Friday, January 7, 2011

World War I Should Have Only Been the 3rd Balkan War

I have been asked by some people from the Balkan’s to write about a war that that is not only important in their history but ultimately also in  the history of the world.  In reality World War I did not start by itself;  it was in actuality the start of what would have been the 3rd Balkan War. Here is my brief summation of what happened.
The First Balkan War was started when Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, and Montenegro decided to form an alliance,  The Balkan League,  to counter the growing threat of the Ottoman Empire (Turkey). This was an amazing feat of diplomacy considering how much hatred had existed between some of these Balkan nations.  An example would be the constant border disputes between Bulgaria and Serbia over control or division of Macedonia.  The partition agreement was finally brokered by Russian diplomats who convinced these two opponents that Turkey was a bigger threat and they should unite against that empire.   There was a determination that they had to have a determined response to the Turks  and  The Balkan League agreed to take the offensive to their enemies.
On March 13, 1912, Serbia and Bulgaria signed a treaty where they agreed to give northern Macedonia to Serbia, and southern Macedonia to Bulgaria. The two also discussed a  war against Austria as well as Turkey if Austria tried to intervene.  In May 1912, Greece and Bulgaria signed a similar treaty threatening use of military actions against Turkey. Montenegro was then added to the league through an informal arrangement with Bulgaria and Greece, and a treaty with Serbia concluded in September 1912.
On October 8, 1912, Montenegro declared war against the Turks, and 10 days later the rest of the  Balkan League joined the war.  After just under a month of heavy fighting Turkey had been pushed back so far that all they could do was try and defend Constantinople.  Albania, Epirus, Macedonia and Thrace were now controlled by  the Balkan States. Serbia had also reached the Adriatic Sea  at Durazzo, which gave them an important sea port.  Before this Serbia was a land locked nation that needed a place where they could get supplies that did not have to come through central Europe.  Both Austria and Italy were opposed to this acquisition because they feared that a Serbian port on the Adriatic would ultimately become a Russian port for the Czarist Empire.   Also, Austria and Italy could not allow this because it might threaten the Hapsburg Monarchy(the Austrian /Hungarian Empire) of which they were a key part.
While there were still battles going on  at Adrianople, Scutari, and Janina  they agreed to an  armistice during a peace conference at London in December, 1912.  But these negotiations were quickly brought to a close when a coup d'etat occurred at Constantinople by some Turkish military officers who were determined to continue the war.  While the war was resumed in the spring of 1913 it did not last very long;  The Treaty of London ended the First Balkan War on May 30, 1913. The Turks were forced to give over to the Balkan League all possessions in Europe from Enos on the Aegean Sea to Midia on the Black Sea, with the exception of Albania. The major nations of Europe friendly to the Balkan League began to draw the new border of the  Albanian State and  Turkish sovereignty over Crete was withdrawn and it was united with Greece.
The Treaty followed with a dispute over the spoils of war and caused the Second Balkan War.  Greece and Serbia began to conspire an agreement that would split Macedonia leaving Bulgaria out of the picture.  Because Bulgaria had suffered the most from the 1st war they felt that they should not be left out.  Bulgaria attacked Greece and Serbia.  But when the Turks and the Romanians attacked Bulgaria that nation quickly agreed to the  Treaty of Bucharest and the biggest victory was by Greece which acquired the important ocean port of Salonica.  This left a major resentment through Serbia that they were not treated right had still held a hatred towards the Austrian-Hungarian Empire so they made a treaty with Russia to give Serbia some feeling of strength. This also gave many Serbians the idea that they should become independent from that empire.
On the morning of June 28, 1914, while traveling in a motorcade through Sarajevo, the capital city of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Archduke Francis Ferdinand and members of his family were assassinated by a Serbian nationalist. The Archduke had ignored warnings of a possible assassination plot and decided to tour the capital on the anniversary of the 1389 battle of Kosovo. This battle was a humiliating collective memory for all Serbs, in which Serbia was defeated by the Turks, ending Serbia's independence as a nation.  This tour was ill advised but he insisted on going to stand up to the rising tide of Serbian nationalism. 
The Archduke was chiefly  chosen as a  prime target because of Serbian fears that after he would acquire   the throne, he would continue the persecution of Serbs living within the Austro-Hungarian empire. Serbia had gained independence from the Ottoman Empire in 1878 and no longer wanted to belong to another nation.   At that time, Serbia laid claim to several regions of Bosnia and Herzegovina which were inhabited primarily by Serbs. However, the Congress of Berlin granted permission to Austria-Hungary to occupy Bosnia and Herzegovina, including the disputed Serbian areas. In 1908  the Austrian-Hungarian Empire officially annexed all of occupied Bosnia and Herzegovina, adding additional fuel to the fires of Serbian nationalism which put a scare to Imperial Russia that they might get dragged into the next war.
This assassination  of course made Austria declare war against Serbia in 1914 which forced Russia to prepare to come to Serbia’s defence which then caused Germany to declare war to help Austria which then brought France and Britain into the war against Germany and that 3rd Balkan War was now the start of World War I. There was no turning back now and this was now more than just a border dispute between some rival growing nations with a desire for independence.


Gregory M. said...

It seemed that both the Germans and the British wanted a war. I believe they allowed to let their relations get much more heated than they ever should have. Like you said, this could have only been a small-scale war. At the start of the war, most believed it would only last about six months. Unfortunately, this assumption was tragically mistaken.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Gregory M. you are quite right in that Britain and Germany were probably just itching for a reason to go to war because they were both Imperialist type of nations at that time in history and only a war between two growing Imperialists or junior empires in waiting had to go to war to expand their empire.