Military Review

Rehearsal of the Great War

Rehearsal of the Great War

How brothers Slavs learned to win and lose

Today, about the Balkan Wars 1912-13, only fans know stories. Having entered the history of the final squeezing of Turkey from Europe, the first bombardment from airplanes, the use of radio communications, armored vehicles and Agapkin's musical masterpiece - the song “Farewell Slav”, written for Russian volunteers, they retreated into the shadows after two world wars and the bloody collapse of Yugoslavia. But the contemporaries of those events took them seriously: on both sides more than a million soldiers were put under the gun. Almost a tenth of them died. In addition to the countries directly involved in the war in conflict, the interests of the great powers came together in a bizarre way, and therefore the humanists prayed to God that because of the "trouble in the Balkans" the world did not plunge into the bloody abyss of a great war. As it turned out, not for long - the “postponement of conscription” lasted just over a year.

Friends, our union is beautiful

Even today, the Balkan Peninsula - once the cradle of European civilization - is a lagging region, the “soft underbelly” of Europe. Only the lazy have not heard about the financial and economic problems of Greece, the recent EU members - Bulgaria and Romania - have not yet been accepted into the Schengen zone and the euro, when the EU accepts Serbia and Montenegro - is unknown. But in the nineteenth century, the lag was even greater, mainly due to the centuries-old Turkish yoke.

Map of the Balkan Peninsula, 1890 — 1907

A particularly difficult fate fell on Bulgaria, located next to Turkey and therefore held by the Turks most tenaciously. They by all means suppressed the self-consciousness of the Bulgarians, hindered the development of the national economy and culture — even churches were allowed to build no higher than the “horseman on horseback” (that is, only stuck in the ground, resembling sheds, without domes and crosses). But the situation in Serbia, Greece, Albania was only slightly better. Numerous attempts by the Balkan peoples to revolt and free themselves failed, leading only to the death of their bravest sons, on whose lands the Turks resettled Muslims from Asia Minor and the Caucasus. Some semblance of independence could be saved only by Montenegrins, but also at the cost of enormous blood.

However, the epoch of industrialization, although late, pulled the Balkans along with it into the present, and at the end of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th centuries there began a process of national revival. On the one hand, it had the form of cultural enlightenment (the emergence of national schools, “chilishte” - a kind of cultural centers, the struggle for religious autonomy from the Constantinople Patriarchate). On the other hand, it was a series of already more prepared and successful national liberation uprisings, and military assistance from Russia, which led in the 19th century to the emergence of independent Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria and the final recognition of the independence of Montenegro.

But even by 1912, millions of Balkan residents involuntarily remained Ottoman subjects, and the territories of young states did not cover all of their lands - by decision of the Berlin Congress 1878, half of the European possessions remained in the hands of the Turks. In this situation, the young Balkan states, between which their contradictions existed (Serbia focused on Russia, Greece - on England, Bulgaria - more and more on Germany), in the beginning of 1912 they managed to overcome them unexpectedly and created a military alliance. It is no secret that this was a huge success for Russian diplomacy, which mediated between the Serbs and the Bulgarians. Turkey and Austria-Hungary, as they could, opposed this union, not wanting to strengthen the Slavic countries on their borders.

Ferdinand, king of Bulgaria. 22 June 1910 of the year. Photo: Bibliothèque nationale de France

However, according to the plan of Russia, the Balkan alliance had to confront Austria-Hungary in the first place. But for the time being, the Balkan elites agreed that for them, first of all, it is still necessary to finally solve the “Turkish question” in their own interests. For the major European powers, such an intention seemed unserious: how can small, barely getting up on their feet countries overcome their own, though senile, but full-fledged metropolis - the Ottoman Empire? It suffices to look at the map, compare the scale and recall the Russian-Turkish war of the 1877-78 years, when it was only with the help of Russia that the “brothers” were rescued from death.

Shame skeptics

But skeptics judged the same, for example, Bulgaria, without noticing its colossal civilizational spurt in the first decades of independence. It is clearly visible today - just walk through the tourist Varna: almost all the buildings in the city are the brainchild of two eras. The modern ones were built under Todor Zhivkov, the “historical” ones under King Ferdinand in the 1880-1910s. The huge cathedral of stone with gold domes, the buildings of the first military and commercial schools, just houses, mansions in the most fashionable styles of the time - modern, eclectic. Industry was gaining momentum, it was then that the first Bulgarian car assembly plant, shipyards appeared. What was missing his own, was acquired abroad. For example, airplanes with pilots (there were 25 altogether), for the first time in history, dropping bombs from the air (on the Turks) were Bulgarian. The most modern artillery was created in the Bulgarian army. The Bulgarians learned quickly and easily, adopting the experience of advanced countries, and by the year of 1912 they had their own aces-pilots and well-aimed artillerymen.

The coronation of Peter I Karageorgievich, King of Serbia. 2 September 1904 of the year. Photo: US Library of Congress

King Ferdinand in general was open to everything new and took the responsibilities of a crown of roses seriously. The core of his army consisted of the militias of the Russian-Turkish war 1877-78. Later mobilized soldiers joined them, and in Macedonia, the pro-Bulgarian militia appeared. The desire to finally get even with the Turks was so strong that those called up for service were even from abroad.

Greece did not stand still. In military affairs, the Greeks emphasized the development of artillery and a sufficiently large and modern fleet, which during the war, as he could, prevented the transport of Turkish troops from the Asian coast of the empire. As for Serbia, here after the coup of 1903, organized by Dragutin Dmitrievich (the future founder of the Black Hand society, who organized the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand) and the assassination of the pro-Austrian king Alexander from the Obrenovich dynasty with his replacement by the pro-Russian Peterge from the dynasty also Great power moods gained strength. The idea of ​​creating "Yugoslavia" - the unification of all Serbs, Croats, Slovenes and Macedonians into one big state - became more and more popular. A vivid illustration of the cheers-patriotic upsurge in Serbia that drove people to insanity is a popular story at that time about a teacher who did not want to fight, pitying his young wife. “I'm not afraid of death, but I'm afraid that you will remain a widow,” he explained. Then the teacher’s wife hanged herself in the bedroom, leaving him a note: “Now you only have your homeland.”

Retreating turkish soldiers

It is not surprising that the armies of the small Balkan countries, having assembled into a single fist, turned out to be a serious force, outnumbering the army of the Ottoman Empire. The Turkish army was not ready for the beginning of the war. First, the Italian-Turkish war was just ending, drawing troops into Africa and the coasts of Asia Minor. A peace treaty with Italy was concluded after the outbreak of war with the Balkan countries. The reserve units did not manage to arrive from Asia Minor to Europe, artillery, with the exception of the mountain, was outdated in the Balkans, and the fortifications on the border were not completed. Bulgaria alone was able to mobilize the army in 300 000 bayonets, which were opposed by all 45 000 Turks. As a result, the first period of the war (October-December 1912 of the year) became a kind of "blitzkrieg": the Allies who fell upon Turkey's European possessions seized vast territories in a short time.

No compromises

After the defeat at Kirk-Kilis, Mahmud Mukhtar Pasha telegraphed to Constantinople about the poor fitness of the troops and their cowardice: “These are not troops, but bastard! Soldiers think only about how to get to Istanbul, where the smell of kitchens attracts them. With such troops it is impossible to defend successfully ... ". The successes of the Bulgarians frightened and Petersburg - the coveted straits eluded! “It’s also impossible,” said Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Sazonov. “Not tomorrow, they will take Constantinople tomorrow ... but how are we?” The Kaiser in Berlin was worried about his railroad to Baghdad: “For what reason did we lay our rails and sleepers there?” From Austria, Hungary was echoed by the elderly Austrian Emperor Franz Joseph: “My dream is to see Thessaloniki Austrian, but how can I come if the Greeks are already there?”

Albanian soldiers. The Siege of Scutari

However, by November the Turks had already managed to get together a bit. At the approaches to Constantinople, a fortified Chataldzhinskaya line was built of bunkers and casemates, connected by telephone and telegraph and even passages hidden from the fire. It was easy and convenient to deliver reinforcements and ammunition to this line, to evacuate the wounded. On the line at the same time, there was up to 125 000 soldiers and officers. Trying to storm the fortifications, the Bulgarians suffered huge losses, moreover, because of the transformation of the Blitzkrieg into a positional war, cholera and typhoid began in their ranks.

Under these conditions, the parties agreed on a truce and in December 1912 of the year began negotiations in London. But no one wanted to compromise - the allies demanded to give them all the remnants of the European possessions except for Istanbul itself. Turkish delegate Osman Nizami Pasha said: “We did not come to sign peace, but to prove that Turkey is strong enough to continue the war.” Only the combined pressure of Britain, Germany, France, Russia and Austria-Hungary could convince Turkey to compromise and accept the loss of almost all possessions in Europe in exchange for keeping the straits in her hands, promises not to extend military operations to the Asian part and, most importantly, generous financial assistance for economic recovery.

22 January 1913, the Turkish government finally agreed to "follow the advice of powerful European offices." But the very next day, something that no one could have foreseen happened. The members of the patriotic, imperial party "Unity and Progress" and their supporters (including officers and soldiers), led by Enver Pasha, rushed into the conference room, where there were members of the government. Several ministers, including the Grand Vizier and the Minister of War, were killed. The Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Minister of Communications were brutally beaten up, who were unfortunately Christian. Enver Pasha shouted: “Since you are standing for a shameful world with concessions to Edirne and almost all European possessions, and a nation ready to die requires war, then on behalf of the whole country and the army, I suggest that the Cabinet resign immediately.”

Delegates of the Balkan States at the London Conference 1912-13. From left to right: Stefanos Skuloudis (Greece), Stoyan Novakovic (Serbia), Georgios Streit (Greece), Andra Nikolic (Serbia), Eleftherios Venizelos (Greece), Lujio Voinovich (Montenegro), Ioannis Gennady (Greece), Stoyan Danev (Bulgaria) , Mikhail Madzharov (Bulgaria), Yovo Popovic (Montenegro), Stefan Paprikov (Bulgaria), Lazar Midzhushkovich (Montenegro).

The power in the Ottoman Empire passed into the hands of the Young Turks, and the war resumed with a new force. However, now it was already mainly positional - the opponents dug in on the outskirts of Istanbul, exhausting each other with positional battles. In the rear of the Bulgarians remained the fortress of Adrianople, which they stormed for a month and a half, taking at the cost of heavy losses. At the same time, the Serbs and Montenegrins finally cleared Macedonia and the north of Albania from the Turkish garrisons blocked in the fortresses.

The world "forever" was signed only on 30 of May 1913 of the year - almost under the same conditions that were offered by the allies in December. It took half a year of unnecessary bloodshed for the Turkish Imperials to look at the changed world more soberly.

Mining share

After the Ottoman Empire was finally expelled from the Balkans, the countries of the Balkan Alliance had to divide the conquered themselves without foreign mediation. But with this, as expected, difficulties arose.

Enver Pasha. Photo: US Library of Congress

Only today, the familiar borders of the Balkan countries more or less reflect reality: here, in Northern Dobrudja, Romanians live, and the border with Bulgaria has moved - in the southern Dobruja, Bulgarians are already living. They also live on the Black Sea coast, but the Greeks live on the Aegean coast. But such resettlement is the result of relatively recent migrations, and it arose due to numerous “population exchanges” in the period before the Second World War. One hundred years ago everything was completely different: there were a lot of territories where Bulgarians lived mixed with Romanians, Serbs or Greeks, and who such Macedonians, politicians could not figure out the whole XX century - the Yugoslavs said “these are ours”, Bulgarians - “no, just our". Naturally, each country wanted to divide the disputed territories with a mixed population in their favor.

The Greeks wanted to unite all the coasts of the Aegean Sea into a single Greece (the so-called “Great Idea of ​​Venizelos”). The Bulgarian government wanted to create a "complete" (great) Bulgaria with the inclusion of Macedonia, Thessaloniki, and perhaps even Albania. The Serbs dreamed of reaching the Adriatic Sea (again through Albania) and the greatest expansion of the borders in the same Macedonia, and the Montenegrins to join their small kingdom of the Albanian Shkoder.

None of the founding states of the Balkan Union was satisfied with the London Treaty and the result of the bloody war with Turkey, although Albania, as the main apple of discord, was bracketed as a new independent state under the protectorate of the great powers (primarily Austria-Hungary and Italy). And therefore, already a few months after the signing of the peace with Turkey, the Inter-Allied War began (it was the Second Balkan War) - yesterday's allies attacked the Bulgarians, aided by Austrian and German diplomats. In Belgrade, they worked on King Peter, hypocritically promising him support against the Bulgarians in Macedonia and Albania. In Sofia, the envoys of Vienna and Berlin said the same thing, but to the king Ferdinand.

Bulgarian artellery during the siege of Adrianople. Photo: G. Woltz

Soon they began to beat their own, and soon strangers joined the fight - the Romanian king Charles moved the army to Sofia and Varna. And the Turks, thirsting for at least some revenge, hit from the south. Russia again undertook to reconcile the “bratushkas”, but because of the transience of the war, St. Petersburg diplomats did not have time to do anything, moreover, as the Bulgarian elites turned against themselves: they decided that Russia had “surrendered” to their Serbs.

The all-union war fortunately turned out to be fleeting from June 29 to July 29 1913. Bulgaria was defeated, with the result that France, Austria-Hungary and Germany strengthened their influence in the Balkan Peninsula, undermining the position of the Russian Empire. Almost the entire territory conquered by Bulgaria in the First Balkan War was divided between the victor countries, including Adrianople (Edirne) returned to Turkey and remains Turkish to this day. However, the small access to the coast of the Adriatic Sea of ​​Bulgaria was nevertheless preserved and transferred to Greece only after the First World War. Also in the composition of Bulgaria, the Pirin Region, liberated in 1912, remained - the birthplace of the famous clairvoyant Vanga.

Not brothers Slavs

History remembers the phrase of King Ferdinand, said after the Inter-Allied War - “Ma vengeance sera terrible” (“My revenge will be terrible”). It was precisely the humiliation that was tested by neighbors that threw Bulgaria into 1915 in the next - already the First World War - on the side of Germany and Austria-Hungary. First of all, because “Russian diplomacy did not help,” and Serbia, Romania and Greece found themselves in the opposite camp. It all ended, as we know, badly: the death of another hundred thousand soldiers, the destruction of the country, the loss of access to the Aegean Sea and a number of areas on the border with Serbia. Ferdinand personally lost the throne, although he lived another three decades after the overthrow.

Attack of the Greek troops. 1913 year

But Serbia, while celebrating the victory, had even worse. In 1913, there was a triumph of great-power ideas, “Black Hand” was replenished with new and new radical fanatics, one of which, Gavril Princip, a year later and would make a fatal shot in Sarajevo. According to the results of the First World Loss, they will be much worse than the Bulgarian ones. According to various estimates, up to a quarter of the population - from 700 thousand to 1 million 260 thousand people - were in occupation. More than half of the surviving men were disabled, half a million children were orphans. And, although, following the end of World War I, the “Black Hand” dream was, in general, realized, and Yugoslavia appeared on the world map, complete Serbian domination both within its borders and in the Balkans as a whole could not be achieved, but the country itself was short-lived.

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  1. pinecone
    pinecone 21 July 2014 07: 36
    And therefore, just a few months after the signing of peace with Turkey, the Inter-Allied War (it is the Second Balkan War) began - yesterday's allies fell upon the Bulgarians, which was facilitated by Austrian and German diplomats.

    With the 2nd Balkan War, the story is muddy. The Bulgarians were the first to strike at the Serbs.
  2. parusnik
    parusnik 21 July 2014 08: 01
    yesterday's allies fell upon the Bulgarians, aided by Austrian and German diplomats.
    Where without them .. Otherwise, Russia intensified in the Balkans .. And to whom it was interesting in Europe ...
  3. emotion
    emotion 21 July 2014 09: 41
    mutual "love" of the southern Slavs to each other always led to confrontation. they did not fight among themselves only when they were under the Turks, the Austrians, and even earlier under the Greeks. Southern Slavs always outnumbered both Turks and Austrians (Turks finally multiplied only in the 20th century), but at the same time remained an object of aggression for centuries and sat under one, then under another yoke.
    so the 2nd Balkan was inevitable, like the bloody collapse of Yugoslavia at the end of the century.
  4. Yellow white
    Yellow white 21 July 2014 11: 32
    The brain needs to be thought, not just the head!
    and be friends with Russia!
  5. Gomunkul
    Gomunkul 21 July 2014 14: 25
    Again, Russia undertook to reconcile the "little brothers," but because of the transience of the war, Petersburg diplomats did not have time to do anything, except the Bulgarian elites turned against themselves: they decided that Russia had "surrendered" to their Serbs.
    Russia has always suffered and is suffering, sometimes from allies, then from opponents. Politics is a delicate matter.
    1. Walking
      Walking 21 July 2014 18: 08
      As always, Russia is to blame.
    SANITAR LESA 21 July 2014 15: 00
    Russia's problem has always been. that when she compromised her interests for the sake of "partners" (as after the Russian-Turkish war of 1877, when the GERMAN prince was erected on the throne of Slavic Bulgaria), which led to even greater problems for her in the future ...
  7. Robert Nevsky
    Robert Nevsky 21 July 2014 21: 16
    True article. I read it with great interest. soldier
  8. ivanovbg
    ivanovbg 21 July 2014 22: 14
    Great article! I am very happy to read such good materials on VO!
  9. Witalka
    Witalka 22 July 2014 05: 08
    on the Balkans, all the trouble begins so happened historically
    1. Gomunkul
      Gomunkul 22 July 2014 13: 56
      on the Balkans, all the trouble begins so happened historically
      I will answer you with words from S. Alekseev's book "The Land of Shining Power."
      In the ancient Aryan language, the Balkans - "Shining Power". Ancient Jews heard about this land and Rohdanit Moses called it the Promised Land. ... I think it’s clear to you why the most terrible wars began with the conquest of the Land of Radiant Power?
    2. The comment was deleted.
  10. yv4o
    yv4o 22 July 2014 14: 06
    A very good article. Everything is described accurately, although incomplete. Southern Slavs have always been in a state of conflict and enmity - not nations, but rulers who instilled hatred. The Balkan peoples have always hoped for Russia. She is the only salvation for the Balkans.
  11. Rastas
    Rastas 23 July 2014 14: 40
    Bulgaria in those events was a pity. It was she who initiated the creation of the Balkan Union, and as a result, her former allies destroyed it. In general, the collapse of the Balkan Union was beneficial to Germany and Austria-Hungary.