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The End of Enver Pasha

ISSUE:  Spring 1930

The relations between revolutionary Russia and revolutionary Turkey were conditioned by a personal rivalry between two of the Turkish leaders. The Bolsheviks adopted an extremely helpful and cordial attitude toward Kemal Pasha, and Kemal Pasha displayed an active sympathy for the Soviet government. But the situation was complicated by the romantic figure of Enver Pasha.

Enver and Kemal nursed an old hatred for one another.

Enver was the Ludendorff of Turkey. During the World War, in fact, he was the actual ruler of the country, and with Talaat Pasha and Djemal Pasha constituted an unquestioned, dictatorial triumvirate. His name was a power to conjure with from Berlin to Bagdad, and his reputation as a vigorous, imaginative leader of men had spread even to the borders of India. Kaiser Wilhelm knew his influence. The Sultan-Caliph did his bidding.

In this period, Mustapha Kemal was merely an army commander. But he was a stormy petrel. He had quarreled with Enver Pasha during the War of Tripoli and again during the Balkan Wars. In the course of the World War, after Kemal had repulsed the British on the bloodiest sector of the Gallipoli front, a sharp disagreement arose between him and Enver on the subject of army organization, and Kemal, whose military genius could not be spared, was sent to the Mesopotamian-Palestinian front “in disgrace.” There he came into conflict with the German General von Falkenhayn and, much to Enver’s chagrin, resigned from the army. But Liman von Sanders, Falkenhayn’s successor, persuaded Mustapha Kemal to return. And when the Sultan’s forces were crushed by General Allenby, Kemal received a commission from von Sanders to hold Adana and reorganize the Turkish army. Here he made the first steps towards his future position as Turkey’s national hero.

A week before the armistice between Turkey and the Western Entente, Kemal appeared in Constantinople and soon received the important appointment of Inspector-General of Anatolia.

While Kemal was rising to power, Enver was falling into disgrace. His armies had met miserable defeat in the Caucasus; his policies, it was claimed, had caused the collapse of his country. In 1919, he was condemned to death.

He escaped and tried to reach Odessa. But a storm arose on the Black Sea, broke the mast of his little sailing vessel, and obliged him to return to Turkey. Bent on reaching Russia, however, he made his way to Germany where he secretly boarded his own airplane in an effort to fly to Moscow. The machine crashed. He spent some time in a prison in Kovno, and a few weeks in another in Riga. Finally, in 1920, he reached Moscow.

Enver had been preceded to the Soviet capital by Djemal Pasha, his colleague in the famous triumvirate, by Halil Pasha, and by Semi Bey. What were these prominent Turks seeking in Russia? At the Baku Congress of Eastern Peoples a declaration was read from Enver Pasha in which he protested that he “hated and cursed German imperialism and the German imperialists as much as he did British imperialism and the British imperialists.” He was a friend of the Soviet republic, and of the Soviet idea, he said; he favored the revolution and would fight in the interests of oppressed peoples.

But the Congress did not believe Enver, nor did the Bolsheviks. Djemal had been easier to handle. Djemal entertained no immediate anti-Kemalist ambitions. The British were fighting the Communists. A state of active hostility existed between Russia and England. Afghanistan at the time was engaged in a struggle for independence with England. Moscow, accordingly, directed Djemal Pasha’s attention towards Kabul.

At Kabul, Djemal immediately won high regard, and exercised considerable influence over Amanullah Khan. The constitution of Afghanistan was largely his work. He likewise assisted in the organization of the Afghan army.

Enver had wilder flights of fancy than Djemal. His imagination swept all of Asia. His ambitions were boundless. . . . In Moscow he always wore an unusually high black tarboosh to detract attention from his low stature. And he continually boasted that his wife was an intimate relative of the Sultan.

The Bolsheviks knew Enver’s talents as a military, and political leader. They knew also that he was an adventurer. But Lombroso taught that of two men born with an instinct for fire, one may become an incendiary and the other a celebrated fire patrol chief. There could be adventurers and adventurers. Enver was violently anti-British. England had destroyed the Turkish Empire and annexed part of Turkey’s Arabian domains. England was largely responsible for the defeat of Turkish arms in the World War. England, moreover, wished to drive “the unspeakable Turk” out of Europe.

The Bolsheviks first attempted to reconcile Enver and Kemal. The attempt failed. Then they thought they could use Enver as they had used Djemal. Enver, speculating on the old Russian hatred for Great Britain and on the possibilities of the new hostility between Red Moscow and Imperial London, came to the Soviet capital in the expectation of receiving sympathy and support. An excellent partnership might have sprung up if Enver’s dreams had fitted into Bolshevik plans. But the only field for Enver’s activities was Afghanistan—far too narrow for a man of his nature.

Enver’s mind’s-eye swept empires. He dreamt of reestablishing the kingdom of Tamerlane. He saw himself the ruler of a realm embracing Chinese Turkestan, Russian Turkestan, Kazakstan, and Afghanistan. Then, like Alexander the Great, he would inarch through the Khyber Pass into India and strike a mortal blow at the British Empire. He would be the Napoleon of Asia.

He hid these ambitions deep in his heart. For while they were anti-British they also involved Soviet territory. Enver felt, furthermore, that the success of his Pan-Turanian Empire depended on his conquest, first, of the center of the Turanian world—Turkey. He must overthrow Kemal Pasha.

But while Enver chafed under months of idleness in Moscow, the Russians were cementing their relations with Kemal. In the beginning, Enver Pasha tried to act as an intermediary in the Russo-Turkish pourparlers and to put himself in the position of the real representative of Turkey. “Mustapha Kemal,” he would say, “is weak. He is known neither at home nor abroad. I, on the other hand, have a reputation throughout Turkey and Europe. Every child in the Moslem world knows the name of Enver Pasha.”

The Bolsheviks did not listen to him, probably because they did not trust him completely. They were thorough Kemalists. Moscow and Angora drew closer and closer together, and when the Soviet-Anatolian treaty of March 16, 1921, was signed, Enver felt that his chances of supplanting Kemal with Bolshevik assistance were gone.

Early in the summer of 1921, he announced, therefore, that he wished to go to the Caucasus. Enver lived in Russia as the guest of the Soviet government; it could not deny him freedom of movement. He was accordingly given a salon car in which to travel south. Before he went, however, he gave Chicherin a personal undertaking that he would not get into touch with his friends in Turkey„ nor work against Kemal.

Enver’s supporters had come across the Turkish border to meet him in Batum. He was still influential in the Turkish army, in church quarters—for Kemal was an avowed opponent of Pan-Islamism and of the Sultan-Caliph—and with the upper classes. A full-fledged Enverist congress now took place in Batum which, the Russians learned, planned a coup d’Hat against the Kemal regime. Kemal protested to the Bolsheviks, and when, shortly after the meeting, Enver tried to make his way into Turkey, the Soviet authorities detained him by force.

Enver was violently angry and swore revenge, but maintained outwardly friendly relations with the Russians. He said, however, that he would not return immediately to Moscow but go instead to Transcaspia to meet Djemal Pasha who was on his way back from Kabul. He also wanted to hunt in Bokhara—for what he did not say. In the city of Bokhara he still appeared officially to Soviet representatives, and then suddenly he vanished.

Before long, he assumed the leadership of the Basmachi who were in revolt against Bolshevik rule in Bokhara. A Young Bokharan party, very much akin to the Young Turks and the Young Afghans, had sprung up before the World War. In 1910, and again in 1913, Young Bokharan insurrections took place against the local emir who was the Czar’s representative in Central Asia. Considerable anti-Russian sentiment actuated the Young Bokharans. When the World War broke out, for instance, they burned a big bull in the streets of Samarkand as a symbol of what they hoped would happen to Czarism in consequence of the conflict, and when Kerensky assumed power, a delegation of rich Bokharan merchants petitioned him to abolish the emirate. Miliukov objected to such a move. The result was a growth of sympathy for the Bolsheviks among the Young Bokharans.

Throughout the early phase of the Communist revolution, Moscow had no contact with Bokhara. But the expulsion of British interventionist troops and the defeat of the Whites in Siberia and Turkestan encouraged the Young Bokharans to continue their struggle against the unpopular emir, and in September, 1920, a three-day revolution flared up which forced him and his female and boy harems to flee to Afghanistan. He since has traded in karakul fleeces in Kabul.

This upheaval left the feudal khans and the pro-emir party dissatisfied. They could prey on many of the peasants who had suffered economic distress throughout the Civil War from lack of contact with Russia, on which Bokhara depends for bread and to which it sells its cotton. The peasants likewise resented the anti-religious ardor of the Bolsheviks. In general, the movement that developed may be regarded as an organized protest against the new order.

Enver Pasha now put himself at the head of these insurgents or Basmachi and opened his war against the Bolsheviks. He tried to infect the Basmachi with his Pan-Turanian ideology, and sent emissaries to Kabul where his cause won the sympathy of those court circles which would not have been averse to the annexation of Bokhara by Afghanistan. Enver mobilized an army and concentrated his great talents on the fulfillment of a life’s ambition. It is said he took funds and arms from the British. But one is inclined to doubt the truth of the charge although the Basmachi were certainly equipped with English rifles and munitions previously obtained from agents operating in Turkestan. Enver likewise enjoyed the assistance of the Afghan minister in Bokhara and of one thousand Afghan volunteers.

Enver spent almost a year in Bokhara. His movement, however, gathered little momentum. The re-establishment of geographical connections with Central Russia promised to remove the chief grievances of the Basmachi, and Pan-Turanianism struck no root.

Enver was a general of the German school and a master of modern military tactics. But in the mountains of East Bokhara his strategy almost invariably improved the position of the Red forces sent to destroy him.

On the night of June 14, 1922, he attacked in the region of Derbent where Alexander and the Romans had marched centuries before. General Kakurin, who commanded the Bolshevik force, estimates that Enver had no more than three thousand men and little cannon, whereas the Soviet division was eight thousand strong and enjoyed the advantages of superior artillery and trained cavalry. Enver suffered defeat.

Kakurin now pressed Enver’s shattered band deep into the mountains, and before long, the Turkish leader had turned south towards the Afghan border. Here the Red Anmy operated in small patrols whicli combed the intricate defiles for rebellious Basmachi.

One such patrol of approximately one hundred horsemen entered a narrow pass on August 4, 1922, and saw in front of it a large group of Bokharans seated on the ground in a circle. When the Bokharans spied the Red unit they immediately gave battle and repulsed the assailants. But one gunner, assisted by, two comrades, carried a single piece of light field artillery to the top of a low hill where he was able to hold the Basmachi at bay. Meanwhile, another Red Army patrol, attracted by the booming mountain echoes of the firing, galloped to the scene, and a struggle ensued which resembled the combats of King Richard the Lion-Hearted and his mediaeval knights. The warriors hacked one another to pieces with scimitar and sabre, and wrestled for their lives on the rocky ground. Finally, the remnant of the Basmachi retreated leaving their dead on the field of battle.

When the Red soldiers examined the corpses, they found that all the Basmachi khans were dressed in long richly colored Bokharan robes and typical Central Asiatic headgear. But one had worn high military boots, breeches, and a tightly-buttoned blue jacket. On his finger was a valuable signet ring. They examined his papers. There were three letters from Berlin written in a woman’s hand, a notebook, and scraps of paper on which orders had been scribbled in Turkish. The dead man was Enver Pasha.

His possessions were taken to Tashkent, photographed, and deposited in the military museum. The body found burial in the distant mountain pass in a grave that is unmarked and now unknown. The assertion that his head was cut off and carried through the streets of Samarkand is untrue as are numerous other unauthoritative versions of the last episode of his romantic career.

According to information subsequently obtained, the conference in the defile which the Soviet patrol had discovered was a meeting of the most important Basmachi khans and sheiks. Enver had decided to give up the struggle and retire to Afghanistan—but not forever. It was his farewell discussion with the fighting chiefs to whom he proposed to transfer the command; it took place near Bald-jhan—only eighty, kilometers from the Afghan frontier.


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Muhammad Zubair Agha's picture
Muhammad Zubair Agha · 8 years ago

When Enver Pasha was on a Run he entered Afghanistan and crossed Pashawer to enter punjab and went to  a Qazilbash family of sialkot for asylum who had migrated from Kabul and stayed with them for a period of 3 to 6 months before heading for Russia. ( I have in my possession a cutting of a local news paper of that time regarding his stay in Sialkot ). 


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