Prev | Next | Contents


CAUSES OF THE FIRST BALKAN WAR

What was the occasion of the war between Turkey and the Balkan states in 1912? The most general answer that can be given to that question is contained in the one word Macedonia. Geographically Macedonia lies between Greece, Servia, and Bulgaria. Ethnographically it is an extension of their races. And if, as Matthew Arnold declared, the primary impulse both of individuals and of nations is the tendency to expansion, Macedonia both in virtue of its location and of its population was foreordained to be a magnet to the emancipated Christian nations of the Balkans. Of course the expansion of Greeks and Slavs meant the expulsion of Turks. Hence the Macedonian question was the quintessence of the Near Eastern Question.

But apart altogether from the expansionist ambitions and the racial sympathies of their kindred in Bulgaria, Servia, and Greece, the population of Macedonia had the same right to emancipation from Turkish domination and oppression as their brethren in these neighboring states. The Moslems had forfeited their sovereign rights in Europe by their unutterable incapacity to govern their Christian subjects. Had the Treaty of Berlin sanctioned, instead of undoing, the Treaty of San Stefano, the whole of Macedonia would have come under Bulgarian sovereignty; and although Servia and especially Greece would have protested against the Bulgarian absorption of their Macedonian brethren (whom they had always hoped to bring under their own jurisdiction when the Turk was expelled) the result would certainly have been better for all the Christian inhabitants of Macedonia as well as for the Mohammedans (who number 800,000 persons or nearly one third of the entire population of Macedonia). As it was these, people were all doomed to a continuation of Turkish misgovernment, oppression, and slaughter. The Treaty of Berlin indeed provided for reforms, but the Porte through diplomacy and delay frustrated all the efforts of Europe to have them put into effect. For fifteen years the people waited for the fulfilment of the European promise of an amelioration of their condition, enduring meanwhile the scandalous misgovernment of Abdul Hamid II. But after 1893 revolutionary societies became active. The Internal Organization was a local body whose programme was "Macedonia for the Macedonians." But both in Bulgaria and in Greece there were organized societies which sent insurgent bands into Macedonia to maintain and assert their respective national interests. This was one of the causes of the war between Turkey and Greece in 1897, and the reverses of the Greeks in that war inured to the advantage of the Bulgarian propaganda in Macedonia. Servian bands soon after began to appear on the scene. These hostile activities in Macedonia naturally produced reprisals at the hands of the Turkish authorities. In one district alone 100 villages were burned, over 8,000 houses destroyed, and 60,000 peasants left without homes at the beginning of winter. Meanwhile the Austrian and Russian governments intervened and drew up elaborate schemes of reform, but their plans could not be adequately enforced and the result was failure. The Austro-Russian entente came to an end in 1908, and in the same year England joined Russia in a project aiming at a better administration of justice and involving more effective European supervision. Scarcely had this programme been announced when the revolution under the Young Turk party broke out which promised to the world a regeneration of the Ottoman Empire. Hopeful of these constitutional reformers of Turkey, Europe withdrew from Macedonia and entrusted its destinies to its new master. Never was there a more bitter disappointment. If autocratic Sultans had punished the poor Macedonians with whips, the Young Turks flayed them with scorpions.

Sympathy, indignation, and horror conspired with nationalistic aspirations and territorial interests to arouse the kindred populations of the surrounding states. And in October, 1912, war was declared against Turkey by Bulgaria, Servia, Montenegro, and Greece.



Prev | Next | Contents