Georgy Markov

The main subject of study in this book is the participation of Bulgaria in the coalition Balkan War I and the decisive, contribution of its army to the victory over the Ottoman Empire. The theme is developed in three basic directions: foreign policy, diplomacy and war strategy, with the various activities and the complex interrelations of the Monarchic Institution, the Council of Ministers and the High Command being revealed. The mechanism of fateful decision taking, the progress of these decisions, their communication and execution is shown. At that, both the influence of the international environment and the significance of the battles at the front are being evaluated. The rich documentary materials allow to throw light on the events from different points of view. The author seeks to answer a number of disputable questions and, simultaneously, he himself poses such questions. He builds up his conception on the basis of reliable sources and backs up every one of his statements with ascertained evidence.

The Balkan Alliance had been established by way of bilateral agreements, war conventions and treaties between Bulgaria and Serbia, Greece and Montenegro. These countries have been united both by the common interests in the liberation of their fellow-countrymen suffering under the domination of the Sultan in the so called 'European Turkey', and by the aspirations of the Young Turks regime to "osmanize" them and to strengthen its military power on the Balkans. The allies, however, preserved their old rivalry which has been temporarily left behind until the victory, so needed for them, emerged. The book points out the dangers of the 'secret diplomacy', as far as the allies of Bulgaria did not intent at all to follow the obligations taken under the agreements. The initiated minority bore the heavy responsibility before the unsuspecting public opinion and would inevitably give in under its growing pressure. The Bulgarian Government resorted to a search of allies not only due to its inability to wage war independently against an Empire, but also because the neighbouring countries would hardly allow another country to reach out (its hands) to the Ottoman inheritance In Europe. Besides, the patronage of the Entente was also needed.

Called forth by the partial mobilization of the Ottoman Army adjacent to the Bulgarian frontier, the overall mobilization of Bulgaria and its allies (17th September 1912) was aimed at making of radical reforms in 'European Turkey' in order to improve the worsened situation of the Christian population. The pressure upon the High Gate was imposed both directly and through the Great Powers insisting on preservation of the territorial status quo on the Balkan Peninsula. The Ottoman Empire, however, made haste to conclude a peace contract with Italy and put an end to the Tripolitanian War in North Africa, in order to be free to undertake actions against the Balkan Alliance. Instead of accepting the fair demands the Turkish Government broke the diplomatic relations with the Balkan allies and initiated a fast transfer of troops from the Near East. Since the Empire possessed substantially greater human and material resources, the Bulgarian High Command decided to outstrip the enemy, by taking advantage of the prompt mobilization and concentration. The moral factor was also on the side of the Bulgarians. The enthusiasm for self-sacrifice seized the Bulgarian population because a million and a half of Bulgarians in Macedonia and Odrinian Thrace had to be liberated by the slave sufferings.

The Balkan War I declared on 5th October 1912 evolved surprizingly yet at its very beginning. The Third Army which escaped notice by the reconnoitre of the enemy appeared suddenly through the Strandza mountain against the right flank of the enemy and after a two-day fierce encounter struggles entered the fortified town of Lozengrad. Thus, by means of that brilliantly effected strategic surprise, the Bulgarian soldiers and officers snatched the strategic initiative and crushingly gained the upper hand. Put to flight, the Ottoman East Army stopped as far as the Bunarhisar — Ljuleburgas line where new reinforcements were arriving. The Bulgarian High Command failed to pursue the enemy which was deprived of faith, thus allowing it to recover from the strong defeat. The battle of Lozengrad brought the first great victory to the Balkan Alliance and showed the world that, in addition to modern armament, a high fighting spirit raised by the just nature of the liberation War, was also indispensable. The military experts which until then predicted the smashing of the small Balkan States were compeled to sharply change their opinions.

The decisive battle between Bunarhisar and Ljuleburgas burst forth from 15th to 20th October. The united Bulgarian First and Third Armies were opposed by the two Turkish East Armies. The enemy tried to push back the left wing of the Third Army and to regain the lost Lozengrad. In crippling battles the Bulgarian forces broke into the centre of the hostile position and prevailed over the strenuous resistance along its whole line. The Turkish army corps rushed anew to a disorderly retreat. And once again the valuable opportunity had been missed to chase the defeated enemy who succeeded to save himself behind the fortifications of the Cataldja position. Taking into consideration the numerous victims, the difficult supply of provisions, the exhaustion from ceaseless campaigns, the author takes the view that still it was necessary to set aside forces for distant strategic pursuit, especially from the cavalry division. The errors of the High Command led to much more soldiers' bloodsheds.

The turning point in the course of the war stroke a severe blow on the territorial status quo. The Great Powers already consented to reconsider the frontiers of 'European Turkey'. The Bulgarian Government finally abandoned the authonomy of Macedonia and Odrinian Thrace, in order to turn to distribution of the liberated lands, an important step of crucial consequences. The High Gate asked the 'European Concert' the favour to arbitrate in the immediate cease of the military operations. Since the diplomatic soundings out required time and the Bulgarian troops had reached the Cataldja position, the new Grand Vizir Kyamil Pasha appealed to Tzar Ferdinand on the 31st of October with the appeal for an armistice and a preliminary peace. Ferdinand wanted to dictate the final peace in the capital of the defeated enemy, finding the support of some commanders-in-chief who feared that the High Gate might save time. While the Bulgarian Government was exchanging opinions with the other Governments on the conditions of the armistice, Tzar Ferdinand gave an order to attack the Cataldja fortification, notwithstanding the warnings of the Great Powers and especially of Russia, and regardless of the lack of heavy artillery and the cholera epidemic that had burst out.

The two-day attack (4th — 5th of October 1912) of Cataldja was ceased when it became obvious that the enemy had strongly fortified its position and had decided to make a desperate defence. The health of the Bulgarian armies getting worse forced the Tzar and the generals to accept the proposal for armistice, yet now under disadvantageous conditions due to the defeat suffered. The armistice negotiations got more complicated because of the refusal of Greece to support the efforts of the Bulgarian foreign policy. After the joint liberation of Salonika (28th of October) the disputed questions between both countries again came to the fore. Though it had driven back the attack, the Turkish army was not able to launch a counter offensive. That is why its High Command signed the armistice on the 20th of November, by force of which the supply of provisions to the Bulgarian troops, through the seiged fortress of Odrin and by sea, was allowed.

The London Peace Confrence opened on 3rd of December 1912 passed under the supervision of the Ambassadors' Conference, in which the diplomatic representatives of the Great Powers took part. The allies requested the territory west of the Midia—Rodosto line or at least Midia — Saros line to be ceded. The High Gate refused to discuss the question concerning big aparts of the Odrin country-side and of the Aegian islands to be ceded. The negotiations grew tense and necessitated the direct intervention of the Great Powers. With a collective note of 4th of January 1913 the 'European Concert' insisted that the Ottoman Empire shall cede Odrin to the Bulgarians and the Aegian Islands will be committed to its control. The Supreme State Council held on 9th of January in Constantinople accepted the conditions so imposed. On the next day, however, the Young Turks Committee staged a coup d'etat. The new Government preferred to continue the war, hoping for the advantages drawn by the two-month rest. The Balkan allies stopped the negotiations and denounced the armistice, with the Bulgarian army taking again the major burden of the military operations.

The Ottoman High Command launched an offensive on the Galipoli Peninsula in order to threaten the rear of the united Bulgarian armies on Cataldja and to deblock the fortress of Odrin. Yet in a crippling battle in front of the Bulair position the Seventh Rila Division routed the attacking hostile forces and the Macedonian-Odrinian volunteers repelled the landing in the town of Sharkjoy (26th — 28th of January). The failure of the strategic plan forced the High Gate to resort again to the intermediation of the Great Powers to stop the hostilities, but the Balkan allies had already had the bitter experience of being put off. The one-month snow lull which began did not impede the preparation to finally decide on the issue of the war. Unsurmountable differences of opinion! appeared in the Balkan Alliance, as far as the Serbian and Greek military authorities persecuted the Bulgarian population in Macedonia with the intention to remain in the latter for ever, thus trespassing the existing agreement conditions.

The High Gate did not give up Odrin, the garrison of which was strongly on the defensive. The way to peace passed through this fortress. The troops of the Second Army assaulted its fort zone and in the course of two days broke through in the region of the East sector (11th— 13th of March), taking 60000 enemy soldiers and) officers as prisoners of war. The relieved forces together with the heavy artillery got over for a second attack of the Cataldja position, the capture of which now seemed inevitable. Under the threat of complete defeat the governing circles in Constantinople asked for a temporary cease of the military actions from 1st of April 1913. The armies of the two belligerent states remained at the positions occupied.

The threatening behaviour of Rumania was an impediment in the whole course of the war. In Bucharest they tried to take for the neutrality territorial compensation expanding to the Tutrakan— Dobric — Balcikline. In actual fact the extraction of Dobrudja was the reason and the cause was hidden in the reluctance to permit the establishment of a great Bulgarian state. Continuous talks were carried out in London and in Sofia but the Rumanian Government was not contented with the losses of the Bulgarian side. Thus, it came to the intervention of the Great Powers, the Ambassadors-of which met for a Conference in Petersburg. After the exchange of opinions between the Entente and the Trinity Alliance run high, a protocol was signed on 26th of April, according to which Bulgaria.' took the obligations to cede the town of Silistra.

The renewed Peace Conference in London was being hampered by the intensified contradictions between the Balkan allies. Serbia and Greece tried to keep the Bulgarian armies longer on Cataldja and Bulair, in order to strengthen their own positions in Macedonia. They agreed to establish a common frontier west of the river Vardar, contrary to the indisputable right of Bulgaria on those Bulgarian lands, as accepted under the agreement. The intensifying disputes made the Honoured Chairman of the Conference Sir Edward Grey to give an ultimatum dead-line for the signing of the prepared agreement. This happened on 17th of May 1913. Sultan Mekhmed V yielded his possessions west of Mydia on the Black Sea — Enos on the Aegen Sea line, with the exception of Albania. What was forthcoming was the difficult distribution of the liberated lands, at that the main principle of the distribution had to be the ethnical one.

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