Talaat Pasha: Father of Modern Turkey, Architect of Genocide

by Hans-Lukas Kieser

In 1910, Mehmed Talaat, a leader of the Young Turks movement and future grand vizier (essentially, the prime minister) of the Ottoman Empire, began planning the extermination of the empire’s Armenians. In 1915, he began to implement his scheme. Kieser’s portrait of Talaat shows this architect of genocide as a charming monster, brilliant tactician, and fanatical ideologue. Kieser’s prose is sometimes tangled, and his narrative can be confusing, but his tale is gripping and well researched. Talaat traded a wartime alliance with Germany for German silence in the face of an estimated 800,000 Armenian deaths. His actions left Weimar Germany morally blemished, and they scuttled the possibility that the Ottoman Empire might turn in a more liberal direction. After fleeing to exile in Berlin, Talaat was assassinated in 1921 by an Armenian militant. Even in death, Talaat cast a long shadow. Kieser argues that his movement served as “a paradigm” for the Nazi Party. He also debunks the notion that the rise of Kemal Ataturk in the 1920s marked a rupture with the Young Turks; rather, it was a continuation. Likewise, today, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan invokes the Ottoman nationalist themes popularized by Talaat


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