What do the Mongols think of the Turks


Doris Götting

Doris Götting, M.A .: Former political editor of Deutsche Welle; Reporter and commentator for ARD radio and freelancer for various specialist magazines. Main focus of work: politics, economy, culture and living conditions in East, Southeast and Central Asia. Lives today as a freelance author and audio book speaker in Münster.

For many years, the Ottoman Empire and the German Empire were primarily linked by economic ties. In 1914 military interests turned the states into "brothers in arms" in the First World War: four years later, both empires had lost the war and fell apart.

Postcard from the First World War: The allies Kaiser Wilhelm II., Sultan Mehmed V and Franz-Joseph I. (& copy picture-alliance)

Before the First World War became the touchstone for military cooperation with the German Empire, the Ottoman Empire was, due to the coup of the Young Turks in 1908,
The Turkish Minister of War Enver Paşa in 1915: This motif was also used as a postcard in Germany during the First World War. (& copy picture-alliance)
Internal unrest and the Balkan Wars of 1912 and 1913, shortly before collapse. Actually, people in Berlin were convinced that it would collapse soon. A German military mission under Marshal Otto Liman von Sanders was entrusted with reforming the Ottoman army as early as 1913. But when the Turkish War Minister Enver Paşa proposed a military alliance to the German Reich during the July crisis in 1914, which would strengthen the position of the Turks in the Balkans in the long term, he was rejected. At the end of July, it was the German Kaiser Wilhelm II personally who wanted to come together. And suddenly Berlin urged the Ottoman government to stand by the Central Powers in the event of a war against Russia. For the imperial government now also global strategic considerations played a role - after all, the land routes led via Ottoman territory to Central Asia, to the Indian subcontinent as well as to Africa, where Russia, England and France had colonies and areas of influence. Attacks on these areas, so the calculation, could indirectly weaken the opponents in the European theaters of war. Turkish troops should therefore be instrumentalized for undeclared German war aims.

The alliance treaty of 1914

On August 2, 1914, both sides signed the treaty of alliance, but without having previously agreed on common war goals. In addition to the provision of troops, Berlin expected from the Ottoman Empire above all that its political influence as an Asian Muslim empire would extend into the possessions of the Entente powers, which were inhabited by Muslims. Since he visited the Ottoman Empire in 1898, Kaiser Wilhelm II regarded himself as the "protector" of all Muslims. His policy on the Orient was based on geopolitical ideas that he had been promoting as imperialist colonial policy since the 1890s in order to compete with the other great powers.
Kaiser Wilhelm II in Constantinople in Turkish uniform and Fez. (& copy picture-alliance)

In scholarly, industrial and banking circles, ideas circulated that the Muslim peoples were only waiting to gain new power and prosperity "through German hard work, German knowledge under a strong German government", as in one of the many political memoranda of the time was called. Some authors even developed scenarios of a large economic area from the North Sea to the Persian Gulf on which the future claim to world power should be based. Others advocated the colonization of Mesopotamia by German colonists and the exploitation of its raw materials; especially oil and coal. The Baghdad Railway, which was under construction, was an obvious expression of such ambitions. In addition, concepts for a comprehensive economic modernization of the Ottoman Empire and the development of its raw materials by German companies after the end of the war have already been developed. [1]

Enver Paşa signed the secret agreement on August 2, 1914, but declared his country's "armed neutrality" the following day. This got him into trouble with Berlin, which was already at war with Russia. His country should also declare war on Russia as soon as possible and start fighting in the Black Sea. In principle, the Ottoman Minister of War was ready, but he did not want to be dictated the right time to strike. Because he still lacked support in his own government. Some ministers even had open sympathy for the Entente, the military alliance between the United Kingdom, France and Russia. The mobilization of the armed forces took time. Almost all of the material and equipment had to be brought in from Germany by rail via the Balkan countries, which turned out to be increasingly difficult given the failure of Austria-Hungary in Serbia and the transport blockades on the part of Romania. Last but not least, Enver Paşa also pursued his own war aims, which made him hesitate.

Economic and military interests

In order not to disappoint his ally, however, he proposed a joint, secret military expedition to Central Asia under Turkish leadership. It should move the emir of Afghanistan, on its borders uprisings against Russia or that
In October 1917, the German Emperor met Sultan Mehmed V in Constantinople. (& copy picture-alliance / akg)
to instigate British "crown jewel" India. Since one had to march through Persian territory for this purpose, the neutral Persia should also be won to take the side of the Central Powers. Enver Paşa's idea met open ears in Berlin, because it corresponded with its own geopolitical considerations. On August 20, 1914, a small group of initiates met at Max Freiherr von Oppenheim's. The famous Orient traveler, diplomat, archaeologist and writer of political memoranda was involved in a "Top Secret" program of the Foreign Office. It called for fire to be started in the regions of North Africa, the Near and Middle East, and even on the Indian subcontinent, controlled by Great Britain, Russia and France, with the help of propaganda, weapons and money, but above all by proclaiming a "jihad" to lay the fuse of Islamist rebellion from Cairo to Calcutta and to create a mood for the German liberators from the colonial yoke.

In addition to representatives from the Foreign Office and the War Ministry, the publicist Ernst Jäckh, the entrepreneur Reinhard Mannesmann, the explorer, Central Asia expert and secret agent Hermann Consten and Wilhelm Wassmuss, who was familiar with Persia, were among the participants in the consultation. Mannesmann, who in addition to pipe works, car, arms and ammunition factories in Europe also owned lands and coal mines in Morocco, had been planning a "study expedition" led by Consten over Turkish territory to Central Asia for some time. The long-term goal was the exploitation of gold deposits in Mongolia. Quite incidentally, they also wanted to explore opportunities for further business activities in the transit countries - Persia, Afghanistan and Chinese Turkestan (Xinjiang). Mannesmann also had a joint office with the Bremen coffee manufacturer Ludwig Roselius in Berlin's Wilhelmstrasse, which carried out secret logistical and diplomatic assignments for the Foreign Office in other European countries.

The laborious preparations of the expedition company were followed by a sometimes quite chaotic start full of skill wrangling, logistical problems and contradicting objectives on the German and Turkish side. The Turks soon lost interest in going out with the diverse group of German military and civilians. Oberleutnant Oskar Niedermayer, the responsible military leader, and Consul Wilhelm Wassmuss, the diplomatic representative, considered going it alone for Germany. Hermann Consten, on the other hand, who was responsible for the expedition equipment, travel budget and baggage train, tried to make common cause behind her back with the Turkish officers assigned to the secret command.

Closure of the Dardanelles

The German warships "Göben" and "Breslau" cross the Bosporus during the First World War. (& copy picture-alliance / akg)

From Ludwig Roselius, who was on a secret mission for the Foreign Office in Bucharest, Consten had been able to get 300,000 gold marks "to procure gifts for the Emir of Afghanistan". Roselius made his commitment dependent on Consten in turn moving Enver Paşa to close the Dardanelles in order to prevent the Entente powers from buying grain in Romania and Bulgaria. The deal worked, and international protests ensued. However, the official justification for the closure of one of the world's most important shipping lanes on September 27, 1914 was an incident in which a Turkish torpedo boat was prevented by British warships from entering the Aegean Sea. With Roselius' help, Consten also managed to buy grain, canned food and fuel for the Turkish Black Sea Fleet in Romanian and Bulgarian ports so that they could sail. On October 28, 1914, the two German cruisers Göben and Breslau - meanwhile integrated into the Ottoman navy as Yavuz Sultan and Midilli - left the Bosporus with a Turkish squadron commanded by Admiral Wilhelm von Souchon; the next day they attacked the ports of Sevastopol and Odessa.

The later Turkey was thus actively involved in the fighting. Russia's declaration of war on the Ottoman Empire followed on November 2nd. Russian troops marched into the province of Erzurum from Armenia and occupied it. The British also declared war on the Ottomans just a few days later and immediately increased their military presence in the Persian Gulf, mostly with Indian troops. France and Italy started opening
After Turkey officially enters the war, Sheikh ul-Islam of Constantinople, Musa Kâzım Efendi, proclaims the "holy war", the jihad. (& copy picture-alliance)
Hostilities in Syria and North Africa. On November 14, 1914, the Sheikh-ul-Islam of Constantinople [2] proclaimed the "jihad" against the Entente powers. German propaganda activity in the Islamic world began. Despite German warnings, Enver Paşa saw the beginning of the winter of 1914/15 as the right time for his long-planned campaign in the Caucasus. The company ended in a debacle: the annihilation of the 3rd Ottoman Army.

End of the alliance

In view of the march of Russian troops near Tabriz in northern Persia, British units on the central section of the Euphrates and Tigris, and their own forays into Persian territory, in which they did not want the Germans with them, the Turks unceremoniously terminated the joint Afghanistan project in Baghdad in February 1915 . In the autumn of 1915, Niedermayer finally made it to Kabul with a few companions. Only: he was just as unable to win the Emir of Afghanistan over to the "German Jihad" as he had previously won the Shah of Persia.

Despite the ongoing disruption of German-Turkish relations, both sides continued to adhere to the alliance. This was also successful: thanks to the joint efforts of the British and French naval units, the attempt to break through the mine belt at the Dardanelles, to capture Constantinople and advance into the Black Sea to catch up with the Russian ally, failed. In April and August 1915, two Entente landing operations on some sections of the Gallipoli Peninsula were successful; After months of trench warfare with huge losses for both sides, the Ottoman troops under German command (Liman von Sanders) finally managed to regain control of the peninsula in January 1916. From 1916 Ottoman troops took part in the fighting in the Balkans, especially in Romania, on the side of the Germans, Austrians and Bulgarians.

Temporary success was also recorded in Mesopotamia. At the end of October 1915, General Colmar von der Goltz Paşa [3] took command of the 6th Ottoman Army. He managed to include a British-Indian expeditionary force under General Townshend at Kut-al-Amara. Von der Goltz did not live to see Townshend's surrender in April 1916; he died of typhus a few days earlier. As a result of the relocation of large troops to Transcaucasia, Enver Paşa was unable to stop a new British advance in Mesopotamia and the conquest of Baghdad on March 11, 1917 in the following year. The dispatch of Chief of Staff Erich von Falkenhayn to recapture Baghdad came too late because the situation on the Palestine front had come to a head. The 4th Ottoman Army under General Cemal and Colonel Kress von Kressenstein as chief of staff had advanced from Aleppo through the Syrian desert and the Sinai to the Suez Canal. The chance of disrupting British trade and supplies there seemed within reach. But the British stopped the expeditionary force. Gaza engages in grueling fighting. At the end of 1917 the Turkish-German associations finally gave up. The plan to recapture lost areas of the Ottoman Empire on the North African Mediterranean coast also failed.

The Armenian Genocide

The second and third years of the war were overshadowed by the tragedy of the Armenians. The fact that the interethnic conflict in the South Caucasus and Eastern Anatolia, which had been simmering for some time, came to a dangerous head at that time, was not least due to the unfavorable development of the war for the Turks. Ambassador von Wangenheim presented the Grand Vizier with a protest note from the Reich Government in July 1915, about four months after the riots and the deportations of Armenians began. German business representatives approached the Ottoman government several times to stop the massacres and expulsions. But humanitarian reasons played less of a role than the fact that thousands of Armenian skilled workers disappeared from the construction sites of the companies that were involved in driving the Baghdad Railway. The continued existence of the alliance was so important to Reich Chancellor von Bethmann Hollweg that he himself prevented critical reporting in the German press. "Our only goal is to keep Turkey by our side until the end of the war, regardless of whether the Armenians perish or not," [4] was his reply to a proposal by the German embassy in Constantinople.

The fate of the Armenians was not the only, but probably the most serious "collateral damage" suffered by the German brotherhood in arms with the Ottoman Empire. Clinging to the alliance could not prevent the "jihad" from fizzling out. Neither Arabs nor Kurds, neither Persians nor Afghans, responded to the call for a "holy war" against the British and Russians. This lack of response clearly reflected the general loss of authority of Sheikh ul-Islam and the ongoing disintegration of the Ottoman Empire. The common defeat of the Central Powers finally sealed the fall of their monarchies and also meant enormous territorial losses for the Turkish ally. After the treaties of Sèvres (1920) and Lausanne (1923), only the heartland of Asia Minor and an exclave on the European side of the Bosporus remained of the former Ottoman Empire. The colonial empires of the war opponents, on the other hand, only disintegrated after the Second World War.


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