YOUNG TURKS AND WORLD WAR I
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However, these reforms were unable to stem further military humiliation. Albanian uprisings and the Italian invasion of Ottoman North Africa were followed by alliances among the Balkan states of Serbia, Montenegro, Bulgaria, and Greece that lead to the bloody Balkan Wars (1912-13). Angered with the government’s apparent inability to stem losses in the Balkans, the newfound Committee for Union and Progress (CUP), led by powerhouse trio Talat Paşa, Ahmed Cemal Paşa, and Enver Paşa, rode into Istanbul, shot the minister of war, and declared themselves in effective control of the government.
The Young Turks managed to establish a stable government in 1913. Domestically, their efforts were aimed at amending past failed reforms. This meant a focus upon legal secularization, industrialization, standardization of education, and centralization of power. The Balkan Wars had left the Empire without its European territories, on the eve of the First World War. Seeing Russia as the principal threat, CUP leaders tried to woo Britain and France, who flatly rejected them. Next on the list was Germany, who agreed to an alliance in 1914. Under Mustafa Kemal, the Turks blunted an early Allied assault at Gallipoli by committing all their troops to the high ground and bluffing until reinforcements arrived. Their battle for the Dardanelles restricted the Allies to a kilometer-wide piece of scrub at the price of over 280,000 deaths on both sides. Mustafa Kemal’s tactical brilliance and front-line leadership catapulted him to hero status and reignited Turkish nationalism. Apart from this phase, however, the war was a total disaster, a humiliation mitigated only by the nationalistic spur it provided and the new nation it would soon inspire.
More significant in this period was the Armenian genocide of 1915. The decision of Armenian Turks to align with Orthodox Russia during the war ended centuries of peaceful coexistence within Turkey, as many Armenians took up arms against the Ottomans. The government responded brutally, as civilians proved easy prey for the otherwise struggling Turkish army; the result was as many as V/2 million Armenians force-marched, bayonetted off cliffs, incinerated, buried alive, or summarily executed