E. F. (Edward Frederick) Knight.

Turkey; the awakening of Turkey; the Turkish revolution of 1908 online

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University of California.






Volume XXI


:T3 01995

Copyright, 1910




Editorial Note ix

I The Turkish People 1

II Atrocities 15

III Early Reformers 25

IV The Spread of Corruption 35

V The Spread of Education 54

VI The Rise of the Young Turks .... 64

VII Discontent in the Army 87

VIII The Central Committee ...... 101

IX How THE Revolution Began 118

X The Standard of Revolt 133

XI The Insurrection in Bulgaria .... 152

XII The Palace and the Greeks 169

XIII A Bloodless Victory 185

XIV The Committee's Ultimatum 198

XV After the Revolution 207

XVI European Assistance 222

XVII Mutinous Palace Guards 238

XVIII Preparing for Self-Rule 249

XIX A Strong Army Needed 261

XX The Opening of Parliament 281

XXI The New Sultan 297

Index 321



The Entrance to the Black Sea .... Frontispiece
Imperial Palace of the Sweet Waters of Asia . • 64

Turkish Market-woman in Street Dress . . . . 112

View of Constantinople 128

Chateau of Asia 224

View of Scutari 272



FROM the land of the Turks — Turkestan in Cen-
tral Asia — there descended beginning in a.d. 800
a series of hordes and armies which overran and
gradually took possession of that portion of South-Eastern
Europe and Western Asia once known as Turkey. After
five hundred years Mohammed II seized upon Constanti-
nople, and that city became the capital of the Turkish
Empire; — for the next two hundred years the dominion
spread until it became an immense and important world-
power. Then began a period of decline; and vice and
prodigality in harem and seragho brought about disruption
and war. Russia saw her opportunity to extend her bor-
ders towards the sea — and went on gaining Turkish
territory from early in the 18th until the middle of the
19th century when the Crimean war crippled her power
in that corner of Europe. But Turkey could not hold the
heterogeneous populations of her European provinces.
Insurrection after insurrection broke out and one by one
she lost many of the more important of them. She became
bankrupt and a concert of the European Powers pro-
posed and partially carried out a scheme for her reform.
But she proved stubborn and went to war with Russia
in 1877-1878; this ended disastrously for her and
more territory was lost. In 1897, came the war with
Greece in which she was successful. In recent years
after many vicissitudes the spread of the great awakening


of the people of Oriental lands has reached Turkey, and
the story of the newer political and social life in that
country is related in this volume in full and complete
detail, from its inception until the famous Revolution
of 1908.

No one is better qualified to tell this story than Edward
F. Knight, who as a noted correspondent for one of the
leading papers of London has seen service in all the wars
since 1895, his work having taken him to South America,
Africa, and Asia. In 1908, he was specially commissioned
to visit Turkey to study the conditions of the recent
revolution, and this book is the result of his exliaustive

The important position which Turkey occupies on the
highway to the Farther East from Europe has made
it the subject of continuous political intrigue by the
nations of that continent. Its interesting and romantic
people and their despotic government; its natural prod-
ucts, some of them unique; its picturesque and poetical
language and literature, are full of peculiar and absorb-
ing interest, and no one who wishes to keep abreast of
the great world movements of our time can afford to
neglect this stirring work.

Charles Welsh.




TURKEY, once so vast and powerful, has been
undergoing a gradual dismemberment for the
last two centuries. Possession after pos-
session has been wrested from her in Europe, Asia,
and Africa. On the mainland of Europe, having
lost Greece, Bulgaria, Roumania, Servia, Bosnia,
Croatia, and Herzegovina, as well as those regions on
the northern shores of the Black Sea (once a Turk-
ish lake) which now form part of Southern Russia,
Turkey is left with but a narrow strip of territory
stretching across the centre of the Balkan Penin-
sula from the Black Sea to the Adriatic.

The despotic system of government in Turkey
worked well enough so long as she was a conquering
and expanding nation; but so soon as she ceased to
be this, and was hemmed in by Christian Powers
strong enough to check her advance, the system,
being incompatible with progress, failed to hold the
Empire together and disintegration set in. The
internal disorders caused by the evils of her admin-
istration and the cupidity and treachery of her pow-
erful European neighbours threatened Turkey with


extinction. Russia and Austria waged successful
wars against her and possessed themselves of her
frontier provinces, and at the same time the dis-
affected Christian populations of European Turkey
were encouraged to rise and gain their indepen-
dence. So it came about that Greece, Bulgaria, and
other kingdoms and principalities were carved out of
Turke3% and up to within a few months ago Chris-
tian peoples within and without her frontiers were
quarrelling over a further projected act of spoliation
that would indeed have been for Turkey the begin-
ning of the end — the partition of Macedonia.

For the oppression, corruption, and incompetence
that characterised their government the Turkish
people themselves were held responsible by a large
section of public opinion in Western Europe. There
is a saying to the effect that a nation has the gov-
ernment which it deserves, and this may be true if
a nation is free to work out its own salvation. But
in the case of Turkey the people were allowed
no chance of obtaining the government which they
deserved; for it was to the interest of Turkey's
powerful enemies to conserve the evils of the des-
potic rule, and whenever the Turks made an effort
to put their house in order some Christian Power,
fearing lest a reformed Turkey might prove a strong
Turkey, fell upon her with armed force or stood in
the way of the projected changes. Moreover, the
Powers that were bent upon self -aggrandisement at
Turkey's expense saw to it that there should be no
peace within her borders and stirred up trouble.


exciting the Christian peasants to rise, and foment-
ing disturbances that might serve as pretexts for a
pohcy of intervention and annexation. No methods
were too unscrupulous for the Powers in question.
For example, among many other agents provocateurs
was a certain Dervish who, some years ago, as the
paid secret agent of Russia, acting under instruc-
tions, preached a holy war against giaours in Asia
Minor and excited the Mussulman population to
attack the Christian inhabitants. One could quote
many other stories to illustrate the treachery of
Turkey's enemies and the unfair treatment which
has been accorded to her.

And so Turkey, by her own bad government and
by the machinations of those who lusted after the
rich possessions that were still left to her, was being
steadily dragged down to her ruin. Even her best
friends despaired of her regeneration; for reform
from without administered by the Powers would mean
the loss of her independence, while reform from within
seemed impossible of attainment. Turkey appeared
to be destined to early effacement from the map of
Europe, when, lo! of a sudden, the Turks themselves
— all that was best and most patriotic of the man-
hood of the Empire — came boldly forward to make
a desperate last stand in the defence of the integrity
of their beloved fatherland. The "Young Turks"
threw off the despotism that had all but destroyed
their country and seized the reins of government,
displaying a firmness, justice, wisdom, and modera-
tion in their almost bloodless revolution that have


won for them the admiration of all honest men
throughout the civilised world. It looks very much
as if these men are about to prove to the world that
reform can come from within even in Turkey, pro-
vided that the Turks are now given the chance which
they have never had before, and greedy foes are not
permitted to frustrate the aspirations of a people
freed at last.

Those who know and therefore like and respect
the Turkish people rejoice that the ancient friend-
ship between England and Turkey has been restored,
and that at last the English people are beginning to
realise the injustice that a large section of public
opinion has done to a noble race, for over thirty
years. There was a time when they understood the
Turks better. During the Crimean war the British
officers had the opportunity of acquiring an intimate
knowledge of their allies; many firm friendships were
then made which were kept up through life, and so
large and influential were the relations thus brought
about between the gentlemen of the two countries
that they directed English diplomacy in Turkish
affairs for many years. It may seem, and it ought
to be, unnecessary to preface this little work with
an explanation of what manner of men these Turks
are; but so grossly have they been misrepresented,
and so widespread has been the misconception con-
cerning them, that a few words on this subject may
not be out of place.

Five and a half centuries have passed since the
Mussulman Turks — a Central- Asian people akin to


the Mongols — having seized the Asiatic possessions
of the decaying Byzantine Empire, crossed the Bos-
phorus and, extending their conquests, established
themselves firmly in Europe. It is possible that in
Asia Minor peasants of pure Turkish blood may still
be found, but in European Turkey — that "lumber
room of many races" — the strong and noble Turk-
ish stock has been so largely intermingled with a
number of other races that the racial characteristics
of the Osmanli have practically disappeared. It is
more rare to find features of the Mongolian stamp
among the modern Turks than among the Christian
peoples over whom they rule. The Bulgarians, for
example, though speaking a Slav tongue and gener-
ally considered as a Slav people, often have the flat
faces, the projecting cheek-bones, the small oblique
eyes, that betray their descent from the nomads of
the Asiatic steppes.

There are no handsomer people in Europe than
the Turks, for here the crossing of many virile
breeds has resulted in the development of a very
fine race of men. The modern Turk is a Caucasian
of the highest type, and combines in himself some
of the best qualities of the East and West. It is
true that some of his Eastern qualities stand in the
way of what the energetic Western world calls prog-
ress. The Turk is improvident and often a spend-
thrift; he is a fatalist, enduring patiently whatever
ill fortune or suffering fate may bring him, but dis-
playing an indolent indisposition to struggle against
destiny. Dieu aide qui s'aide expresses a motive for


action which is opposed to his Moslem fatahsm.
But difl&cult though he may be to rouse to effort,
once roused he displays great energy and stubborn-
ness of purpose, as has been recently proved to the
world by the careful preparation and determined
carrying through of the Turkish revolution. At any
rate, the faults of the Turks are for the most part
amiable ones, and most people who have travelled
in the Near East will agree with an authority on
the politics of that region, who replied as follows to
a question put to him by an interviewer: "The
men that I liked best among all that I met in the
East were Turks. In some respects the Turk struck
me as more like an Englishman and more like a
gentleman than any of the other races except the
Maygars. He is a quiet, manly fellow, with great
repose and charm of manner, and does not wear his
heart on his sleeve. Europeans who live in the
country look on the Turk as an honest man and a
man of his word."

It must be remembered that the corrupt official-
dom created by the Palace, which had a degrading
influence on everything in touch with it, is not repre-
sentative of the Turkish people. The typical Turk
possesses the virtues and the failings of a conquering
and dominant race. He is courageous, truthful, and
honest amid races not conspicuous for truthfulness
or honesty, some of which are likewise lacking In
courage. The Turk, moreover, is shrewd and gifted
with common sense, and he Is not a visionary, as are
the Arabs and some other peoples holding the Mos-


lem faith. He has not the quick wits of some Euro-
pean peoples, and may perhaps be described as being
somewhat stupid, in the same sense that the Enghsh-
man is stupid in the eyes of a neighbouring, brighter
race; but this same stupidity, or whatever else we
may call it, happily has preserved the Turk from
the seeing of visions, and consequently no impos-
sible ideals, no wild dreams for the reconstruction
of society, have led his practical and common-sense
revolution into those dreadful roads of bloodshed and
anarchy which more imaginative nations, shrieking
liberty, have blindly followed to tyrannies more
oppressive than the worst of despotisms.

Those who know him best also claim that the Turk
is hospitable, temperate, devoid of meanness, sincere
in his friendships — once he is your friend he is
always your friend — and, though his enemies have
represented him as very much the reverse, gentle
and humane. Of the steadfastness of his friendship
I have had experience. When a Turk is your friend
you can implicitly trust him, even though he be,
what the conditions of his country have sometimes
made him, a murderous outlaw. I have had friends
among Turkish brigands myself, and Sir William
Whittall, who knows the Turks as well as any Eng-
lishman can, writes in the following sympathetic
way of his robber friend Redjeb: "Peace be to his
ashes! He is dead now. Brigand or no brigand, I
had a sincere admiration for the man as a man. His
faithfulness was like unto that of a dog, and he saved
my life at the risk of his own. I have had many


incidents with brigands in Asia Minor during my
fifty years of sport, and I must say that as long as
they were Turks, and I had assisted some friends or
villages of theirs, which I always made it a point to
do when I frequented the wild regions, I never feared
any accidents; and though I might often have been
taken, I never was. I would not like to trust Chris-
tian brigands in the same fashion."

Gentleness and humanity are among the most
marked characteristics of the Turk. With his feroc-
ity in war when his passions are roused I shall deal
later, but of his kindliness and charity in his dealings
with his fellow-men there can be no doubt. In no
European country are animals treated so kindly as
they are in Turkey. A Turk never ill-uses his horse
or his ox or his domestic pets, and the wonderful
tameness of these creatures in Turkey testifies to
this good trait. In Constantinople the pariah dogs
lie about the streets in their tens of thousands; they
live partly on garbage and partly on the scraps of
food which even very poor Turks put out for them.
These dogs, though fighting among themselves, dis-
play nothing but friendship for, and confidence in,
man. They never move for one as they sprawl
across the narrow pavements, for they know that
no Turk would have the heart to kick them out of
the way. A few years ago an American offered a
very large sum for the right to clear Constanti-
nople of its pariah dogs, his object being to sell
their skins to the glove makers. The populace
raised a howl of indignation when they heard of


this, and had not the scheme been abandoned seri-
ous riots would have occurred. There is no need
for a society for the prevention of cruelty to ani-
mals in a Turkish town.

It has often been maintained by the enemies of
the Turk that his Mohammedan fanaticism makes
his continued occupation of any portion of Christian
Europe undesirable. But in justice to the votaries
of the Moslem creed one ought to bear in mind, in
the first place, that early Mohammedanism never
persecuted the Christian religion in the ferocious
fashion that Christianity persecuted Mohammedan-
ism, as for example in Spain. The Moslems were
taught that it was their duty to convert or extermi-
nate the idolatrous heathen, but to respect "the
people of the book." Did not Mohammed himself
spread his cloak upon the ground for the Christian
envoys who came to him, treating them with honour;
and do not the Mussulmans believe that on the day
of judgment the Judge will be Jesus Christ, while the
Prophet Mohammed will stand at His side as the
Intercessor? When the Turks conquered the terri-
tories of the Christians they did not massacre the
Christians, neither as a rule did they enslave them,
and they did not interfere with their religion; under
the more equitable Moslem rule the conquered Greeks
found themselves less heavily taxed and generally
better off than they had been under the rule of the
emperors of the decaying Byzantine Empire. To
Jews also, as being worshippers of the one God, they
extended a like tolerance; and it was to Turkey —


where they are numerous and prosperous and still
speak an old Spanish dialect — that the Jews fled
when they were driven out of Spain by the persecu-
tions of Ferdinand and Isabella.

That later on the Mohammedans developed a
fierce anti-Christian fanaticism is largely due to
centuries of political conflict with Christian peoples,
and to the many wars that have been fought to
defend Islam against the never-ceasing aggressions
of Europe. Within the Turkish Empire itself, for
example in Arabia and in Northern Albania, danger-
ously fanatical Moslem populations are to be found,
but these are not people of Turkish blood. The
majority of the Turks of any education, though
religious, are not fanatics, and on this very account
are regarded as indifferent Mussulmans and often
frankly called kafirs by the bigoted Arabs. Of all
the various peoples who inhabit Turkey the Mus-
sulman Turks are undoubtedly the least intolerant.
The Christians of different sects there hate each
other as no Turk hates a Christian and no Christian
hates a Turk. The orthodox Greeks and the Bul-
garian schismatics in Macedonia employ all methods
of barbarism in their persecutions of each other.
When Bulgaria formed part of Turkey the Bulga-
rians had often to petition the Turks to protect them
against the fanatical Greeks. The Catholic Latins,
too, in Turkey, being in a minority, would doubtless
have been exterminated by their fellow-Christians
had it not been for the protection extended to them
by the Turks, with the result that they are grateful


and loyal to the Ottoman rule. The recent revolu-
tion appears to have brushed away almost com-
pletely what religious fanaticism there was still left
among the Mohammedan Turks, and the Young
Turks themselves, the deliverers of the nation and
its real rulers, are entirely free from it. I have
conversed with hundreds of these Young Turks and
have many friends among them, and in no country
have I come across more broad-minded and tolerant
men. There is no doubt that Islamism has of late
years undergone a modernising process, thereby gain-
ing strength. The Sheikh-ul-Islam himself, as head
of the Ulema — the Doctors of Law whose duty it
is to interpret the judicial precepts of the Koran,
and who have hitherto composed the most fanatical
and conservative element in Turkey — has been at
great pains to impress it upon the Mussulman peo-
ple, upon whom from his position he exercises such
great influence that the Constitution which has been
granted to them, though introducing the principle
of complete equality between Mussulmans, Chris-
tians, and Jews, is quite in accordance with the
teachings of the Koran.

As I find myself embarked on this somewhat long
defence of the Turkish people I may as well deal
with another popular misconception concerning them.
It is often urged that the Mohammedan institu-
tion of polygamy, with its consequent degradation
of women, is incompatible with the progress or with
the moral and mental well-being of a race, and that
this by itself makes the Turk unfit to rule in


Europe. Now it must be remembered that many
distinct races profess the Mohammedan rehgion, and
that some of these are barbarian and others deca-
dent, even as are some of the races that profess
Christianity; but it is not fair, because the Turks
happen to be Mussulmans, that they should be
credited with the faults and vices of some other
Mussulman peoples. I have no intention of discus-
sing the effects of polygamy, but I may point out
that the Turk, unlike the Arab, appears to be not
really polygamous by nature, and that whatever
may happen in some other Moslem lands there is no
degradation of the women in Turkey. The Turk-
ish peasant women are as far from being degraded
as any other women of their class in Europe. It
may astonish some Englishmen to learn that the
simple-living Turk of the upper and middle classes,
though his religion permits him to marry four wives,
rarely marries more than one. Of the Young Turks
whom I have met, not one, I believe, has more than
one wife, and I have heard several of them speak
with disapproval of the custom of polygamy. Eng-
lish ladies who have friends among the Turkish
ladies have told us how refined, charming, and —
in these latter days — well educated they are. As
most Turkish gentlemen retain the old customs in
their family life, the Englishman visiting the house
of a Turkish friend has no opportunity of seeing his
wife, but his little daughters up to the age of about
twelve years are usually brought in by the proud
father to see the visitor, just as they might be in


England, when the pretty manners, the intelHgence,
and the careful education which they have evidently
received (they nearly always speak French or some
other European language) tell their own tale. The
constant and deep veneration which a Turk enter-
tains for his mother through life belies the nonsense
that is sometimes talked concerning the condition
of the women in Turkey. The Turkish woman, too,
respected and trusted, is much freer than most peo-
ple in this country imagine, and, as I shall explain
later on, the revolution largely owed its success to
her brave co-operation.

One ought to be able to form some idea of the
character of a people from its literature. Turkish
literature, the classical form of which was borrowed
from that of Persia, has, like many other things in
Turkey, been undergoing a process of modernisation ;
it has for some years been under the influence of
Western, more especially of French, literature; and
simplicity and lucidity in the expression of thought
has taken the place of the intentional obscurity and
artificiality that characterise Oriental writing. Mr.
Stanley Lane Poole, in the Turkey volume of the
excellent "The Story of the Nations" series, con-
cludes his chapter on Turkish men of letters as fol-
lows: "The tone of the imaginative literature of
modern Turkey is very tender and very sad. The
Ottoman poets of to-day love chiefly to dwell upon
such themes as a fading flower, or a girl dying of
decline; and though admiration of a recent French
school may have something to do with this, the


fancy forces itself upon us, when we read those
sweet and plaintive verses, that a brave but gentle-
hearted people, looking forward to its future with-
out fear, but without hope, may be seeking, perhaps
unconsciously, to derive what sad comfort it may
from the thought that all beautiful life must end in
dismal death." I have met some of these modern
Turkish poets, very manly fellows, though their
work has the melancholy tinge described above, for
which, in my opinion, a long political exile in a
foreign land and sorrows for the evil fortunes of
their beloved country are largely responsible. But
now the days of Turkey's mourning are over, and
the more recent poems of these men, who are sturdy
patriots and not decadents, are beginning to reflect

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Online LibraryE. F. (Edward Frederick) KnightTurkey; the awakening of Turkey; the Turkish revolution of 1908 → online text (page 1 of 20)