Committee of Union and Progress

Committee of Union and Progress
Committee of Union and Progress
إتحاد و ترقى (İttihad ve Terakki), İttihad ve Terakki Cemiyeti
De facto leaders after 1914 İsmail Enver, Talat Paşa, Cemal Paşa
Slogan Hürriyet, Müsavaat, Adalet[1] (Liberty, Equality, Justice)
Founded 1889
Dissolved 1918
Headquarters Istanbul (Formerly in Selanik)

The Committee of Union and Progress (CUP) (Turkish: İttihat ve Terakki Cemiyeti) began as a secret society established as the "Committee of Ottoman Union" (Turkish: İttihad-ı Osmanî Cemiyeti) in 1889 by the medical students İbrahim Temo, Abdullah Cevdet, İshak Sükuti and Ali Hüseyinzade. It was transformed into a political organization by Bahaeddin Sakir aligning itself with the Young Turks in 1906, during the period of the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire.

At the end of World War I most of its members were court-martialled by the sultan Mehmed VI and imprisoned. A few of the members of the organization were executed in Turkey after trial for the attempted assassination of Atatürk in 1926. Members who survived continued their political careers in Turkey as members of the Republican People's Party (Turkish: Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi) and in other political parties as well.


Revolutionary Era: 1906–1908

The Committee of Union and Progress was an umbrella name for different underground factions, some of which were generally referred to as the "Young Turks". The name was officially sanctioned to a specific group in 1906 by Bahaeddin Sakir. The organization was based upon the revolutionary Italian Carbonari.[2] The CUP had built an extensive organization, having a presence in towns, in the capital, and throughout Europe. Under this umbrella name one could find ethnic Albanians, Bulgarians, Arabs, Serbians, Jews, Greeks, Turks, Kurds and Armenians united by the common goal of changing the régime. After the 1908 revolution, in the absence of this goal the revolution began to fracture and different allegiances began to emerge. The evolution of CUP was interestingly also supported by the French government.[citation needed] Abdul Hamid II was quite successful in suppressing the CUP, and even approached the French and German governments to assist in the suppression of this political movement.[citation needed]

The Young Turk Revolution played a significant role in the evolution of Committee of Union and Progress from a revolutionary organization to a political party.

Change through revolution

The revolution and CUP's work had a great impact on Muslims in other countries. The Persian community in Istanbul founded the Iranian Union and Progress Committee. Indian Muslims imitated the CUP oath administered to recruits of the organization. The leaders of the Young Bukhara movement were deeply influenced by the Young Turk Revolution, and saw it as an example to emulate.

The Chinese Revolution of 1911 and the Russian Revolution of 1917 diverted the attention of world revolutionaries from the Young Turk Revolution.

Second Constitutional Era: 1908–1912

The first election to the Ottoman Parliament after the Young Turk Revolution netted the Committee of Union and Progress only 60 of the 275 seats, despite its leading role in the revolution. Other parties represented in Parliament at this time included the Armenian nationalist Dashnak and Hunchak parties (four and two members respectively) and the main opposition, the Liberty and Entente party, sometimes referred to by Ottoman historians as the "Liberal Union".

As a result of the "Law of Associations", which shut down ethnically based organizations and clubs, by the time of the second general election in 1912, the smaller ethnic parties had coalesced with the Liberal Union. At this election, a total of 67% or 184 seats were won by the CUP. In most republics this is the margin required for wholesale transformation of the constitution, but of course the Ottoman Empire was technically a constitutional monarchy, although it is unlikely Sultan Mehmed V could have prevented the revision of the constitution. This Parliamentary session was very short due to the outbreak of the First Balkan War; sensing the danger, the government won passage of a bill conscripting dhimmis into the army. This proved too little and too late to salvage the Ottoman toehold in southeast Europe; the Ottomans lost Albania, Macedonia and western Thrace.

On 5 August 1912, the government shuttered Parliament. Just prior to that it had succeeded in passing the "Law for the Prevention of Brigandage and Sedition", a measure ostensibly intended to prevent insurgency against the central government which assigned that duty to newly created paramilitary formations. These later came under the control of the Teşkilat-i Mahsusa.

Coup and Aftermath: 1913–1918

In spite of parliamentary elections, non-partisan figures from the pre-revolutionary period known as the "Old Turks" still dominated the Ottoman cabinet, known as the Sublime Porte. The Grand Vizier Mehmed Kamil Pasha and his minister of war Nazim Pasha became targets of the CUP, which overthrew them in a military coup d'état on 23 January 1913.

The emerging government could hardly be called constitutional. Indeed, 1913 was a period of government by assassination as Nazim and then his successor Mahmud Sevket Pasha were both slain, Nazim at the very instant the CUP seized power. The following year, new legislation made the CUP the Empire's only legal political party; all provincial and local officials reported to "Responsible Secretaries" chosen by the party for each vilayet.

Absent the wartime atmosphere, the CUP did not purge minority religions from political life; at least 23 Christians joined it and were elected to the third Parliament. This is one possible motivation for the entry into the war, another being the "pan-Turkic" ideology of the party which emphasized the Empire's manifest destiny of ruling over the Muslims of Central Asia once Russia was driven out of that region. Notably, two principal leaders from this time, Enver Pasha and Ahmed Djemal, would in fact die in the Soviet Union leading Muslim anti-Communist movements years after the Russian Revolution and the Ottoman defeat in World War I.

The CUP especially distrusted the Armenians population, and began plotting their extermination almost immediately.[dubious ] Indeed, the first major offensive the Turks undertook in World War I was an unsuccessful attempt to drive the Russians from the portion of partially classic Armenia which they had taken over in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877. After the predictable failure of this expedition, the CUP was involved in the genocide of between 1 and 1.5 million Armenians between 1915–1916. As explained in the key indictment at the trial (in absentia) of the Three Pashas (Enver, Cemal, and Talaat); the Armenian Genocide massacres were spearheaded by the Teşkilat-i Mahsusa under its leader, the Turkish physician Behaeddin Shakir.


The dissolution of the CUP was achieved through military trials.

As the military position of the Central Powers disintegrated in October 1918, the government resigned. A new Grand Vizier, Ahmed Izzet Pasha, negotiated the Armistice of Mudros at the end of the month. The position of the CUP was now untenable, and its top leaders fled three days later.

British forces occupied various points throughout the Empire, and through their High Commissioner Somerset Calthorpe demanded that those members of the leadership who had not fled be put on trial, a policy also demanded by Part VII of the Treaty of Sèvres formally ending hostilities between the Allies and the Empire. The British carried off 60 Turks thought to be responsible for atrocities to Malta, where trials were planned. The new government obligingly arrested over 100 party and military officials by April 1919 and began a series of trials. These were initially promising, with one district governor, Mehmed Kemal, being hanged on April 10.

Any possibility of a general effort at truth, reconciliation, or democratization was, however, lost when Greece, which had sought to remain neutral through most of World War I, was invited by France, Britain, and the United States to occupy western Anatolia in May 1919. Nationalist leader Mustafa Kemal (with obvious relation to the CUP official, see the 31 March Incident) rallied the Turkish people to resist. Two additional organizers of the genocide were hanged, but while a few others were convicted, none completed their prison terms. The CUP and other Turkish prisoners held on Malta were eventually traded for almost 30 British prisoners held by Nationalist forces, obliging the British to give up their plans for international trials.


The CUP has at times been identified with the two opposition parties attempted to be introduced the Progressive Republican Party and the Liberal Republican Party into Turkish politics during the life of Kemal. While neither of these parties was primarily made up of persons indicted for genocidal activities, they were eventually taken over (or at least exploited) by persons who wished to restore the caliphate. Consequently, both parties had to be outlawed, although Kazim Karabekir, founder of the PRP, was eventually rehabilitated after the death of Kemal and even served as speaker of the Grand National Assembly.

It was also Karabekir who crystallized the modern Turkish position on the Armenian Genocide, telling Soviet peace commissioners that the return of any Armenians to territory controlled by Turks was out of the question, as the Armenians had perished in a rebellion of their own making.[citation needed] Historian Taner Akçam has identified four definitions of Turkey which have been handed down by Kemal's generation to modern Turks, of which the second is "Turkey is a society without ethnic minorities or cultures."[3] While the postwar reconstruction of Eastern Europe was generally dominated by Wilsonian ideas of national self-determination, Turkey probably came closer than most of the new countries to ethnic homogeneity due to the subsequent population exchanges with neighboring countries. Similarly with countries which came under Soviet domination following World War II, it has not become truly multi-ethnic like the immigrant havens of Western Europe or the United States, rather serving as a net exporter of people. This is probably the main reason Karabekir's approach has continued to be viable.

Kemal was particularly eager that political Islam be marginalized; this made possible the eventual normalization of relations with Western countries, though the denial of admission to the European Union indicates there are still strong negative feelings among some political leaders.[citation needed] This remains the most difficult aspect of the Turkish national movement.

The CUP's effects have arguably been more profound in Turkey's former Arab provinces. These nations' independence would have been considerably delayed had the Ottoman Empire not joined the Central Powers in World War I.[dubious ] No combatant seems likely to have attacked the Empire absent its decision to join the war.[dubious ]

Antisemitic conspiracy theories

Between 1910 and 1916, antisemitic Judeo-Masonic conspiracy theories regarding the party were fuelled within the British government through diplomatic correspondence from Gerard Lowther (British Ambassador to Constantinople) and Gilbert Clayton (Chief of British intelligence in Egypt)[4][5][6][7]

In popular Culture

  • In Behemoth their revolution in 1908 failed, igniting a new revolution at the start of World War I.


  • List of parties in Ottoman Empire



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