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Balkan states prepare for new war
The tensions in the Balkan region are colourfully captured in this cartoon from Christmas 1912 by the artist Udo J. Keppler Photo: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

Balkan states prepare for new war

Troops mass at borders as relations deteriorate

Published: 11 June 1913

Reports from Sofia say that the Bulgarian government has mobilized large numbers of soldiers to villages near the borders with Serbia and Greece. More than 20,000 men marched across the Orliako Bridge that crosses the River Strunia. In Serbia, the Crown Prince reviewed up to 100,000 soldiers in expectation of war.

The deterioration in relations between the former allies is rooted in a dispute over control of territory in Macedonia and in enduring ethnic tensions in the region. Although Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro and Serbia now stand independent from the Ottoman Empire, the borders between these countries have never satisfactorily been settled.

War in October last year saw those countries unite as the Balkan League to attack the Ottoman Empire.  Seven months of fighting were ended with the effective removal of Ottoman power in the Balkans for the first time in 500 years.

The Treaty of London, which marked the end of the war, was brokered by Sir Edward Grey, the British Foreign Secretary, but was subject to profound criticism even by those who signed up to it.

The Balkan war that was ‘practically over’ at the end of April is set to reignite in early June 1913 (Punch, 23 April 1913).

The chief Montenegrin delegate, M. Popovitch said in London: ‘We have signed because nothing else remained for us to do. We are glad to have peace, but we are profoundly dissatisfied with the terms upon which we have been obliged to accept it. After a successful war we have been despoiled of the fruits of our victories. We have been made the whipping-dog of Europe.’

Montenegrin discontent is shared by Bulgarians, though for entirely different reasons: Bulgaria was expecting to gain control of most of Macedonia. An agreement between Serbia and Greece has undercut Bulgarian ambitions, however, and war now appears imminent despite Russian attempts to broker a deal.

Railway communications between the countries has been stopped and farmers working the land along the disputed frontiers have been ordered not to cross the border by Serbian authorities.


Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.