HOME
The Info List - Balkan League


--- Advertisement ---



The Balkan League[a] was an alliance formed by a series of bilateral treaties concluded in 1912 between the Balkan kingdoms of Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia
Serbia
and Montenegro, and directed against the Ottoman Empire,[1] which at the time still controlled much of the Balkan peninsula. The Balkans had been in a state of turmoil since the early 1900s, with years of guerrilla warfare in Macedonia followed by the Young Turk Revolution
Young Turk Revolution
and the protracted Bosnian Crisis. The outbreak of the Italo-Turkish War
Italo-Turkish War
in 1911 had further weakened the Ottomans and emboldened the Balkan states. Under Russian influence, Serbia
Serbia
and Bulgaria
Bulgaria
settled their differences and signed an alliance, originally directed against Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary
on 13 March 1912,[2] but by adding a secret chapter to it essentially redirected the alliance against the Ottoman Empire.[3] Serbia
Serbia
then signed a mutual alliance with Montenegro, while Bulgaria
Bulgaria
did the same with Greece. The League was victorious in the First Balkan War
First Balkan War
which broke out in October 1912, where it successfully wrestled control of almost all European Ottoman territories. Following this victory however, unresolved prior differences between the allies re-emerged over the division of the spoils, particularly Macedonia, leading to the effective break-up of the League, and soon after, on 16 June 1913, Bulgaria
Bulgaria
attacked her erstwhile allies, beginning the Second Balkan War.

Contents

1 Background 2 Reaction of the Great Powers 3 Aftermath 4 Annotations 5 References 6 External links

Background[edit]

The Bosnian Crisis
Bosnian Crisis
of 1908 altered the balance of power in the Balkans and precipitated events that would lead to the formation of the Balkan League. Cover of the French periodical Le Petit Journal.

After the Crimean War
Crimean War
(1853–1856), Russia realized that the other Great Powers
Great Powers
would spare no effort to prevent her from gaining access to the Mediterranean. As a consequence she started engineering an ambitious plan for indirect expansion through the creation of friendly and closely allied states under Russian patronage in the Balkan peninsula. Instrumental to this policy was the emerging Panslavic movement, which henceforth formed the basis of Russian foreign policy up until the end of the Tsarist regime in 1917.[4] Working in this direction, following the victorious Russo-Turkish War of 1877–1878, Russia managed to establish an autonomous Bulgarian state. Similarly, after saving Serbia
Serbia
from annihilation at the Turks' hands in 1876, Russia forced the Ottomans to accept a full independent and expanded Serbia
Serbia
two years later.[5] However, although both states acknowledged Russian patronage and protection, their conflicted national aspirations soon led to a series of hostile actions before and after the short war between them. With the antagonism of the European powers mounting, and smarting from her humiliation by the Austrians at the Bosnian crisis, Russia sought to gain the upper hand by creating a Russophile "Slavic block" in the Balkans, directed both against Austria-Hungary
Austria-Hungary
and the Ottomans. Consequently, Russian diplomacy began pressuring the two countries, Serbia
Serbia
and Bulgaria, to reach a compromise and form an alliance. Apart from the Russian pressure upon Bulgaria
Bulgaria
and Serbia, another issue that triggered the formation of the League was the Albanian Uprising of 1911. The timetable of the negotiations between Serbia
Serbia
and Bulgaria
Bulgaria
indicates that progress paralleled the success of the Albanian revolt. In May 1912 the Albanians succeeded in taking Skopje and continued towards Monastir, forcing the Ottomans to recognize the autonomy of Albania
Albania
in June 1912. For Serbia
Serbia
this was considered catastrophic; after her hopes of expansion to the north were thwarted due to Austro-Hungarian annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina
Austro-Hungarian annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina
in October 1908, Serbia
Serbia
now found the last direction of possible expansion, the south, also closing due to the creation of an Albanian Vilayet. The Serbs now had to struggle against time to avoid the establishment of the Albanian state. On the other hand, Bulgaria
Bulgaria
used this Serbian anxiety in order to force Serbia
Serbia
to agree to significant concessions in regard to Vardar Macedonia. Thus the final agreement between the two countries stipulated that, in the event of a victorious war against the Ottomans, Bulgaria
Bulgaria
would receive all of Macedonia south of the Kriva Palanka- Ohrid
Ohrid
line. Serbia's expansion was to be to the north of this line, including Kosovo, and west to the Adriatic
Adriatic
coast, a territory including the northern half of modern Albania, giving Serbia
Serbia
access to the sea. In essence, Serbia
Serbia
was forced to exchange Macedonia for Albania, an issue that would play a key role in the eventual dissolution of the League in the spring of 1913, when the Great Powers
Great Powers
insisted upon the creation of the Albanian state and denied Serbia
Serbia
her territorial gains in that direction.

The Balkans at the time of the formation of the Balkan League, before the Balkan Wars.

Bulgaria, on her part, had held a long-term policy regarding the Ottomans since restoring her independence during the Russo-Turkish War. After the successful coup d'état for the incorporation of Eastern Rumelia, she had orchestrated a methodical scenario of indirect expansion through the creation, in the multi-ethnic Ottoman-held Macedonia (for many centuries an administrative rather than a nationistic name), of a united, liberating and revolutionary organization, the IMRO, allegedly without national color. IMRO's rhetoric claimed to be speaking generally for liberation on behalf of the “Macedonian People”, declaring its anti-chauvinism. In fact, it was a Bulgarian-backed organization created with the secret agenda of facilitating the incorporation of Thrace
Thrace
(Eastern and Western) and Macedonia (Aegean and the Vardar) into a new autonomous state, as an intermediate step before unification with Bulgaria
Bulgaria
could take place in the same way as with Eastern Rumelia. After initial success, Serbia and especially Greece
Greece
realized the true purpose of IMRO and consequently a vicious guerrilla war, the so-called Macedonian Struggle broke out between Bulgarian and Greek backed armed groups within Ottoman Macedonia. The conflict ended only when the Young Turks movement came to power, promising reforms and equality of all Ottoman subjects regardless of religion or nationality. Bulgaria
Bulgaria
then turned to the more direct method of expansion through winning a war, building a large army for that purpose and started to see itself as the " Prussia
Prussia
of the Balkans".[6] But even so, it was clear that Bulgaria could not win a war against the Ottomans alone, and an alliance was necessary. By signing the military appendix to the original agreement Bulgaria
Bulgaria
aimed to use the Serbian army to seize most of Macedonia while concentrating her own army for the operations against Thrace with its major cities of Adrianople
Adrianople
and Constantinople. In Greece, army officers had revolted in August 1909 and secured the appointment of a progressive government under Eleftherios Venizelos, which they hoped would resolve the Cretan issue in Greece's favour and reverse their defeat of 1897 at the hands of the Ottomans. In the discussions that led Greece
Greece
to join the League, Bulgaria
Bulgaria
refused to commit to any agreement on the distribution of territorial gains, unlike the deal with Serbia
Serbia
over Vardar Macedonia. The reason was Bulgaria's diplomatic policy of pushing Serbia
Serbia
into an agreement limiting her access to Macedonia, while at the same time refusing any such agreement with Greece. Having a low regard for the Greek Army's military effectiveness, the Bulgarian leadership estimated that, according to the military plans, their limited forces that had been deployed to the Macedonian theatre would be able to occupy the larger part of the region and the important port city of Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki
before the Greeks. The entry of Greece
Greece
in the League however was essential for the allies, since Greece, alone among the Balkan states in possessing a major fleet, could preclude the mass transfer of Ottoman reinforcements from Asia directly into Europe
Europe
by sea. As the Greek ambassador to Sofia
Sofia
had put it during the negotiations that led to Greece's entry in the League: " Greece
Greece
can provide 600,000 men for the war effort. 200,000 men in the field, and the fleet will be able to stop 400,000 men being landed by Turkey
Turkey
between Salonika and Gallipoli." Montenegro, a relatively small country but a close ally of Serbia
Serbia
was considered a second class participant. It took the invitation to the insistence of Serbia
Serbia
more as a favour, having limited local aspirations over the Sanjak and the north Albanian city of Shkodra. Another fact that helped the formation of the League was the evident inefficiency of the Ottoman army. The Ottomans were at war with Italy for a year (29 September 1911 to 18 October 1912) over Libya
Libya
after Italy had launched an invasion of Tripolitania. Although the Italians made little progress and Ottoman resistance, aided by the Libyans, proved stiffer than expected, the war exhausted the Ottoman state. In addition, the Italian occupation of the Greek-inhabited Dodecanese Islands served as a warning for Greece
Greece
of the consequences of staying out from a future war against the Ottomans. Reaction of the Great Powers[edit]

Military alliance propaganda, 1912.

These developments did not go unnoticed by the Great Powers, but although there was an official consensus between the European Powers over the territorial integrity of the Ottoman Empire, which led to a stern warning to the Balkan states, unofficially each of them took a different diplomatic approach due to their conflicting interests in the area. As a result, any possible preventative effect of the common official warning was canceled by the mixed unofficial signals, and failed to prevent the outbreak of hostilities:

Russia was a prime mover in the establishment of the League and saw it as an essential tool in case of a future war against her rival, the Austro-Hungarian Empire.[7] But she was unaware of the Bulgarian plans over Thrace
Thrace
and Constantinople, territories on which she had long-held ambitions, and on which she had just secured a secret agreement of expansion from her allies France and Britain, as a reward in participating in the upcoming World War I
World War I
against the Central Powers. France, not feeling ready for a war against Germany in 1912, took a totally negative position against the League, firmly informing her ally Russia that she would not take part in a potential conflict between Russia and Austro-Hungary if it resulted from the actions of the Balkan League. The French however failed to achieve British participation in a common intervention to stop the upcoming Balkan conflict. The British Empire, although officially a staunch supporter of the Ottoman Empire's integrity, took secret diplomatic steps encouraging the Greek entry into the League in order to counteract Russian influence. At the same time she encouraged the Bulgarian aspirations over Thrace, preferring a Bulgarian Thrace
Thrace
to a Russian one, despite the assurances she had given to the Russians in regard of their expansion there. Austria-Hungary, struggling for an exit from the Adriatic
Adriatic
and seeking ways for expansion in the south at the expense of the Ottoman Empire, was totally opposed to any other nation's expansion in the area. At the same time, the Habsburg empire had its own internal problems with the significant Slav populations that campaigned against the German-Hungarian control of the multinational state. Serbia, whose aspirations in the direction of Bosnia were no secret, was considered an enemy and the main tool of Russian machinations that were behind the agitation of Austria's Slav subjects. Germany, already heavily involved in the internal Ottoman politics, officially opposed a war against the Empire, but in her effort to win Bulgaria
Bulgaria
for the Central Powers, and seeing the inevitability of Ottoman disintegration, was playing with the idea to replace the Balkan positions of the Ottomans with a friendly Greater Bulgaria
Bulgaria
in her San Stefano borders, an idea that was based on the German origin of the Bulgarian King and his anti-Russian sentiments.

For the Balkan League
Balkan League
the opportunity was too good to be missed, as the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
was weak and riddled with internal strife. The allied governments intensified their military and diplomatic preparations. During the last days of September, the Balkan states and the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
mobilized their armies. The first state to declare war was Montenegro, on October 8, 1912, starting the First Balkan War. The other three states, after issuing an ultimatum to the Porte on October 13, declared war on Turkey
Turkey
on October 17. Aftermath[edit]

Poster of the Balkan League
Balkan League
during the Balkan Wars
Balkan Wars
reading: "The Balkan (States) against the tyrant"

The territorial gains of the Balkan states after the First Balkan War and the line of expansion according to the prewar secret agreement between Serbia
Serbia
and Bulgaria

In the resulting war, the combined Balkan armies effectively destroyed Ottoman power in Europe
Europe
in a series of victories. However, the League's triumph was short-lived. The antagonisms between the Balkan states still persisted, and after the successful conclusion of the First Balkan War, they resurfaced, especially over the partition of Macedonia. Mounting tensions effectively tore the League apart, and the Second Balkan War
Second Balkan War
broke out when Bulgaria, confident of a quick victory, attacked her former allies Serbia
Serbia
and Greece. The Serbian and Greek armies repulsed the Bulgarian offensive and counterattacked penetrating into Bulgaria. The Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
and Romania took advantage of the situation and invaded Bulgaria
Bulgaria
too. The subsequent peace left Bulgaria
Bulgaria
with gains in territory, but led to the loss of Eastern Thrace
Thrace
to the Ottomans and most of Macedonia to the Greeks. Defeat turned Bulgaria
Bulgaria
into her participation in the First World War on the side of the Central Powers, since her Balkan enemies (Serbia, Greece
Greece
and Romania) were involved in the war on the side of the Entente. During the war, the Greek king was assassinated in Thessaloniki
Thessaloniki
under yet unresolved conditions. That generated a shift in the Greek foreign policy from clearly pro-Entente to neutrality, since the new King, unlike his father and his popular Prime Minister, was pro-German and tried to keep the country neutral in the upcoming World War. With the outbreak of World War I
World War I
and the Entente's intervention in Macedonia, the conflict between king and first minister steadily deteriorated, leading eventually to the National Schism, that greatly contributed to the loss of the next war against Kemalist Turkey
Turkey
in Asia Minor, and dominated Greek politics for over a half of a century. The outcome of the Balkan Wars
Balkan Wars
caused a permanent break-up of the Russo-Bulgarian alliance, and left Serbia
Serbia
and Montenegro
Montenegro
as the only allies of Russia in this critical region. Annotations[edit]

^ It was known as the "Balkan League" or "Balkan Alliance" (Bulgarian: Балкански съюз/Balkanski sŭyuz, Greek: Βαλκανική Συμμαχία/Balkaniki Symmachia, Serbian: Балкански савез/Balkanski savez)

References[edit]

^ "Wars of the World; First Balkan War
First Balkan War
1912-1913". OnWar.com. December 16, 2000. Retrieved 2009-08-14.  ^ Crampton (1987) Crampton, Richard (1987). A short history of modern Bulgaria. Cambridge University Press. p. 62. ISBN 978-0-521-27323-7.  ^ "Balkan Crises". cnparm.home.texas.net/Wars/BalkanCrises. August 14, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-14.  ^ Tuminez, Astrid S. (2000). Russian nationalism since 1856: ideology and the making of foreign policy. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-8476-8884-5.  ^ Frucht, Richard C. (2005). Eastern Europe: An Introduction to the People, Lands, and Culture. ABC-CLIO. pp. 538–9. ISBN 978-1-57607-801-3.  ^ Emile Joseph Dillon, "The Inside Story of the Peace Conference", Ch. XV ^ Stowell, Ellery Cory (2009). The Diplomacy Of The War Of 1914: The Beginnings Of The War (1915). Kessinger Publishing, LLC. p. 94. ISBN 978-1-104-48758-4. 

External links[edit]

The Formation of the Balkan Alliance of 1912, Mount Holyoke College. First Balkan War
First Balkan War
1912-1913, OnWar.com

v t e

Balkan Wars

Background

Nationalism in the Ottoman Empire

Albanian Bulgarian Greek Serbian

Congress of Berlin Annexation of Eastern Rumelia Serbo-Bulgarian War Greco-Turkish War (1897) Cretan State IMRO & Ilinden–Preobrazhenie Uprising Macedonian Struggle Young Turk Revolution Bosnian crisis Bulgarian Independence 31 March Incident Goudi coup Italo-Turkish War Albanian revolt of 1912 Balkan League

First Balkan War

Battles

Sarantaporo Kardzhali Pente Pigadia Sorovich Kumanovo Kirk Kilisse Scutari Lule Burgas Yenidje Adrianople Prilep Himara Monastir First Çatalca Kaliakra Merhamli Driskos Elli Korytsa Lemnos Bulair Şarköy Bizani Second Çatalca

Diplomacy and politics

London Conference Albanian Independence 1913 Ottoman coup d'état Treaty of London

Second Balkan War

Battles

Kilkis–Lachanas Doiran Bregalnica Knjaževac Kalimanci Kresna Gorge Vidin Pirot

Diplomacy and politics

Greek–Serbian Alliance Provisional Government of Western Thrace Treaty of Bucharest Treaty of Constantinople Treaty of Athens

General

Aftermath

Autonomy of Northern Epirus Greco-Turkish crisis of 1914 Sarajevo Assassination and World War I Ottoman–Bulgarian alliance Balkans Campaign of WWI

Serbian Campaign Macedonian Front

Atrocities

Carnegie Commission Massacres of Albanians Initial phase of the Greek genocide Places burned down

Participants

Bulgaria

Ferdinand I Ivan Geshov Stoyan Danev Mihail Savov Ivan Fichev Vasil Kutinchev Nikola Ivanov Radko Dimitriev Stiliyan Kovachev Georgi Todorov

Greece

George I Constantine I Eleftherios Venizelos Panagiotis Danglis Pavlos Kountouriotis Konstantinos Sapountzakis Viktor Dousmanis

Montenegro

Nicholas I Crown Prince Danilo Janko Vukotić

Ottoman Empire

Mehmed V Nazim Pasha Zeki Pasha Esad Pasha Kölemen Abdullah Pasha Ali Rıza Pasha Hasan Tahsin Pasha Enver Bey Ahmed Izzet Pasha

Romania

Carol I Crown Prince Ferdinand Alexandru Averescu

Serbia

Peter I Crown Prince Alexander Radomir Putnik Petar Bojović Stepa Stepanović Božidar Janković

Other Balkan states: Albania
Albania
(Ismail Qema

.