Statesmen and politician, grand vizier (B. 1874, Edirne – D. 1921, Berlin, Germany). His full name was Mehmed Talat and he was the son of Ahmet Vasıf Efendi, prosecutor of Kırcaali. He completed his primary education in Vize, Kırklareli. After he graduated from Edirne Akeri Rüştiyesi (secondary school), he joined the staff of the telegraph company as a postal clerk in Edirne and he taught Turkish lesson in the Alliance Israelite School. In the meantime, he went into politics and joined a secret community working against Abdülhamit II. However, he was arrested for this act (1895) and was sent exile to Thessaloniki (1898). There, he served as a postman on the staff of the Post Office and attended Thessaloniki Law School but he couldn’t complete his higher education.
Talat Bey was one of the founding members of Osmanlı Hürriyet Cemiyeti, later to be named as the Committee of Union and Progress, which was established in 1906. He joined the mason guild in Thessaloniki and used their influence to organize the Committee of Union and Progress. He spread the force of the Committee of Union and Progress. He came to Istanbul for the second time and founded a branch of the Committee and organized them. However, his secret actions were found out by the palace, he was dismissed of his duty and sent exile to Anatolia as well. He was forgiven thanks to Hüseyin Hilmi Pasha. While he was working at a private school as a principal, he also continued his works to organize the Committee of Union and Progress in Istanbul.
Talat Pasha became the deputy of Edirne in the Ottoman Parliament after the Second Constitution in 1908 and he was appointed as the vice president. He was appointed as the first Grand Master of Turkish Grand Lodge (known as Maşrık-ı Azami Osmanî) (1909-10) and he played an important role in dethroning of Abdulhamid II. He was appointed Minister of Interior Affairs in Second Hüseyin Hilmi Pasha Government (1909-11) and Minister of Post and Telegram and Vice Minister of Interior Affairs in Sait Pasha Government (1912).
He was one of the masterminds of January 23rd, 1913 Ottoman coup d'état (Babıali Baskını) which was an action against Kamil Pasha Government by the Committee of Union and Progress, after Edirne was lost to Bulgaria upon the defeat of the First Balkan War. He had an active role to lead the Ottoman Empire into Second Balkan War for the Balkan League was fighting each other. He was appointed to head representative of Turkey in peace talks which was held in Istanbul on September 29th, 1913 after Edirne was taken back from Bulgaria. Together with the Minister of War, Enver and the minister of the Navy, Cemal, he was one of the three pashas who had been the dominant political figures in interior and foreign policy of the empire until the end of 1918, since Said Halim Pasha became the grand vizier (12th June 1913). In spite of the oppositions, Talat Pasha was appointed as the Minister of Interior Affairs by Said Halim Pasha Government and he played a leading role in Turco-German alliance (2nd August 1914), thus spearheading the Ottoman Empire into World War I. He also issued the order for the relocation law which forced Armenians to migrate from war zone to the south and he himself administered the migration as Minister of Interior Affairs.
Upon the dismissal of Grand Vizier Said Halim Pasha (prime minister), his political rival, Talat Pasha was appointed as the Grand Vizier by Sultan Mehmet Reşat (4th February 1917). Talat Pasha represented the Ottoman Empire during the peace talks between Russia and the Ottoman, which was held in Brest-Litovsk after the Russians withdrew following the October Revolution in Russia (1917) and he maintained his office as the grand vizier when Mehmed VI (Vahdettin) ascended the throne (4th July 1918). Upon the defeat in World War I, he resigned from the grand vizier duty on 8th October 1918 to make it easier to sign the treaty of peace. After the Armistice of Montrose (30th October 1918), during General Congress of the Committee of Union and Progress on 1st November 1918, he announced that he quitted his career in politics. The following day, he left Turkey by a German submarine. He went to Russia and after a while he went to Germany and settled in Berlin.
While he was aboard, he kept in touch with Enver Pasha, who was still active in Soviet Union and Cemal Pasha, who was in the service of Afghanistan. He corresponded with Mustafa Kemal Pasha, who was establishing the Independence War of Turkey, but he couldn’t gain his friendship. Contrary to Enver Pasha, he was for pursuing a timid policy against the Soviet Union and he thought it was better not to be in rush to lay hand on organizing of Anatolia. On 15th March 1921, Talat Pasha was assassinated with a single bullet just outside of his house in Berlin by an Armenian Revolutionary Federation member named Soghomon Tehlirian. He was buried in a Muslim cemetery in Berlin after his body was embalmed and then he was reburied in Hürriyet-i Ebediye, Istanbul on 25th February 1943.
Talat Pasha rose through the ranks in the Committee of Union and Progress while he was a post officer and promoted to leader of the civil branch of organization. The most tempestuous era of the Turkey was lived under the rule of his government. Even though he was one of those who led a great empire into a very bad situation because of their ignorance and inefficacy, he fled not to answer for the dreadful errors to people and left a letter to Grand Vizier İzzet Pasha telling: “I accept the responsibility, I would like to answer to people and serve the sentence to be given. I promise that I will come to Turkey whenever it is possible.” Some of his friends chose to stay and borne the consequences, however Talat Pasha didn’t do so. He fled to Berlin leaving a collapsed country behind.
The journal he wrote in Berlin during the last times of his life was published in modern Turkish (Talat Paşa’nın Anıları) by Alpay Kabacalı in 2000. Notes of Aubrey Herbert, a British intelligence agent who had interviewed with Talat Pasha for three days shortly before his assassination were presented in the book as well. “İstiklâl Harbimizde Enver Paşa ve İttihat Terakki Erkânı” (1990), a book written by Kazım Karabekir, tells of oppositions of Talat Pasha and his supporters against War of Independence.