A School History of the Great War - Chapter 6
The Balkan States
The Balkans. - As we have learned in Chapter I, the Balkan states are, with the exception of Montenegro, the result of a series of revolutions which took place during the last hundred years. These revolutions were the result of two causes. First there was a growing restlessness of the different groups of people in the Balkan peninsula. This was due not only to centuries of Turkish misrule, but also to the influence of the republican movement which developed in northern and western Europe as a result of the French Revolution. The second cause of the Balkan revolutions was the gradual growth among the oppressed races of the feeling that they would better their condition by throwing off the despotic Turkish rule and by organizing each separate race into a separate nation. Thus it was that the revolutions brought into existence a group of small states, each populated chiefly by one of the races inhabiting the Balkans.
Races in the Balkans. - There are more races represented in the Balkans than in any similar sized territory in Europe. Most of the Balkan states lie along what was the northeastern fringe of the Roman Empire. So we find inhabiting them not only ancient races like the Greeks and Albanians, but also descendants of
Roman colonists like the Roumanians, and other racial groups like the Serbs and Bulgars, which represent the survivals of the barbarian invasions of the Middle Ages. While the larger groups of invaders passed on to the west, these dropped out and moved southward into the Balkan peninsula, where their descendants still remain. We must not think that these are pure races. There has been much intermixture, and to-day all of the groups contain a strong Slavic element, although some are rather unwilling to admit it. There is besides a Turkish element in the population, as the result of the long period of Turkish rule, especially in those districts where many of the original inhabitants accepted Mohammedanism, as in Albania and Macedonia.
The Slavs. - The Serbs, a Slavic race, form the chief part of the population in Serbia and Montenegro, as well as in Bosnia and other parts of southern Austria-Hungary. Together with the Croats and Slovenes of southern Austria-Hungary, the Serbs are called the Jugo-Slavs (yoo'go-slavz) or South-Slays (jugo means "south") to distinguish them from the Czechs, Poles, and Russians of the north. There is, however, a strong feeling of relationship between these two great Slavic groups.
The Bulgars. - The Bulgars are descended from a non-Slavic race allied to the Tatars and Finns. They came into the Balkan region on the heels of some of the early migrations and seized the land now called Bulgaria; there, however, they mingled with the native~ Slavic
ple whom they conquered, and whose language they adopted. There are, besides, many Bulgarians in the Dobrud'ja - the district lying between the lower Danube and the Black Sea. Likewise in the province of Macedonia, the Bulgarians form the largest element in the population.
The Roumanians. - Roumania is the old Roman province of Dada, and the Roumanians claim to be _ descendants of colonists which the Romans sent into -that province as an outpost against invasion. It is
certain that the language spoken by the Roumanians is much like Latin, but, as a recent writer says, the language is closer to Latin than the Roumanians are to Romans -
The Albanians. - The Albanian people are descended 'from the most ancient of all the races in the Balkan peninsula; their language is the oldest language spoken in Europe. For centuries they were nominally subject to Turkey; but the Turks never really succeeded in conquering them, though many of the Albanians became Mohammedans.
The Greeks. Though the Greeks are descended in part from the people who inhabited their country in
o ancient times, and though they speak a modern form of the old Greek language, it is certain that the present inhabitants are a much mixed race. They are largely Slav, but hold a strong feeling for the great past of their country. This gives them an unusually strong national rallying point. In many ways the Greeks are the most progressive of the Balkan rapes.
Russia and Austria as Protectors of the Balkan Countries. - The struggle between the great powers as to which of them should become the heirs of "the sick man of Europe," as the Sultan of Turkey was long ago called, dates back about a century. Austria on account of her geographical position and her desire to expand to the southward, and Russia on account of her desire for Constantinople and the racial ties connecting her with the Balkan states, each hoped to be preferred. Both Austria and Russia, then, for more or less 'selfish reasons, were anxious to bring about 'the break-up of the Turkish Empire in Europe. Whenever a revolt against Turkish rule would break out, the revolutionists could almost always count on the help of one or the other of these nations.
Since the Slays and the Greeks bated each other, and both bated the Bulgarians,' there was sometimes a tendency for the Bulgarians and the Greeks to look to Austria or Germany for help, as a counterpoise to Russia's influence on behalf of the Slavic states. At one time, however, Russia gave great aid to Bulgaria. In all the twists and turns of Balkan politics we find Russia or Austria posing as protector of the rights of one or another of the Balkan states.
On the other hand, when all the Balkan states bordering Turkey put aside their rivalries and combined for an attack on Turkey in 1912, Germany and Austria gave what moral support they could to Turkey. Austria had no desire to see a strong league of the Balkan states
formed to the south of her, a league which would be largely under the influence of Russia.
German leaders had already formulated their dream of Mittel-Europa (Mid-Europe), a broad band of German-controlled territory extending to Turkey. With Turkey itself Germany made treaties which practically assured her control all the way to Bagdad. Germany had no desire either for a Balkan league, which would block her way, or for the defeat of Turkey, which might interfere with the carrying out of the treaties.
The Balkan War of 1912. - Turkish rule in Macedonia had become increasingly bad. Situated in the midst of three of the larger Balkan countries, it had representatives of each among its population. These countries put aside for the time being their jealousies of each other. In 1912 Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia, and Montenegro formed an alliance and presented a demand to Turkey that Macedonia should be made self-governing. Most of Europe believed that the German-trained army of the Turks would annihilate the armies of the smaller nations. But in a little over a month Turkey was beaten. Even Constantinople might have been taken had Bulgaria pursued the advantage gained by her troops. This time no nation protected Turkey, and the' treaty of peace left her with only a tiny bit of European territory and the city of Constantinople. Incidentally, Germany bad' lost much prestige, for Turkey bad fought the war with the help of German officers and with German encouragement, and had lost.
The Second Balkan War. - Unfortunately, the victors soon quarreled over the spoils. Bulgaria had seized Thrace and wanted most of Macedonia, including the city of Saloni'ca, which had been captured by the Greeks. Austria intervened to prevent Serbia from getting any increase in territory on the southwest, toward the Adriatic. Hence Serbia wanted a share of the lands to the south, claimed by Bulgaria. Bulgaria, backed by Austria and Germany, refused to make any concessions, or to leave the dispute to arbitration. She began the second Balkan war with a night attack on the Serbian and Greek armies, but was unable to defeat them. On the contrary Bulgaria was defeated within a month, partly because Roumania and Turkey also entered the struggle against her. Bulgaria bad to give up much of her conquests to her former allies. Roumania claimed a slice off her northeastern corner, and a Turkish army recaptured Adrianople and neighboring territory from the bard-pressed Bulgarians.
Loss of Prestige by Germany and Austria. - One of the important results of these two wars was the loss of prestige by Germany and Austria. These "Central Powers," as they were called, had gone out of their way to encourage first Turkey, and then Bulgaria, and both these countries had been badly beaten. In any future diplomacy the opinions and desires of the Central Powers would have less weight and impressiveness than formerly. To regain their lost influence it was practically certain that these nations would, at the earliest opportunity, make an attempt to impose their will upon the victorious Balkan states.
Suggestions for Study. -1. Locate Macedonia, the Dobrudja, Nish, Sofia, Durazzo. 2. Define and explain Mittel-Europa; "The sick man of Europe." 3. Which nations of the Balkan peninsula border upon the Black Sea? Which border upon the Adriatic? Which lie along the Danube? 4. On an outline map of the Balkan peninsula indicate the races to which the populations belong and their distribution. 5. We have read in this chapter that the old Roman province of Dacia developed later into modern Roumania; can you name the Roman provinces which correspond to the modern nations of France, Spain, England, Switzerland? 6. What do you know of the history of Constantinople prior to its capture by the Turks? 7. Explain the causes of the second Balkan war. How did the outcome of this war affect the history of the great European powers?
References. - War Cyclopedia (C. P. I.); Study of the Great War (C. P. I.); Davis, The Roots of Ike War; Hazen, Europe since 1918; and other general histories of recent Europe.