Ottoman liberal and nationalistic movement surfaced with the "İttifak-ı Hamiyet" secret society. This society evolved into the Neo-Ottomans Society (Yeni Osmanlilar Cemiyeti - 1865: they are mistakenly translated as the Young Ottomans) influenced by such Western thinkers as Montesquieu and Rousseau and the French Revolution. They developed the concept of Ottomanism, aligned with these thinkers. They advocated a constitutional, parliamentary government and started publishing newspapers such as "Liberty" (Hurriyet-1868) and stage patriotic plays (Vatan Yahut Silistre) in Ottoman large cities.
Their ideals and influence grew within the Ottoman intellectual circles as well as the military and administrative bureaucracy. As result of this influence, a new class of Neo-Ottoman ministers and administrators eventually came to power.
As turmoil in the Balkan provinces continued, the insurrection in Bosnia and Herzegovina spread to Bulgaria (1876), ill feeling mounted against Russia for its encouragement of the rebellions. The crop failure of 1873, the sultan's lavish expenditures for the Navy and the new palaces which he built, and the mounting public debt had also heightened public discontent. Sultan Abdülaziz was deposed by his Neo-Ottoman ministers on May 30, 1876; his death a few days later was attributed to suicide.
Murad V became the Sultan when his uncle Abdülaziz was deposed. He failed to deliver the Constitution that his supporters had sought, and under his reign the country moved closer to the disastrous war with Russia, then-ruled by Alexander II. He reigned for 93 days before being deposed on the grounds that he was mentally ill.
Abdulhamid II succeeded to the throne following the deposition of his brother Murad on August 31, 1876. Most people expected Abdülhamid II to have liberal ideas, and some conservatives were inclined to regard him with suspicion as a dangerous reformer.
Under the shadow of the 1875 insurrection in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the war with Serbia and Montenegro and the feeling aroused throughout Europe by the cruelty used in stamping out the Bulgarian rebellion, European Powers decided to intervene.
An international conference which met at Istanbul towards the end of 1876 was surprised by the promulgation of a constitution and a parliament.
The First Constitutional Era of the Ottoman Empire was the period of constitutional monarchy from the promulgation of the Kanûn-ı Esâsî (meaning "Basic Law" in Ottoman Turkish), written by members of the Young Ottomans, on 23 November 1876.
Meclis-i Mebusan (literal "Chamber of Deputies" or House of Representatives), had 115 members and reflected the distribution of the millets in the empire. During the second elections had 69 Muslim millet representatives and 46 other-millet representatives (Jews, Greeks, Armenians).
In any event, like many other would-be reforms of the Ottoman Empire change proved to be nearly impossible. Russia continued to mobilize for war and the British fleet approached the capital from the Sea of Marmara. Early in 1877 the Ottoman Empire went to war with the Russian Empire. The Sultan suspended (but did not abolish) the constitution and Midhat Pasha, its author, was exiled soon afterwards.
The Imperial Ottoman Government of Abdulhamid II prosecuted the Neo-Ottomans for their dangerous ideas such as constitution, freedom, equality for all, etc. Most of them moved outside the country or ended up dying in Ottoman dungeons (Namik Kemal, Mithad Pasha).
Mithad Pasha seen on the cover of Vanity Fair, forced Abdulhamid II to adopt the First Constituion in 1876, and was revarded with a dungeon cell in Arabia.
The failure of the "Young Ottoman" policies (Ottomanism) in reverting the path to Dissolution of the Ottoman Empire, the thinkers under Ottoman Empire searched other means. One of these groups was Young Turks (Jeunes Turcs), which pulled the empire to Second Constitutional Era.
Prominent Young Turk exiles were Murad Bey, Ahmed Riza, Damad Mahmud Pasha and Prince Sabaheddin, the latter two of whom were defectors from within Sultan Abdulhamid's own family.
Two congresses of opposition to the Ottoman regime were held, one in 1902 and the other in 1907.
In the 1902 Young Turk Conference held in Paris, there were two main political factions "Supporters of Centralization of the Empire" (which became the Committee of Union and Progress later on) and supporters of Prince Sebahattin's idea of "Decentralization of the Empire" (which became the Liberal Union later on).
Young Turks in Paris, 1902
The Young Turk Revoultion:
The "Second congress of the Ottoman opposition" took place in Paris, France in 1907. The leadership included Ahmed Riza, Sabahheddin Bey, Khachatur Maloumian. The goal was to unite all parties, including Young Turks, to advance the revolution.
Two of the most important revolutionary groups trying to overthrow Sultan Abdul Hamid II had been the Armenian Revolutionary Front (ARF) and the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP). In a general assembly meeting in 1907, the ARF realized that both the Armenian and Turkish revolutionaries shared the same goals. The ARF decided to cooperate with the Committee of Union and Progress.
The Young Turks became a truly revolutionary movement with the CUP as an organizational umbrella. They recruited individuals prepared to sacrifice themselves for the establishment of a constitutional monarchy. In 1906, the Ottoman Freedom Society (OFS) was established in Thessalonica by Mehmed Talat. The OFS actively recruited members from the Third Army base, among them Major Ismal Enver. In September 1907, OFS announced they would be working with other organizations under the umbrella of CUP. In reality, the leadership of the OFS would exert significant control over the CUP.
CUP Member Major Ahmed Niyazi, fearing discovery of his political moves by an investigatory committee sent from the capital, decamped from Resen on July 3, 1908 with 200 followers from the 3rd Army Corps in Macedonia, demanding restoration of the constitution. The sultan's attempt to suppress this uprising failed due to the popularity of the movement among the troops themselves. The revolt spread quickly throughout the empire and resulted in the Sultan announcing the restoration of the 1876 constitution and reconvening the parliament on 3 July 1908.
The new parliament comprised 142 Turks, 60 Arabs, 25 Albanians, 23 Greeks, 12 Armenians, 5 Jews, 4 Bulgarians, 3 Serbs and 1 Vlach in the elections of 1908.
Impacts of the Young Turks:
Some sources associate the Committee of Union and Progress strictly with the Turks. Yet the Committee of Union and Progress had members from many other ethnic groups and different world views. In 1909, the Committee of Union and Progress had 60 Arabic, 25 Albanian, 14 Armenian, 10 Slavic and 4 Jewish representatives, in addition to the Turks. Also, some Turks belonged to other groups, such as the Liberal Union and other parties.
Some sources further associate Young Turks with Turanism, which is also incorrect as there were Young Turks who believed in Ottomanism and defended the Sultan until the Partitioning of the Ottoman Empire.
The Young Turk movement built a rich tradition of dissent that shaped the intellectual and political life of the late Ottoman period and laid the foundation for Atatürk's revolution.
Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) replaced the pre-1908 Armenian elite, which had been composed of merchants, artisans, and clerics who had seen their future in obtaining more privileges within the boundaries of the state's version of Ottomanism.
The Muslim Albanian elite, who had greatly benefited from the Hamidian regime in return for their fidelity to the sultan, was also replaced by an intellectual-nationalist elite. With members such as Bajram Curri, Nexhib Draga, and Myfit Libohova, the revolution aimed at uniting Albanians of three different faiths under the flag of Skenderbeu and called for reforms for the benefit of all Albanians.
In some communities, such as the Jewish, reformist groups emulating the Young Turks ousted the conservative ruling elite and replaced them with a new reformist one.
The revolution and CUP's work made a stronger impact on Muslims. The Persian community in Istanbul founded the Iranian Union and Progress Committee.
Indian Muslims imitated the CUP oath for joining the organization.
The leaders of the Young Bukhara movement were deeply influenced by the Young Turk Revolution, and saw it as an example to emulate (1909).
World revolutionaries gained morale and inspiration from the Young Turk Revolution which would soon result in the Chinese Revolution of 1911 and the Russian Revolution of 1917.