Enver was born on November 23, 1881 in Istanbul. He graduated from the
military high-school in Monastir, where his family
had moved to when he was six years old due to his father’s appointment, and he completed the War Academy
in 1899. His political thinking began to be shaped when he was a student at
the Staff School and there has been a case when he was taken to the Imperial
Palace together with his uncle Halil, who was also a student, and
interrogated because of his political opinions.
graduated from the Staff School in 1902 at the rank of Captain. His first
duty station was the Third Army in Macedonia, where he was appointed to the
13th Artillery Regiment in Monastir. He took active part in
operations against Bulgarian bands and was later transferred to infantry
regiments in the same region. On September 13, 1906, he was promoted to the
rank of Major.
in 1906 when he was in Salonica, founders of the Ottoman Liberty
Association, which would later merge with the Committee of Union and
Progress (CUP), invited Enver to join them, which he accepted, and gave him
the task to establish a branch in Monastir. They were against the rule of
Sultan Abdülhamit and their aim was to bring back the freedoms and having
the Constitution brought back into effect. When news broke of King Edward
and Tsar Nikolai meeting in Tallinn to share the territories of the Ottoman
Empire, the CUP decided that it was time to take action.
revolution on its way and as a young officer Enver was to play a crucial
role. When CUP decided to eliminate the Chief Commander in Salonica, Nazım
Bey, he was the one to give the assassination order, although Nazım Bey was
his brother-in-law. At the same time when another young officer, Niyazi Bey
moved from Resne, Enver went to Tikveş and the revolution began on the
mountains of Macedonia.
constitutional regime was inaugurated on July 23, 1908. Realising the threat
against his regime, Sultan Abdülhamit had no option but to give the CUP what
it wanted. The Sultan reactivated the Parliament and Enver Bey returned to
Salonica, where he was greeted as the “Hero of Liberty”.
sent to Berlin on March 5, 1909 as the Turkish military attaché in Germany.
Soon after he went to Germany, on April 13, 1909, a counter-revolutionary
uprising broke out in Istanbul organised by Muslim fundamentalists,
unemployed officers and old regime functionaries. This uprising, known as
the “March 31 Incident”, because the date of the incident corresponded to March 31, 1325 according to the calendar then in use in Ottoman Empire, was
repressed by the “Liberation Army" led by Mahmut Şevket Paşa.
Mahmut Şevket’s troops marched on Istanbul and occupied the
city on April 24, 1909. Sultan Abdülhamit was deposed and replaced by Sultan
Mehmet V (Mehmet Reşad). The Constitution was amended to transfer real
power to the Parliament; CUP and the army became the real arbiters of
Turkish politics. Meanwhile Enver returned to Istanbul and replaced Mustafa
Kemal Bey as the Chief of Staff of the Liberation Army.
When Italy invaded the Ottoman province of Trablusgarp
(modern-day Libya), the Sublime Porte refrained from officially declaring
war, however several Turkish officers went to Libya under cover, to organize
the resistance against Italians. Enver was in charge of the Benghazi-Derne
front, where he had been successful in stopping the Italian invaders. On June 10, 1912, he was
promoted to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, but soon afterwards, he would
because another war had broken out in the Balkans. Turkey made peace with Italy, ending the war in Libya and withdrawing the “Twelve
Islands” on the Aegean Sea to Italy.
Enver Bey came to Istanbul as the military
situation was worsening for Turkey in the Balkans. An armistice was signed on December 3, 1912 and the Peace
Conference began a fortnight later in London.
Enver, who became the Chief of Staff of X Corps, was thinking that a new
Cabinet should be formed and the war had to continue until the lost
territories were recaptured. He tried to persuade the Sultan about this, but
when it did not work, Enver carried out one of the most audacious acts of
his career. On January 23, 1913, he and some CUP gunmen raided the Sublime
Porte and forced the government to resign. The Minister of War, Nazım Paşa,
was shot to death during the incident. The “Raid on the Sublime Porte” was a turning point for both
Enver and the CUP. It marked the beginning of an era, when soldiers replaced
the civilians at the top ranks of the party. A CUP-sympathizer, Mahmut
Şevket Paşa, formed the new government.
The First Balkan War ended with the Treaty of London signed
on May 30, 1913, which had ejected Turkey from Europe with the
exception of the Çatalca and the Gallipoli peninsula, drawing up boundary
lines for Turkey and the Balkan States along the Midye-Enez line. However,
the victors had conflicts with each other regarding the sharing of the
territory gained in the war and the Second Balkan War began. Turkey used this opportunity to recover some lost ground and Edirne was
recaptured on July 22, 1913. Enver Bey was leading the troops entering the
former Ottoman capital.
The new Grand Vizier Said Halim Paşa, who took the office
after the assassination of Mahmut Şevket Paşa, had formed his cabinet with
Talat Bey, the de facto leader of the CUP as the Minister of Interior and
Ahmet İzzet Paşa as the Minister of War. The CP was considering replacing
the latter, who was not deemed as a “man of struggle”. The two candidates
were Enver and Cemal. Talat was supporting Enver, but he was worried about
his greed. Cemal was also considered but the question was what to do with
Enver if Cemal was appointed as the Minister of War.
Meanwhile, Enver was thinking that the army should be
modernized and the cadres had to be rejuvenated and this could be only done
with German support. One day he entered the office of the Grand Vizier and
told him that nothing is done to modernize the army and therefore he should
be appointed as the Minister of War. Said Halim Paşa said that he is too
young to become a Minister but Enver insisted.
On December 18, 1913, he was promoted to the rank of Colonel, on January 5, 1914 he
became a General and appointed as the Minister of War. Again, he got what he
wanted. Two months later, on March 5, 1914, he married Naciye Sultan, a
princess from the Ottoman Palace, consolidating his power at the top of the
Turkish Army and the entire Empire.
Enver Paşa began reforming the army as soon as he became the
Minister of War. More than thousand officers over a certain age were removed
from the army and younger officers were promoted to important positions. The
German military mission increased its influence on the Turkish Army and a
German general, Liman von Sanders, was appointed to the command of the First
Army. Enver Paşa designed a new hat to be used by Turkish soldiers, called
“Enveriye”. He even introduced a new and easier alphabet system to be used
in the army, which was called the “Enveri” script, however it was not used
In 1914, when the world was at the brink of war, there were
different opinions in the Turkish government about which great power they
should align with. Enver Paşa was impressed by German military power,
whereas Talat Paşa and several leaders of the CUP were thinking that Britain was the correct
choice. Turkey first approached the Allied powers, Britain, France and Russia in order,
but rejected by all three. Talat Paşa and the other CUP leaders had no
option but to support Enver Paşa’s idea of alliance with Germany. The
agreement of Turkish-German Alliance was signed on August 2, 1914 in
Enver Paşa was the architect of the alliance with Germany. He was thinking
that the Germans would have a quick victory in the war and Turkey would
benefit from this victory. He allowed the two German warships, Goeben and
Breslau, enter the Dardanelles, without informing the cabinet members. These
warships, which eventually joined the Turkish Navy, bombarded the Russian
Black Sea ports, thus resulting in Russia’s declaration of war on Turkey.
Most of the Turkish cabinet members and CUP leaders were against such a rush
entry to the war, but Enver Paşa thought that it was the right thing to do.
During the First World War, Enver Paşa commanded an army
personally only once. In the Caucasian front, he wanted to encircle the
Russians, force them out of Turkish territory and take back Kars and Batumi. He went to
the front, took over the command and started the Sarıkamış Campaign. His
strategy looked well on the paper, but he had ignored the external
conditions such as the terrain and the weather. Tens of thousands of Turkish
soldiers froze to death on Allahüekber Mountains without firing a single
shot. The campaign turned out to be a disaster and on Enver Paşa returned to
Istanbul, having lost the battle and his prestige.
Enver Paşa’s message to the army and the people was “war
until final victory”. However the living conditions were deteriorating
rapidly in the country and there was a growing discontent. When the Russians
withdrew from the war after the Bolshevik Revolution, there were some hopes
to turn the tide in the war and the Turkish troops even entered Azerbaijan and Iran,
capturing Baku. For a moment, Enver Paşa seemed to be approaching his
pan-Turkish ideals; however the meltdown in Palestine and Mesopotamia
accelerated the end of the war for Turkey. In October 1918, when the Talat
Paşa Cabinet resigned, Enver stepped down as the Minister of the War and
later that month, the Armistice of Mudros was signed.
In the early hours of November 2, 1918, Enver Paşa
left Turkey on board of a German submarine, together with other CUP leaders
including Talat and Cemal. They disembarked in Crimea, from where Talat and
Cemal traveled to Germany.
Enver did not join them. He wanted to reach the Caucasus and establish
contact with the Turkish army units commanded by Halil Paşa and Nuri Bey. He
failed to do so, because the boat taking him to the Black Sea went aground. So, he went to Berlin instead.
In Germany, Enver Paşa contributed to the reorganization efforts of the CUP and
established contact with where he had relations with German communist
figures like Karl Radek. He tried to move to Moscow but he was arrested in
Lithuania and after spending two months in prison he returned to Berlin. Meanwhile, on January 1, 1919, the new
Turkish government expelled Enver Paşa from the Army. He was tried in
absentia for crimes of “plunging the country into war without a legitimate
reason, forced deportation of Armenians and leaving the country without
permission” and setenced to death.
Enver Paşa tried once again to go to Moscow, but this time his
plane had to a forced landing in Latvia;
he was arrested and imprisoned in Riga. Later he was freed and returned
Berlin. His third attempt to reach Moscow, in August 1920, was successful.
He was received well in Moscow where he had established contacts with representatives from Central Asia and his former comrades from the CUP. He also met with
Bolshevik leaders including Vladimir Ilyich Lenin himself. He tried to
support the resistance in Turkey and corresponded with Mustafa Kemal, giving him the guarantee that he did
not intend to intervene in the movement in Anatolia.
Enver Paşa went to Baku between September
1-8, 1920 to take part in the Congress of Eastern Peoples, representing Libya,
Tunisia, Algeria and Morocco, but this congress did not produce the desired
outcome. He later returned to Berlin where he tried to establish a secret
organization that would transfer Russian military assistance to Turkey, an
attempt that eventually failed.
July 30, 1921 when the major Greek offensive towards Ankara began, Enver decided to return to his homeland and moved to Batumi, located
close to the Turkish border. However, when he heard about the Turkish
victory in Sakarya, he changed his plans and traveled to Central Asia to
realize his pan-Turkish dreams. After stopovers in Tbilisi,
Ashgabat and Merv, he arrived in Bukhara.
In February 1922, after a brief imprisonment by a local
warlord, Enver Paşa went to the Dushanbe region, joined the
Basmachi leaders, organized their forces and rose against his former
supporters, the Bolsheviks. On August 4, 1922, as he was
celebrating the religious feast at his headquarters near the village of Ab-ı
Derya, Russians attacked. Enver Paşa, together with his thirty horsemen, tried
to break the Russian assault near the Chegan Hill, which was a futile
attempt. He was killed in action.
Enver Paşa was buried in the village of Ab-ı Derya in
His grave stayed there for more than seven decades, before his remains were
brought to Turkey and reburied in Istanbul in 1996.