Enver Pasha

The Turkish soldier Enver Pasha (1881-1922) was the dominant member of the Young Turk triumvirate ruling the Ottoman Empire during World War I.

On Nov. 23, 1881, Enver Pasha was born of a Turkish father, a bridge keeper in the Black Sea town of Apana, and an Albanian mother. Joining the military, he was posted as a subaltern to Salonika, where he joined a secret antigovernment group. He rose rapidly in the public eye when, in the spring of 1908, he defied Sultan Abdul Hamid II and fled with fellow rebel officers into the Macedonian hills. Their demand was for restoration of the 1876 Constitution, suspended since 1877. Always action-minded, always alert to the dramatic, he enjoyed his activities as a member of the liberal Committee of Union and Progress, the "Young Turks," particularly after the 3d Army Corps threatened to march on Istanbul in July and forced Abdul Hamid to restore the constitution.

The Young Turks established a government under Mahmud Shevket but were nearly overthrown on April 14, 1909. Enver participated in both movements and then returned to Berlin, where he had been serving as military attaché. He was awed by Prussian militarism and left in 1911 to join in the Turkish defense of Benghazi against the Italians. He detailed this experience in Tripoli (1918).

Returning to Istanbul, Enver became chief of staff of the 10th Army Corps, which he led into the Second Balkan War in a futile landing attempt on the Gallipoli Peninsula in February 1913; in July, Enver reoccupied Edirne.

Between the wars Enver participated in the shooting of the war minister, Nazim Pasha, and the ouster of the pro-British grand vizier, Kiamil Pasha. In January 1913 the Young Turks resumed control of the government. The assassination of their premier, Mahmud Shevket, in June intensified their aggressiveness. A major purge followed, with Enver dismissing over 1,200 officers in one day alone. By Jan. 13, 1914, Enver had made himself minister of war, a strategic position from which he influenced his associates into an alliance with Germany signed secretly on August 2. Subsequently he approved the German bombardment of Odessa and Sevastopol, which precipitated the Ottoman Empire's entry into World War I.

During the winter of 1914/1915 Enver Pasha, leading a Turkish army in the Caucasus, suffered a disastrous defeat. He compounded this bloody record with acquiescence in the forced deportation and consequent death of innumerable Armenians evacuated from the frontier area.

Enver subsequently became the dominant personality in the government, but his aloofness and vanity alienated him from other Young Turks. When the Ottoman Empire collapsed, he fled to Germany and later to Russia. Condemned to death in Istanbul, he died leading an anti-Bolshevik insurrection among the Central Asian Turks around Bukhara on Aug. 4, 1922.


Further Reading on Enver Pasha

Ernest E. Ramsaur, The Young Turks: Prelude to the Revolution of 1908 (1957), is an excellent source on Enver Pasha. Enver Pasha's later career is recounted in detail in Ulrich Trumpener, Germany and the Ottoman Empire, 1914-1918 (1968). Also useful is Frank G. Weber, Eagles on the Crescent: Germany, Austria, and the Diplomacy of the Turkish Alliance, 1914-1918 (1970).