The Balkan Wars represent a historical period in Greece. Why are these wars so important? Why did it occur in the first place? Which countries are involved, and why? Moreover, what were the political, social, cultural and economic conditions of Greece back then?
The Balkan Wars consists of two battles that occurred from 1912 to 1913 (Papacosma 38). These wars were fought on the onset of the apparent decline of the Ottoman Empire, and were founded on the neighboring countries’ desire to divide the territories (Perry 487). In 1908, a group called the “Young Turks,” revolted in an effort to restore the empire, but to no avail (Perry 487). After the revolt, Bulgaria and Serbia both wanted to acquire a part in the Turkish territories in Europe, like Macedonia (Papacosma 38).
Thus, both countries agreed to a “treaty of mutual assistance” on March 13, 1912 (Papacosma 38). On May 29, 1912, Greece made an agreement with Bulgaria (Papacosma 38). In the latter part September of the same year, Montenegro also had an agreement with Bulgaria and Serbia (Papacosma 38). Thus, the Balkan League was formed; it consisted of Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece and Montenegro.
The first Balkan War occurred when the Balkan League waged war on Turkey on October 8, 1912 (Papacosma 38). The Balkan League was successful in their endeavor, and the Ottoman Empire was forced to surrender its European territories to the Balkan League on the grounds of the Treaty of London (Papacosma 38). This treaty was signed on May 30, 1913 (Papacosma 38).
Unfortunately, the division of the territories caused disagreement among the Balkan League (Perry 487). This disagreement was the reason for the second Balkan War. Bulgaria objected Greece and Serbia’s claims to Macedonia (Papacosma 38). On June 30, 1913, Bulgaria attacked its former allies (Papacosma 38). Soon after, Romania and Turkey joined forces with Greece and Serbia to fight Bulgaria (Papacosma 38). Bulgaria was badly defeated, and was forced to sign the Treaty of Bucharest, which removed all of Bulgaria’s newly acquired territories (Papacosma 38).
The overall condition of Greece during the period of the Balkan Wars was problematic. It was King George who governed Greece at that time, and as a result of the war, Thessaloniki became a Greek territory (Barrett). In March 1913, it was in Thessaloniki where King George was assassinated (Barrett). Constantine I assumed the throne soon after (Barrett). Then there was the presence of Eleftherios Venizelos, who became prime minister three years prior (Barrett).
Venizelos had many supporters, but it did not include the king (Barrett). Venizelos resigned on June 1913, and was elected again only to be forced to resign on October (Barrett). In Thessaloniki, Venizelos formed a “provisional government of the New Hellas” (Barrett). Meanwhile, King Constantine’s government was attacked by the French and British because they want Greece to join the war (Barrett). This forced the king to leave Greece, and was soon replaced by Alexander, the second son of George (Barrett).
The beginning of the 20th century found the navy of Greece in a poor state. At that time, Greece only had three battleships and several torpedo boats (Barrett). Fortunately, there was a battleship that the Italian navy purchased, but did not use (Barrett). Greece bought the said ship, and named it after George Averof, a rich patron (Barrett). This ship was extremely helpful during the Balkan Wars (Barrett).
Greek society was unstable as well. In 1912, villages were attacked and ransacked by the Turkish army (Barrett). Many Greeks were killed and properties were destroyed. The villages that were affected include those located in Didymotichon, Adrianopoli and Malgara (Barrett).
Hence, amidst social distress and political instability, Greece came to war to fight the Ottoman Empire. It was indeed victorious, not only in the war, but also in improving the current state that Greece was in.
Barrett, Matt. “Venizelos and the Asia Minor Catastrophe.” History of Greece. <http://www.ahistoryofgreece.com/venizelos.htm>.
Papacosma, S. Victor. “Balkan Wars.” Lexicon Universal Encyclopedia. New York: Lexicon Publications, Inc., 1992. 38.
Perry, Marvin. A History of the World. Revised ed. Boston Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1989.
Pounds, Norman. “Balkans.” Lexicon Universal Encyclopedia. New York: Lexicon Publications, Inc., 1992. 38.