The War Of 1912


In the early autumn of 1912, the western world was startled by news that Bulgaria, Servia, Montenegro, and Greece were rapidly mobilizing troops. Unless the great powers took strong measures to prevent it, war in the Balkans was seen to be inevitable. A crisis in that region had already been for some time predicted as a consequence of the Turco-Italian War. Unmistakable signs of its approach had been manifest all through the summer and’ early autumn months of 1912. Moreover, conditions in Macedonia and Albania had been for many years favorable for a conflict. The outbreak finally occurred early in October, 1912.

The Turco-Italian War had offered the Balkan States a rare opportunity for taking Turkey at a disadvantage. From the beginning of that war, the likelihood of some concerted action in the Balkans was foreseen. The Albanian revolts of 1911 and 1912 by further draining the resources of the Ottoman Government made this still more probable. The success of Albania in wresting from Turkey desired reforms, spurred on the Balkan powers to new demands for Macedonia. In addition to all this, came accounts of Turkish massacres of Christians at Ishtib in 1911, and at Berane, Kotchana, and elsewhere in 1912. Peace, however, was hoped for till the last moment. It seemed incredible that the great European powers would not, by some united attempt, prevent a war. They could have done so, once they had made it evident that they were ready to back up their demands with force. It was mutual distrust and jealousy among them that made such a course impossible.

On September 30, 1912, Bulgaria began to mobilize troops. This raised her strength to about 400,000 men. At the same time mobilization was be-gun by Servia, Montenegro, and Greece, and Turkey retorted with orders of her own for prompt mobilization. At once the neutral powers used pressure to prevent hostilities, but in this effort they failed. The four Balkan States had determined to act together in securing an autonomous government for Macedonia pursuant to Article XXIII of the disregarded Berlin Treaty of 1878. Turkey was unalterably opposed to granting this demand. From the first it became clear that, unless the powers proceeded to force, no settlement, except through war, could be effected. The immediate cause of fighting—at least so the Bulgarian Government declared to the powers—was a threatening attitude assumed by Turkey on the frontier.

Turkey had ordered maneuvers in the neighborhood of Adrianople. When ambassadors of the powers protested, the Turkish Government replied that such maneuvers were annual occurrences and were now in no wise a threat to Bulgaria.

The Montenegrin army began the fighting. It made an attack on the Turkish position at Podgoritza, and after a four hours’ artillery engagement, forced the Turks to evacuate the heights they had occupied. The Montenegrins then attacked the fortified position of the Turks at Detchich. On October 9, King Nicholas summoned his people to a. “holy war,” in which he believed they would have the sympathy of the outside civilized world, of all Serbs, and Slays, and gain active and loyal support from Bulgaria, Servia and Greece. Estimates of the available strength of the respective States on the eve of war differed widely. Some authorities gave the following figures: Turkey, 500,000; Bulgaria, 400,000; Servia, 150,000, and Greece, 80,000; Montenegro, 50,000. Toward the close of 1913, another estimate was published, giving Turkey, 400,000; Bulgaria, 300,000; Servia, 200,000; Greece, 150,000, and Montenegro, 40,000.

Within less than three weeks after the four allies crossed their frontiers, they had advanced well into Macedonia, driven the Turks to flight, captured Prishtina and Kumanovo, routed the Turks at Kirk-Kilisseh, invested Adrianople, and sent the main body of the Turkish army back upon the Tehatalja forts, which formed the last main line of their defenses on the way to Constantinople. Altho the first act of war had not occurred until October 9, the allies, by the end of the month, had practically possest themselves of all Macedonia and the Bulgarians were holding the main Turkish army behind fortified lines within fifty miles of Constantinople, and seemed in fair way to enter the city itself.

This extraordinary success caused the greatest surprize in western Europe. It was now seen that the press had for years overestimated the military strength of Turkey and belittled that of the Balkan States. The powers still continued to make inefficient efforts for peace. M. Poincaré, for France, offered early in November, 1912, a proposal that the powers pledge themselves to “territorial disintercstedness,” but this did not meet with favor from the Triple Alliance. Austria-Hungary now became a cause of much apprehension. Her government had several times announced its intention of taking all necessary steps to protect her territorial interests. She was known to be hostile to any movement that should extend Servia down to the Adriatic, or, by imposing a barrier of Slavic States, should cut Austria off from the road to Salonica. Toward the end of November, Sir Edward Grey proposed that representatives of the powers be authorized to confer on the situation at some European capital. This was acceptedby the powers and London was designated as the place for conferences.

Notwithstanding these efforts, the outlook for peace remained confused until well past the middle of the year. Fighting went on, and some of it after articles of peace had actually been signed by all the contestants except Greece. Worse than all, the allies began to fight one another and Roumania, heretofore a non-combatant, invaded Bulgaria, and almost reached her capital. Turkey, seeing her opportunity, recaptured Adrianople.

It was not until October, 1913, that something definite as to actual peace and an arrangement of new boundaries was arrived at. Articles of peace between Turkey and Greece, however, were not signed until November 13. By the end of the year, the new boundaries had been fixt. They gave to Turkey a small part of her former European territory, but this included only Constantinople, Adrianople and lands about them, distant, perhaps, one hundred miles from the Bosporus. All the remainder of her former large domain, except Albania, was awarded to Bulgaria, Servia, and Greece.

Bulgaria’s new lands reach down to the Aegean Sea, along which they extend from the Turkish boundary westward to Kavala. This is a mountainous region and has no harbor worthy of the name. From Kavala westward, Greece obtained a long-coveted part of her ancient Macedonian do-main, including the important port of Salonica, and the province of Janina, her northern boundary running southwest to the Adriatic, at a point opposite Corfu. Servia gained to the south of her old domain a territory nearly as large as the old. It includes her ancient capital Uskup. The new boundary of Albania, which becomes an independent kingdom, was placed for decision in the hands of a commission, and so was the disposition of certain islands in the Aegean Sea, that had been captured, in part by Greeks and in part by Italians in the Tripolitan War.