In the Balkans - in this gunpowder cellar of Europe - in the days of World War II, the tangle of contradictions between great powers closely intertwined with the great-power ambitions of the Balkan countries themselves - Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece and Romania.
World War became “world” not only because virtually all the great or claiming the right to become such world powers — Britain, France, Russia, the USA, Germany, Austria-Hungary, Italy, Japan and Turkey — were drawn into it. With rare exceptions, all the new independent states of the world were involved in the war, whose recently reigning princes and kings sought to take advantage of global contradictions, wishing not only to grab a little of someone else, but to gain some real independence and even restore some former greatness. Such “dreams” of greatness were skillfully fueled by all the major players of the theater of operations, of course, in their own interests. US President Woodrow Wilson in general brazenly called the leaders of small European countries, as well as the newly formed states on the ruins of Austria-Hungary “Papuans,” and Kaiser Wilhelm the same Bulgaria or Romania, as well as the Polish lands seized from Russia, were primarily interested in the reservoir “ cannon fodder. " But the interests of small countries, primarily in the Balkans, in many ways and created the monstrous tangle of problems that first caused a world war, and later largely predetermined the results of the postwar division of the world.
The Romanian king Karl Hohenzollern and his court entourage did not hide irritation when Romania was called a Balkan country, seriously considering it a great European power, and themselves almost the direct heirs of Byzantium. Along with the traditional claims to Transylvania and all the Carpathian region, in Bucharest they always meant that the Romanian lands "do not end beyond the Danube." Although to some extent a justified desire to join Dobrudja was accompanied by a truly strategic swing to the possession of the quadrilateral Bulgarian fortresses - Shumla, Ruschuk, Varna and Silistra.
Having quarreled with Russia in the 19th century, Romania was immediately drawn into an alliance with Germany and Austria-Hungary, but these traditional “strong ties” noticeably weakened by the beginning of the 1910-s - the pressure of Vienna from the West became much more tangible than the mythical threat from the north - from Russia.
It was not by chance that the Romanians were perhaps the first to divide the Turkish inheritance shortly before the world war — in the two Balkan wars, and it was not by chance that they had been bargaining for so long, delaying their entry into the European fight. During World War I, even the familiar expression “Romanian neutrality” was born, a commercial wait, suggesting the maximum acquisition of benefits with minimal effort on its part. The statement of the talented military historian Anton Kersnovsky is characteristic in this respect. In hisStories In particular, he wrote to the Russian army: “The victory of the army of General Brusilov had the consequence of speaking on the side of the Consent of Romania, who decided that it was time to hurry to help the winner. Earlier than declaring war, the Bucharest government sold the Central Powers all the supplies of grain and oil in the country at a very expensive price, hoping to get everything then for nothing from Russia. This commercial operation to “realize the harvest of the 1916 of the year” took time, and Romania declared war on Austria-Hungary only on August 14, when the Brusilov offensive was already over. Speaking six weeks earlier, at the moment of Kaledin's Lutsk victory and Lechitsky's Dobrunotsky success, the position of the Austro-German armies from the critical would be disastrous, and with skillful use of the Romanian capabilities we would be able to disable Austria-Hungary. But a convenient moment was irretrievably missed. ” As a result, Romania punished itself for its “commercial slowness” - starting an offensive in Hungary, it met a powerful counter-attack by German forces under the command of General Mackensen, who in a short time went to Bucharest and occupied it.
In just a few days, Romania lost 120 thousands of soldiers killed and captured, and its army virtually ceased to exist.
King Carl, the scion of one of the lateral branches of the Hohenzollern dynasty, did not even try to hide his love for the Prussian fatherland and sympathies personally for Wilhelm II, but this did not prevent the Romanian elite in the course of several war years from bargaining for the right to own foreign territories in return for neutrality countries, or on "military aid". Financial dependence on Berlin and Vienna, when out of one and a half billion lei of state debt 1,2 billion was placed on the German market, did not embarrass anyone - Romanian financiers acted on the principle whether it was all the same who had debts. The Crown Council, convened by 3 on August 1914 in the Carpathian Peles Castle near Sinai, convinced the monarch that his country was slowly drifting from the Central Powers towards the Entente. On the performance of the old allied obligations could not be considered.
A young state that gained independence only at the Berlin 1878 conference of the year, long before the world war, managed to show a truly wolfish appetite, trying to solicit southern Bessarabia from the Russian tsar, and after that every now and then declaring their excessive ambitions against Bucovina. The historical right to Bukovina, where Russian people had lived since ancient times, or, as they are called today, the Rusyns, belonged to Russia, but she was ready to divide this territory “by ethnographic principle” in case of victory. In St. Petersburg, you would prefer to keep the Orthodox Northern Bukovina, which is absolutely loyal and almost 100 percent, where the Russians lived mainly, giving Romania Southern Bukovina, inhabited by Romanians. Romania wanted “all at once”. True, it was necessary to pay for such an acquisition, and the Entente countries demanded active hostilities from Romania, which, as we have seen, were not observed at the right time. We can not fail to pay tribute to Bucharest for consistency - the authorities hoped to start “active” when Austria-Hungary was completely weakened by the war, and then attack and annex almost the entire desired territory in the rich Hungarian valley.
However, Russia, Romania as an ally, brought one headache. First, after the entry of Romania into the war, the eastern front was too stretched and immediately demanded the transfer of significant military reinforcements. Because of this, we had to postpone the operation to seize the straits and Constantinople (this was exactly what the Great Britain and France feared, who suffered a severe failure in the Dardanelles), and secondly, the poorly equipped Romanian army had to supply the Russians weaponsand dress and feed. General Mannerheim, in his memoirs, called this situation "a textbook example of how a weak ally brings more care than you can get help from."
At the end of the First World War, the victim in it was virtually a complete collapse, Romania nevertheless loudly declared territorial claims and, in general, achieved her own. First of all, South Dobrogea returned to Romania, which it had previously received as a result of the Balkan Wars, and which was occupied by Bulgaria during the First World War. In addition, with the support of France, Britain and America, who were afraid of increasing the influence of Soviet Russia, Romania finally joined the coveted southern part of Bessarabia from our country, as well as Bukovina from Austria, Krishan-Maramures and Banat from Hungary. this territory was ceded to Yugoslavia). And finally, the main prize - Transylvania, which the allies, contrary to the “principle of nationalities” they proclaimed, simply cut off very in time from disobedient Hungary, which barely escaped becoming a “red republic”.
Still, the Great Romanian Empire did not work out as a result of World War ... Moreover, later, after the end of World War II, the same southern part of Dobrudja returned to Bulgaria, and Northern Bukovina and the whole Bessarabia became part of the USSR.
Nowadays, the idea of reviving the “Great Romania” is widely promoted not in Bucharest, where Ceausescu’s “imperial” habits have not yet forgotten, but in neighboring Moldova. It cannot be said that something really real is being done in Romania to absorb the territory of the former Soviet republic, and then take on the recalcitrant Transnistria, but much is said about it in the press, perhaps even too much. Fortunately, the head of the miniature country in Chisinau is no longer pro-Russian, but a frankly pro-Romanian government, which, to begin with, hurried to ensure that Romanian was officially recognized as the state language of Moldova.
This state stood on the threshold of new world military actions, experiencing losses as a result of the Second Balkan War, which in society was called none other than the “first national catastrophe”. Revanchist sentiments increased in the country, which led to the resignation of the government of Stoyan Danev and the formation of a coalition cabinet of ministers led by Vasil Radoslavov, inclined to support the policies of Germany and Austria-Hungary. New pro-German newspapers and magazines began to be published in the country, the press was gaining strength, quite cheekyly claiming the right to be called “patriotic” - “People and Army”, “Military Bulgaria”, propagandizing the ideas of “strength and primacy” of Bulgaria and strengthening its army. Radical politicians openly declared the need for revenge, although no one dared to recall that in the confrontation with the Entente of Bulgaria, one way or another, they would have to become an opponent of Russia too. But the maintenance in the country of traditional pro-Russian sentiments in 1914 was greatly hampered by the fact that all the efforts of Petersburg diplomats to save Bulgaria after the Second Balkan War turned out to be, alas, futile. At the same time, the position of the radicals was aggravated by the most difficult situation with refugees from Macedonia, Thrace and South Dobrudja.
Recall that, according to the Bucharest Treaty of 1913, Bulgaria lost Macedonia, the Greek Kavals, Eastern Thrace and Southern Dobrudja. The revanchists demanded the immediate return of the lost.
And yet, as soon as World War I was declared, the government of Vasil Radoslavov spoke of Bulgaria’s readiness to maintain neutrality until the end of hostilities. Historians consider this peaceful statement to be just a diplomatic move, which did not suit both conflicting parties, and both of them hurried to use the favorable geopolitical position of the country on the Balkan Peninsula and did not skimp on territorial promises. Russian diplomacy proposed that the Bulgarian government, if the country were on the side of the Entente, transfer, or rather, return to it the strategically important port of Kavala on the Aegean Sea, but the United Kingdom and France did not support this idea. All negotiations on the restoration of the Balkan Union ended in failure. But the Austrian and Hungarian diplomats, having played for visibility the card of “common Balkan neutrality”, which the aged Greek King George subsequently subsequently bought, turned out to be much more fortunate. Since the country considered Serbia to be its main enemy, and Austria was unequivocally its main adversary in the Balkans, Bulgaria finally came out against the Entente states. And lost ...
As a result of a long confrontation on the Thessaloniki front, it was the Bulgarian troops that suffered the most significant losses, and they still had to come together more than once in open battle with the Russian “brothers” from the expeditionary force. Under the terms of the 27 peace treaty in January 1919, Bulgaria lost about 11 thousands of square kilometers of land. By the time Yugoslavia formed by that time, four border districts with the cities of Tsaribrod, Strumitsa and others withdrew, Greece received Western Thrace, after which Bulgaria lost access to the Aegean Sea, and finally, Romania received Southern Dobruja.
In our opinion, at least a brief overview of some of the diplomatic steps of the Entente and the Central Powers aimed at “over-tackling the Bulgarian rope” deserves attention. 29 May 1915, the official message was transmitted to the Bulgarian government on behalf of the Consent countries, which contained a whole set of promises. If desired, they, in aggregate, could well be considered the first step and even the foundation for the creation of the largest Balkan state from Bulgaria. So, first of all, in the case of Bulgaria’s intervention against the Ottoman Empire, the Entente countries “guaranteed” the return to the Bulgarian kingdom of Eastern Thrace. But after these well-defined guarantees followed only promises and assurances: for example, that negotiations would begin with the Serbian government on the transfer to Bulgaria of a certain part of Vardar Macedonia. The Entente vaguely promised Ferdinand to come to an agreement with the authorities of Greece and Romania — to begin with about settling the issues of Aegean Macedonia and South Dobrudja. In addition, London and Paris were ready to provide Bulgaria with financial assistance of almost any scale, but in St. Petersburg they abstained from such promises - they did not have enough money themselves. However, all this was obviously not enough for the king of the future Great Bulgaria, Ferdinand - he responded to such a note of the Entente powers with a very reasonable demand for a clear definition of the “new borders” of the country. It is clear that at that moment when a decisive preponderance in the war of the Entente countries had not even been planned, this was impossible, and the governments of Serbia, Greece and Romania simply could not be persuaded - they did not want to lose any territories acquired after the Second Balkan War. .
In addition, in the ranks of the Entente, the Balkan topic has always caused sharp disagreements.
Even on the issue of specific ways of bringing Bulgaria into the war on the side of the Consensus powers, the diplomatic representatives of France, Great Britain and Russia in Sofia did not have a common opinion. So, Britain believed unsuccessful attempts to get Serbia to transfer part of Macedonia to Bulgaria. French politicians, in turn, believed that in the Balkans, in addition to Serbia already fighting, it was necessary to rely not on Bulgaria, but on Greece, where, by the way, many French banks had seriously invested before the war ... The development of an agreed position on Bulgaria was not hampered only disagreements among the Entente powers - it was actually thwarted by the results of the negotiations with the Serbian Prime Minister Pashich, who tenaciously held for Macedonia. Negotiations with the governments of Greece and Romania also did not give anything, especially since the latter itself had not made a final choice in favor of the Consensus countries by that time.
And the Central Powers acted more collected. Their diplomats clearly conveyed to the Bulgarian government the position: in the event of Bulgaria’s taking on their side, it will receive all of Macedonia, Thrace, and also Southern Dobrudja (if Romania gets involved in the war on the side of the Entente). In addition, Germany beckoned the Bulgarian government with a military loan worth 500 million marks. Everything else, in the middle of 1915, the Entente was obviously losing on the fronts of the First World War. And it is clear that King Ferdinand I, who was also pro-German, made the final decision to take the side of the Central Powers. What this has turned out for Bulgaria has already been said above.
This country, like some other European states, has pursued a policy of neutrality since the beginning of the First World War, but, in fact, also sought to expand its borders. First of all it concerned Epirus and Macedonia, which was also claimed by Bulgaria and Serbia. And if it was somehow possible to reach a bargain with the Serbs, it was much more difficult to resist the pressure from Sofia on the part of Tsar Ferdinand, who deftly played on the traditional patronage of Bulgaria from Russia. For the sake of maintaining good relations with the Romanovs, the Bulgarian tsar, about whom Bismarck said “Coburg will break through,” even crossed himself his son Boris to Orthodoxy. Is it because of this that the royal family of Greece had so frankly to use the kinship with the house of the Romanovs, with whom the Glucksburg before the world war managed to enter into four marriages at once. Thus, widowed Queen Olga was the daughter of Grand Duke Konstantin Nikolayevich, and Grand Duke Pavel Alexandrovich was already married to her daughter, Princess Alexandra, and, despite early widowhood, managed to have two children — well known in the history of Russia, Dmitry Pavlovich, the participant in the attempt on Rasputin, and Mary, the Swedish princess.
Greece’s participation in the defeat of Bulgaria in the second Balkan war was insignificant, which helped to maintain good relations with St. Petersburg. Acting with a frank look at Berlin in Athens began after the old king George was killed in Thessaloniki, who ruled 50 for years in Greece. By that time, the Balkan wars had already ended, as a result of which it was Germany, with surprising ease, that actually presented Greece with Thessaloniki. This city, the best port on the Aegean Sea, could not be kept by Turkey, and under no circumstances could it be left behind Bulgaria. In addition, the new king Constantine I did not want to hear about alliance with the Entente states. Still would! After all, he, among other things, was the brother-in-law of the German emperor himself! But the Glucksburg, who came from Denmark, with the Germans and specifically with the Prussians had very special accounts because of Schleswig-Holstein. Konstantin's somewhat strange novel with the Hohenzollerns dragged on until 1916, but already in October 1914, Greek troops landed in Albania, occupying Northern Epirus. Such a step, clearly made without the knowledge of Berlin, undoubtedly weakened influence in the region of Italy, which slowly but surely withdrew from the influence of the Central Powers. However, they did not succeed in settling for long in the “original Greek lands”, a year later, Italy, very soon, a formal ally of Greece for the Entente, responded with the same landing, and the Greeks, fearing defeat, quickly abandoned all their Albanian claims.
Before the war, Greek society was not able to finally understand their own likes and dislikes, and only in the army pro-German sentiments reigned.
King Constantine received a field Marshal's baton from Wilhelm II and declared in Berlin that “Greece owes all the successes to Germany,” for which he then had to apologize in Paris. But Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos, on the contrary, advocated an alliance with the Entente, knowing full well that targeting Berlin and Vienna would inevitably lead Greece to an absolutely unacceptable alliance with Turkey. In 1913, Greece entered into an alliance with Serbia and signed an agreement on mutual assistance, which became a trump card in the hands of the prime minister. But King Constantine I, generally distinguished by his peacefulness - he had a very unsuccessful experience in leading the army in the Crete year behind the Turks for Crete - he declared the contract null and void and disagreeable Venizelos resigned.
Pro-German sentiment won again, but not for long. The king was generally inclined to accept the proposal of the Austrian ambassador to Constantinople, Margrave Joseph Pallavicini, about the so-called quadruple (for Turkey, Bulgaria, Greece and Romania) neutrality in the Balkans. But the diplomats of the Entente still managed to draw Greece into the war on their side, landing 1915 of the 150-thousandth landing force in Thessaloniki in October-November, which was threatened by a seizure by the Central Powers. 6 July 1916, after a year of fighting on the Thessaloniki front, virtually without a reliable rear, the Entente declared a complete blockade of Greece. From Paris and London, King Constantine was demanded the dissolution of the Greek army, where many officers continued to flaunt their pro-German sentiments. In this situation, Venizelos again became prime minister, and King Constantine I, who had been ruling for only three years, actually had to be given the crown of 23, his son Alexander, an ardent supporter of the Entente. But almost a year has passed, while 2 July 1917, Greece finally declared war on the Central Powers, and July 29 - directly to Germany. Ten Greek divisions quickly acted on the front line of Thessaloniki, and the Greeks managed to take part in the battles of Doyran before the declaration of war. Then the Greek troops participated in the breakthrough of the front, and in the liberation of Serbia, and, in cooperation with the allies, surrounded the 11 German army Mackensen and actually forced Bulgaria to surrender, which marked the beginning of the end of world war.
Once in the winners' camp, Greece laid claim to considerable territories and, to a considerable irritation of the Balkan neighbors, received almost everything she wanted: under the treaty in Neuilly - a significant part of Thrace on the Aegean Sea, under the Treaty of Sevres - the region of Smyrna (Turkish Izmir). After the war, Greek Prime Minister Venizelos represented the country at the Paris Peace Conference and achieved the official inclusion of Thrace and Ionia in the country.
The losses of Greece in the world war were insignificant - only about 5 of thousands of soldiers. But the warlike spirit, it seems, so gripped the people, and most importantly, politicians and the young king, that Greece was drawn into a war with Turkey.
In it, Greece, with considerable support from France and England, first occupied the entire European territory of Turkey, including Constantinople and a significant part of Asia Minor, but then was completely defeated by the Turkish army, reorganized by Kemal Ataturk. And the story made another somersault - in the midst of the war, King Alexander, who had been replaced on the Germanophile Constantine, who had been deposed shortly before, died of a domestic monkey at the height of the war.
It is precisely Serbia that many are now ready to call almost the direct culprit of the First World War. And not only because of the murder in Sarajevo of 28 June 1914 of the successor of the Austro-Hungarian throne to Archduke Franz Ferdinand a member of the revolutionary Serbian organization Mlada Bosna Gavrilo Princip. It was, rather, only a tragic episode, the very incident that sometimes can only launch the “locomotive of history” ready for launch. Some are ready to blame the Serbs and personally their old King Peter I even for refusing to carry out a brazen Austrian ultimatum, in which the country was actually offered to publicly renounce its own sovereignty. Yet, it was precisely after these events that the “unprovoked” mobilization and the direct declaration of the war, which turned into a truly irreplaceable loss, happened to the small Balkan power. Serbia has lost in the world war 28 percent of its population - 1 million 264 thousands of people! No other country in the world had such terrible damage on the verge of complete extinction of a nation.
But, if it were not for the firmness of King Peter and the Serbian people, there would probably be other actions, other causes and events that could provoke the start of hostilities. The fact is that at the beginning of the 20th century, all the major European powers had views on small Serbia, primarily because of its advantageous geopolitical position. In Vienna and Budapest, politicians saw another vassal in Serbia or the third throne for their dualistic monarchy, which was spreading at the seams, Italy regarded Serbia as a dangerous competitor to the traditionally “its” east coast of the Adriatic, which can really rally Slavic forces in the Balkans. On the other hand, Russia regarded the Serbs, together with the not so numerous Montenegrins, as reliable allies controlling the exits from the Danube valley to the Mediterranean and capable of spreading pro-Russian influence in several directions at once, including the Black Sea straits.
Moreover, in Russia, the point of view was almost dominant that the creation of Greater Serbia was capable of cutting the Balkan knot once and for all.
It is no coincidence that this position was reflected in a very large circulation, published in the spring of 1915 of the year - just shortly before the military defeat of Serbia - a semi-official journalistic collection “Questions of World War”.
The First World War turned into a terrible tragedy for this country, incomparable with the disasters that befell other states. Already in the autumn of 1914, the Austro-Hungarian troops twice deeply invaded Serbian territory, and on December 2 even broke into Belgrade, but the Serbs, although they actually refused to defend the capital located near the border, twice gave them a fitting rebuff. However, by the end of 1915, the German and Austro-Hungarian units, reinforced by Bulgarian units (Bulgaria in 1915, declared war on Serbia), again seized Serbian territory. The superiority of the enemies in the forces was almost fivefold, and after the hardest retreat, having avoided the almost inevitable encirclement, the Serb forces managed to evacuate to Corfu island and Bizertu through the territories of Montenegro and Albania ... to 150 thousands of soldiers), retaining complete independence, successfully fought together with the Anglo-French troops on the Thessaloniki front. Soon, in the fall of 1916, Russian soldiers from expeditionary brigades, though not too numerous, but exceptionally efficient, stood up shoulder to shoulder with the Serbian brothers, for the inclusion of which in the French or Serbian formations between the Allied commanders there was a constant struggle.
It is significant that it was the Serbian troops who broke through the Thessaloniki front in the autumn of 1918, together with the allies captured Mackensen's army, and then rushed to Budapest.
Austria-Hungary, Germany’s main ally, was forced to withdraw from the war, after which the final outcome of the battles in Europe was no longer in doubt.
Officially, Serbia was not listed in the camp of the Entente, but at the end of the world battle it was rewarded in full: it gained control of Srem, Bachka, Baranya, Eastern Slavonia, Eastern Dalmatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina. Moreover, without waiting for these “offerings”, at the end of the war, after the collapse of Austria-Hungary in 1918, the Serbs quickly occupied Vojvodina, which then “naturally” entered the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, transformed in October 1929 into the Kingdom Yugoslavia. A strong, rapidly developing Slavic state was formed in the Balkans, which inspired fear not only in its European neighbors, but also in American imperialism. And it is not by chance that, in order to occupy Yugoslavia, Hitler even postponed a strike against Russia.
And it is not by chance, already in our time, a bloody massacre was unleashed on the territory of Yugoslavia, which led to the dismemberment of Yugoslavia into several small states.
Nor are the American bombardments of Yugoslavia, more precisely, Serbia, and the many years of unprecedented efforts to separate Kosovo from Serbia, are not accidental in the traditional Balkan context.