Balkan Wars (1912–1913) II

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By January 30 fighting had resumed on the Çatalca line. On February 21 the Greek army captured Janina, and on March 13 the Bulgarian troops broke the Turkish defenses at Adrianople and occupied the city. On April 10, 1913, Montenegrin and Serb forces entered Scutari, but they had to withdraw eventually under the threat of war from Austria-Hungary. At this juncture the great powers again insisted on armistice and proposed a peace treaty, which projected that all the territory west of a straight line stretching between Enos (Enez) on the Aegean Sea and Midia (Midye) on the Black Sea would be ceded to the Balkan states, that this territory was to be divided between the Balkan states under the supervision of the great powers, that an Albanian state would be established, and that the future of the Aegean islands was to be decided by international arbitration. By the end of May 1913 all parties taking part in the First Balkan War were compelled to agree to these conditions at the Treaty of London.

Yet at that time rifts started to appear among the Balkan allies over control of the “liberated” territories, with skirmishes between the Greek and Bulgarian troops occupying Thessalonica. Furthermore, the creation of an Albanian state confused the agreements made between Athens, Belgrade, and Sofia before the start of hostilities. Greece and Serbia insisted that the emergence of Albania deprived them of their anticipated gains on the Adriatic. Therefore, they asserted their right to retain the territories that their armies had already occupied in Macedonia at the expense of Bulgaria. Sofia insisted that the acquired territory should be divided in accordance with the principle of proportionality of the acquisitions to the military input. Athens and Belgrade insisted on a principle ensuring the balance of power among the members of the Balkan League.

Because of their shared interests, Greece and Serbia entered into secret negotiations and on May 19, 1913, reached an agreement for a military pact against Bulgaria. At the same time Romania, which had so far remained neutral, took the opportunity to obtain some concessions for itself. On the pretext of concern about the treatment of the Vlach population in Macedonia, Romania demanded that Bulgaria give up some of its territory in the contested Dobrudja region. Under pressure from Russia, Bulgaria agreed to cede the town of Silistra and the surrounding area to Romania. At the same time Bulgaria, urged by Austria-Hungary, refused to concede any territory in Macedonia to either Serbia or Greece.

In the beginning of June there were several military clashes between Bulgarian and Serbian troops. However, it was on June 16, 1913, by an oral command from the Bulgarian czar Ferdinand, that Bulgarian troops launched a full-scale attack on Greek and Serbian forces. Ferdinand was partly encouraged by promises by Austria-Hungary of assistance. However, a recent visit to Bulgarian-occupied Adrianople had also stirred in him a desire to revive the medieval Bulgarian Empire and capture Constantinople. Thus, on June 16, 1913, the Second Balkan War began.

In the first few weeks the Bulgarian army had some limited success in holding to its positions, but by the end of the month the Serb, Montenegrin, and Greek armies were already on the offensive. On June 28, 1913, Romania also joined in the fray and declared war on Bulgaria. By July 6 Romanian troops had occupied the whole of northern Bulgaria, and a Romanian cavalry detachment arrived at the Bulgarian capital of Sofia. On June 30, 1913, Ottoman troops began attacks on Bulgarian positions, and on July 10 they recaptured Adrianople. By mid-July Bulgaria was suffering defeats on all fronts and had lost most of the territory it had gained during the First Balkan War.

The Second Balkan War ended in late August 1913. After a personal intercession by Emperor Franz Josef of Austria-Hungary, a peace conference was convened at Bucharest from July 17 to August 16, 1913. As a result of the Bucharest Peace Treaty, Serbia kept the territories of Macedonia, which its troops had obtained during 1912. Thus, it added Kosovo, Novi Pazar, and Vardar Macedonia to its territory.

Greece secured over half of Macedonia (Aegean Macedonia), the southern part of Epirus, and an extension into southern Thrace. Bulgaria received the smallest part of Macedonia (Pirin Macedonia) and a section of the Aegean coast, but it had to cede southern Dobrudja to Romania. As a result of its treaty with the Ottoman government, Bulgaria also gave up its claims to Adrianople. In the meantime an independent Albanian state was officially created by the Conference of Ambassadors in London on July 29, 1913.

This series of treaties concluded the Second Balkan War. It was bloodier than the first one, cost more lives, witnessed horrific crimes against civilians, and deepened the divisions between the Balkan states. All sides in the Balkan Wars acted in a way that indicated that their main aim was not simply the acquisition of more territory but also ensuring that this territory was free of rival ethnic groups. The atrocities committed during the Balkan Wars led to the establishment of an international commission of inquiry set up by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. It produced an extensive report detailing the crimes committed by all combatants against their enemies and against civilian populations.

Instead of resolving the problems between nationalities in the region, the Balkan Wars further exacerbated interethnic tensions. The psychological trauma of the wars and the displacement of populations increased 40 Balkan Wars (1912–1913) the suspicions and divisions between the Balkan states. The new boundaries that were established as a result of the Treaty of Bucharest in 1913 produced conditions for persistent resentment and created a feeling of unjust expropriation of territory and eradication of people. The suffering and the perceived injustice that all nations in the Balkans experienced molded the foreign policies of regional states. In this respect the Balkan Wars became a major source of the grievances that contributed to the beginning of World War I.

Further reading: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. The Other Balkan Wars: A 1913 Carnegie Endowment Inquiry in Retrospect. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 1993; Hall, Richard C. Balkan Wars, 1912–1913: Prelude to the First World War. London: Routledge, 2000; Jelavich, Barbara. History of the Balkans. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1983; Kolev, Valery, and Christina Koulouri, eds. The Balkan Wars. Thessalonica: Center for Democracy and Reconciliation in Southeast Europe, 2005; Pavlowitch, Stevan K. A History of the Balkans, 1804–1945. London: Longman, 1999.



Forschungsmitarbeiter Mitch Williamson is a technical writer with an interest in military and naval affairs. He has published articles in Cross & Cockade International and Wartime magazines. He was research associate for the Bio-history Cross in the Sky, a book about Charles ‘Moth’ Eaton’s career, in collaboration with the flier’s son, Dr Charles S. Eaton. He also assisted in picture research for John Burton’s Fortnight of Infamy. Mitch is now publishing on the WWW various specialist websites combined with custom website design work. He enjoys working and supporting his local C3 Church. “Curate and Compile“
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