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First Balkan War Essay

2517 words - 11 pages

The Balkan Crisis represents a series of tensions in the region that arose, in part, due to the decline of the Ottoman regime in Europe. This culminated in the 1908 annexation of Bosnia-Herzegovina by Austria-Hungary and the Balkan Wars preceding World War I. While not directly causing WWI, these events laid the foundations for disputes amongst the Great Powers as well as solidifying the existing Bismarckian alliance system. Furthermore, the competing nationalistic interests manifested themselves in the Balkan Wars which were largely a war for control of Macedonia, under the guise of liberation from Ottoman rule. The role of nationalism was not the traditionally espoused Serbian aggression, ...view middle of the document...

That is, the Balkan Wars were a three way nationalistic, propaganda-driven conflict to control Macedonia, where Greece, Serbia and Bulgaria all claimed a right to Macedonia on the basis of historical arguments. As Hale succinctly surmised, “Nationalism is most frequently cited as a force impelling Europe towards war in 1914.”
The issue of nationalism is particularly complicated in a region like the Balkans due to its history and geography. The alluvial plains along the river basins and maritime coastlands fostered contacts with both the east and west, whilst communities in the rugged terrain of the Dinaric highlands have had a tendency toward cultural isolationism. Consequently, the Balkans has always been politically and culturally heterogeneous. However, the advent of Ottoman rule eradicated the existing political structure, instead imposing the religious “millet system”. Hence, the period of the Balkan Crisis illustrates a growing ethnic identity, or what has been termed a “re-awakening” of the populace, to gradually replace the imposed religious identity people held. That said, the “Macedonian Question” was a particularly important issue for the nationalistic governments in Greece, Bulgaria and Serbia. To gain support of the natives who were ethnically diverse, they mobilised mass propaganda and terrorism, from the viewpoint of linguistic, cultural or religious affinity, which the new monarchies aimed to share with the heterogeneous, yet largely parochially minded Macedonian population. This Balkan scenario was coupled with a complicated system of alliances and self interest amongst the European “Great Powers”. Certainly the Russian Empire had particular interest in the region for a long time, and had been frustrated by the western powers’ insistence on propping up the decrepit Ottoman Empire. Russia’s self-interest was promoted by both real, and an apparent, atmosphere of Pan-Slavism amongst the Slavs, who formed the ethno-linguistic majority in the Balkans. The Russian cause was furthered by their image as the Champions of Orthodoxy, thereby attempting to extend influence to Romania and Greece, and the modelling of Moscow as a “Third Rome”. In direct opposition to this was the Austro-Hungarian Empire which had a long established hegemony over Croatia and Slovenia, and wished to expand its influence in the region, especially in Bosnia-Herzegovina to replace the “old, sick” Turkish rule. This also put Austria at odds with its former, albeit intermittent ally, Serbia. The new kingdom believed that all southern Slavs should be independent of foreign rule and united as one, Serb-led, country. Austria-Hungary’s ally had little interest in the region, however, its ultra-militaristic and nationalistic regimen viewed war as a necessity. Concurrently, it has been argued, the Third French Republic’s anti-German education system was geared towards indoctrinating an entire generation ready to fight and regain Alsace-Lorraine, which was lost in...

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