Talaat Pasha, Turkish modernity through blood

Talaat Pasha (1874-1921).

“Talaat Pasha. The other founder of modern Turkey, architect of the Armenian genocide” (Talât Pascha), by Hans-Lukas Kieser, translated from German by Gari Ulubeyan, preface by Antoine Garapon, CNRS Editions, 616 p., €28 , digital €20.

Among contemporary dictators and executioners, he is almost unknown. While there are countless biographies of Hitler, Stalin and Mussolini, the figure of Mehmet Talaat Pasha (1874-1921) emerges only indistinctly from the group of Turkish leaders who decided to exterminate the Armenians of the Ottoman Empire in 1915. Yet he was the undisputed mastermind behind this criminal policy and, more broadly, a matrix figure of the 20e century.

Thus, the large-scale book that Hans-Lukas Kieser devotes to him not only contributes to bringing him out of the shadows: it shows his importance at the crossroads of two eras. By carrying out a very original fusion between revolutionary rhetoric, single party, obsessive nationalism and state violence, he was the first to materialize and embody, from the 1910s, a new political model, destined to dominate the period well beyond. Turkish borders.

The test of power

Talaat’s rise can be summed up in a drama in three acts. The first takes place, at the end of the 19the century, in the protesting circles of a weakened Ottoman Empire. This uneducated young man joined the revolutionary militants determined to reject the power of Sultan Abdulhamid II and to build a modern state. He knows the conspiracy, the prison, the exile, before the success of the young-Turkish revolution of 1908, which propels him to the foreground. A member of the new Assembly, he is a rising figure in the Union and Progress Committee (CUP), which now leads.

This is the second act: the test of power. Having become a minister, Talaat understood that the consolidation of the new regime passed through compromises with the most traditional fractions of Ottoman society, united by Sunni Islam, including turning a blind eye to the massacres of Armenians perpetrated in 1909. C It was then that the ideological core of his “ethno-religious nationalism”, rejecting tolerance towards Christian minorities. Building a new state now means making it homogeneous. On this point, Talaat and the CUP agree with the conception of the “Turkishness” promoted by the ideologue Ziya Gökalp (1876-1924). The latter, shows the author, is the double and the complement of Talaat: the shadow doctrinaire and the political leader work together to create a Turkish and Muslim nation purged of all heterogeneity.

You have 32.44% of this article left to read. The following is for subscribers only.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *