Balkan Wars

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The term Balkan Wars refers to the two wars that took place in South-eastern Europe in 1912 and 1913. The First Balkan War broke out on 8 October 1912 when Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro and Serbia (see Balkan League), having large parts of their ethnic populations under Ottoman sovereignty, attacked the Ottoman Empire, terminating its five-century rule in the Balkans in a seven-month campaign resulting in the Treaty of London.

The Second Balkan War broke out on 16 June 1913 when Bulgaria was dissatisfied over the division of the spoils in Macedonia, made in secret by its former allies, Serbia and Greece. Their armies repulsed the Bulgarian offensive and counter-attacked penetrating into Bulgaria, while Romania and the Ottoman Empire took the opportunity to intervene against Bulgaria and make territorial gains. In the resulting Treaty of Bucharest, Bulgaria lost most of the territories gained in the First Balkan War.



The background to the wars lies in the incomplete emergence of nation-states on the European territory of the Ottoman Empire during the second half of the 19th century. The Serbs had gained substantial territory during the Russo-Turkish War, 1877–1878, while Greece acquired Thessaly in 1881 (although it lost a small area back to the Ottoman Empire in 1897) and Bulgaria (an autonomous principality since 1878) incorporated the formerly distinct province of Eastern Rumelia (1885). All three as well as Montenegro sought additional territories within the large Ottoman-ruled region known as Rumelia, comprising Eastern Rumelia, Albania, Macedonia, and Thrace (see map).

Policies of the Great Powers

Throughout the 19th Century, the Great Powers shared different aims over the "Eastern Question" and the integrity of the Ottoman Empire. Russia wished for access to the "warm waters" of the Mediterranean; it pursued a pan-Slavic foreign policy and thereby supported Bulgaria and Serbia. Britain wished to deny Russia access to the "warm waters" and supported the integrity of the Ottoman Empire, although it also supported a limited expansion of Greece as a backup plan in case integrity of the empire was no longer possible. France wished to strengthen its position in the region, especially in the Levant (today's Lebanon, Syria, the Palestinian territories and Israel).

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