The Balkan Issue

The Balkan issue arose from the decline of the Ottoman Empire from the late 17th century and the power vacuum it created. Overlapping spheres of interest of the Great Powers and local nationalism made the Balkans a powder keg once central Europe became a power center with the unification of Italy and Germany in 1871.


The new national states in the Balkans are:
1) Greece in 1829
2) Serbia, Montenegro, Rumania in 1878
3) Bulgaria in 1885
4) Albania in 1913

Four series of conflicts in the Balkans marked the end of the Ottoman Empire in Europe:

1) The Bulgarian Crisis and the Russo-Turkish War (1877)

Nationalist uprisings in the Balkans (Bosnia/Herzegovina in 1875, the Serbo-Turkish War of 1876) were supported by Russia resulting in Russian victory, territorial gains of Russia, and the formation of a large Bulgarian state in the Treaty of San Stefano (March 1878).
To revoke the results of this treaty, the Great Powers summoned a conference to Berlin in June 1878 which resulted in

2) The Bulgarian Crisis (1885-87)

When Bulgarian nationalists established stronger links to Austria, the relations with Russia deteriorated (in 1883 Russian ministers and advisers were forced to resign, a liberal constitution was adopted, Bulgaria was to become a link in the planned Orient railway). In 1885 nationalists in Eastern Rumelia rose and demanded a merge with Bulgaria.

3) The Bosnian Annexation Crisis (1908)

The Bosnian annexation crisis became the “dress rehearsal” for 1914. After the military defeat in the Far East against Japan in 1904 Russia intensified its pressure in Europe. Austria's relations with Serbia deteriorated after the fall of a pro Austrian Obrenovich regime and its replacement by the pro Russian Karageorgevich regime in 1903, resulting in a short war between the two in 1905.

Austria saw two solutions to the Balkan problem:

Austria and Russia negotiated over their spheres of influence in the Balkans. As a result, Russia was to get the Straits while Austria was to annex Bosnia/Herzegovina. The crises mounted when Austria acted before Russia did. Russia, humiliated, pressured Serbia with aspirations to the territories to acknowledge the fait accompli, but decided not to let happen a similar thing again and began to prepare for war.

4) The Balkan Wars (1912/13)

An attempt at territorial aggrandizement of the new national states in the Balkans.