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?h? anniversary of staring the Balkan War (1912-13)

?h? anniversary of staring the Balkan War (1912-13)

10/5/2008 3:00:07 PM

Tensions among the Balkan states over their rival aspirations to the provinces of Ottoman-occupied Roumelia, namely Eastern Roumelia, Thrace and Macedonia, subsided somewhat following intervention by the Great Powers in the mid-19th century, aimed at securing both fuller protection for the provinces' Christian majority and protection of the status quo.

But the question of the viability of Ottoman rule was revived after the Young Turk Revolution of July 1908 compelled the Sultan to restore the suspended Ottoman constitution, and the significant developments in the years 1909-1911.

Serbia's aspirations towards Bosnia-Herzegovina were thwarted by the Austrian annexation of the province in October 1908, and so the Serbs focused their attention onto their historic cradle, Kosovo and the south for expansion. Greek officers, revolting in August 1909, had secured the appointment of a progressive government under Eleftherios Venizelos which they hoped would resolve the Cretan issue in Greece's favour and reverse their defeat of 1897 by the Ottomans. Bulgaria, widely perceived as the strongest Balkan state, which had secured Ottoman recognition of her independence in April 1909 and enjoyed the friendship of Russia, also looked to districts of Ottoman Thrace and Macedonia for expansion. In March 1910, an Albanian insurrection broke out in Kosovo. In August 1910, Montenegro followed Bulgaria's precedent by becoming a kingdom.

In 1911, Italy launched an invasion of Tripolitania, which was quickly followed by the occupation of the Dodecanese Islands. The Italians' decisive military victories over the Ottoman Empire greatly influenced the Balkan states to prepare for war against Turkey. Thus in the spring of 1912, consultations between the various Christian Balkan nations resulted in a network of military alliances which became known as the Balkan League.

The Great Powers, most notably France and Austria-Hungary, reacted to this diplomatic sensation by trying to dissuade the League from going to war, but failed. In late September, both the League and the Ottoman Empire mobilized their armies. Montenegro was the first to declare war, on September 25 (O.S.)/October 8. The other three states, after issuing an impossible ultimatum to the Porte on October 13, declared war on Turkey on October 17.

Order of battle and plans

The four allies had not laid out any overall plan or made any attempt to coordinate. Instead, the war was to be conducted by each state individually, and thus it can be separated in four geographically defined fronts. Bulgarians faced the bulk of the Turkish forces in Thrace, that protected the routes to Constantinople; Serbians and Montenegrins operated in Kosovo and northern Macedonia and Albania; the Greeks operated in southern Macedonia to take Salonika and in Epirus to take Ioanina.


Bulgaria, often dubbed "Prussia of the Balkans",[1] was militarily the most powerful of the four states, with a large, well-trained and well-equipped army. The power of the Bulgarians was lying also in their bravery and longing to finally get back their homeland. For this reason it is not a surprise that over 32 000 Bulgarians lost their lives - the largest death toll during this war. Bulgaria mobilized a little over 600,000 men, out of which 370,000 took part in the capmaign against the Ottoman Empire. The Bulgarian field army counted for 11 infantry divisions, 1 cavalry division and 1116 artillery units. Commander-in-chief was the king Tsar Ferdinand. Actually the army was commanded by the talented deputy commander-in-chief general Michail Savov. The Bulgarians also possessed a small navy of six torpedo boats, which were restricted to operations along the country's Black Sea coast.

Bulgaria's war aims were focused on Thrace and Macedonia, and although the latter would have to be partitioned with Serbia and Greece, the Bulgarians still hoped to seize most of it, including the important city of Salonica. But they deployed their main force in Thrace, forming three armies. 1st Army, under General Vasil Kutinchev with 3 infantry divisions, was deployed to the south of Yambol, with direction of operations along the Tundzha river. 2nd Army, under General Nikola Ivanov, with 2 infantry divisions and 1 infantry brigade, was deployed west of 1st Army and was assigned to capture the strong fortress of Odrin (Edirne). According to the plan for the war 3rd Army, under General Radko Dimitriev, was deployed east of and behind 1st Army, and was covered by the cavalry division, which hid it from Turkish command. 3rd Army had 3 infantry divisions and was assigned to cross the Stranja mountain and to take the fortress of Lozengrad Kirk Kilisse. 2nd and 7th divisions were assigned independent roles, operating in Western Thrace and eastern Macedonia respectively. Vievo is an example of a village from which the Muslim Turks were driven by the Bulgarian militia.


Serbia called upon ca. 220,000 men, grouped in 10 infantry divisions and two independent brigades, under the effective command of former War Minister Radomir Putnik. The Serbian High Command, in its pre-war wargames, had concluded that the likeliest site of the decisive battle against the Turkish Vardar Army would be on the Ovče Polje plateau, before Skopje. Hence, the main forces were formed in three armies for the advance towards Skopje, while a division and an independent brigade were to cooperate with the Montenegrins in the Sanjak of Novi Pazar.

The First Army was commanded by Crown Prince Alexander, and was the strongest in number and force, forming the center of the drive towards Skopje. The Second Army was commanded by General Stepa Stepanović, and consisted of one Serbian and one Bulgarian (7th Rila) division. It formed the left wing of the Army and advanced towards Stracin. The inclusion of a Bulgarian division was according to a pre-war arrangement between Serbian and Bulgarian army commanders, but that division ceased to obey orders of Gen. Stepanović as soon as the war began, and followed only the orders of the Bulgarian High Command. The Third Army was commanded by General Božidar Janković and, being the right-wing army, had the task to liberate Kosovo and then join the other armies in the expected battle at the Ovče Polje.


Greece was considered the weakest of the three main allies, since it had suffered a humiliating defeat against the Ottomans in 1897, and was not expected to contribute decisively against the Turkish army. It was able to field only ca. 120,000 men, 80,000 of which took part in the war. However Greece had a strong navy, which was vital to the League, as only it could prevent Turkish reinforcements from being rapidly transferred by ship from Asia to Europe.

The army, recently reorganized by a French military mission, was grouped upon mobilization in two Armies. The "Army of Thessaly", under Crown Prince Constantine, with Lt Gen Panagiotis Danglis as his chief of staff, fielded 7 infantry divisions, a cavalry brigade and 4 independent Evzones battalions, equalling roughly 100,000 men. It was expected to overcome the fortified Turkish border positions and advance towards western and central Macedonia, aiming to take Salonica.

Further 10,000 to 13,000 men in eight battalions, were assigned to the "Army of Epirus" under Lt Gen Konstantinos Sapountzakis, which was intended to advance into Epirus. As it had no hope of capturing its heavily fortified capital, Ioannina, its initial mission was simply to occupy the Turkish forces there until sufficient reinforcements could be sent from the Army of Thessaly after its successful conclusion of operations. The Greek Navy, in the meantime, was expected to seize the islands of the Aegean Sea that were still under Ottoman rule and secure naval supremacy. The "Fleet of the Aegean", under Rear Admiral Pavlos Kountouriotis, was assiged this task, and deployed three ageing battleships, the brand-new cruiser Averof and seven destroyers. Small task forces of destroyers and torpedo boats were assigned to scour the Aegean and Ionian seas of small Ottoman vessels. Greece joined with Serbia.


After completing mobilization in the first week of October, Montenegro fielded 35,000 men organized in four divisions, each of three brigades. Their nominal commander-in-chief was King Nicholas, with effective command in the hands of his chief of staff, General Lazarović. The main war aim was the capture of the important city of Skadar, while secondary operations were to be carried out in Novi Pazar.

Ottoman Empire

Ottoman war aims were to protect what European possessions they could from the forces allied against them. The Ottomans' military capabilities were hampered by instability caused by the Young Turk Revolution and the counter revolutionary coup several months later (see Countercoup (1909) and 31 March Incident). Ottoman forces in Thrace and Macedonia were poorly paid and equipped due to the turmoil and furthermore had been subject to attacks from partisans funded by all three of the young Balkan states. Although the soldiers of the Ottoman Empire were vastly outnumered, their strengths were indeed remarkably outmatched. Their precision in strengths were deadly accurate.


info: Wikipedia

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