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Background on Balkan Area:
“The Balkans” refers to an area in Eastern Europe. Although originally part of the
, each nationalist state/group was “agitated for religious toleration and self-government” (
2). After defeated by Russia in 1878, Turkey was forced to sign the , which gave Bulgaria virtual independence, Serbia and Romania additional territory, and Russian and Austro-Hungarian supervision of the reforms in Bosnia-Herzegovina. Although this momentarily suppressed the chaos of the region, Britain and Austria-Hungary believed the gave Russia too much power in the Balkan region.
Due to this, Bismarck held an international congress in Berlin, where the maintained Russia’s territorial gains, ensured the independence of Serbia, Montenegro and Romania, and placed Bosnia-Herzegovina under the “exclusive administration” (
3) of Austria-Hungary. The remaining issue was Bulgaria, whose territory was turned into an “autonomous principality of the
3) to further preserve Ottoman power. After this “Bulgarian Crisis,” (
4) it was clear that the Balkan problem “revolved around nationalist demands for self-determination, the gradual decline of Ottoman rule, and the designs of Russia and Austria-Hungary” (
It was becoming increasingly obvious that the Balkan region was a “labyrinth of ethnic tensions, nationalist groups, and great power rivalry” (
11). Because all nationalist groups were determined to break free from Ottoman rule, the European powers constantly worried who would benefit from the creation of these new nations. In the Balkan region in 1897, Romania, Greece, and Montenegro were independent, Turkey influenced Macedonia and Albania, and Turkey was in a state of turmoil. In 1908, the “” movement demanded liberal reforms in Turkey. After a series of problems arose in the early 1900s, two Balkan wars thoroughly changed the area.
The was prompted when Serbia sought to create a “Balkan coalition” (
12) by creating the in 1912. This League consisted of Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Montenegro. The overall goal of this coalition was to force the Turks out of the Balkans. The coalition declared war in October 1912 and a “swift victory” (
12) drove the Turks out of most of the Balkan region. During this war, the European powers did not intervene, yet wanted to help with the peace settlement upon the end of the war. held a convention in London to ensure that the decisions were satisfactory. The in 1913 gave Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece almost all of the European territory of the
except Albania. This treaty “enraged” (
13) Serbia because it wanted control of this territory due to its desire of an Adriatic port. Because Bulgaria was also enraged by the negotiations, the fell apart.
The began in 1913 when Bulgaria attacked Serbia. This action forced Greece, Romania, and Turkey to declare war on Bulgaria. When Bulgaria was defeated in less than a month, the of 1913 gave Serbia Macedonian land from Bulgaria. Although they gained more land, the Serbians were still denied of an Adriatic port because of Austrian and German pressures. The in 1913 gave Turkey Adrianople and other Bulgarian territory.
The two Balkan wars forced the decline of the in Europe, which lost most of its territory in Europe. Although
was virtually ruined and Bulgaria ended up “isolated and severely weakened” (
13), Greece and Serbia gained power. At the end of the war, Austria-Hungary was weakened and needed help from Germany. Russia, however, was strengthened with Serbian support and was viewed as a major threat in the region.
The July Crisis of 1914 and the Outbreak of War:
During July of 1914, the Archduke and heir to the Hapsburg throne, , visited
with his wife. On July 28, a “” (a nationalist group from Bosnia) shot and killed the archduke and his wife. Because a “pro-Serb group known as the ‘
15) gave the rebel the gun, Austria blamed Serbia for the assassination. Because Austria was a relatively weak empire, they asked of Germany for support. The Kaiser and the chancellor,
, decided to fully support Austria and to provide them with a “blank cheque” with which they could initiate a war with Serbia. Shortly thereafter, Austria issued an
to the Serbian government. Because the Serbians only accepted 9/10 demands, Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914. When Austria-Hungary refused to withdraw its troops from Serbia, Russia was forced to mobilize her troops. Once these two major powers were mobilized, the other powers were forced to join in due to the alliance system.
The Balkans and their Influence on European Powers:
Russia and the Balkans:
· Russia always thought it was a “member of the Slav race,” so
(the union of all Slavs) was very important to the Russians.
· Russia’s interest was “based on economic and cultural reasons” (Pre-war Crises)
· The Tsar signed a strong Russo-Serb military alliance in 1903.
· Russia became angry when the annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908.
· Russia continuously “drew closer” to Serbia because Austria-Hungary provoked Serb resentment.
· Russia mobilized on behalf of Serbia when Austria-Hungary declared war on Serbia in 1914.
Austria-Hungary and the Balkans:
· Austro-Hungarian interest in the Balkans was “based on political reason” (Pre-war Crises).
· The Annexed Bosnia-Herzegovina in 1908.
· The saw Serbia as a “major nuisance in the Balkans” (
13) and was “determined to thwart its territorial ambitions” (
· The thought controlling Balkan nations would prevent its collapse, as it was an empire in decline.
· The Archduke and heir to the Hapsburg throne, , was shot and killed in Sarajevo by a Bosnian nationalist, who was supported by Serbia, in 1914.
· Austria-Hungary gave Serbia an
ultimatum containing 10 demands
· Austria-Hungary, backed by Germany, declared war on Serbia on July 28, 1914, which lead to the outbreak of WWI.
Germany and the Balkans:
· Germany was interested in the Balkan region for “both economic and cultural reasons” (Pre-war Crises).
· Germany wanted “cheap raw materials, a populous market, and a large field for profitable investment” (Pre-war Crises) from the Balkans.
· Germany built the to connect its territory with the Persian Gulf.
· Germany gave Austria-Hungary its full support and a blank cheque when Austria-Hungary decided to issue the ultimatum and eventually declare war on Serbia.
Britain and the Balkans:
· Sir Edward Grey held a conference in London in 1913 after the First Balkan War, where the Treaty of London was signed.
· Sir Edward Grey proposed another conference in London after the ultimatum was issued, but the Germans and Austro-Hungarians denied the offer.
· On August 4, 1914, Britain declared war on Germany after they violated international law.
France and the Balkans:
· Originally, France was not involved in Balkan problems.
· After meeting with the Russian government, of France decided to fully support Russia in “resisting any attempt by Austria-Hungary to threaten the independence of Serbia” (
o This French support of Russia is often called the second “blank cheque.”
· France warned Russia not to provoke Germany.
· Due to the , once Russia mobilized against Austria-Hungary, France was forced to mobilize as well.
The Origins of the First and Second World Wars
. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 2001. 1-16.
"Pre-war Crises." The Corner. 2007.
Other Helpful Links about the Balkan Problem:
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