Massacres in the Balkans
Eight members of the Turkish cavalry on horseback with flags ca. 1913. Reports from Bulgaria claim that Turkish troops have committed a series of atrocities in the country Photo: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C., USA

Massacres in the Balkans

Turkish troops accused of committing atrocities in Bulgaria

Published: 30 July 1913

Violence in the Balkans continues to worsen, as reports from Bulgaria claim that Turkish troops have committed a series of atrocities in the country.

There are claims that people living in Adrianople were ‘seized with panic’ and attempted to flee following the entry of the Turkish army who ‘committed the most indescribable excesses.’

There are also allegations from the town of Kirk Kilisse that Turkish troops massacred the inhabitants after the withdrawal of the Bulgarian army.

As the Turkish army advanced, it is also reported that ‘women were maltreated everywhere’ and that the villages of Lizghear, Kalivria, Kadikeny and many others were destroyed.

King Ferdinand of Bulgaria sent for representatives of the Great Powers to attend his palace in Sofia. He complained that the Turkish army had invaded Bulgarian territory and was spreading panic.

He said: ‘In the distress in which the Bulgarian nation finds itself, I appeal to the representatives of civilisation to put an end to the sufferings of a people fleeing before the return of their old oppressors.’

The success of the Turkish army in pushing the Bulgarian army out of the district of Thrace – and the allegations of brutality that have come with it – has undermined, and in some cases reversed the gains made by the Bulgarians in the previous war in the region.

The behaviour of Bulgarian soldiers during these earlier hostilities may serve as a possible explanation for the severity of the Turks this time around. Previously, when the Bulgarians seized towns and villages in Thrace they were accused of ruthlessly pillaging Muslim villages and slaughtering their inhabitants, while sparing Christian ones.

Initially, Turkish troops are believed to have behaved well, with just isolated reports of reprisals. Despite stringent orders from the Turkish government however, these reports became more and more frequent. As one observer asked: ‘What can instructions avail with men whose blood is inflamed by countless stories of Bulgarian savagery and who in many cases are actually led by refugees belonging to the district, whose homes have been burnt and their families scattered and exterminated.’

Meanwhile, attempts to broker a suspension of hostilities are continuing in Bucharest, the Romanian capital, where delegates are attending a Peace Conference. The conflict between Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia has further exacerbated concerns amongst the Great Powers about violence in the region.

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