Propaganda on Türkiye’s Recent History: Was Prince Sabahattin a Supporter of the Turkish National StruggleRamazan Erhan Güllü
At the time the Armistice of Mudros was signed, Prince Sabahattin was in Switzerland, where he had been resident since 1913. Known for his fierce opposition to both Sultan Abdulhamid II and the Committee of Union and Progress, Sabahattin was one of the political figures expected to be active during the armistice period when the members of the Union and Progress were considered war criminals. The supporters of Prince Sabahattin, who returned to Turkey at the end of 1919, claim that he was actually a supporter of the National Struggle from the beginning. However, the primary sources of the period and the statements of the Prince at that time do not confirm this claim. In this study, the attitudes and activities of Prince Sabahattin against the National Struggle movement and his relations with Mustafa Kemal Pasha will be examined.
Türkiye’nin Yakın Tarihine Dair Bir Propaganda: Prens Sabahattin Millî Mücadele Taraftarı mıydı?Ramazan Erhan Güllü
Mondros Mütarekesi imzalandığı dönemde Prens Sabahattin, 1913 yılından beri ikamet ettiği İsviçre’de bulunmaktaydı. Hem Sultan II. Abdülhamit’e hem de İttihat ve Terakki’ye sert muhalefeti ile tanınan Prens, İttihat ve Terakki’nin savaş suçlusu sayıldığı mütareke döneminde etkin olması beklenen siyasi figürlerdendi. 1919 yılı sonlarında Türkiye’ye dönen Prens Sabahattin’in taraftarları, kendisinin baştan itibaren Millî Mücadele yanlısı olduğunu iddia etmektedirler. Ancak dönemin birincil kaynakları ve Prens’in o dönemki beyanları bu iddiayı doğrulamamaktadır. Bu çalışmada Prens Sabahattin’in Millî Mücadele hareketine karşı tavır ve faaliyetleriyle Mustafa Kemal Paşa ile ilişkileri incelenecektir.
Prince Sabahattin, the son of Seniha Sultan, who was the sister of Sultan Abdulhamid II, is known as one of the leading figures of the Young Turks opposition. Together with his father Mahmud Celaleddin Pasha and his brother Prince Lütfullah, he went to Europe in 1899 and joined the opposition against Abdulhamid II. Although he was attached to the dynasty on his mother’s side, Sabahattin, who preferred to use “Prince,” the title of the heirs of the dynasty claiming the throne in Europe, became one of the leaders of the opposition in Europe. However, his relations with the other important element of the opposition, the Committee of Union and Progress, were gradually disintegrating. In particular, the Prince’s advocacy of foreign intervention against the Ottoman State and the view of administrative autonomy meant dissolving the Ottoman State for the Committee.
The re-declaration of the Constitutional Monarchy in 1908 could not end the disintegration within the opposition. On the contrary, the new political conjuncture led to a fierce political struggle between the two groups. There was a political competition in the constitutional system as to which group’s political and social views would dominate. The Unionists continued to carry their old criticisms and concerns about Prince Sabahattin. The fact that the Committee of Union and Progress became more active in the political arena led Prince Sabahattin and his group into fierce opposition against the Committee of Union and Progress, just as they did against Abdülhamit II. Indeed, during the Second Constitutional Monarchy, Prince Sabahattin had to leave the Ottoman State twice and flee abroad. The Prince and his supporters were always suspects in the March 31 Revolt, the coup attempt against the Union and Progress in 1913, and the murder of Grand Vizier Mahmut Şevket Pasha in the same year. The Prince fled abroad during the investigations of the coup attempt, and he was sentenced to death in absentia for the assassination of Mahmut Şevket Pasha. Consequently, Prince Sabahattin lived in Switzerland for about six years, from 1913 until he returned home at the end of 1919 after the signing of the Armistice of Mudros. During this period, he continued his opposition from abroad and expressed his criticisms of the Committee of Union and Progress in his writings.
The Ottoman State’s defeat in the First World War and the signing of the Armistice of Mudros were considered by Prince Sabahattin and his supporters to be a vindication of their ideas. They had opposed the Committee of Union and Progress from the beginning of the Second Constitutional Era. It was the Unionists who were responsible for the entry of the State into the war and the subsequent defeat. They thought that this situation alone justified the views of Prince Sabahattin. There was also sympathy for Prince Sabahattin in the political arena. However, this sympathy stemmed not from the vindication of the Prince’s views, but from his pro-British policy. Sultan Vahdettin saw a political discourse that did not conflict with Britain as a way of establishing close relations with Britain after the armistice. Prince Sabahattin, who was known for his pro-British political line, could have contributed to the establishment of the desired closeness with Britain if he held a State office in this period. For this reason, Sultan Vahdettin sent word to Prince Sabahattin through his close friends, immediately after the armistice, to return to Istanbul. The Prince was expected to become Grand Vizier or represent Turkey at the Paris Peace Conference. He even convened a congress in Switzerland with his supporters at the invitation of the Sultan and presented a memorandum containing Turkey’s rights and demands to the peace conference. However, in March 1919, when Damat Ferit Pasha was appointed as the Grand Vizier, the Prince gave up on returning to Turkey. Sultan Vahdettin wanted to implement his policy of closeness with Britain not with Prince Sabahattin, but with another pro-British statesman, Damat Ferit Pasha. Prince Sabahattin was against Damat Ferit Pasha as well. There had been ongoing political and personal animosities between the two. For this reason, Prince Sabahattin returned to the country only after Damat Ferit gave up the Grand Viziership in September 1919.
He came to Istanbul in December 1919. On his return to the country, the National Struggle movement was institutionalized and entered into a political struggle with the Istanbul Government. The supporters of the Prince held to a historical narrative stating that he supported the National Struggle since his arrival. It is stated that as soon as the Prince arrived in Istanbul, he made statements in favor of the National Struggle, saw the military struggle as justified, and always took the side of Mustafa Kemal Pasha. The entry of this narrative into the literature was especially marked in the works of Ahmed Bedevi Kuran and Nezahet Nurettin Ege, who were close to Prince Sabahattin.
However, Prince Sabahattin did not have a political stance in support of the National Struggle after he arrived in Istanbul. Although he did not openly take an oppositional stance, he did not have an attitude or activity that we can describe as pro-National Struggle either. Indeed, he had a “happy medium” attitude, trying to be close to both the Istanbul Government and Sultan Vahdettin and the Representative Committee. He was expecting to be brought to the Grand Viziership, and to realize this expectation, he aimed to meet his own political goal by keeping in touch with both parties, but the developing political and military events did not enable the Prince to fulfill his expectations. During the official occupation of Istanbul on March 16, 1920, Prince Sabahattin took a harsh stance against the National Struggle. He repeated the classic oppositional discourse, which saw the military movements in Anatolia as responsible for the occupation, and thought that he would be appointed as the Grand Vizier due to his pro-British political stance and that the Anatolian movement would become ineffective. However, the opening of the Grand National Assembly in Ankara and the continuation of the military successes of the National Struggle once again revealed the Prince’s lack of foresight. In this process, the Prince, who tried to get closer to Ankara again, congratulated Mustafa Kemal Pasha with various telegrams and sent messages praising the National Struggle, but he could not achieve any rapprochement with Ankara. After the proclamation of the Republic, he was expelled from Turkey once again during the exile of the dynasty in 1924 and lived in Switzerland again until he died in 1948.
The works of Prince Sabahattin’s supporters are generally memoirs, written after the proclamation of the Republic, and they see the exile of the Prince with the dynasty as wrong. In their works, they emphasize insistently that Prince Sabahattin was a supporter of the National Struggle, and indeed, they try to seek evidence for the unfairness of the exile decision. In this study, the relations of the Prince with Mustafa Kemal Pasha and the National Struggle movement will be examined, along with the claims of his supporters. Archival documents and the press of the period provide enough data to enable us to understand the political attitudes and activities of Prince Sabahattin in this period.