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  • Print publication year: 2008
  • Online publication date: July 2009

1 - The intellectual and emotional climate after the Balkan Wars

Summary

When I contemplate all that Russia has done for centuries to bring about our destruction, and all that Britain has done during these last few years, then I consider this new crisis that has emerged to be a blessing. I believe that it is the Turks' [Türklerin] ultimate duty either to live like an honorable nation or to exit the stage of history gloriously.

Cemal Pasha, navy minister, November 2, 1914

The Committee of Union and Progress resolved to enter the First World War on the side of Germany in the long shadow of Great Power intervention in the internal affairs of the Ottoman Empire. Publications addressing international questions reflected the deep conviction that the country's survival could be secured only on the battlefield. These arguments, to be sure, reflected elite thinking, and it is doubtful that they had made much headway among rural, let alone illiterate, populations by 1914. Nonetheless, Ottoman political writing after the two Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913 focused on the mobilization of all segments of society in the defense of the empire. This mobilization required a comprehensive, or total, process, a process that could equip the people with patriotic passion and industry to fend off the dangers the empire faced. In books, journals, and newspapers appearing in Istanbul and elsewhere, writers and politicians referred to this process as hareket-i intibahiye, “the movement of awakening.” Military and political leaders depicted the empire as engaged in a final, life-or-death struggle.

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