The Balkans Wars are very complicated and involved extensive assaults and killing of civilians by all sides. Italy began the assault on the Ottomon Empire by declaring war in this case to secure a new colony in North Africa--Libya. The Turko-Italian War (1911-12). While fought outside the Balkans, it further weaked Ottomon troops. In this case the Ottomons largely ceeded to Italian demands because of the worsening situation in the Balkas. The First Balkan War (1912) was essentially a continuation of the wars for independence from the Ottoman Empire. This meant by the 20th century dividing up the spoils of the Ottomon territories in Europe. The new Balkan states (Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia) combined to drive the Ottomans from Eastern Roumelia (Lower Thrace and Macedonia). Unfortunately for the people of Macedonia and other Balkan lands, there was no agreed plan for partitioned the territory liberated from the Ottomans. Which lead to the Second Balkan War (1913). This time the primary target was Bulgaria. Romania joined this war to get a slice of Bulgaria--Southern Dobrudža. Even the Ottomns attacked Bulgaria which had occupied areas desired by its neighbors. The First Balkan War had been fought by the Balkan states obstensibly to liberate Christian peoples from Muslim Turkis rule. The Second Balkan War was largely fought among those Christian states and involved attrocities and ethnic cleaning that still affect the people of the Balkans today. While not active participants, the Wars also involved Russia and Austria-Hungary. The rivalries involved were probably a factor in the ability of the two Emoires to contain the escalating conflict after the assasination of the Archduke Franz Ferdinand which finally led ton World War I. In the end, Bulgaria was outraged by the territories that it had to surender. In particular it had to renounce its claims to Macedonia and cede Southern Dobrudža back to Romania. This left an embittered Bulgaria, once World War I (1914) broke out, willing to join the Central Powers to regain these territories. As did the Ottomons. The Greeks, Serbs, and Romanians joined the Allies.
Russian and the Ottomans fought a series of Balkan Wars. In each the Russians gained ground. Yhe Ottoman Empire would have collpased early in the 19th century, had the major European powers not differed on how to carve it up.
Concerned about the Russian succeeses, Britain and France intervened in the Crimean War to support Turkey. The last Russo-Turkish War occurred in 1877-78. It was also the most important one. Tsarist Russia in 1877 came to the
aid of its fellow Christian Orthodox ally Serbia as well as Bosnia and Herzegovina and Bulgaria in local rebellions against Ottoman rule. The Russians attacked diretly through Bulgaria toward Turkey and gained considerable success.
After completing the Siege of Pleven, the Russians advance into Thrace, taking Adrianople (now Edirne, Turkey) in January 1878. The Ottomans conceded and in March 1878 agree to the Treaty of San Stefano with Russia. This treaty liberated Romania, Serbia, and Montenegro from Ottoman rule. It granted autonomy to Bosnia and Herzegovina, and created a Bulgaria (much larger than modern Bulgaria) under Russian protection. The great powers, especially Britain and Austria-Hungary, were concerned with the massive Russian gains confirmed by the treaty. Here the British
were coflicted. Public opinion had been aroused against Ottoman attricities against Christians in the Balkans, yet Queen Victorian was stongly anti-Russian and
many officials were concerned about the Russians mocing south toward Suez. The great powers this compelled Russia to accept more limited gains under the
Treaty of Berlin (July 1878). Russia's gains from the war were sharply reduced.
As difficulties escalted between Prince Alexander and the Tsar, King Milan of Serbia in an effort to expand his territory declared war on Bulgaria on November
14, 1885. In less than 5 months, however, the Serbian Army was defeated by the Bulagrians. But then in tyoical Balkan fashion, the situation got more
complicated. The Austrians intervened to prevent the collapse of Serbia. Russian agents with Bulagarian accomplaces kidnapped Prince Alexander. He was forced
to abdicate and leave Bulgaria. Although Prince Alexander largely dissappears from history at this point, a son and grandson will be familar to most British readers.
The Prince was succeeded by Prince Ferdinand of Saxe-Couburg-Gotha, another German.
Chancellor Bismarck worked hard to ensure amicable relations between Russia and Austria-Hungary despite their many conflicting interests, especilly in the Balkans. Wilhelm II became kaiser (1888). He saw Bismarck as too old and cautious and eased him out (1890). Wilhelm made major foreign policy changes, but did retain the close alliance with Austria-Hungary--Nibelungentreue (Nibelungen meaning faithfulness). The major change Wilhelm made was to allow the reinsurance treaty with Russia to lapse (1891). Bismarck understood that as long as the three emperors (Austria, Germany, and Russia) were united, a major European War was impossible--guranteeing their mutual security. Allowing the Reinsurance Treaty to lapse is surely the greatest blunder n German diplomatic history. This decesion laid a direct path to World War I. Kaiser Wilhelm apparently thought Republican France and Tsarist Russia were in combatatble. The French on the other habd saw a golden opportunity. As a result of the Franco-Prussian War, they were detrrmined to never fight Germany alone again. The Russians began the process and in a dramatic step signed an alliance with France (1894). From that point, German military planning had to comsider the possibility of a two-front war. On the part of the Russians, a more intense Russian Pan-Slavic policy began and as a result, ncreasing tensions with Austria-Hungary. The Russians began supporting the various Slavic political groups active in Austria-Hungary which were demanding autonomy. Austria -Hungary helped Romania join the Tripple Alliance in an effort to contain Russian influence in the Balkans (1883). The Russians shifted from a Bulgarian to a Serbian alliance. The Austro-Russian Near Eastern Entente of 1897 was only a temporary pause to the escalating tensions between Russia and Austria-Hungary. These tensions Bismarck would have worked to manage. Kaiser Wilhelm tended to basically support Austria-Hungary, a weak ally with the baggage of both Russian and Italian antagnonism. .
The Ottoman Empire dominated the easter Mediterraneam for several centuries. This included the najor islands of Cyprus and
Crete as well as many smaller islands like Rhodes. The islands for the most prt retained their lrgely Chritin identity, although on Cyprus a Turkis Minorirty developed. Crete was contolled by Venice for sevrl centuries. The Ottoman seized the islnd as aresult of the Cretan War (1645–69). Most id the island fell to the Ottomans after the siege of Candia (1648–69). This believed to be the longest siege in history. The population, however, remained largely Greek Orthodox for the next two centuries. The Grreks had achieved their independence (1820S0, but the Ottomans had retaiuned Crete. The Greek majority as independence movements grew in the Balkans increasing pressed for union with Greece. Responding to appeals from Greek Creatans, Greece tried to liberate the Island from Ottoman rule. The resulting Greco-Turkish War of 1897 (also known as the Thirty Days' War and the Black '97. This was the first war effort in which the military and political personnel of Greece were put to test since the Greek War of was the first military conflict with the Ottomns since the Independence War. The Greeks were not up to challenging the Ottomans on their own. The Ottomans achieved a decisive Ottoman military victory. The Great Powers had for some time been intervening to protect Christians in the Ottomn Empire, both against Ottoman an Arab attacks. The Great Powers intervened and forced the creation of an autonomous Cretan State under nominal Ottoman suzerainty after the War (1898). Prince George of Greece and Denmark served as its first High Commissioner.
Ottoman rule in Bosnia ended with the Russo-Turkish War (1877-78) and the Congress of Berlin (1878) peace settlement crafted by Chancellor Bismarck. The Great Powers had aspirations of carving up the Ottoman Empire to their own benefit. The Ottomons at this time have been partioned as Poland had been. The Empire was unable to meet its financial obligations. There were internal civil disorder, restive minorities, and hotile neighboring coubntries, especially Russia and Austria-Hungary. The Ottomon Empire, however, survived the crissis because the Great Powers could not agree on how to divide it. Austro-Hungarian Administration Austro-Hungary was determined to administer Bosnia-Herzegovina as a showcase. The Austrians built railroads one of many technologies that had been sadly negleted by the Ottomans. The Austrins also developed industries with state subsidies. Other public works included schools, public buildings, parks and other symbols of modernity. There was a building-boom in Sarajevo and little intellectual circles began discussing modern European ideologies in the many coffeehouses. One of these ideologies was nationalism that had been unleased in the rest of Europe by the French Revolution and Napoleon. Bosnia was a calderon for nationalism. Not only was the population ethnically Slavic, but many Orthodox Bosnians resented Austrain Catholic rule and were drawn to the neighboring new Serbian monarchy. Austria-Hungary finally decided to formally annex Bosnia (1908). At the Congress of Berlin, Bosnia had been tirned over Austria-Hungary to administerm, but it was not to be incorporated into
the Austro-Hungarian Empire itself. This was part of the delicate series of compromises enginered by Bismarck. Many Serbs lived in Bosnia and there was outrage in Serbia over the Austrian action. Serbia protested the 1908 annexation bitterly. Russia intervened to help defuse the situation.
The chronic weakness of the Ottoman Empire and the disolutory leadership of the sultan resulted in efforts at reform. The Sultan absolute rule was first limited by a European-style parliament first constituted (1876). Sultan Abdülhamid II (Abdul Hamid II) dissolved it (1878). Several conspiracies against the Sultan flared. A conspiracy in the military medical college spread to other Istanbul colleges (1889). The conspirators came to be known as the Young Turks. When the first plot was discovered, some of its leaders fled abroad to join other exiles. Finally the Young Turk revolt achieved some success (1908). The Young Turk Revolution reversed the suspension of the Ottoman parliament. The Sultan was forced to abdicated which meant the return of Constitutional government. The Young Turk movement included a range of individuals, including both intellectuals and dissidents as well as Army officers. Until the 1908 Revolt, many had to fleet abroad, but were finally able to return. The center of Army support was the Third Army Corps in Salonika. The young Turks were highly nationalistic. The Young Turks had some liberal ideals. They ended absolutionist rule and approve a constitution as well as install a liberal government. The Movement at first envisioned a democratic multi-ethnic state. As a result, some support of the non-Turkish nationalities (Arabs, Armenians, Bulgarians, Greeks, and Jews) supported the movement. The various Young Turk groups s goverened through the Committee of Union and Progress (CUP). Over time, however, a more strident ethnic Turkish constiency came to dominate the movement. Many came to believe in a more ethnically pure Turkish state. The reforms, however, had only limited impact on the declining Ottoman state and its ability to hold on to what remained of the Empire.
The Balkans were not strategically critical to Germany. There were some assetts such as natural resources, but relatively little industry. The Balkans provided the rail links to supply the Ottoman Empire with modern arms. The the Germans began courting the Ottomans since allowing the Reinsurance Treaty with Russia to lapse. There was one major resource for which the Balkans was crucial--oil. Coal had been the dominant energy source of the 19th century, fueling the steam engines that drove machinery, trains, and ships. It was key resource of the 19th century. Germany was resource poor. It had to import the major resources such as iron, copper cobalt, crome, tin, tungsten, rubber, cotton, and other materials neeed by its industry. Much of this was imported by maritime trade which was vulnerable to Royal Navy blockade. And with the lapse of the Reinsurance Treaty, now imports from Russia could be cut off. The one resource that Germany had in abundance was coal--meaning the main energy source was secure. This began to change after the turn-of-the 20th century. And far seeing officials preceived the coming change even earlier. A new energy source began to replace coal--oil. The Royal Navy guided by Fisher and Churchill began to replace its coal-fired funaces with oil fired turbines. There were many advantages to oil turbines. There was less smoke which could be easily spotted and ships had a greater range with oil and could be more quickly fueled. The increasing importnce of the gas-fueled intenal comustion engine all made oil the age of the future. But Germany had virtually no oil. The Ottoman Empire, however, did. The British had begun ro develop oil fields in Persia and it was clear that there was a substntial oil resource in Ottoman Mesopotamia. Thus the Germans began to think of a Berlin to Baghdad railway. The extension to Basra meant that oil could be be delivered to Germany that the Royal Navy could not interdict. Funding and engineering for the rail project was for the most part provided by German banks and companies. They built the Anatolian Railway (Anatolische Eisenbahn) connecting Constantinople, Ankara, and Konya in south central Anatolia, but far sjort of Baghdad (1890s). The Ottoman Empire also saw this as an important project, although oil was not a driving force. The Ottomans wanted to expand its shaky control over the Arabian Peninsula and to expand its influence across the Red Sea into the nominally Ottoman Khedivate of Egypt which was in fact a British Protectorate since the Urabi Revolt (1882). The Berlin to Baghdad Railway extending to Basra would have provided the Germans access to the eastern parts of their colonial empire, avoiding the British-French controlled Suez Canal. At the time World War I broke out, the railway was still 960 km (600 miles) short of Baghdad and even further short of Basra. Another serious problem was the Balkans. Serbia had expanded significantly and set astride the rail lines needed to connect German rail lines with the Ottoman rail system. Connections existed. The Orient Express was a long-distance passenger train service by the Compagnie Internationale des Wagons-Lits (CIWL) (1883). Given tensions with Austria-Hungary and close relations with Russia, however, Serbia could be expected to cut rail links in an international crisis. The failure to complete the Berlin to Baghdad Railway adversely affected the German World war I effort. A lack of oil impaired the German war effort, restricting naval and air operations as well as the use of trucks and tank develooment. The last stretch to Baghdad was finally built in the late-1930s and the first train to travel from Istanbul to Baghdad departed in 1940. By this time, however, Mesopotamia and the oil fields were in the hands of the new Iraqi state and when Hitler and Stalin launched world war II the British managed to maintain their hold on the oilfields.
Italy began the final assault on the Ottoman Empire by declaring war in this case to secure a new colony in North Africa--Libya. The Italo-Turkish War (1911-12) while fought outside the Balkans, weaked the Ottoman Army in the years just before World War I. The Italian Navy bombrded the major ports. They seized Tripoli (October 3). There was only minimal resistance. The Italians proceeded to occupy Tobruk, Al Khums, Darnah, and Benghazi. The Italian expeditionary force of about 35,000 troops did not moved beyond the coasual ports they seized. The Italians became the first country to drop ordinance from an airplane in warfare. They tossed grenades from a German-built monoplane. The small Ottoman force of about 5,000 troops withdrew inland. Commanders like Enver Pasha and Mustafa Kemal (Atatürk) resisted the Italians, in part by arming the Arab tribes. They used the unifying force of Islam to motivate the Arabs to resist the Italians. This proved effective in creating a deadlock. The Ottomons, however, faced a more important war in the Balkans and thus decided to yield Libya. Under the terms of the Treaty of Lausanne (October 1912). The Ottomon Sultan granted independence to the provinces of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. The Ottomons largely ceeded to Italian demands because of the worsening situation in the Balkans, an area of much greater importance to them. The Ottomons were unwilling to make a major military commitment to defending Libya. The Ottomons were, however, then further humiliated in the First and Second Balkan Wars (1912-13). The Sanusis had to resist Italian encroachments without Ottomon assistance.
Italy immediately annexed both provinces. The Treaty permitted the Sultan who insisted on the position of caliph (leader of Islam) to have religious jurisdiction. The Sultan continued to appoint the qadi of Tripoli who was responsible for Islamic sharia courts. The Italians had agreed to this with fully understanding that these courts not only had authority over religious, but civil maters as well. This afforded the Ottomons continued influence in Libya.
The First Balkan War/War of the Balkan Alliance (1912) was essentially a continuation of the wars for independence from the Ottoman Empire. This meant by the 20th century dividing up the spoils of the Ottomon territories in Europe. Serbia saw the weakening situation in the Ottoman Empire (Turkey) as a opportune time to attack. Serbia organized a military alliance of Balkan states (Bulgaria, Montonegro, Greece, and Serbia). The resulting conflict was one of the most confusing and complicated series of wars and armistaces in European history. Serbia organized a military alliance of Balkan states. The Alliances forces attacked Turkey in 1912 in an effort to drive the Ottomons entirely out of the Balkans. The objectives were Eastern Roumelia (Lower Thrace and Macedonia). An armistace between Turkey and the Balkan allies except Greece was signed in December 1912. Hostilities between Greece and Turkey continued. Unlike the other Balkan states, large numbers of Greeks lived in what is now Turkey. Represenatatives of Turkey and the Balkan allies (except Greece) met in London to discuss a peace settlement (December 1912). A revolution occurred in Constantinople (January 1913). The Ottomons as a result rejected the terms offered by the Balkan allies. Hostilities resumed.
Unfortunately for the people of Macedonia and other Balkan lands, there was no agreed plan for partitioned the territory liberated from the Ottomans. The Bulgarians and Serbs had an agreement, but Serbia dcided it was unfair and the Greeks were not part of the agreement. This lead to the Second Balkan War (1913). This time the primary target was Bulgaria. Serbia, Greece, and Montenegro attacled their former ally Bulagria. Romania joined this war to get a slice of Bulgaria--Southern Dobrudža. Even the Ottomns attacked Bulgaria which had occupied areas desired by its neighbors. The First Balkan War had been fought by the Balkan states obstensibly to liberate Christian peoples from Muslim Turkis rule. The Second Balkan War was largely fought among those Christian states and involved attrocities and ethnic cleaning that still affect the people of the Balkans today. After several months of intense fighting, Bulgaria and Turkey signed a second treary with Serbia and Greece (April 19, 1913). A London Peace Conference ended in a deadlock and hosilities resumed (June 30, 1913). The final peace treary was signed by Turkey and Greece (end of November 1913). Although this ended the fighting, most of the participants had unresolved goals that were not achieved. In addition the hatred and bitterness that acompanied the War created a desire among many for revenge. It was no accident that it was on the Balkans that the spark occurred launching World War I.
The Balkan Coalition had launched the First Balkan War as a kind of crusde to free the final Balkan people--the Macedonians from the Ottoman Turks. And most of the fighting in the First and Second Balkn Wars was fought in Macedonia. In fact none of the Balkan countries had the slightest idea of linerating the Macedonians, but simplu wanted to gain new terrirory for their own countries. Macedonian nationalism was not permitted under Turkish rule. There were Macedonian communities outside Macedonia itself where natialist development was occurring. The most important ws Tsarist Russia which promoted Pan-Slavism, in part to undermine two of its rivals, the Ottoman Empire and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Macedonians around the world watched in horror as reports of terrible attricities reached the world press. The Macedonian colony in St. Petersburg sent a letter promoting the independence of Macedonia to the conference of Great Powers in London (March 1, 1913). Attached was a geographical-ethnic map of Macedonia produced by Dimitrija Chupovski. The St.Petersburg Macedonian colony letter read, "Europe is about to make the same mistake as in 1878. Instead of Macedonia being proclaimed an independent state, its liberators decided to divide it among themselves... The Macedonians have gained the right to self-determination through their recent history... A horrible terror now reigns in Macedonia-there are no limits to the 'freedom' of the allies. Not a single Macedonian has the right to travel outside Macedonia and go abroad to protest to the European states. Whoever attempts to do that is either killed or imprisoned. The allied armies have enclosed Macedonia in an iron grip."
Civilians became a target in the Balkan Wars. The Balkan states unlike the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian Empire made no pretense of desiring to be multi-ethnic states. They aspired to be nation states with a dominant ethnicity. This was complictd by centuries of Ottoman rule which left a high degree of population mixing throughout the Balkans.
Each wanted to expand their borders and to acquire territory, but not necesarily want the population inhabiting that territory. Possession of territory was not secure as long as enemy ethnic groups were present. As a result, the Balkan wars were accompnied by killing actions, burning villages, and other attrocities--what we now call ethnic cleansing. Thi was only part of the stoty. The killings and destruction set in motion a flood of refugees seeking safety. Some half a million people were made refugees. Some sources describe this as people driven across newly-established borders-driven by 'rampaging' armies. This was partially true, but it was also part of alanned policy of ethnic cleahsing. Villagers and town folk throughout Macedonia were forced by the killings and threats to leave their homes abd farms. Some 112,000 people sought refugees in Bulgaria. About 50,000 were Macedonians. Some 157,000 refugees sought refuge in Greece. They were mostly Turks and Greeks and they settled in the properties of Macedonian refugees. Only about 1,000 refugees sought refuge in the Macedonian territory seized by the Serbs. We are not entirely sure yet why so few refugees fled to Serbian occupied areas.
While not active participants, the Balkan Wars also involved Russia and Austria-Hungary. The rivalries involved were certainly a factor in the ability of the two Empires to contain the escalating conflict after the assasination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in Bosnia. This led directly to World War I which actually began by what might be called the Third Balkans War. Russia and Austria were unable to reach acceptable compromises. A major factor here was that Germany entered Balkan politics abnd essentilly wrote a blank check to Austria-Hungry. This reflected Kaiser Wilhelm's more boistrous thinking. Chancellor Bismarck would have never done this, but rather attempted to facilitate negotitions. Rather the alliance system dragged Europe into war. In the end, Bulgaria was outraged by the territories that it had to surender. In particular it had to renounce its claims to Macedonia and cede Southern Dobrudža back to Romania. This left an embittered Bulgaria. Once World War I (1914) broke out, Bulgaria anxious to regain lost territiory, joined the Central Powers to regain these territories. As did the Ottomons. The Serbs were with the Allies from the start, the Romanians and Greeks, both with German monarchies, would subsequently join the Allies.
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