The Young Turks were a Turkish nationalist party in the early 20th century that consisted of Ottoman exiles, students, civil servants, and army officers. They favored the replacement of the Ottoman Empire's absolute monarchy with a constitutional government. Later, their leaders led a rebellion against the absolute rule of Sultan Abdul Hamid II in the 1908 Young Turk Revolution which also led to the genocide of Christians in all affected areas. With this revolution, the Young Turks helped to establish the Second Constitutional Era in 1908, ushering in an era of multi-party democracy for the first time in the country's history.
After 1908, the Young Turks' initial umbrella political party, the Committee of Union and Progress), began a series of political reforms and military modernization across the Ottoman Empire. However, the CUP soon began to splinter as many of the more liberal and pro-decentralization Young Turks left to form an opposition party in late 1911, the Freedom and Accord Party (also known as the Liberal Union or Liberal Entente), with much of those staying in the CUP favoring a generally nationalist and pro-centralization policy. In a year-long power struggle throughout 1912, Freedom and Accord and the remaining members of the CUP vied for control of the Ottoman government, the year seeing a rigged election by the CUP and a military revolt by Freedom and Accord.
The struggle between the two groups of Young Turks ended in January 1913, when the top leadership of the CUP seized power from the Freedom and Accord in the Raid on the Sublime Porte. The subsequent CUP-led government was headed by interior minister and Grand Vizier Talaat Pasha. Working with him were war minister Enver Pasha and naval minister Djemal Pasha. These "Three Pashas", as they came to be known, exercised absolute control over the Ottoman Empire from 1913 to 1918, bringing the country closer to Germany, signing the Ottoman–German Alliance to enter the Empire into World War I on the side of the Central Powers, and carrying out the Armenian Genocide. Following the war, the struggle between the two groups of Young Turks revived, Freedom and Accord Party regaining the control of the Ottoman government and Three Pashas fleeing into exile. Freedom and Accord rule was short lived, however, and the empire soon collapsed.
The term "Young Turk" is now used to signify either "an insurgent in a political party, especially one belonging to a group or faction that supports liberal or progressive policies", or "aggressively or impatiently advocating reform within an organization". Various groups in different countries have been named Young Turks because of their rebellious or revolutionary nature.
After the Committee of Union and Progress grabbed power in the 1913 coup, it embarked on a series of reforms in order to increase centralization in the Empire, an effort that had been ongoing since the last century's Tanzimat reforms under sultan Mahmud II.
Many of the original Young Turks rejected this idea, especially those that had formed the Freedom and Accord Party against the CUP. Other opposition parties against the CUP like Prince Sabahaddin’s Private Enterprise and Decentralization Association and the Arab Ottoman Party for Administrative Decentralization, both of which made opposition to the CUP’s centralization their main agenda.
In regards to nationalism, the Young Turks underwent a gradual transformation. Beginning with the Tanzimat with ethnically non-Turkish members participating at the outset, the Young Turks embraced the official state ideology: Ottomanism. However, Ottoman patriotism failed to strike root during the First Constitutional Era and the following years.
Many ethnically non-Turkish Ottoman intellectuals rejected the idea because of its exclusive use of Turkish symbols. Turkish nationalists gradually gained the upper hand in politics, and following the 1902 Congress, a stronger focus on nationalism developed. It was at this time that Ahmed Rıza chose to replace the term "Ottoman" with "Turk," shifting the focus from Ottoman nationalism to Turkish nationalism.