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Thread: Neo-Ottomans and the Young Turk Revolution

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    Neo-Ottomans and the Young Turk Revolution

    Neo-Ottomans:

    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.


    Young Turks:

    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.
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    Banned Tambourmajor's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tunch Khan
    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.
    I would say that this part, is, at the very least highly questionable.

    While some nationalist uprisings which coincided with the Russian Revolutions did likely draw some inspiration from Panturkism, I have a hard time seeing the Russian Revolution as a whole under any substantial influence from the Young Turks and Kemalism.

    Where there any substantial connections between Russian would-be revolutionaries and the Young Turks?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tambourmajor
    I would say that this part, is, at the very least highly questionable.

    While some nationalist uprisings which coincided with the Russian Revolutions did likely draw some inspiration from Panturkism, I have a hard time seeing the Russian Revolution as a whole under any substantial influence from the Young Turks and Kemalism.

    Where there any substantial connections between Russian would-be revolutionaries and the Young Turks?
    A revolutionary wave is a series of revolutions occurring in various locations. In many cases, an initial revolution inspires other "affiliate revolutions" with similar aims.[1]

    The concept is important to Marxists, who see a revolutionary waves as evidence that a world revolution is possible. For Rosa Luxemburg, "The most precious thing...in the sharp ebb and flow of the revolutionary waves is the proletariat's spiritual growth. The advance by leaps and – bounds of the intellectual stature of the proletariat affords an inviolable guarantee of its further progress in the inevitable economic and political struggles ahead."[2]

    1. ^ Mark N. Katz, Revolution and Revolutionary Waves
    2. ^ Rosa Luxemburg, Gesammelte Werke, quoted in Tony Cliff, Patterns of mass strike (Part 1)


    It is clear that the Young Turk Revolution did not contain any communist ideology, however, the people's rebellion against an opressive monarchy is the common ground in all Turkish, Russian and Chinese Revolutions. Also, to isolate Ataturk's Republican Revolution from the picture is not healthy as he was the subsequent phase of a revoultionary cycle and his closest military and political ally was Lenin. Bolsheviks and Turkish revolutionaries formed a mutually beneficiary military alliance that resulted in their respective victories over imperialistic powers.
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    In the Land of Disappointment motiv-8's Avatar
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    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.
    Nearly all the Arab elites of the Ottoman provinces, especially in Palestine and Syria, saw the CUP as a tool for Turkish nationalism and subjugation of other ethnic groups.

    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.
    No. This is a conclusion completely disconnected from the rest of the (well though-out, IMO) article that has no logical following, and ignores the specific circumstances and events which led to both revolutions. To suggest that a war-time alliance between Ataturk and Bolsheviks meant that the two movements influenced each other in some way, or even developed together, is anachronistic.
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    Were the Ottomanists (1910s) insistant on a constitutional monarchy or a republic?

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    In the Land of Disappointment motiv-8's Avatar
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    Constitutional Monarchy
    "The city is fallen but I yet live. Isn't there a Christian here to take my head?"

    Constantine XI, 28 May 1453

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    Sanctioned OT Hall Monitor Thistletooth's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by motiv-8
    Constitutional Monarchy
    Ah, didn't get my edit off in time. So there were no major republican reform movements in the Ottoman Empire prior to Ataturk? What was it that led him to adopt that course? Given what a nonentity the sultan was during the war, I would think that the blame for the Empire's defeat would have fallen on the heads of the Young Turks.

    Was the break formed in the 1918-23 period when the sultan was forced to accept Sevres? Were Ataturk and the other members of what would become the Turkish Revolution still in favor of a constitutional monarchy up until that point?

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    Given what a nonentity the sultan was during the war, I would think that the blame for the Empire's defeat would have fallen on the heads of the Young Turks.
    Blame always falls on the head of state. You can see this in just about any revolution; 1789, 1917, 1918, etc. No-one is going to blame the Young Turks because a great many of them and their associates were in the Army
    Was the break formed in the 1918-23 period when the sultan was forced to accept Sevres? Were Ataturk and the other members of what would become the Turkish Revolution still in favor of a constitutional monarchy up until that point?
    My knowledge of Ottoman politics ends rather abruptly around 1914 (well, the elections of 1912 more specifically) because my focus is more on Arab states, but what I have gathered was that Sevres was indeed the breaking point, however -- it was the breaking point following a long line of agitation stemming from the ultimate failures of the Tanzimat system to effectively liberalize and represent the state and its peoples. During this time a great many people were hoping to decentralize the central government and effectively take control of policy from the Sultan, yet for the most part it had the opposite effect or intention. This coupled with rising nationalism and angst amongst the Armenian, Kurdish, and especially the Arab populations, which convinced many of the former Ottomanists to take a decisively more pro-Turkish stance, which heightened the tension, as reflected by the party politics and various elections of the 1900s.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tunch Khan
    A revolutionary wave is a series of revolutions occurring in various locations. In many cases, an initial revolution inspires other "affiliate revolutions" with similar aims.[1]
    Considering that there had been revolutions in Russia and Iran a couple of years before the Young Turk Revolution, which in turn drew inspiration from the various "Young <<Insert Nationality Here>>" organizations which mushroomed all over nineteenth-century Europe, I don't really think you can give it this seminal importance.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Thistletooth
    Were the Ottomanists (1870s and 1910s) insistant on a constitutional monarchy or a republic?
    There wasn't any prominent Neo-Ottoman republican who made their views public AFAIK. I believe there has to be a few, but the Sultan also being the Caliph would have made it twice the difficult to openly state that.

    However, among the young academy cadets there was a republican movement, which we learn from the biography of Ataturk. He joins an already existing secret student society aimed at establishing an Ottoman Republic (sounds oxymoronic but this is when Ottomanism was still alive). Sultan Abdulhamid II on hearing the treacherous club through his spy netwok (at the peak of his Istibdad [literally, opression] regime) wanted to execute the cadets but was stopped by a prominent Pasha, who's son Ali Fuat [Cebesoy] was Mustafa Kemal's classmate and was convinced to send them to exile instead.

    Exile in Ottoman Empire had numerous meanings and a small post in Damascus was where Mustafa Kemal exiled to in 1905. Here he joins another secret society named Vatan ve Hürriyet (meaning "Motherland and Liberty" in Turkish).

    With all his republican background, we surprisingly find Mustafa Kemal in 1912, proposing marriage to an Ottoman Princess, Naciye Sultan. The Princess kindly refuses the proposal, based on her sources informing her about Mustafa Kemal's drinking habits. She ends up marrying Enver Pasha though, and sealing the fate of the entire Ottoman Dynasty.

    Had Naciye accepted Mustafa Kemal's proposal, we'd have Ataturk inside the Ottoman Royal Family, possibly leading towards a different turn of events. He'd gain the upper hand in his historic rivalry with Enver Pasha and the triumvirate thus possibly even preventing Enver (Prussian shcool) to drag the empire to WWI alongside Germans.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tunch Khan
    It is clear that the Young Turk Revolution did not contain any communist ideology, however, the people's rebellion against an opressive monarchy is the common ground in all Turkish, Russian and Chinese Revolutions.
    You forgot to add the German, Austrian, Hungarian etc. revolutions. Also, the Indian independence movement and the irish uprisings fall into roughly the same time period. Evidently, they share a common ground with the Young Turks in that they were all uprisings against a monarchy.
    Also, to isolate Ataturk's Republican Revolution from the picture is not healthy as he was the subsequent phase of a revoultionary cycle and his closest military and political ally was Lenin. Bolsheviks and Turkish revolutionaries formed a mutually beneficiary military alliance that resulted in their respective victories over imperialistic powers.
    And the first communist uprisings in Russia precede the Young Turk Revolution by about 3 years. So it seems that the Young Turks gained inspiration from the Russian revolutionaries, rather than the other way around.

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    Quote Originally Posted by motiv-8
    Nearly all the Arab elites of the Ottoman provinces, especially in Palestine and Syria, saw the CUP as a tool for Turkish nationalism and subjugation of other ethnic groups.
    The tide turned in 1913 only when CUP leadership switched to a dangerous clique:

    In spite of parliamentary elections, non-partisan figures from the pre-revolutionary period known as the "Old Turks" still dominated the Ottoman cabinet, known as the Sublime Porte. The Grand Vizier Mehmed Kamil Pasha and his minister of war Nazim Pasha became targets of the CUP, which overthrew them on 23 January 1913.

    The emerging government could hardly be called constitutional. Indeed, 1913 was a period of government by assassination as Nazim and then his successor Mahmud Sevket Pasha were both slain, Nazim at the very instant the CUP seized power. The passage of a new law the following year made the CUP the Empire's only legal political party; all provincial and local officials reported to "Responsible Secretaries" chosen by the party for each vilayet.

    The CUP from this period is probably best understood as a manifestation of clerical fascism, seeking to destroy both minority political parties and minority religions within the Empire while using pre-revolutionary institutions as figureheads to hold the loyalty of a large enough section of the populace as to prevent a countercoup. If so, it was the first fascist government anywhere, distinguishing it from the other governments of the Central Powers, which it joined in early November 1914, thereby sealing the fate of the Empire itself.

    Quote Originally Posted by motiv-8
    No. This is a conclusion completely disconnected from the rest of the (well though-out, IMO) article that has no logical following, and ignores the specific circumstances and events which led to both revolutions. To suggest that a war-time alliance between Ataturk and Bolsheviks meant that the two movements influenced each other in some way, or even developed together, is anachronistic.
    I am not saying one is the result of the other. But if you claim two major neighboring monarchies which have been toppled one after the other has nothing in common and that these revolutions have had no effect on each other you are simply wrong.

    Let me go back just a little to 1905 and give a minor example on one of the effects of the failed Russian revolution:



    Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II became clinically paranoid and destroyed the Ottoman Navy which was the third largest navy in the World at the time. Remember his predecessor Abdulaziz had spent every last penny of the empire to build that navy?

    In 1875, during the reign of Sultan Abdülaziz, the Ottoman Navy had 21 battleships and 173 other types of warships, ranking as the third largest navy in the world after the British and French navies.
    The poor condition of the fleet during the Ottoman Naval Parade of 1910 saddened every Turk who saw it, and the Ottoman Navy Foundation was established in order to purchase new ships through public donations.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tunch Khan
    It is clear that the Young Turk Revolution did not contain any communist ideology, however, the people's rebellion against an opressive monarchy is the common ground in all Turkish, Russian and Chinese Revolutions. Also, to isolate Ataturk's Republican Revolution from the picture is not healthy as he was the subsequent phase of a revoultionary cycle and his closest military and political ally was Lenin. Bolsheviks and Turkish revolutionaries formed a mutually beneficiary military alliance that resulted in their respective victories over imperialistic powers.
    Then again the Young Finns were the prime force declaring independence from Soviet Russia and in squashing the domestic communist revolt. In a few decades a lot of the support of Young Finns ended up in the fascists breakaway party IKL. Basically what is common with the various Young *nationality* movements of the era were nationalism and will to reform. Turkey was in no way a special country and as a non-European and non-Christian state wasn't at the time considered as an example by many enough make it have had an ideological impact.

    Worth noting is that on ideological level Cadets in Russia were most alike Young Turks. If anybody would have gotten inspiration, it would have been them. And although they were the main force behind a revolution in Russia, the Russian Revolution by bolsheviks overthrew the Cadets and not the Czar.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tambourmajor
    You forgot to add the German, Austrian, Hungarian etc. revolutions. Also, the Indian independence movement and the irish uprisings fall into roughly the same time period. Evidently, they share a common ground with the Young Turks in that they were all uprisings against a monarchy.
    But the Germans, Austrians and Hungarians were not fighting against an opressive absolute monarchy like the ones I mentioned. Also, Indian and Irish uprisings against Britain are reactions to foreign occupation. Britain too was already a constitutional monarchy. There is clear difference between the groups.

    Quote Originally Posted by Tambourmajor
    And the first communist uprisings in Russia precede the Young Turk Revolution by about 3 years. So it seems that the Young Turks gained inspiration from the Russian revolutionaries, rather than the other way around.
    It is impossible to give a percentage of who got inspired by who, but overall, Young Turk Revolution was the first of it's kind in her field to succeed as a non-western absolute monarchy transformed into a multi party parliamentary constitutional monarcy.

    If we start labeling unsuccessful uprisings as models, Ottoman empire has a rich history for that too. But that's beyond the point.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tunch Khan
    It is impossible to give a percentage of who got inspired by who, but overall, Young Turk Revolution was the first of it's kind in her field to succeed as a non-western absolute monarchy transformed into a multi party parliamentary constitutional monarcy.
    You seem to be forgetting the very similar Iranian Revolution two years previously.

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Grosshaus
    Then again the Young Finns were the prime force declaring independence from Soviet Russia and in squashing the domestic communist revolt. In a few decades a lot of the support of Young Finns ended up in the fascists breakaway party IKL. Basically what is common with the various Young *nationality* movements of the era were nationalism and will to reform. Turkey was in no way a special country and as a non-European and non-Christian state wasn't at the time considered as an example by many enough make it have had an ideological impact.

    Worth noting is that on ideological level Cadets in Russia were most alike Young Turks. If anybody would have gotten inspiration, it would have been them. And although they were the main force behind a revolution in Russia, the Russian Revolution by bolsheviks overthrew the Cadets and not the Czar.
    I'm not saying Russian Revolution wouldn't have been possible without the Young Turk Revolution. I said these revoultions are interwined and influence each other. Obviously it was the French Revolution that triggered it all, as I already mentioned.

    But the importance of the Young Turk Revolution was that they are the first one to succeed outside Western Europe, and especially in a predominantly muslim empire.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sarmatia1871
    You seem to be forgetting the very similar Iranian Revolution two years previously.
    Umm... how many years after the Tanzimat (1839) and how many years after the First Constitution of Ottoman Empire (1876)?

    Because it's contents, reforms and style slightly remind of the Ottoman predecessors, but remain just on paper until very later.

    The shah signed the constitution on December 30, 1906, but refusing to forfeit all of his power to the Majles, attached a caveat that made his signature on all laws required for their enactment. He died five days later. The Supplementary Fundamental Laws approved in 1907 provided, within limits, for freedom of press, speech, and association, and for security of life and property. The Constitutional Revolution marked the end of the medieval period in Persia. The hopes for constitutional rule were not realized, however.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tunch Khan
    Umm... how many years after the Tanzimat (1839) and how many years after the First Constitution of Ottoman Empire (1876)?
    We're not talking about those though - which are pretty standard examples of attempts by elites in nineteenth-century non-Western powers to institute liberal or Westernizing reforms.

    We're discussing your contention that the Young Turk Revolution was the first succesful Western-style constitutionalist revolution in a non-European country.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sarmatia1871
    We're not talking about those though - which are pretty standard examples of attempts by elites in nineteenth-century non-Western powers to institute liberal or Westernizing reforms.

    We're discussing your contention that the Young Turk Revolution was the first succesful Western-style constitutionalist revolution in a non-European country.
    And you came up with another unsuccessful parliament?
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  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tunch Khan
    And you came up with another unsuccessful parliament?
    No, I came up with an earlier revolutionary movement with mass participation, which, despite resistance from the old elite, led to far-reaching constitutional changes in the country and created an elected parliament which remained in existence.

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