Empire joined the Central Powers to form the Triple Alliance with
the signing of the August 1914 Turco-German Alliance. Turkey formally
entered World War I on October 28, 1914, with the bombing of Russian
Black Sea ports. The Triple Entente, or Allied Powers, declared war
on the Ottoman Empire on November 4.
Two major factors led to Ottoman involvement on
the side of the Central Powers: German pressure and the opportunism
of Turkish minister of war Enver Pasha. Other motives for joining the
Central Powers were the German victories early in the War and
Turkey's friction with the Triple Entente. Germany's aim was clear:
to keep Turkey from joining the enemy (and by gaining Ottoman
support, encourage Romania and Bulgaria to enter the Alliance). The
German military mission of 1913 to Turkey under Liman von Sanders
organized the Turkish army and navy under German leadership and
brought forth the Turco-German Alliance. The secret treaty (only five
people in Turkey were aware of it, one being Enver Pasha) was signed
2 August 1914.
The Allies had strategic interests in the Turkish
Straits but failed to provide a coherent defense of Turkey from
Germany. To that extent, Turkey was driven into the Turco-German
alliance; but Turkish leadership, fearful of disintegration of the
Ottoman Empire, was divided on a course of action. Turkish ambassador
in Paris Rifat Pasha advised that neither side would hesitate to
dismantle the Empire. According to Rifat, Germany was not as strong
as Enver Pasha perceived and considered Turkey to be merely a pawn.
Nonetheless, Enver Pasha defied Rifat's pleas to avoid alliance with
either side and took what he saw as an opportunity to claim a victory
Enver Pasha chose to ally Turkey with the Central
Powers, justifying the alliance by citing Germany's early victories
in the War. Being on the winning side would provide the opportunity
to forge a swift victory over neighboring enemies and avoid the
imminent disintegration of the Ottoman Empire.
Alliance with the Central Powers appealed more to
Turkey than alliance with the Allied Powers for additional reasons.
Friction with the Entente came on two levels: firstly, Turkey and the
Allies clashed over Turkey's harboring of German warships and,
secondly, over Russia's interest in the Turkish Straits. On top of a
long-standing objective to possess that territory, the Balkan Wars
caused Russia to fear loss of access to the straits in 1912. Then in
1913, Russia threatened to occupy Ottoman territory if German
military under Liman von Sanders was not removed. Russia was an
archenemy and relations with the other Allied Powers were weak.
Encyclopedia Britannica. 15th ed.
Macropaedia, vol. 28. Chicago, 1992.
Howard, Harry N. The Partition of Turkey: A
Diplomatic History, 1913-1923. (New York; H. Fertig, 1966.)
Macfie, A. L. Profiles in Power: Ataturk.
(London and New York; Longman, 1994).
Project; Elizabeth Caliendo, firstname.lastname@example.org
Researched by: Caroline E Heintzelman, email@example.com
Written by: Jennifer N Harlow, firstname.lastname@example.org
April 21, 1997