UNITED24 - Make a charitable donation in support of Ukraine!


Second Balkan War - 1913

The prime cause of the Second Balkan War of 1913 was Bulgarian retention of Macedonia, which Bulgaria had just won from the Turks in the First Balkan War, in the face of Greek and Serbian desire to divide Macedonia between them. Bulgaria lost, and most of Macedonia was taken by Serbia, which called it South Serbia.

The spoils of the First Balkan War, in simple truth, were tremendous, embracing as they did Crete, the Aegean islands, Turkish Epirus, Thrace, and Macedonia in the most liberal interpretation of that geographical expression? Late, too late, the triumphant four had begun negotiations with one another looking toward a peaceful accommodation of their conflicting claims. Unfortunately their mood was the dangerous mood of victors and, full each one of his own importance, they refused to listen to reason. Bulgaria was in a particularly truculent frame of mind due to an unhappy combination of circumstances.

While pursuing the plan of campaign, which, from a purely military point of view, was impeccable, of driving southeastward into Thrace, she had abandoned Macedonia, undoubtedly her true political objective, to Greece and Serbia. These two states were consequently in secure possession of the Vardar area and very reluctant to surrender it or any part thereof. Their contention was that Bulgaria should glut her appetite on conquered Thrace and leave Macedonia to her allies. Though this sounded fair and reasonable in the light of a purely quantitative standard, it failed to appeal to Bulgaria, which claimed Macedonia on nationalist grounds and had for decades been engaged in working up a hot Bulgar sentiment among the natives.

To this thwarting of Bulgaria's desires in Macedonia was added a second source of irritation. The war had hardly begun when Rumania, which was not contiguous with the Ottoman empire and which had therefore not joined in the assault upon it, projected herself into the Balkan negotiations. The government of Bucharest could not reasonably demand a share in the Turkish spoils, but it could and did defend the position that if the other Balkan states, and particularly Bulgaria, were to experience an increase of might, some territorial compensation would have to be offered to Rumania in order to maintain the existing balance of power. Acting on this view, the Rumanian ministry promptly indicated the Bulgarian fortress of Silistria, together with a strip of the Bulgarian Dobrudja, as objects of desire and firmly requested their surrender. Committed with all its strength to the struggle with the Ottoman empire, Bulgaria, on being exposed by the Rumanian threat to a flank attack, voiced an angry protest, but in May 1913, yielded to necessity and signed a treaty embodying the required cession.

Perhaps the very pliancy of the Bulgar leaders in the Dobrudja matter produced, by a natural and usual reaction, a stiffening of their backbone in regard to Macedonia. Negotiations touching the disputed area, which had been begun with Greece, were broken off, and those with Serbia, though continued, made no headway. Dark intrigues on the part of the great powers, which, it goes without saying, were, as usual, only superficially harmonious, contributed to the muddying of the waters. That the situation on the Macedonian front, where the allied forces faced one another in full battle strength, was becoming strained to the breaking-point was indicated by spontaneous clashes among the excited soldiery. All hope of an amicable settlement had already been reduced to a mere taper, when, on June 29, it was rudely extinguished by an order of the Bulgar military authorities to attack the Serb positions. The first shot did the rest and the fated war among the allies had begun. In certain anticipation of the event Greece and Serbia had some weeks before signed an alliance, to which Rumania, in spite of the concession wrung from Bulgaria, now eagerly applied for admission. The war among the allies therefore took the form of Bulgaria versus Greece and Serbia supported by the fresh and unexhausted strength of Rumania.

The new war lasted less than a month, for Bulgaria, caught between the Serb and Greek armies advancing from the west and south, and the Rumanian army striking from the north, was so badly mauled as to be speedily put at the mercy of its foes. When the Bulgar cause was already lost, Turkey, under the alert direction of Enver Bey, took up arms on its own account and marched an army up the Maritsa valley for the reconquest of Adrianople.

In the face of this fourth invasion Tsar Ferdinand threw up the sponge and asked for peace. At a conference of the combatants which, early in August, came together in the Rumanian capital, a treaty was agreed on, called the treaty of Bucharest, which, as was to be expected, brought the war to a close at the expense of the loser. Macedonia, the main object of dispute, was divided between Serbia and Greece, while Rumania received an increased strip of the Dobrudja. Bulgaria was, however, not wholly excluded from participation in the Turkish spoils, for she received a part of Thrace with access to the Aegean seaboard at the small and miserable harbor of Dedeagatch. Of the remaining territory surrendered by the Ottoman empire Greece acquired Epirus with its capital Janina, and Serbia took over the province of Old Serbia (Kossovo) and the eastern half of Novibazar. The western half of Novibazar was awarded to Montenegro.

As the Porte was not admitted to the conference of Bucharest, Bulgaria was obliged to come to terms with it through separate negotiations. These led in September to a treaty, by which the Slav kingdom receded Adrianople and a small part of Thrace to their former owner. The new Turk-Bulgar boundary was drawn in a manner so unfortunate for Bulgaria that she even lost control of the railway running to her one meager Aegean port. Disastrous for the Bulgars, the treaty was a personal triumph for the Young Turk leader, Enver Bey, who thereby greatly strengthened his hold on the government. Nor was that all. The conflict among the victors had given Turkey an opportunity not only to recover a slice of her lost territory but also to reassert her claim as a factor in the general Balkan situation. The year 1913 closed with Turkey in a position of much greater authority than any one would have dreamed possible a short six months before.

Join the GlobalSecurity.org mailing list

Page last modified: 16-03-2012 12:19:48 ZULU