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The Balkans in the early 20th century were simply waiting for a match. The pressures imposed upon the area by the constantly expanding Russian and Austro-Hungarian Empires and the power vacuum left by the rapidly declining Ottoman Empire created a nexus of conflicting claims within the area. It did not help that many of the newly risen nation states had conflicting borders and conflicting aims and that in the exact middle of the region and the claims sat Macedonia.

Macedonia was seen as a rightful claim by Bulgaria following the end of the First Balkan War. The removal of Turkish influence in the area, while achieving a long held goal of most all Europe had seriously destabilized the area. The major powers of Europe had no wish for one country to gain hegemony in the area and unfortunately for Bulgaria, their gaining too much land in Macedonia would make for an unbalanced region. The Treaty of London, on May 30, 1913, which ended the First Balkan War, was also a treaty that hoped to stop future Balkan wars. Unfortunately it was near hopeless, very little was accomplished and the hopes for peace where left almost completely in the hands of the Balkan states themselves.

Conflicting Claims

The main dispute rose up over which countries had gained what in the First Balkan War. Greece had taken Salonika, which the Bulgarians wanted and Bulgaria had gained Thrace, which the Bulgarians didn’t particularly want. Meanwhile, Serbia and Bulgaria had pretty much the same problem in northern Macedonia. Serbia had gained a province of Macedonia centered on Monastir, a section which Bulgaria had claimed their own.

Bulgaria tried to peacefully gain these areas from Serbia based on a treaty penned March 13, 1912. Unfortunately, the Serbians who had found their land grab denied in Albania, when Albania was made into an independent nation by Europe’s great powers under direction from Austria, found herself very unwillingly to part with any land. So stating that the creation of Albania invalidated the existing treaty with Bulgaria, Serbia kept the region.

Diplomatic Motions

Upon the return of diplomats and national leaders from London in early 1913, Serbia and Greece stepped up the tension one more notch. On June 1, 1913, Premier Venizelos of Greece and Premier Pashitch of Serbia agreed to a ten year alliance, both defensively and offensively, specifically geared towards Bulgaria. So the area became yet another step more dangerous and finally the heads of the great powers were forced to turn towards the area yet again.

When Serbia demanded that Bulgaria give up her rights under the treaty signed March 13, 1913, Russia stepped in. Czar Nicholas II sent two identical telegrams, to the Serbian government and the Bulgarian government, offering to arbitrate the conflict. Though neither country truly wanted the Russians to meddle in what they saw as their conflict, they had drawn too much attention and needed to show to make a show at peace. Thus the Russian offer was accepted.

War Is Engaged

The Russian delegation never even really got its feet wet in trying to solve the conflict. June 15th brought a proposal by the Bulgarians for demobilization of the area and for a mixed occupation of the disputed zones. June 29th though brought an end to any pretenses of diplomacy when Bulgaria declared war and assaulted Serb positions.

The war itself was short in duration. While Bulgaria assaulted the Serbians at the Battle of the Bregalnica, the Greeks advanced toward Bulgarian positions in the south. Meanwhile, Romania and the Ottoman Empire, who both were also strongly against Bulgaria becoming too strong, advanced into Bulgarian lands. Bulgaria, with almost all of its troops focused on the Serbs and the Greeks could not hope to stop the Turks or the Romanians. So it was that when the Battle of Bregalnica ended in a Serbian victory, on July 9, 1913, Bulgaria found itself already virtually defeated.

Aftermath of War

The Treaty of Bucharest was signed on August 10, 1913 by delegates from Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro and Greece. Bulgaria being the sole party on her side against many enemies was forced to take whatever was dished out. So it was that a very debilitating treaty was handed to Bulgaria, one, though Bulgaria was mainly to blame for the war, was much too destructive to Bulgaria for even that.

Through the treaty:

  • Romania gained all of Dobrudja north of Turtukaia and between the Danube and the Black Sea coast south of Ekrene.
  • Serbia would gain all of northern and most of central Macedonia, as well as Kosovo from the war.
  • Greece was given southern Macedonia, as well as most of western Thrace, leaving Bulgaria with almost no access to the Aegean Sea. Greece was also given complete control of Crete at this time.
  • Bulgaria did actually gain some land. Actually their positions that were left following the war were in truth just promised to them permanently. In all they retained a small portion of their First Balkan War gains, Macedonia and a slice of the Aegean coast centered on the town of Strumnitza.
  • The Ottoman Empire was virtually ignored following the war.
  • Albania was formalized as an independent state under a German prince.

Overall, Serbia gained what was rightfully hers. Though the Serb claim to Albania was again denied by Austria-Hungary, they had seized much of the Slavic lands in the Balkans (those Slavic lands not already under control of Austria-Hungary). Romania had gained all the Romanian populated lands left outside Russia and Austria-Hungary. Greece, though being given much land in reward for her participation never got southern Albania or the Aegean Islands, two areas she had greatly coveted. Overall, the boundaries drew were haphazard and did little to make peace in the region. No nation state outside of Serbia could be said to be content and even Serbia had been denied the claim of Albania she had long desired.

Diplomatically the scene in the Balkans also changed considerably. Bulgaria, who had angered the Russians by pursuing this war even in the face of arbitration by the Czar himself now, looked to Austria as its protector in the region. Meanwhile, Serbia who had once again been foiled in its attempts to add Albania to its domain, by Austria yet again, looked with much greater hostility to Austria and found itself protected by the Russians. The Russians themselves, now unwilling to support an aggressor state like Bulgaria would make Serbia their bulwark against Austrian expansion into the Balkans. The Ottoman Empire, once again thrown to the dogs was left with no place to turn and an embittered populace. One could see the lines being drawn for the next great war.

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