1913 Ottoman coup d'état (Ottoman Raid on the Sublime Porte)

1913 Ottoman coup d'état (Ottoman Raid on the Sublime Porte)


The 1913 Ottoman coup d'état, also known as the Raid on the Sublime Porte (Turkish: Bâb-ı Âlî Baskını), was carried out in the Ottoman Empire by a group of members of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) led by Ismail Enver Bey and Mehmed Talaat Bey on January 23, 1913. The central Ottoman government Nazm Pasha, the Minister of War, was slain during the coup, while Kâmil Pasha, the Grand Vizier, was forced to resign. Following the coup, the government was taken over by the CUP, which was led by Enver, Talaat, and Cemal Pasha, a triumvirate known as the "Three Pashas." In 1911, Kâmil Pasha's Freedom and Accord Party (also known as the Liberal Union or Liberal Entente) was created in opposition to the CUP and won by-elections in Constantinople almost immediately (now Istanbul). Alarmed, the CUP manipulated the general elections of 1912 against Freedom and Accord through electoral fraud and violence, garnering the moniker "Election of Clubs" (Turkish: Sopalı Seçimler). In response, the Army's Savior Officers (Turkish: Halâskâr Zâbitân), who were partisans of Freedom and Accord who wanted the CUP to fall, rose out in rage and overthrew the CUP's post-election Mehmed Said Pasha administration. After the rapid onset of the First Balkan War and military loss, a new administration was constituted under Ahmed Muhtar Pasha. Still, it was overthrown after only a few months in October 1912. Following the unsuccessful First Balkan War, Freedom and Accord leader Kâmil Pasha sat down to diplomatic talks with Bulgaria after receiving the authorization of Sultan Mehmed V to form a new government in late October 1912. The CUP conducted a coup on January 23, 1913, in response to the Bulgarian demand for the cession of Adrianople (today and at the time, known as Edirne), the former Ottoman capital city, and provoking dissatisfaction among the Turkish populace as well as the CUP leadership. Following the coup, opposition parties such as Freedom and Accord were severely crushed. The Ottoman Empire withdrew from the London Peace Conference, which was still in progress. With Unionist assistance, the new administration commanded by Mahmud evket Pasha launched a war against the Balkan republics to recapture Edirne and the remainder of Rumelia, but to no avail. The CUP would assume complete control of the Empire after his assassination in June, and opposition leaders would be imprisoned or exiled to Europe. After the Ottoman victory in the Second Balkan War and the retaking of Edirne in the face of Entente pressure, the CUP became closer to Germany ahead of World War I.

Immediate Pretext

While the CUP's inner circle may have decided to stage a coup to retake power from the Freedom and Accord Party earlier, the immediate cause was the CUP's fear that the government would cave into the Great Powers' demand that the town of Adrianople (a former Ottoman capital city from 1365 to 1453) be handed over to Bulgaria following the First Balkan War's disastrous results.


April 1912 Elections and Aftermath

The Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) had only won roughly 60 of the 288 seats in the Chamber of Deputies (Turkish: Meclis-i Mebusân), the General Assembly's lower house, in the 1908 elections. Despite this, it was the Chamber's largest party. Individuals opposed to the CUP founded the Freedom and Accord Party (Liberal Union/Entente) on November 21, 1911, and it swiftly grew to 70 Deputies. Only 20 days after its founding, Freedom and Accord won the by-elections in Constantinople in December 1911 by a single vote. The ruling CUP took many safeguards after perceiving the potential for Freedom and Accord to win the general elections next year. The CUP petitioned Sultan Mehmed V to dissolve the Chamber and proclaim early general elections in January 1912, hoping to impede the embryonic Freedom and Accord's efforts to expand their ranks and better organize themselves. After opposition (Freedom and Accord) candidates for the Chamber of Deputies were beaten with clubs and sticks, as well as electoral fraud and violence in favour of the CUP, these early April 1912 general elections became known as the "Election of Clubs" (Turkish: Sopalı Seçimler). Early voting, secret vote counting and reporting, ballot stuffing, reapportioning electoral districts, and other forms of fraud were used, even though the CUP still had genuine support outside of the cities. Due to the elections, the CUP gained 269 of the 275 seats in the Chamber, while Freedom and Accord received only 6 Deputies. Angry at their election loss, the leadership of Freedom and Accord looked for non-legal ways to reclaim power over the CUP, claiming electoral fraud. Dissatisfied with perceived injustices within the military, a group of military officers known as the "Savior Officers" (Turkish: Halâskâr Zâbitân) organized an armed organization and informed the imperial government of their existence around this time. The Savior Officers, who immediately became partisans of Freedom and Accord, wreaked havoc in Istanbul's metropolis. The Savior Officers released public pronouncements in newspapers after securing Prince Sabahaddin, another opposition leader. Finally, in July 1912, the Savior Officers succeeded in persuading Grand Vizier Mehmed Said Pasha (whom they blamed for permitting the early elections that led to the CUP's Chamber dominance) and his administration of CUP ministers to quit after presenting a memorandum to the Military Council.

Great Cabinet

Following Mehmed Said Pasha's resignation, Ahmed Muhtar Pasha, an old military hero, formed a new, non-partisan cabinet known as the "Great Cabinet" (Turkish: Büyuk Kabine) because it included three former Grand Viziers as ministers, and sometimes as the "Father-Son Cabinet" (Turkish: Baba-Oğul Kabinesi) because it had Ahmed Muhtar Pasha's son, Mahmud Muhtar Pas Despite the Savior Officers' success in ridding the Great Cabinet of CUP members, the CUP's dominance of the Chamber of Deputies remained unchanged. However, soon after, speculations spread that the government would dissolve the Chamber of Deputies and hold new elections. The rumours were confirmed when, just days after Ahmed Muhtar Pasha took office, the Savior Officers submitted another memorandum, this time to Halil Bey, the President of the Chamber of Deputies (and a CUP member), urging that the Chamber be dissolved and new elections held within 48 hours. This threat was rejected and convicted by the CUP members in the Chamber. However, with the sultan's help, Ahmed Muhtar Pasha was able to dissolve the Chamber with ease on 5 August, after which sultan Mehmed V quickly called for new elections by royal decree, due to a measure he had pushed through the Senate. The First Balkan War started early in October 1912, catching Ahmed Muhtar Pasha's administration off guard as new elections were underway. On October 25, martial law was declared, recent elections were cancelled, and Ahmed Muhtar Pasha resigned as Grand Vizier after only three months in office to defer to the premiership of Kâmil Pasha, who had good relations with the British and was expected to bring the disastrous war to a close.

Kamil Pasha's Government and the coup Attempt

The external crisis in the Balkans temporarily halted domestic politics, but it did not prevent it. Unlike his predecessor, Ahmed Muhtar Pasha, who was apolitical, Kâmil Pasha was a devout member of the Freedom and Accord Party determined to utilize his position as prime minister to destabilize the CUP. Kâmil Pasha sat down to conclude the ongoing First Balkan War amicably, leveraging his favourable relations with the British. However, when rumours arose that the capital would have to be transferred from Constantinople to inland Anatolia, the heavy Ottoman military setbacks during the war continued to drain morale. The Bulgarian Army had advanced as far as Çatalca, a western district of modern-day Istanbul, in a short period. In December 1912, Kâmil Pasha's administration signed an armistice with Bulgaria and sat down at the London Peace Conference to draft a treaty to terminate the war. Using the 1878 Berlin Treaty as a justification, the Great Powers–the British Empire, France, Italy, and Russia–had begun to intervene in the Ottoman Empire's relationship with Bulgaria. The Great Powers sent a note to the Sublime Porte (the Ottoman government) requesting that the Ottoman Empire give Adrianople (Edirne) to Bulgaria and the Aegean islands under its control, most of which had been taken by the Greek Navy by that time. Because of the Army's losses thus far in the war, the Kâmil Pasha government was inclined to accept the "Midye-Enez Line" as a western border and, although not relinquishing Edirne to Bulgaria openly, preferred handing it over to an international commission. Many CUP members were captured by Greek forces and banished to Anatolia after the surrender of Salonica (Thessaloniki) by Greece in November 1912. Salonica (Thessaloniki) was the cradle of many progressive political leaders and movements of the era.

At the same time, Freedom and Accord were on the verge of dissolving due to inter-party strife. With little political strength and flexibility, the CUP plotted a coup against Kâmil Pasha's government of Freedom and Accord. Furthermore, tensions between Kâmil Pasha and the CUP had been simmering since the 1908 Young Turk Revolution, which ushered in the Second Constitutional Era. In the previous four years, Kâmil Pasha had taken steps to keep CUP members out of government and the Army, which had many CUP members among its ranks, out of politics. As a result, the CUP was severely disenchanted with Kâmil Pasha and Freedom and Accord by January 1913. Even though the coup was supposed to be a surprise, the CUP had already made firm plans to carry it out. Although he was slain during the coup, both the CUP and Freedom and Accord declared that Minister of the Navy Nazm Pasha would be included in their future cabinet. Talaat Bey, a member of the CUP, went so far as to declare that the CUP had previously offered Nazm Pasha the role of Grand Vizier and leadership of its cabinet.


March Towards the Sublime Porte

As he waited in the military supply-station inspectorate (Turkish: menzil müfettişliği) building near the Nuruosmaniye Mosque on January 23, 1913, at 14:30, Lieutenant Colonel Enver Bey (later and better known as Enver Pasha), one of the top leaders of the Committee of Union and Progress, was informed by a CUP member named Sapancal Hakk that everything was prepared for the Raid. Enver Bey boarded a white horse that had been waiting for him and began riding several blocks from Nuruosmaniye to the Sublime Porte, which was a metonym for a set of government buildings that held the offices of the Grand Vizier, his imperial administration, and other state departments. Talaat Bey (later known as Talaat Pasha) was also making his way towards the Sublime Porte with a party of CUP loyalists. When Enver Bey came in front of the Ministry of Public Works (Turkish: Nafıa Nazırlığı) building, other CUP members Ömer Naci and Ömer Seyfettin were already stirring up a mob by announcing loudly that Kâmil Pasha was about to hand over Adrianople to the Bulgarians. The speeches of Ömer Naci and Ömer Seyfettin were powerful, and a mob gathered in front of the Sublime Porte, shouting slogans against Kâmil Pasha's government. Furthermore, up to 60 CUP members were stationed outside the buildings of the Sublime Porte.

Entering the Sublime Porte

Enver Bey entered the Sublime Porte compound of government buildings with confederates Talaat Bey, Sapancalı Hakkı, Yakub Cemil, Mustafa Necip, and about 50 others, and made their way into the Grand Vizier's building, where Kâmil Pasha and his cabinet were in session. Ohrili Nâfiz Bey, a Grand Vizier's aide-de-camp, heard the disturbance and opened fire on the raiders, but he could not hit any of them. After being injured in the exchange, Ohrili Nâfiz Bey hid in the aide-de-camp office; when Mustafa Necip entered the office, Ohrili Nâfiz Bey shot and killed him. Mustafa Necip died of his wounds. Kıbrıslı Tevfik Bey, an aid-de-camp and nephew of Nazm Pasha, had also pulled his handgun and fired at the raid group, his bullet hitting Mustafa Necip. Kıbrıslı Tevfik Bey was promptly dead when the raiders returned fire. A secret police agent and a Sheikh ul-attendant Islam's were also slain in the shooting.

Shooting of Nazım Pasha

Hearing gunfire, Minister of War Nazm Pasha from his room and dashed towards the raiders. According to future Turkish President and Prime Minister Celâl Bayar's memoirs, Nazm Pasha yelled angrily at the men, "What exactly is going on? "You came to plunder the Grand Vizier's office?" he asks sarcastically. "Enver Bey saluted him and sought to explain his motives after he screamed profanities in his fury. While engaged with Enver Bey and the rest of the coup group, Yakub Cemil approached Nazm Pasha from behind and discharged his gun at Nazm Pasha's right temple, killing him. According to another report, Enver Bey attempted to stop Yakup Cemil from murdering Nazm Pasha, but Yakup Cemil refused to listen. Another version of events claimed that either Enver Bey or Talaat Bey accidentally killed Nazm Pasha while attempting to defend themselves from Kıbrıslı Tevfik Bey, his aid-de-camp. In any event, the CUP referred to Nazm Pasha's death during the coup as a "regrettable accident," claiming that it was unintentional but "unavoidable" given the circumstances. The fact that Interior Minister Ahmet Reşit escaped injury, according to the CUP, demonstrated that the coup organizers wanted to minimize bloodshed because Ahmet Reşit was far more opposed to the CUP than Nazm Pasha. Because the CUP favoured Nazm Pasha and claimed to have offered him a position as Grand Vizier in a future CUP cabinet before the coup, the contemporary French magazine L'Illustration described his strange fate as being persecuted former regime (of Kâmil Pasha's Freedom and Accord Party). It then cheered and was treated triumphantly by the new rule.

The Forced Resignation of Kamil Pasha

Enver and Talaat Bey then barged into Grand Vizier Kâmil Pasha's room and forced him to write a resignation letter under duress. Enver Bey quickly departed the Sublime Porte when Kâmil Pasha finished writing to deliver the letter to Sultan Mehmed V at his palace, driving to the court in the Sheikh ul-(eyhülislam) Islam's automobile.


Immediate Effects

Mahmud Shevket Pasha, who took both positions, replaced Kâmil Pasha as Grand Vizier and Nazm Pasha as Minister of War. The following people made up Mahmud Shevket Pasha's new cabinet:



Said Halim Pasha

President of the Council of State (for three days)

Talaat Bey

Minister of the Interior

Çürüksulu Mahmud Pasha

Minister of the Navy

Nicolae Constantin Batzaria

Minister of Public Works

Muhtar Bey

Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs (for three days)

Said Halim Pasha

succeeding him

Pirizade Ibrahim Hayrullah Bey

Minister of Justice

Ürgüplü Mustafa Hayri Efendi

Minister of Pious Foundations

Mehmed Celal Bey

Minister of Agriculture

Ahmet Şükrü Bey

Minister of Education

Oskan Mandikyan

Minister of Posts, Telegraph and Telephone


Even though Grand Vizier Mahmud Shevket Pasha was appointed to lead the CUP's cabinet, he was friendly with the now-opposition Freedom and Accord Party. When one of Nazm Pasha's cousins assassinated him in retaliation in June 1913, the CUP took advantage of the chance to suppress the opposition. Twelve men, including Nazm Pasha's relative, were found guilty of murder and hanged by the CUP for Mahmud Shevket Pasha's death. Thus, the CUP crushed the opposition parties, which the coup had already marginalized. The Savior Officers' (Turkish: Halâskâr Zâbitân) leaders made their way to Egypt and Albania. Prince Sabahaddin, another opposition leader who had helped the Savior Officers against the CUP, fled to western Switzerland, where he remained until 1919.

Long-term Legacy

The coup ultimately established the Ottoman Empire's dominance by a so-called authoritarian trio known as the "Three Pashas": Enver Pasha, the soon-to-be war minister, Talaat Pasha, and Cemal Pasha, the soon-to-be naval minister. The Three Pashas would dominate the Empire until abandoning the nation at the end of World War I when they led the CUP autocratically. It cemented the CUP's position as the Empire's ruling Young Turks party; the opposing Young Turks party, Freedom and Accord, would not reclaim power until the war's end. The coup is regarded as one of the first violent coups d'état in modern Turkish history, and some believe it set a precedent for future coups in the Republic of Turkey. Following significant opposition from more liberal Ottoman parties such as Freedom and Accord, as well as rebellions and wars against the Ottoman government by non-Muslim nationalities in the Empire, such as the disastrous Balkan Wars, which saw former Ottoman citizens of Bulgarian, Greek, Macedonian, and Armed Forces, following the conflicts, the CUP became more nationalist and intolerant of opposition. Though initially opposed to the extension of local autonomy to the provinces on principle, the CUP appeared to be on the verge of reconciling with those who advocated for a broader extension of the millet system to allow Ottoman Muslim unity. The Empire underwent significant political and military reforms under the CUP leadership, including increased centralization and military modernization. The Ottoman Empire moved closer to the German Empire under coup leader Enver Bey (later Pasha), which resulted in the Ottoman–German Alliance being confirmed the following year in 1914. In the same year, as a member of the Central Powers, Enver would lead the Empire into World War I, siding with Germany and the deposed Kâmil Pasha, who favoured the British. After World War I broke out, elements within the CUP began to see Armenians as a fifth column who would betray the Ottoman cause; these factions gained more strength after the 1913 Ottoman coup d'état. In World War I, the Turks' first major attack was a failed attempt to push the Russians out of Western Armenia, which they had seized during the Russo-Turkish War of 1877. Following the failure of this mission, the CUP's commanders, Enver, Cemal, and Talaat, were complicit in the deportations and massacres of between 1 and 1.5 million Armenians in what became known as the Armenian genocide, which occurred between 1915 and 1916. The Committee of Union and Progress's leadership and other former officials were charged with constitutional subversion, wartime profiteering, and executions of both Armenians and Greeks after World War I and the signing of the Mudros Armistice. The court convicted the massacre's organizers, Talat, Enver, Cemal, and others, to death.

Question of Popularity

Analysts questioned public support for the coup at the time, with some claiming that the CUP was backed by only a small crowd of actual residents, collected only within an hour by aggressive remarks made by CUP members. According to eyewitnesses and newspapers, there was relatively little essential popular participation in the coup or its events. Is this revolution wildly popular, according to reporter Georges Rémond? Everything was orchestrated and carried out by Talaat Bey, a brilliant politician who masterminded the coup, and Enver, an eager soldier, backed by a few dedicated officers and dozens of patriots joined by a few hundred protestors. Rémond claimed that thwarting the minimalist coup would have required no more than 50 guards. The only reason the Sublime Porte was left vulnerable was that Kâmil Pasha intended to call the CUP, which he had strategically ignored, on any severe threat it posed to his government. Rémond noted that he found Constantinople silent and devoid of public sentiment after the coup, whether on the coup or the ongoing First Balkan War, noticing an attitude of "indifference" among the populace and the statesmen participating.

Last updated: 2021-October-28
Tags: Ottoman Empire
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