The Young Turks Clean Up

Kalem magazine began in September of 1908, less than two months following the Young Turk revolution that ushered in the Second Constitutional Era of the Ottoman Empire. Editor-directors Celal Esad Arseven and Selah Cimcoz opened the magazine with a provocative cartoon displaying an upper level Ottoman official sweeping the front steps of the Ministry of Education clean of its former bureaucrats.

The Young Turk revolution would set the Ottoman Empire on a path towards reforms for so-called modernization, which followed very much a model of Westernization. Just over a week after their first issue came out, Cimcoz and Esad Arseven's Kalem would print a cartoon featuring an old man carrying the Ottoman flag, followed by a man of similar age holding the hand of a young boy. The young boy asks, "Who is that old gentleman?," to which his father responds, "That's a Young Turk, my son." The cartoon speaks to the intergenerational and interclass tension of the Young Turk revolution and the reforms being introduced to the Ottoman Empire, in addition to the magazine's simpler delight in mocking the older "Young" Turks.

“Formerly it was the servants who swept the ministries, but now it is the ministers who clean them up.”

Kalem, September 3, 1908.

"Papa, who is that old gentleman?

-That's a Young Turk, my son."

Kalem, September 18, 1908.

Related reading: Brummett, Palmira. "Dogs, Women, Cholera, and Other Menaces in the Streets: Cartoon Satire in the Ottoman Revolutionary Press, 1980-11." International Journal of Middle East Studies 27:4 (1995): 433-460.