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Mehmet Talat Pasha


In office
4 February 1917 – 8 October 1918
Preceded by Said Halim Pasha
Succeeded by Ahmed İzzet Pasha

Minister of Interior
In office
January 23, 1913 – 4 February 1917

Born 1874
Kırcaali (Edirne)
Died March 15th 1921
Berlin, Germany
Nationality Turkish
Political party Committee of Union and Progress
Religion Islam

Mehmed Talat (Ottoman Turkish: محمد طلعت, Turkish: Mehmet Tâlât) (1874-1921) also known as Talat Pasha (Ottoman Turkish: طلعت پاشا) was one of the leaders of the Committee of Union and Progress that controlled the Ottoman Empire during the First World War.[1]. His career in Ottoman politics began by becoming Deputy for Edirne in 1908, then Minister of the Interior, and finally in 1917 Grand Vizier.[1] He fled the empire with Enver Pasha and Cemal Pasha in 1918, and was assassinated in Berlin in 1921.[1]

Mehmed Talat, when Interior Minister, ordered on April 24, 1915 the arrest of Armenian leaders in Constantinople, and requested the Tehcir Law of May 1915 that initiated the massacres[2][3][4] of the Ottoman Empire's Armenian population. [5][6][7][8][9][10][11]


Early life

Mehmed Talat was born in 1874 in Kırcaali town of Edirne Province into the family of a junior civil servant working for the Ottoman Empire. His father was from a village in the mountainous south-eastern corner of present-day Bulgaria. He had a powerful build and a dark complexion. [12] His manners were bluff, which caused him to leave the civil preparatory school without a certificate after a conflict with his teacher. Without earning the degree, he joined the staff of the telegraph company as a postal clerk in Edirne. His salary was not high, so he worked after hours as a Turkish language teacher in the Alliance Israelite School which served the Jewish community of Edirne.[12]

At the age of 21 he had a love affair with the daughter of the Jewish headmaster he worked for. He was caught sending a telegram saying "Things are going well. I'll soon reach my goal." With two of his friends of the post office, he was charged with tampering with the official telegraph and arrested in 1893. He claimed that the message in question was to his girl-friend. The Jewish girl came forward to defend him. Sentenced to two years of jail, he was pardoned but exiled to Salonica as a postal clerk[12].

Between 1898 and 1908 he served as a postman, on the staff of the Salonica Post Office. Eventually, having served 10 years at this postal unit, he became head of the Salonica Post Office.

Young Turk Revolution

In 1908 he was dismissed for membership of the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP), the conspiratorial nucleus of the Young Turk movement. However, after the Young Turk Revolution of 1908 he became deputy of Edirne in the Ottoman Parliament, and in July 1909 he was appointed Minister of Interior Affairs. He became Minister of Post and then Secretary-General of the CUP in 1912.

After the assassination of the Prime Minister Mahmud Sevket Pasa in July 1913, Talat Pasha again became Minister of Interior Affairs. Talat, with Enver Pasha and Djemal Pasha, formed a group called the Three Pashas. These men formed the triumvirate that ran the Ottoman government until the end of war in October, 1918.

The Armenian Genocide

On April 24 1915, Talat issued an order to close all Armenian political organizations operating within the Ottoman Empire and arrest Armenians connected to them, justifying the action by stating that the organizations were controlled from outside the empire, were inciting upheavals behind the Ottoman lines, and were cooperating with Russian forces. This order resulted in the arrest on the night of 24/25 April 1915 of 235 to 270 Armenian community leaders in Constantinople, including politicians, clergymen, physicians, authors, journalists, lawyers, and teachers. Although the mass killings of Armenian civilians had begun in the Van vilayet several weeks earlier, these mass-arrests in Constantinople are considered by many commentators to be the start of the Armenian Genocide.[13]

Talat also issued the order for the Tehcir Law of June 1 1915 to February 8 1916 that allowed for the mass-deportation of Armenians, which some academics define as the vehicle of the Armenian Genocide.[14]

Talat, as minister of the interior, bears much of the responsibility for the deportation of the Armenians from the empire's eastern provinces to Syria. Most historians blame him for the barbarity of the operation and the deaths of millions of people (and not only of Armenian origin). Although Talat was the minister of the interior, many historians argue that Enver Pasha deserves equal blame for the extermination of the Armenians.[15][16] He is reported to have said the following to Ambassador Henry Morgenthau, Sr. in Ambassador Morgenthau's Story[17]

"I have accomplished more toward solving the Armenian problem in three months than Abdul Hamid accomplished in thirty years!"

Turkish feminist-nationalist Halide Edip wrote in her Memoirs:

"There are two factors which lead man to the extermination of his kind: the principles advocated by the idealists, and the material interest which the consequences of doing so afford certain classes. The idealists are the more dangerous, for one is obliged to respect them even if one cannot agree with them. Talaat was of that kind. I saw Talaat very rarely after the Armenian deportations. I remember well one day when he nearly lost his temper in discussing the question and said in a severe tone: 'Look here Halide Hanum. I have a heart as good as yours, and it keeps me awake at night to think of human suffering...I have the conviction that as long as a nation does the best for its own interests, and succeeds, the world admires it and thinks it moral. I am ready to die for what I have done, and I know I shall die for it. [18]

Grand vizier, 1917

In 1917, Talat became the Grand Vizier, but was unable to reverse the downward spiral of Ottoman fortunes in his new position.

Over the next year, Jerusalem and Baghdad were lost, and in October 1918 the British shattered both Ottoman armies they faced. With defeat certain, Talat resigned on October 14, 1918.

Exile 1919 - 1921

Talat Pasha fled the Ottoman capital in a German submarine on 3 November 1918, from Constantinople harbour to Berlin. Just a week later the Porte capitulated to the Allies and signed the Armistice of Mudros.

Public opinion was shocked by the departure of Talat Pasha, even though he had been known to turn a blind eye on corrupt ministers appointed because of their associations to the CUP [19]. Talat Pasha was known as a courageous and patriotic individual, and he would willingly face the consequences[19]. With the occupation of Constantinople Izzet Pasha resigned. Tevfik Pasha took the position of Grand Vizir the same day that British ships entered the Golden Horn. Tevfik Pasha lasted until 4 March 1919, replaced by Ferid Pasha whose first order was the arrest of leading members of the CUP.


Turkish Courts-Martial of 1919-20

Following the occupation of Constantinople by the Allied Powers, the British exerted pressure on the Sublime Porte and brought to trial the Turkish leaders who had held positions of responsibility between 1914 and 1918, for having committed, among other charges, the Armenian Genocide. Those who were caught were put under arrest at the Bekiraga division and were subsequently exiled to Malta. The courts-martial were designed by Sultan Mehmed VI to punish the Committee of Union and Progress for the Empire's ill-conceived involvement in World War I. The Pashas who had held the highest positions in the administration and whose names were at the top of the execution lists of the Armenian assassination teams could be condemned in absentia because they had gone abroad.

By January 1919, a report to Sultan Mehmed VI accused over 130 suspects, most of whom were high officials. The indictment accused the main defendants, including Talat, of being "mired in an unending chain of bloodthirstiness, plunder and abuses". They were accused of deliberately engineering Turkey's entry into the war "by a recourse to a number of vile tricks and deceitful means". They were also accused of "the massacre and destruction of the Armenians" and of trying to "pile up fortunes for themselves" through "the pillage and plunder" of their possessions. The indictment alleged that "The massacre and destruction of the Armenians were the result of decisions by the Central Committee of Ittihadd". [20]The Court released its verdict on July 5 1919: Talat, Enver, Cemal, and Dr. Nazim were condemned to death in absentia.

However, the British were determined not to leave Talat alone. The British had intelligence reports indicating that he had gone to Germany, and the British High Commissioner pressured Damad Ferit Pasha and the Sublime Porte to demand from Germany to return to Ottoman Empire. As a result of efforts pursued personally by (Sir) Andrew Ryan, a former Dragoman and now a member of the British intelligence service, Germany responded to Ottoman Empire stating that it was willing to be helpful if official papers could be produced showing these persons had been found guilty, and added that the presence of these persons in Germany could not as yet be ascertained[21].

Aubrey Herbert interview, 1921

The last official interview Talat granted was to Aubrey Nigel Henry Molyneux Herbert, a British intelligence agent[22]. It was nine days before his assassination. The interview was short meetings with him during three days in a park in a small German town. The interview gave chance to Talat explain the policies of Ottoman Empire during the last 10 years.

These meetings corroborated earlier intelligence to the effect that Talat Pasha was seeking support from Muslim countries to form a serious opposition movement against the Allied Powers, and that he was soon intending to take refuge in Ankara, which Turkish national movement was forming. Furthermore, Talat Pasha also dared to make the threat that he was going to incite the Pan-Turanist and Pan-Islamist movements against England, unless she signed a peace treaty favorable for Turkey.

During this interview Talat maintained on several occasions that the CUP had always sought British friendship and advice; but Britain was in no mood to offer any assistance whatsoever[23].

Assassination, 1921

Before the assassination, the British intelligence services identified Talat in Stockholm where he had gone for a few days. The British intelligence first planned to apprehend him in Berlin where he was planning to return, but then changed its mind because it feared the complications this would create in Germany. Another view in the British intelligence was that Talat should be apprehended by the British navy in the sea while returning from Scandinavia by ship. At the end, it was decided to let him return to Berlin, find out what he was trying to accomplish with his activities abroad, and to establish direct contact with him before giving the final verdict[24]. This was achieved with the help of Aubrey Nigel Henry Molyneux Herbert.

Their intelligence service established contact with its counterpart in the Soviet Union to evaluate the situation. Talat Pasha's plans made the Russian officials as anxious as the British. The two intelligence services collaborated and signed among them the 'death warrant' of Talat. Information concerning his physical description and his whereabouts was forwarded to their men in Germany[24].

It was decided that Armenian revolutionaries carry out the verdict[24]. Arab journalist Mustafa Amin's contention is that the British intelligence itself was behind the assassinations of exiled Young Turk leaders in the early 1920s: such as Talat, Jemal Pasha.[25] As a matter of fact, Talat was assassinated with a single bullet on 15 March 1921 as he came out of his house in Hardenbergstrasse, Charlottenburg. His assassin was an Armenian Revolutionary Federation member from Erzurum named Soghomon Tehlirian.[26] Soghomon Tehlirian also assassinated Armenian Mgrditch Haroutounian in Constantinople in 1920 as part of a bigger operation named "Operation Nemesis."[26]

Trial of Soghomon Tehlirian

Soghomon Tehlirian admitted committing the murder. After a cursory two-day trial, he was found innocent by a German court on grounds of temporary insanity due to the traumatic experience he had gone through during the Genocide.

Posthumous Memoirs

In a very short time after the assassination of Talat on March 1921, the "Posthumous Memoirs of Talaat" was published on October volume of The New York Times Current History[27]. In this memoir, he accepted that the deportation was not carried out lawfully everywhere. He claimed that in the region there was hatred among the Armenians and Kurdish which had their bitter history. He also claimed that there were officials who abused their authority. He also states that region became unlawful and people took preventive measures into their own hands. He accepts that the duty of the Government was to prevent these abuses and atrocities. He claimed that as the minister of interior, he ordered to arrest those who were responsible and punished them according to the law[27].

I admit that we deported Armenians from our eastern provinces, and we acted in this matter upon a previously prepared scheme. The responsibility of these acts falls upon the deported people themselves. Russian ... had armed and equipped the Armenian inhabitants of this district [Van] ..., and had organized strong Armenian bandit forces. ... When we entered the Great War, these bandits began their destructive activities in the rear of the Turkish army on the Caucasus front, blowing up the bridges and killing the innocent Mohammedan inhabitants regardless of age and sex... All these Armenian bandits were helped by the native Armenians.[28].
—Mehmed Talat


He was buried in the Turkish Cemetery in Berlin. In 1943, his remains were taken to Istanbul and reburied in Şişli. His war memories were published after his death.


  1. ^ a b c Sylvia Kedourie, S Tanvir Wasti (1996) Turkey: Identity, Democracy, Politics. ISBN 0714647187 page 96
  2. ^ Akcam, Taner, A Shameful Act, (Holt & Co.:New York, 2006),165, 186-187.
  3. ^ Ussher, Clarence, An American Physician in Turkey, (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Co.,1917),244.
  4. ^ Hartunian, Abraham H.,Neither to Laugh nor to Weep,(Boston: Beacon Press, 1968), 62.
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ Ferguson, Niall. The War of the World: Twentieth-Century Conflict and the Descent of the West. New York: Penguin Press, 2006 p. 177 ISBN 1-5942-0100-5
  9. ^ Kiernan, Ben, Blood and Soil:Genocide and Extermination in World History from Carthage to Darfur,(Yale University Press, 2007), 414.
  10. ^ Rosenbaum, Alan S., Is the Holocaust Unique?, (Westview Press, 2001), 122-123.
  11. ^ Naimark, Norman, Fires of hatred, (Harvard University Press, 2001), 57.
  12. ^ a b c Mango, Andrew (2004). Atatürk. London: John Murray. p. 67. ISBN 978-0719565922. 
  13. ^
  14. ^ Josh Belzman (April 23, 2006). "PBS effort to bridge controversy creates more". MSNBC. Retrieved 2006-10-05. 
  15. ^ David Fromkin "A Peace to End all Peace", pg 212-213
  16. ^ The Story of Enver Pasha and his Times Part 4: Armenians are nothing to me
  17. ^ Ambassador Morgenthau's Story. 1918. Chapter Twenty-Five
  18. ^ Memoirs of Halide Edip by Halide Edip, The Century Company, NY, 1926, p. 387
  19. ^ a b Kedourie, Sylvia (1996). Turkey: Identity, Democracy, Politics. Routledge. p. 15. ISBN 0714647187. 
  20. ^ V. Dadrian, "The History of the Armenian Genocide" p323-324.
  21. ^ Oke, Mim Kemal: The Armenian question 1914-1923. Nicosia: Oxford 1988
  22. ^ Herbert, Aubrey (1925). Ben Kendim: A Record of Eastern Travel. G. P. Putnam's sons ltd.. p. 41. ISBN 0714647187. 
  23. ^ Kedourie, Sylvia (1996). Turkey: Identity, Democracy, Politics. Routledge. p. 41. ISBN 0714647187. 
  24. ^ a b c Oke, Mim Kemal (1988). The Armenian question 1914-1923. Rustem & Brother. ISBN 9789963565160. 
  25. ^ Donald M. Reid, Political Assassination in Egypt, 1910-1954 The International Journal of African Historical Studies, Vol. 15, No. 4 (1982), pp. 625-651
  26. ^ a b
  27. ^ a b Talaat Pasha, "Posthumous Memoirs of Talaat Pasha" The New York Times Current History Vol. 15, no. 1 (October 1921): 295
  28. ^ Hovannisian, Richard (1987). The Armenian Genocide in Perspective. Transaction Publishers. p. 142. 

External links

Preceded by
Said Halim Pasha
Grand Vizier
Succeeded by
Ahmed Izzet Pasha


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