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Balkan Wars

Part of the series Road to the Great War
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Richard C. Hall looks at the bloody conflicts in south-eastern Europe which became the blueprint for a century of conflict in the region.

Bulgarian troops at the Serbian border during the Second Balkan War, June 1913. Getty Images/Hulton ArchiveOctober 2012 marks the centenary of the outbreak of the First Balkan War, when Montenegro declared war on the Ottoman Empire. It was Prince Petar, the third son of Montenegro’s King Nikola, who fired the first artillery shot across the Montenegrin-Ottoman frontier. Nine days later the Ottoman Empire declared war on Montenegro’s Balkan allies: Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia. In the ensuing conflict this loose coalition confronted the once mighty Turks. The following year, in the brief but bloody Second Balkan War, Bulgaria fought against its former allies and, at the same time, underwent invasion from Ottoman and Romanian forces. These two wars represented the rise of nationalism as the basis for political legitimacy in south-eastern Europe as well as the end of 500 years of Ottoman rule in the region. They also established a pattern of brutal and complex conflicts that recurred in the western part of the peninsula between 1941 and 1945 and again in the same general region during the Yugoslav Wars of 1991-2001.


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