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Enver Pasha

By:
Feroz Ahmad
Source:
The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Islamic World What is This? Provides comprehensive scholarly coverage of the full geographical and historical extent of Islam

Enver Pasha

Enver Pasha was an Ottoman Turkish general and commander of the Ottoman armies during World War I. Born in Istanbul on November 23, 1881, Enver Pasha graduated from the military academy in 1902 and was posted to Macedonia, where the army was fighting bands of Greek and Bulgarian nationalist guerrillas. Balkan nationalist movements that emerged from the millet (protected minority group) system had a strong religious component. As a result, early Turkish nationalism was strongly tinged with Islam. In 1906 Enver joined the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), the leading organization in the Young Turk movement. Following the revolution of July 1908, Enver was promoted by the CUP as a “hero of liberty”; his rank at the time was that of staff major.

The government felt threatened by the charismatic appeal of junior officers like Enver and posted some of them as military attachés to Ottoman diplomatic missions. In 1909 Enver Bey was sent to Berlin, but the outbreak of a counter revolution in Istanbul in April brought him back to center stage. His role in crushing the insurrection enhanced his popularity. In 1911–1912 he served with distinction in Libya, organizing resistance to the Italian army of occupation. The disastrous defeats of the Balkan wars of 1912–1913 saw him back in the capital; in January 1913 he overthrew the defeatist Kamil Pasha cabinet, which was about to surrender Edirne to the Bulgars, and brought the CUP to power. Enver was at that time a lieutenant colonel.

Enver led the forces that recaptured Edirne from Bulgaria in July 1913, and his prestige soared. When the government needed a young and dynamic war minister to purge and reform the army, Enver was the obvious choice. He was promoted to the rank of general with the title of pasha. He had become a key policymaker in the Committee with pro-German leanings. He was, however, pro-German only because he believed that the German alliance served Ottoman interests. In fact, Istanbul was so entirely dependent on Berlin that Ottoman policy throughout the war was dictated by German strategic needs. Despite the failures of this policy, Enver saw the revolution in Russia as an opportunity to create a new empire embracing the Turkic/Islamic peoples who had been under tsarist rule. This romantic dream failed to materialize. Ottoman armies were defeated on other fronts and forced to sign an armistice with Britain in October 1918. In November Enver and the CUP leaders fled to Germany. Enver went on to Turkistan, where he organized Muslim forces against the Bolsheviks. He was killed in battle in Tajikistan on August 4, 1922.

Nationalist historiography has portrayed Enver Pasha as a Pan-Turanist (favoring the union of all Turkic peoples). Although he may have shared elements of this ideology, his actions suggest that he placed his faith in Ottomanism, which became increasingly Islamist as the non-Muslim nations broke away from Ottoman domination. Moreover, the CUP itself believed in Ottomanism; it married some of its military supporters to Ottoman princesses to link its fortunes to those of the dynasty. Enver married Naciye Sultan, the daughter of Prince Süleyman, a son of Sultan Abdülmecid. Ottomanism within the CUP was strengthened, and as the sultan was also caliph, dynasticism and Islam went hand in hand. Islam was the bond that united the various Muslim ethnic groups in the empire; this is why jihād was proclaimed as soon as Istanbul entered the war. Not only would this step unify all Muslim Ottomans, it was also expected to subvert the loyalty of Muslims living under British, French, and Russian rule. Later, when Enver fought the Bolsheviks, he named his force the Army of Islam (Islam Ordusu), though a Turanist might have called it the Turkish Army. Until the creation of the Turkish Republic, Islam remained the dominant ideological strand in the Ottoman Empire.

See also OTTOMAN EMPIRE; PAN-TURANISM; and YOUNG TURKS.

Bibliography

  • Ahmad, Feroz. The Young Turks. Oxford, 1969. Very useful for the years 1908–1914.
  • Fromkin, David. A Peace to End All Peace: The Fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Creation of the Modern Middle East. Henry Holt, 2001.
  • Nezir-Akmese, Handan. The Birth of Modern Turkey: The Ottoman Military and the March to WWI, I.B. Tauris, 2005.
  • Swanson, Glen. “Enver Pasha: The Formative Years.”Middle Eastern Studies 16 (1980): 193–199. Instructive for Enver 's early years.
  • Trumpener, Ulrich. Germany and the Ottoman Empire, 1914–1918. Princeton, 1968. Excellent for the war years though Trumpener's interpretation relies almost entirely on German sources.
  • Yamauchi, Masayuki. The Green Crescent under the Red Star: Enver Pasha in Soviet Russia, 1919–1922. Tokyo, 1991. Yamauchiʾs introductions to Turkish documents (published in Turkish) provide original accounts of Enverʾs final years from a variety of sources.
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