Carnegie Endowment for International peace
Report ... to inquire into the causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars

The Origin of the Two Balkan Wars

1. The ethnography and national aspirations of the Balkans

It is not proposed in this chapter to enter exhaustively into a question on which there is a highly abundant literature already in existence, both in the various European and Balkan languages. The intention is simply to furnish the data indispensable to the reader who is interested in the work done by the Commission, though unfamiliar with the details of the questions at issue in the Balkan peninsula. Every page of the Report handles such a mass of ideas, facts and dates, which, though supposed to be generally known, are in fact not so, that it seemed impossible to plunge the reader at once in medias res. Those more familiar with things in the East may begin the Report at the next Chapter.

The actual course of events in the Balkans is a very close reproduction of the conditions existing previous to the arrival of the Turks in Europe. Then, as now, the Christian States were engaged in constant internecine strife for hegemony in the peninsula. Victory both in the tenth and again in the thirteenth century was with the Bulgarian State, which though still primitive in organization owed its temporary ascendancy to the conquests of a military chief.

Then in the twelfth and fourteenth centuries came the turn of the conquering Servians. Intermittently, the Byzantine Emperors recovered their preponderance in the peninsula. The various peoples who had occupied the different regions from the third to the sixth century, A. D. (the indigenous population, Greek Albanian, or Roumanian having been either driven out or assimilated) served only to swell the armies or figure in the imposing titles assumed by the autocrats of all these, Servians, Greeks, Bulgarians, Albanians, conjoined in a sort of Imperial organization, a "Great Servia" or "Great Bulgaria." The collapse of these ephemeral "Great" States produced no change in the ethnographic composition of the peninsula. Political structures fell and rose again without any attempt being made to fuse the populations into any sort of national whole. At that stage indeed the national idea was not as now closely connected with the State idea. The Bulgar, the Servian, the Wallachian, the Albanian remained Bulgarian, Servian, Wallachian or Albanian, throughout all the successive regimes; and thus the ancient ethnographic composition remained unaltered until the Turkish conquest came, leveling all the nationalities and preserving them all alike in a condition of torpor, in a manner comparable to the action of a vast refrigerator.

Even if the political constructions which followed one another and which were actually in conflict with one another at the advent of the Turks, had con-


tained in them the germs of nationalities, the Turkish regime would have ruthlessly stamped them out. The Turks unconsciously worked for their destruction in the most effective possible way. They banished or assimilated the ruling class, that is to say the warrior class, in the conquered countries. In the communes there remained no one but the village agriculturists, whose only ethical bond was that of religion. Here again the Turkish regime did much to reduce the ethnic and national significance of the religious element to its lowest terms. The religion of all the conquered nationalities being the same, i. e., Oriental orthodoxy, the Turks ended by recognizing only one clergy as representative of the rayas (creeds), the one chosen being the Greek clergy, the most cultivated and in the capital (Constantinople) the most prominent. The Phanar (the Greek quarter of Constantinople in which the Greek patriarchate is situated), finally became the sole orthodox church in Turkey; the last remains of the national autonomous churches which still existed at Okhrida (for the Bulgarians) and at Ipek (for the Servians) being abolished by the decrees of the Greek patriarchate of 1765 and 1767 respectively. Consequently, a common race name was given to the orthodox populations in the official language of the Turkish bureaucracy: they were all "Roimi-mileti," from the name, Romaics, of the Greek people. (This is the name the modern Greeks gave themselves down to recent times.)

Nevertheless, although the people were thus merged and submerged, national consciousness was not completely obliterated. There was always a certain discontent between the pastors and their flocks. The latter could not forget that they had formerly heard mass celebrated in their national language by a priest whom they chose themselves and whose interests were not limited to taxes and state service. The Greek priest, on his side, was expatriated in the midst of a Slav population; it was humiliating for a lover of the muses to dwell in a barbarian world, in the midst of "wearers of sheep skins." The conditions being so, any favorable circumstance, any spark from outside, would be enough to re-light 'the flame of nationality.

It is impossible in this too brief sketch to follow in detail the course of the reawakening of the national idea in the Balkans. It goes back to the earliest days of the Turkish conquest. The Servians and Roumanians, the last to be subdued by the Turks, were the first to claim their autonomy. What especially favored the development of national consciousness among the Servians was the large proportion of their race which had remained outside the Ottoman conquest. Even apart from the Servians on the Adriatic, who had been open to the influences of Italian literature since the sixteenth century, those in Austria Hungary had tasted European civilization long before the Servians in Turkey. Ragusa first, and afterwards Agram (in Slav "Zagreb") were intellectual centers of the Servian nation before Belgrade.

In Servia proper the struggle for independence preceded the intellectual development of the nation. While our Commission was in Belgrade a monument


was erected, in honor of the first liberator of Servia, the founder of the present dynasty, Kara-Georges, who more than a century ago (1804) organized the first resistance offered by the people to its Turkish masters. In the year 1813 the first insurrection was defeated; Kara-Georges fled to Austria, and was killed in 1817. But a new leader had already appeared in the person of the founder of the second Servian dynasty,-recently extinguished with Alexander and Draga, namely Michel Obrenovits, the son of a peasant, like Kara-Georges. The second insurrection, with Michel at its head, was more successful than the first. The convention of Akkerman (1826) secured Servia a sort of autonomy under Russian protectorate, and the Hatticherif of 1829 confirmed and completed the act by making Servia a hereditary principality under the Sultan's suzerainty. A year later another Hatticherif gave the Servians the right to establish primary schools; and by 1836 there were seventy-two of these in the principality.

Greece, at the other extremity of the peninsula, had closely followed Servia's example. There, too, effort at national revival outside the country went on contemporaneously with the endeavors at revolt on which the wild mountaineers ventured from time to time. These mountaineers are known by the picturesque appellation of "thieves" (Klephtai, patriotic thieves, in distinction to lestai, brigands pure and simple).

The liberty of Greece proclaimed by the national assembly at Epidaurus was not recognized until the Act of February 3, 1830. Then the bases of national civilization asserted since 1814 by members of the Philiki Heteria were formally laid down. We have already seen that thanks to the energy of the Phanar clergy, the Greek schools had maintained not existence merely but vitality, despite the Turkish rule, and sent out generations of educated Greeks.

This was not the fate of the countries in the interior - Bulgaria and Macedonia. It is true that the first indications of national consciousness appeared early, in the course of the eighteenth century. Down to 1840 they went on spreading in proportion to the increasing influence of foreign civilization (in the present case, of Russian civilization). It was not until 1852, however, that the first national Bulgarian school appeared, at Tirnovo. At the close of this period a movement in the direction of religious independence made itself felt. From 1860 on, a most bitter conflict broke out between the heads of the Bulgarian community at Constantinople and the Greek patriarchate, religion and nationality being identified on either side. Since Greek nationalism constituted a political danger for Turkey, while the Bulgarians had as yet formulated no political claim, their chiefs rather piquing themselves on their loyalty towards the Sultan, the Turkish authorities began to take sides against the Greeks in this national strife, and finally conceded to the Bulgarians the establishment of a national church subject to purely formal recognition of the patriarchal supremacy. This was the beginning of the Bulgarian exarchy, officially recognized by the Firman of 1870.

The Greeks, however, would not admit their defeat. The patriarch refused


to accept the firman. The Bulgarians, supported by the Turks, retorted by electing their first exarch and making formal proclamation (May 11, 1872) of the independence of their church. Thereupon the patriarch, four months later, excommunicated the new church and declared it schismatic. This too hasty step served only to assist the Bulgarian cause. The Bulgarians having now secured what they desired, i. e; a church wholly independent of the Greeks and thoroughly national, both in its head and its members, proceeded to fix the dioceses of the new church. Some of these dioceses were actually enumerated in the firman: the exarchies of Bulgaria today; others, which were also to form part of the national church, were in accordance with Article 10 of the firman to be fixed by a vote of the population. [article X of the Firman of March 11, 1870. * * * "If the whole orthodox population or at least two-thirds thereof, desire to establish an exarchy for the control of their spiritual affairs in localities other than those indicated above, and this desire be clearly established, they may be permitted to do as they wish. Such permission, however, may only be accorded with the consent or upon the request of the whole population, or at least two-thirds thereof.] Accordingly the exarchate took a plebiscite, as laid down in Article 11, beginning with the provinces of Uskub and Okhrida. Since a more than two-thirds majority there declared against the Patriarch the Porte gave its berat (investiture) to the Bulgarian Bishops of Uskub and Okhrida.

But Okhrida and Uskub are Macedonian. The question of Macedonia had thus definitely arisen. It is true that before 1873 the Greeks had already contended for this region with the Slavs. But it had not yet occurred to the Slavs (Servians and Bulgarians) to dispute about it among themselves. The young radicals in Servia and Bulgaria who between 1860 and 1870 disseminated the notion of a Southern Slav Federation, accepted the proposition that the populations of Thrace and Macedonia were as Bulgarian as those of Bulgaria, as a settled fact, traditionally established. The Bulgarian publicist, Liouben Karavelov, wrote the following in 1869-70:

The Greeks show no interest in knowing what kind of people live in such a country as Macedonia. It is true that they say that the country formerly belonged to the Greeks and therefore ought to belong to them again * * * But we are in the nineteenth century and historical and canonical rights have lost all significance. Every people, like every individual, ought to be free and every nation has the right to live for itself. Thrace and Macedonia ought then to be Bulgarian since the people who live there are Bulgarians.

And his friend the Servian Vladimir Yovanovits on his side, regarded Bosnia, Herzegovina and Metchia as the only Servian lands in Turkey, that is Old Servia in the most limited sense of the term, which shows that he accepted the view of Macedonia as Bulgarian.

Yet there existed in Servia at this epoch a section of nationalist opinion which declared that Old Servia included the whole of Macedonia and claimed it as having


formed part of the "Great" Servia of the time of Douchan the Strong. These Servian nationalists did not confine themselves to polemics in the press: they began to organize schools in Macedonia, where the Servian masters were instructed to teach in literary Servian and employ text books written in Belgrade. Mr. Miloyevits, one of the leaders of this movement, tells us that in 1865 there was only one school in Macedonia proper founded by the Servians; in 1866 there were already as many as six; in 1867, 32; in 1868, 42. From that time on the Servian government became interested in these schools and began subsidizing them. The Macedonian population on the other hand received the schools willingly. Were not the schoolmasters Slavs who had come to Macedonia to fight the Greek influence? Soon, however, it appeared that the Servian teachers were there to carry on propaganda for their nationality. The Bulgarian press was roused, and from 1869 on a lively dispute followed.

The partisans of the "Yougo-Slav Federation" consoled themselves with the reflection that this Servian nationalist doctrine only represented the views of a small group of journalists and dilettante historians and ethnographers. But as we have seen, it had already secured the support of the State. Two circumstances contributed to accentuate this tendency: one, the organization of the new national Bulgarian church,-the exarchy; the other, the diplomatic check to Servia's hopes of an outlet on the Adriatic.

Mention has already been made of an early success of the exarchist church in Macedonia-the two berats sanctioning the bishoprics of Okhrida and Uskub. Other victories were to follow. The Greeks, who had considered Macedonia as their patrimony, naturally viewed them with disfavor. It occurred to them, as a means of withdrawing the attention of the Bulgarians from Macedonia, to suggest the extension of the Bulgarian ecclesiastical organization to the Servian countries, Bosnia and Herzegovina. The suggestion pleased the Bulgarians, but although they accepted the Greek proposition, they did not renounce their Macedonian pretensions. The list of the exarchist dioceses to be created became a long one, embracing as it soon did the whole of Macedonia, Old Servia, Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The Servian government could not regard such claims with indifference, since it was fully aware of the inseparability of the ideas of nationality and a national church. The Servian Ministry therefore pointed out that while the ethnographic nature of the Macedonian dioceses formed subject of discussion, those of Old Servia were indisputably Servian. If the Bulgarian dioceses wished to form an exarchist church, the dioceses of the ancient Servian provinces must, in their turn, recognize the head of the church of the Servian principality as their spiritual head. Here was the whole Macedonian conflict in germ. Even the tactics employed foreshadow the course of recent events.

Servia joined Greece against the Bulgarian exarchy. The Servians, fighting against the national Bulgarian church, chose to remain subject to the Greek pa-


triarch. He profited by this to impose Greek bishops upon them and persisted in giving a Greek denomination to their religious communities. Thus did the Servians in Turkey deprive themselves of their own free will of the most effective weapon in the national conflict. From this time on the "exarchist" was exclusively Bulgarian and the Macedonian population, called Boulgari from time immemorial, began to feel itself at once Bulgarian and Slav. Outside the national Bulgarian church, which thus remained the Slav church in Macedonia, there were only "patriarchists" of every kind-Greek, Wallachian or Servian united under one Greek ecclesiastical authority, that of Constantinople.

The second circumstance driving Servia to accentuate its Macedonian pretensions was the "occupation" of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria Hungary. It is now known that at the interview between Emperor Alexander II and Emperor Francis Joseph at Reichstadt on July 8, 1876, it was agreed that in the event of Servia or Montenegro winning independence, Austria Hungary should have the right to "occupy and administer" these provinces. The same terms were repeated in the Berlin treaty. At the same time Austria Hungary emphasized her assertion that she regarded Servia as within her sphere of influence.

At Reichstadt, Russia agreed not to make war on Servian territory, and when General Ignatiev suggested the annexation of Bosnia to the Austrian diplomats as the condition of recognition of the treaty of San Stefano, Count Andrassy replied by a counter proposition, that of leaving Russia full freedom of action in Bulgaria on condition of the proclamation of Macedonia's autonomy under Austro-Hungarian protection.

After the Berlin Congress, Austria Hungary entered into closer relations with King Milan of Servia. He signed the secret treaty of 1881, in which (7) Austria Hungary formally declared that she "would not oppose, would even support Servia against other powers in the event of the latter's finding a way of extending its southern boundary, exception being made in the case of the Sandjak of Novi Bazar." In 1889, when this treaty was renewed, Austria ^Hungary promised in even clearer terms "to aid in the extension of Servia in the direction of the Vardar valley." Thus at the very moment when Austria Hungary was depriving Servia of any possibility of westward extension, by joining the section of the Servian population inhabiting- Bosnia and Herzegovina to herself, Austrian diplomacy was holding out by way of compensation, the hope of an extension towards the south, in those territories whose population had, up to 1860-1870, been universally recognized as Bulgarian, even by the Servians.

From this time on nationalism distinctly gained ground in Servia. The whole of Macedonia was identified with "Old Servia" and "Young Servia," m its map, claimed the entire territory occupied under the rule of Stephen Douchan, in the fourteenth century. At this period the net work of Servian schools spread specially fast, thanks to the aid of the Turks, who here as elsewhere followed their habitual policy of playing- off the Servian and Greek


minorities against the stronger and more dangerous majority of the Bulgarian exarchists. In 1889 the Servian school manuals were for the first time published at Constantinople with ministerial sanction and the Servian school soon ceased to be secret and persecuted. In 1895-96 according to official Servian statistics there were 157 schools with 6,831 scholars and 238 male and female teachers. It is, however, noteworthy that eighty of these schools, comprising 3,958 scholars and 120 male and female teachers were situated in Old Servia properly so-called, that is to say, that more than half of them belonged to countries which were undoubtedly Servian.

Here are the statistics for the Bulgarian-exarchist schools for the same period: there were in Macedonia 1896-97, 843 such schools (against 77 Servian schools), 1,306 teachers (Servian, 118) ; 31,719 scholars (Servian, 2,873); children in the kindergarten, 14,713.

These figures show that at the close of the nineteenth century the overwhelming majority of the Slav population of Macedonia was sending its children to the exarchist Bulgarian school. The school became henceforth an auxiliary of the national movement, and independent of the church. The movement changed both its character and its object. Side by side with the ecclesiastical movement led by priests and assisted by the religious council of the community, there arose about 1895 a revolutionary movement, directed against the Turkish regime, whose object was political autonomy and whose leaders were recruited from the school teachers. On the other hand the resistance of the minorities, supported by the Turks, grew more pronounced. "Patriarchism" and "exarchism" became the rallying cries of the two conflicting nations. From this time on the ethnographic composition of Macedonia was only to be elucidated by an enumeration of "exarchist" and "patriarchist" households-a most uncertain and fluctuating method since the strife grew more complicated, so that one and the same family would sometimes be divided into "Bulgarians," "Greeks," "Wallachians" and "Servians," according to the church attended by this or that member.

The new generation in Servia therefore - now sought a more reliable and scientific means of determining nationality, and found it in language. Youthful scholars devoted themselves to the study of Macedonian dialects and sought for phonetic and morphological traces of Servian influence which might enable them to be classified among Servian dialects. Bulgarian linguists, on their side did the same, and insisted on an essentially Bulgarian basis in the Macedonian dialects.

The rival claims to Macedonia might be summed up under the following main heads:-

(1) "Historical rights" to the possession of Macedonia, acquired by Simeon the Bulgarian or Douchan

  the Servian. (Tenth or fourteenth century.)

(2) Resemblance in customs (above all those pertaining to the Fete of


  New Year's Day-the Slava, claimed by the Servians as the sign of their nationality).

(3) Religion-exarchist or patriarchist.

(4) The spoken language.

Official Turkish statistics admitted only one principle of discrimination between the ethnic groups dwelling in Macedonia, namely religion. Thus all the Mahomrnedans formed a single group although there might be among them Turks, Albanians, Bulgarian "pomaks," etc.: all the patriarchists in the same way were grouped together as "Greeks," although there might be among them Servians, Wallachians, Bulgarians, etc. Only in the "exarchist" group, did religion coincide, more or less, with Bulgarian nationality. The Turkish official registers included men only; women were not mentioned, since the registers served only for the purposes of military service and taxation. Often nothing was set down but the number of "households." This explains the lack of anything approaching exact statistics of the Macedonian populations. Owing to the different principles and methods of calculation employed, national propagandists arrived at wholly discrepant results, generally exaggerated in the interest of their own nationality. The table subjoined shows how great is this divergence in estimate and calculation:

BULGARIAN STATISTICS (Mr. Kantchev,  1900)
Turks  499,204
Bulgarians 1,181,336
Greeks  228,702
Albanians  128,711
Wallachians   80,767
Jews   67,840
Gypsies   54,557
Servians      700
Miscellaneous   16,407




SERVIAN STATISTICS (Mr. Gopcevic, 1889) [Recent Servian authorities avoid giving general figures or else, like Mr. Guersine, suggest a total for the Macedonian Slav population which approximates more closely to Mr. Kantchev's figures.]
Turks  231,400
Bulgarians    57,600
Greeks  201,140
Albanians  165,620
Wallachians    69,665
Jews    64,645
Gypsies    28,730
Servians 2,048,320
Miscellaneous     3,500


GREEK STATISTICS (Mr. Delyani, 1904)

             (Kosovo vilayet omitted)
Turks  634,017
Bulgarians  332,162
Greeks  652,795
Wallachians   25,101
Jews   53,147
Gypsies     8,911
Miscellaneous   18,685


The Bulgarian statistics alone take into account the national consciousness of the people themselves. The Servian calculations are generally based on the results of the study of dialect and on the identity of customs: they are therefore largely theoretic and abstract in character. The Greek calculations are even more artificial, since their ethnic standard is the influence exercised by Greek civilization on the urban populations, and even the recollections and traces of classical antiquity.

The same difficulties meet us when we leave population statistics and turn to geographical distribution. From an ethnographical point of view the population of Macedonia is extremely mixed. The old maps, from that of Ami Bone (1847) down, follow tradition in regarding the Slav population of Macedonia as Bulgarian. Later local charts make the whole country either Servian, or Greek. Any attempt at more exact delineation, based on topical study, is of recent date. There are, for example, Mr. Kantchev's maps, representing Bulgarian opinion, and the better known one of Mr. Tsviyits representing Servian. But Mr. Tsviyits' ethnographic ideas vary also with the development of Servia's political pretensions. In 1909 he gave "Old Servia" a different outline from that he gave in 1911 (see his map published in the "Petermann" series) ; and in the hour of Servian victory on the eve of the second Balkan war, another professor at Belgrade University, Mr. Belits, published his map, based on a study of dialects, a


map which satisfied the most recent and immoderate pretensions. The Servo-Bulgarian frontier recognized by the treaty of March 13 is plainly inspired by the ideas of Mr. Tsviyits, while the line drawn by Mr. Belits reveals and explains the causes of the breaking of the treaty and the war between the allies.

But we are anticipating. We must now return to the close of the nineteenth century to see two parallel and rival ideas ripening-the ideas of the autonomy and of the partition of Macedonia.

[Previous] [Next]
[Back to Index]