus on the defence of the country, and the entire government has slipped into the hands of Talaat Bey, who actually is both Minister of the Interior, of Finance, and of Foreign Affairs.

Close to Talaat is his friend Halil Bey, chairman of the deputy chamber and of the Committee, Bedri Bey, prefect of the security police in Turkey (in the Spring of 191[?] he had been condemned to death for having shot a military police officer, had later escaped from prison, been pardoned, and made chief of public security), Nazim Bey, the Committee’s chauvinist secretary general and leader of the daily administration of the Committee, Midhat Chukri Bey and Behaeddine Chakir Bey, also pronounced chauvinists, Hussein Djahid Bey, former editor of the Committee’s organ ”Tanin,” and Djavid Bey [Cavit Bey], the former Finance Minister, who took care of the great loan in France in 1914, from a Jewish family that converted to Islam, originally school inspector in the provinces, etc., etc.

A person completely preoccupied at the moment by the military events is Enver Pasha, the officer who, together with Niazi Bey who was killed shortly after, in June 1908 raised the rebel banner with his troops in Albania, and thereby originated the revolution itself, after which he became military attaché in Berlin, a nomination that surely has had a great impact on the relationship between Germany and Turkey. After having returned to Turkey he became Chief of Staff for the 10th Army Corps, was an active participant in the coup d’etat in 1913, and led the triumphant expedition to Adrianople. As a reward he was, albeit relatively late, made Minister of War in January 1914, and thereby gained all of Turkey’s military power in his hand after the Committee had fired all the old generals and high ranking officers who enjoyed popularity with the troops, and replaced them with Enver Pasha’s new protegés.

Another influential military member of the Committee was until lately Enver Pasha’s co-suitor to the military leadership, Djemal Pasha, the former military commander of Constantinople, named Pasha the same day as Enver, decorated with the Osmanieh Order at the same time as Enver, and finally, on Enver Pasha’s advice, made traffic minister to limit his influence, but later, after urgent request, made marine minister, a capacity in which he worked with great force on the renewal of the fleet right until the beginning of the war, when he left Constantinople as chief of the army that was sent to Egypt. From this time on, Djemal Pasha has naturally been unable to participate in the governing of Turkey, and the Marine Ministry too has been in the hands of Enver.

Among other people who have left their mark on the work of the Committee during the past time, besides from the ”liberator” Mahmoud Chevket Pasha who was murdered in June 1913, must be mentioned Azmi Bey, who, together with the then military commander of the city, Djemal Pasha, and in connection with Talaat Bey, led the terror regime as Chief of Police in the capital after the killing of Mahmoud Chevket Pasha, but who on the Russian embassy’s firm demand was sent to Konia shortly thereafter as governor, furthermore Hadji Adil Bey, the present governor in Adrianople, mentioned in my report No. CXXIII [123] of yesterday; and finally 2 men who have eventually distanced themselves from the Committee because they would not participate in its lust for power and its abuse: Rahmy Bey, the governor of the vilayet Aidin (Smyrna), who, as also mentioned in my earlier reports, several times has opposed the Committee’s orders when he found them unjust, and Ahmed Riza Bey, who became the only important opponent of the Committee’s autocracy in the last parliamentary session. Riza Tevfik Bey, an influential member in the early days of the Committee as the original intellectual protagonist of the Committee, and very esteemed by all sides, also by the opponents of the Committee, was already at an early stage repulsed by the way the rulers realized his ideals, and was already in 1910 among the opponents of the Committee.

The Committee for Union and Progress took control under the motto: Equal rights for all Ottomans. But to achieve the unity that was mentioned at the beginning of the Committee’s title, in the vast and ethnographically tangled Empire, there had to be created both an Ottoman sense of unity shared by all peoples of the Empire, and be raised guarantees that this new ”Ottomanism” would still be led by the Young Turk members of the Committee in the future, i.e. both be created equal rights for all Ottoman citizens, without consideration for nationality and religion (the idealistic demands of the revolution), and made sure that the new Ottomanism would still become a purely Turkish movement. The struggle between these demands lasted for some time until the Committee immediately after the end of the Balkan War threw one of the demands (equal rights for all Ottomans) overboard and decided to go forward along the road of Turkification, the road that is characterized by the anti-Greek boycott in the Spring of 1914 that affected those Greeks who were Ottoman subjects just as well as the Greek subjects, the simultaneous persecutions of the Greeks in Asia Minor and Thrace, and, later that same year – with German assistance – the declaration of Jihad, which was favoured by the World War and the subsequent abrogation of the capitulations, and which finally has led to the xenophobic and nationalistic policy, whose effects I have lately looked closely upon several times in my reports, and whose main purpose at the moment is the extermination of the Armenian population of the Empire.

Mr. Foreign Minister will maybe realize from this account, despite of its faultiness, that it does not seem to be men with great political refinement and experience, or with good knowledge, who now rule Turkey, but people whose foolhardiness and irrepressible force of will and action has replaced the former inertia which was the strength of the old Pashas before 1908, and Germany, should the occasion arise, will have to realize that they are not manageable.

They are chauvinists and xenophobes, more or less true fanatics and enthusiastic desperados; for some of them there can be no doubt about their integrity, but the common perception is that things will continue down that same road that has already led to so many serious conflicts.

After the Greeks and the Armenians, the Jews and the Germans will most likely be next, and it is very probable that the present government will, at a given moment, prefer to play va banque and put everything on the line, rather than understand that wise compliance and a compromise for practical reasons can be preferable to a policy that almost can be characterized as national suicide.

With the highest esteem I remain, Mr. Minister, yours faithfully


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