Home Historical Period Modern History The Politics that Led to the Balkan Wars in 1912-1913, and the...

The Politics that Led to the Balkan Wars in 1912-1913, and the Consequences that Led to WWI


The Balkan wars were actually two wars, occurring in 1912 to 1913 shortly before the first world war, as a result of which the countries of the Balkan Peninsula pushed the Turks from their European territory. The first war was for the liberation from Turkey. The Balkan Union, Serbia Montenegro, Greece and Bulgaria plan to completely deprive the Ottoman Empire of their possessions in Europe. Turkey was left with only Constantinople and a small territory near that city.

Soon, disagreements between the factors led to the beginning of war between Bulgaria on one side, and Serbia, Greece, Romania, Montenegro, and Turkey on the other. Bulgaria was defeated and lost most of its acquisitions from the first war, and the Ottoman Empire returned Adrianople.


The situation changed at the beginning of the 15th century, when the Ottoman Turks from Asia Minor penetrated the Balkans. The liquidation of the Byzantine Empire and the fall of Constantinople in 1453 enabled the Ottoman Empire, whose power had been constantly growing, to fully occupy the Balkan Peninsula. The peoples who lived there were included into the Muslim Turkish empire. The situation was aggravated by the fact that they differed in origin, religion, and nationality.

On the Balkan Peninsula, anti-Turkish uprisings frequently occurred, most of which ended in the defeat of insurgents. Despite this, ethnocratic states began to form in the XIX century. The process was supported by the Russian Empire, which had an interest in weakening Turkey. As a result, by the beginning of the 20th century, Greece, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Montenegro emerged away from the Ottoman Empire, and Romania withdrew its vassal dependence. A large number of Bulgarians and Serbs lived in Macedonia. Greeks lived on the islands of the Aegean Sea still considered to be in the Ottoman Empire. Albanians did not have their own state, although some of the Ottoman empire’s vilayets were completely inhabited by them.

The Policy of the Great Powers

The Ottoman Empire, since the XVII century, gradually weakened, losing territory. In the collapse of the Empire, many states were interested in claiming its territory: Russia, the German Empire, Austria-Hungary, Great Britain and France. Each of these states wanted to get as much of the weakened empire as possible to meet their strategic needs. The “Eastern Question” about the Straits to the black sea was of a great interest.

Simultaneously, political confrontation occurred between the blocs of the great powers, also observed in the Balkans. After the Italian-Turkish War, the countries of the Balkan Peninsula, opponents of the Ottoman Empire, realized the need for consolidation. Unifying factors were common goals, the similarity of peoples and their Christian faith. The Russian Empire took advantage of this, with the formation of a military defensive alliance begun on the Balkan Peninsula. March 13, 1912, Serbia and Bulgaria signed a military alliance. On May 12 of the same year, additional agreements were signed. On May 29, Greece, fearing to not achieve territorial gains at the expense of the Ottoman Empire, joined the alliance of Bulgarian-Serbian relations. In the summer, Montenegro signed a union treaty with Bulgaria, after which the formation of the Balkan Union was completed.

Russia primarily counted on the fact that the union would instigate a confrontation with its rival, Austria-Hungary. However, the member countries of the union were not interested in this, but instead started a confrontation with Turkey.

The Balkan Union directed its attention to the European possessions of the Ottoman Empire, in which the Greeks, Bulgarians, and Serbs lived. All member countries planned to expand their borders at the expense of Turkish possessions, but occasionally their territorial interests overlapped. The Bulgarians wanted the creation of a state that would include all the lands inhabited by Bulgarians and territories that once belonged to the Second Bulgarian Kingdom. The Serbs wanted to include in their state all of Albania and Macedonia, which in turn claimed Greece and Bulgaria. Montenegro sought to get the northern area of Albania and the large port cities of the Adriatic. The Greeks wished to claim Macedonia and Thrace, which Bulgaria also claimed. Thus, the Allies had serious disagreements and claims against each other.

Results of the Wars

The Balkan Alliance succeeded in destroying Turkey in 1912. Bulgaria, dissatisfied with the division of the conquered territory, attacked former allies Serbia and Greece. Soon Turkey and Romania joined the war. Bulgaria lost the Second Balkan War and most of the new territories. Serbia got territorial extensions in Kosovo and Macedonia. Greece received Aegean Macedonia and the islands. Bulgaria lost most of the new territories but still managed to become a much larger country.

The Ottoman Empire lost most of its European possessions. Albania gained independence. Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece, and Romania increased their territories. The Bulgarian King Ferdinand I was dissatisfied with the outcome of the wars. Austria-Hungary feared the strengthening of Serbia, which, after the defeat of Bulgaria and Turkey in the Balkan wars, could become the strongest power in the Balkans. In addition, there were a large number of Serbs in Vojvodina, which belonged to the Austrian crown. Fearing the secession of Vojvodina, and then the complete collapse of the Empire, the Austro-Hungarian government sought an excuse to declare war on the Serbs.

In the meantime, Serbia had become radicalized. Victories in two wars and a sharp strengthening of the state caused a national upsurge. At the end of 1913, Serbian troops attempted to occupy part of Albania. The Albanian crisis began, which culminated in the withdrawal of Serbian troops from the newly-formed state.

Mlada Bosna operated in Bosnia and set itself the goal of seceding from Austria-Hungary. In 1914, with the support of the “Black Hand,” they assassinated the Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo. Austria-Hungary presented the Serbian side with an ultimatum, causing the First World War.

Revanchist Bulgaria in this new war took sides with Austria-Hungary and Germany. Her government wished to restore the state to the borders of May 1913. The outbreak of world war led to major changes in the Balkans. Thus, the Second Balkan War has had far-reaching indirect consequences.