A hundred years ago, the Second Balkan War broke out. It was one of the most fleeting wars in the Balkan Peninsula - 29 June - 29 July 1913 29 June 1913 at 3 in the morning the Bulgarian troops attacked the Serbs without a declaration of war and the Greeks in the evening. Thus began the Second Balkan War between Bulgaria on the one hand, and Serbia Montenegro and Greece on the other. Turkey and Romania also spoke against Bulgaria. This war was beneficial to the Western powers - the positions of the Russian Empire in the Balkans were undermined, France, Germany and Austria-Hungary strengthened their influence on the peninsula. The Balkan alliance collapsed, dispelling Petersburg’s hopes on the Pan-Slavic alliance, which could withstand the expansion of Turkey and the Austro-German bloc. Balkan states from cooperation have moved to fight for a place in the sun. Bulgaria began to lean toward an alliance with the Austro-Hungarian and German empires, hoping for a rematch.
Background of war
- Great-power ambitions of Balkan politicians. Degradation of the Ottoman Empire allowed the Balkan peoples, with the help of the Russian power, to restore independence. But the politicians of these countries did not want to stop at this. The Bulgarian government wanted to maximally expand the borders of the Bulgarian state, creating Great Bulgaria - the state, which was to occupy the entire eastern part of the Balkan Peninsula, to get Macedonia and Thrace. Bulgarians considered themselves the main victors in the First Balkan War, their army delivered the most serious blows to the Turks. The results of the war offended Bulgaria, she wanted more. The most resolute dreamed of "Great Bulgaria", which, as during the times of the greatest power of the Bulgarian kingdom, will stretch from the Black and Aegean to the Adriatic and Ionian seas. Serbia wanted to add Western Macedonia and Albania to its country, to gain entry into the Adriatic and Aegean seas. The Greeks planned to expand the borders of their country as much as possible, claiming Thrace and Southern Macedonia, like the Bulgarians. The idea of restoring the Byzantine Empire with its capital in Constantinople was conceived. Romania had territorial claims against Bulgaria, demanding Southern Dobruja.
- The London Peace Treaty 30 of May 1913 of the Year, which drew a line under the First Balkan War, did not satisfy the Balkan states. The Ottoman Empire lost all European possessions, except for Constantinople and a small part of Eastern Thrace, and wanted to return at least part of the territory. With the support of the great powers, Albania was created, although Greece, Montenegro and Serbia claimed its territory. Thrace and Macedonia were not divided, new borders were not created. The Treaty of London created a cause for war.
- The First Balkan War weakened the positions of Austria-Hungary and Germany in the Balkans. The presence of the Balkan Union and the strengthening of Serbia and Montenegro forced Vienna to keep more troops in the south, which weakened the army in Galicia - against Russia. Therefore, the efforts of Vienna and Berlin were focused on separating Bulgaria from Serbia and Russia, to embroil Serbs and Bulgarians. Austro-German politicians were going to break the Balkan alliance, to create a threat from Serbia for the rear from Bulgaria. The Bulgarian state was to join the group of Central Powers. German and Austrian diplomats suggested to the Serbs that since they did not get the desired access to the Adriatic in a war, they must compensate for themselves at the expense of Macedonia and Salonika by getting access to the Aegean Sea. This required to unleash a war with Bulgaria and Greece. On the other hand, the Bulgarians were convinced of the need to seize Macedonia. Vienna promised Sophia support in this matter.
- Politics of England and various behind-the-scenes structures. The "world behind the scenes" has been preparing the ground for the outbreak of a major war in Europe for several years. The Balkans were supposed to give rise to a world war in which it was necessary to involve Russia, and this was inevitable due to historical ties of the Russian state with the Balkan peoples. The clear position of England, and France supported it, could stop the war in the Balkans. The ambiguity of England's position provoked offensive actions of the Austro-German bloc. England will take the same position before the outbreak of the First World War, giving hope to the German government for London's neutrality.
Prewar political situation
At the beginning of 1913, the Serbian press, which belonged to the Liberal Party and the nationalist secret organization Black Hand, which had connections with European Freemasonry, launched a campaign against the Serb-Bulgarian alliance. The government of Pashich was accused of Bulgaria’s excessive concession on the territorial issue. The same hysteria was raised in Bulgaria. Both sides insisted on the historical right to Macedonia. These sentiments were strongly fueled by Austria-Hungary and Germany.
26 May 1913, the Serbian government has demanded Sofia to renegotiate the terms of the 1912 agreement of the year. 28 May, the head of the Serbian government Pasic, speaking in the assembly (parliament), said that Serbia and Greece should have a common border. Therefore, the contract with the Bulgarians should be changed in favor of Serbia. Belgrade was supported by the Greeks. Greece did not want the transition of Macedonia to the power of Bulgaria. In addition, the transformation of Thessaloniki into the main shopping center in the south of Serbia promised considerable benefits to Greece. 1 June 1913 Serbia and Greece signed a treaty of alliance and a military convention against Bulgaria. The agreement provided for the division of Macedonia between Serbia and Greece, the establishment of a common border between the states. A secret protocol was signed on dividing Albania into spheres of influence of Serbia and Greece. Sofia accepted this agreement as an anti-Bulgarian provocation.
This agreement made war inevitable. The Serbian press, politicians, court circles and the military rejected any compromises with Bulgaria and demanded that the army achieve the solution of “national tasks”. Only the Serbian socialists were against the war, but their voice was in fact not heard in the choir of the nationalists. Even the king himself began to call for the maximum expansion of the borders of the Serbian state. At the end of May, the successor of the Serbian throne, Alexander Karageorgievich, visited the Serbian forces located in Macedonia. Speaking to the military with speeches, he spoke of the need to immediately resolve a territorial dispute with Bulgaria. In the early summer of 1913, the “Serbization” of Western Macedonia began. The press accused the government of Pašić, who stood in more moderate positions and was oriented toward Russia, of national treachery. The Serbian government was firmly linked in foreign policy with Russia and France, and was forced to reckon with their opinion.
Russia tried to save the Balkan Union. Its creation was a great diplomatic success of the Russian Empire: this alliance could be directed against both Turkey and Austria-Hungary. Relying on it, Russia could solve the issue of the Black Sea straits in its favor. Russian diplomacy advised Sofia to make concessions. Petersburg offered to immediately convene a conference of the heads of governments of the Balkan Union, under the arbitration of Russia. The conference was to find a peaceful way out of this situation. However, there were too many people willing to destroy the Balkan alliance, the great-power ambitions of the Balkan states were fueled by both the Austro-Hungarian bloc and France and England.
Russian Emperor Nicholas II addressed the heads of Serbia and Bulgaria with a personal message, where he warned that when the fratricidal war began, Petersburg would retain its freedom of action. Sofia and Belgrade complained about each other. Serbian monarch Peter replied that Belgrade’s demands could not be limited to the Serb-Bulgarian agreement of the 1912 of the year. Bulgarian king Ferdinand accused the Serbs of planning to deprive Sophia of the fruits of her victory.
The Russian Foreign Ministry demanded that Belgrade immediately agree to convene a conference. The same proposal was made to Sophia. But Austria-Hungary assured the Bulgarian government that it would support Sofia’s claims to Macedonia. The Bulgarians rejected the proposal of St. Petersburg to convene the conference and declared the need to comply with the conditions of the Serbian-Bulgarian agreement 1912. Sofia demanded the passage of its troops in areas of southwestern and southern Macedonia. They were occupied by the Serbian and Greek forces. Belgrade refused. The Bulgarian government urgently recalled its ambassador from Serbia.
The Bulgarian king, Ferdinand of Saxe, Coburg-Gothic, who had previously balanced in the game with the pro-Russian and pro-German parties, made the final choice. Bulgaria decided to strike first. 25 June, the Bulgarian envoy in St. Petersburg told the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry, Sazonov, that Bulgaria could not wait any longer and was forced to interrupt further negotiations with Russia and Serbia. The Russian minister said that Bulgaria thereby "makes a treacherous step in relation to the Slavic cause" and "makes a decision tantamount to declaring a fratricidal war." Thus, the “Slav brothers” set up Russia, and not for the last time.
29 June, the commander of the Bulgarian army, General Mikhail Savov, gave the troops an order for an offensive. By this time Bulgaria had 5 armies - only about 500 thousand people. The Bulgarian command planned to attack in the southern direction, cut the link between Serbia and Greece, capture Skopje and the whole of Macedonia. Then Sofia believed that negotiations would begin, and Serbia would be forced to agree to peace on the terms of Bulgaria. The Serbian army - three armies and two separate units (about 200 thousand people in total), was located along the whole border with Bulgaria. Serbia had no special plans on the eve of the war.
On the night of 30 June 1913, the Bulgarian units without declaration of war attacked the Serbian troops, which were stationed in Macedonia. The 4-I Bulgarian army launched an attack on the Macedonian direction, the 2-I army - in the direction of Thessaloniki. The Bulgarians defeated the Serbian border troops, but soon they were stopped by the 1-I Serbian army led by Alexander Karageorgievich. 2-I Bulgarian army defeated the advanced parts of the Greeks and went to the coast of the Aegean Sea. 30 June Greece, Serbia and Montenegro declared war on Bulgaria. The king of Greece, Constantine I, led the army (about 150 thousand) and ordered an offensive. At this time, the Serbian troops stopped the 1 th and 5 th Bulgarian armies on Pirot.
The Bulgarian attack had already choked by 2 July, Sofia clearly overestimated its strength and underestimated the fighting spirit and power of the opponents. Sophia even initially was inclined to think about withdrawing troops and a statement about the border conflict. However, there was no going back. Serbia, Greece and Montenegro received a long-awaited opportunity to defeat a competitor. The Bulgarian troops were in a difficult situation and began to retreat to the old border. Bulgaria had to pull the vast majority of its forces to the border with Greece and Serbia. By July 4, the Greek army defeated the Bulgarians in the battle of Kilkis. The remnants of the Bulgarian troops retreated to the border. 7 July Greek troops entered Strumitsa. On July 10, the Bulgarians retreated to the eastern bank of the Struma. 11 July, the Greeks came into contact with the Serbian troops.
In Romania, closely followed the unfolding events. Romanian politicians were also infected with the idea of “Great Romania” (they still get sick, the healing experience of the Second World War, unfortunately, has already been forgotten). Bucharest had territorial claims to all its neighbors - Bulgaria, Austria-Hungary and Russia. But due to its military weakness, Romania could count on an increase in its territory only in the event of a catastrophic weakening of its neighbors. More or less an equivalent opponent was only Bulgaria. But here, too, it was necessary to act cautiously so as not to cause serious complications with Russia, and not to run into defeat.
Romanians prudently did not get involved in the First Balkan War. Like, let the Serbs with the Bulgarians fight with the Turks, and we will see whose it will take. At the same time, Bucharest prepared the troops, and if the Ottomans succeeded, it was ready to strike across Bulgaria. Romanians demanded the transfer of South Dobrudja. When Porto was defeated, the Romanian delegation at the London Conference attempted to snatch its share, but did not. After making sure that Bulgaria was defeated by Greece and Serbia, 14 in July the Romanian troops (Romania had about 450 thousand people) crossed the Romanian-Bulgarian border in the Dobrudja region and moved to Varna. There was practically no resistance from the Bulgarians. Almost all Bulgarian troops were concentrated against the Serbian and Greek armies. Romanian cavalry calmly approached Sofia.
Almost simultaneously with the Romanians, Turkey attacked Bulgaria. Their advanced units crossed the Maritsa River. The initiator of the outbreak of hostilities was Enver Pasha, the leader of the Young Turks. Commander of the operation was appointed Izet Pasha. The Young Turks planned to take advantage of the Second Balkan War to improve their positions in the European part of Turkey. The Ottomans exhibited over 200 thousand people. For several days, Turkish troops cleared the Bulgarians of Eastern Thrace. 23 July occupied Edirne (Adrianople). Russia offered Britain and France to hold a collective naval demonstration against Turkey, expressing concern that after the capture of Adrianople, the Turks will become impudent. But Britain and France agreed to conduct such an operation, only with the participation of Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy, that is, in fact refused. The repeated proposal to hold a naval demonstration was only categorically rejected by Entente forces.
The Bulgarian army fought back fiercely. The Bulgarians were able to stop the Serb offensive against Sofia and stabilize the situation on the Greek front. But with the entry of Romania and Turkey, the Bulgarians were doomed. 29 July Sofia, realizing the hopelessness of the situation and facing the threat of a military catastrophe, went to peace talks.
With the mediation of Russia 31 July 1913, Bucharest signed a truce. 10 August 1913 was signed the Bucharest peace treaty. Bulgaria lost most of the territories occupied during the First Balkan War, and also transferred Southern Dobrudja to Romania - about 7 thousand square kilometers. Macedonia is divided between Serbia and Greece. Bulgaria was able to maintain access to the Aegean Sea. September 29 The peace treaty between Bulgaria and Turkey was signed in Constantinople in 1913. Bulgaria transferred to Turkey part of Eastern Thrace with the city of Edirne.
Serbia was celebrated - the territory of the state increased from 48,3 to 87,7 thousand square kilometers, and the population - from 2,9 to 4,4 million. The main rival of Serbia on the Balkan Peninsula among the Slavic states - Bulgaria was defeated and pushed into the background. However, the joy was short-lived. The destruction of the Balkan alliance, in strategic terms, will leave Serbia sideways, sharply worsening the capabilities of the Slavs in the fight against the Austro-German forces in the First World War.
Russia suffered a serious diplomatic defeat. The Slavic brothers, instead of strengthening the union and cooperation, staged a fratricidal carnage to the joy of Russia's geopolitical opponents. Soon a new provocation will follow from the Balkans, which will force the Russian Empire to enter the First World War, which will end in geopolitical catastrophe for it.