World War I and the Disintegration of the Ottoman Empire

Disintegration of the Ottoman Empire:

The results of the Balkan Wars were far-reaching in their consequence. Austria was not satisfied with the Balkan settlement. Serbia now regarded war against Austria-Hungary, as inevitable. Extreme Serbian nationalists formed the Union of Death (commonly known as the Black Hand Society), a secret organization dedicated to effecting the restoration of Bosnia-Herzegovina to the motherland. Covertly supported by Russian agents, their methods were terroristic. The Serbian government did not support such activities. Nevertheless, it continued to offer tacit approval only to obtain satisfaction of its nationalist claims. Bulgaria felt a deep grudge against her neighbours who had deprived her of territories and looked to Turkey and Austria-Hungary as possible allies. Russian influence in the Balkans was greatly strengthened since Turkey lay crushed and broken. She controlled Serbia and increased her influence on Rumania. Germany realizing the approaching decay of the Ottoman Empire, entered the political scene. By weakening Turkey, the Balkan Wars gave Germany an opening to become dominant in the Straits. ‘In a sense, Constantinople was the key point in the conflicting ambitions of Russia and Germany’. Thus the rivalry of the Great Powers in the Balkans and the growing nationalism of the Balkan peoples proved a prelude to much greater conflict. As the German chief of staff wrote in February 1913, ‘A European War must come sooner or later in which ultimately the struggle will be one between Germany and Slavism….but the aggression must come from the Slavs’.

The best commentary on the Balkans War of 1912-13 is that none of the contestants believed that the territorial decisions would be permanent. The victorious Serbs and Montenegrins thought that they would have to fight Austria-Hungary in future. The defeated Bulgars made overtures for an alliance both with Austria-Hungary and with the Turks. The Greeks tried to cultivate relations with Austria-Germany. All of them expected a new war. Turkey had been so weakened that in April 1913 she appealed to Germany for a good German officer to reorganize her army. General Liman Von Sanders was sent by Germany to Turkey which antagonized Russia, France and England.

But the actual centre of the struggle lay in Serbia. It became a bone of contention to Austria, who backed by Russia, seemed to threaten her existence. To Russia, Serbia became a sort of outpost of the Balkans, calculated to buttress her supremacy in the Near East. Thus slowly Serbia became the storm-centre of Europe. The Serbians were convinced that Austria-Hungary stood in the way of her prosperity. ‘Serbia promised land lies in the territory of Austria-Hungary’. In this tense situation occurred the murder of Archduke Francis Ferdinand, nephew of the Emperor of Austria at the Bosnian town of Sarajevo. It was believed to have been done by a Serbian agent and Austria, backed by Germany, forced war and the First World War broke out.


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