The Balkan Wars: Scenes from the Front Lines

The Balkan Wars began on Oct. 8, 1912. 100 years later, TIME looks at images from one of the 20th century's defining conflicts.

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On Oct. 8, 1912, the tiny Kingdom of Montenegro declared war on a weakened Ottoman Empire, kicking off what is now known as the First Balkan War. Three other Balkan states in league with the Montenegrins—Bulgaria, Greece and Serbia—rapidly followed suit, waging war on the Turks, the old imperial enemy, while drawing upon a wellspring of national sentiment in each of their homelands. By March 1913, their blood-soaked campaigns had effectively pushed the enfeebled Ottomans out of Europe. Yet by July, Greece and Serbia would clash with Bulgaria in what’s known as the Second Balkan War—a bitter month-long struggle that saw more territory change hands, more villages razed and more bodies dumped into the earth. Some 200,000 soldiers died in less than a year, while countless civilians were slaughtered in pogroms or died of disease and starvation. The conflict, as argued here, in many senses set the tone for the future of war and ethnic strife in the 20th century.

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14 comments
ivgoul
ivgoul

I have serious objections about the captions of some pictures.

pic. 3 - "Soldiers remove the dead from the battlefield at Adrianople during the First Balkan War". It's obvious that the dead is not a soldier, but a civilian. Maybe a Bulgarian, judging by his clothes. (The soldiers are Bulgarian for sure because they have Bulgarian uniforms on them.) 

pic. 12 - "Soldiers pose with their weapons on the sidelines of a battlefield in an undated photograph". You say that the photograph is undated, how did you know then that they are "soldiers near a battlefield"?! If you had done some research, you would know that they are not soldiers (they have no uniforms!), but leaders of the Macedonian Revolutionary Organisation, the second from the left being Atanas Babata, a famous one. And they are not "near a battlefield", but at a meeting far from any battlefields. (Note that some of them have the then Bulgarian coat of arms on their hats, which indicates their national national consciousness.)

pic. 13 - "A Slavic soldier telephones news during the Balkan Wars, October 1913" What does that 'Slavic' mean?! There was not a country with such a name involved in the conflict. The soldier on the picture wears a Bulgarian uniform, so he is Bulgarian.

pic. 15 - "... Ottoman soldiers sport the their "fez" caps, headgear traditional to the whole region, across faiths...". These are NOT Ottoman soldiers. You can see real Ottoman soldiers on pic. 1. Maybe they look more like Albanians (pic 2)? The traditional Ottoman fez is dark red (without any sign on it) but the traditional Albanian fez is white, like these on the picture.

PicoM
PicoM

Yes,  this  war  did  foreshadow  the  future of  the  region.   Serbs  wanted  to  take  over  Bosnia  and  Herzegovina  but  the  Austrians  took  care of  that.  It  was   not  Montenegro  who  initiated  the  war  with  the  Turks.  It  was   the  Serbs.   They  made a  deal  with  Bulgarians.  If  the  Bulgarians  would join  them  then  they  would  give  them  Macedonia  south  of  Ohrid.   By  the  way,  the  Serbs  were  supplying  Albanians  with  arms  and  using that  as  a  way  to  begin  the  war  with  the  Turks.    The  point  is  that  even  today  as  I  write  this,  Serbs  are  back  at  the  game.   They  are  looking  at  expanding  by  stealing  territory  in the  name  of  some  ancient  lie.  

严鑫洋
严鑫洋

do  this realy  is the America site  ?I'm a Chinese

samaELightbringer
samaELightbringer

Seems the Macedonians didn't existed during this period, which is very strange because most of the battles were fought by them on Macedonian ground, where the actual front-line was separating Macedonia in two parts.  It is hard to watch pictures with dead people which are not even mentioned, and stupid also. I hope you will understand.

ivgoul
ivgoul

@samaELightbringer You even don't know how right are you! Macedonians as an ethnic group didn't exist at that time, the decisive point of their ethnogenesis being the creation of the Socialist Republic of Macedonia after World War II, as a part of Yougoslavia. At the time of the Balkan Wars the greater part of the Slavic population of the region of Macedonia defined themselves as Bulgarians.

paolomanzini
paolomanzini

"Bulgarian airmen prepare for a mission to drop a bomb by hand on Adrianople (now Edirne, Turkey), from their Bleriot XI aircraft, during the First Balkan War, circa 1913. The Bulgarian Air Force was the first to use aircraft for offensive military action."The statement is rather inaccurate: the Italian air force during the Libyan campaign of 1911-1912 (Italo Turk war) used four balloons, 2 blimps and 28 aircraft. On October 23, 1911, the Italian pilot Captain Carlo Maria Piazza flew over the Turkish lines on a reconnaissance mission, and on November 1 of the same year, the aviator Giulio Gavotti launched by hand the first aerial bomb (the size of an orange ) on Turkish troops stationed in Libya.

Mohamed Al Hashimi
Mohamed Al Hashimi

The Weakened Ottoman Country because of Sultan Fourth Muhammad receives Jewish when European Countries was taking Jewish out from Europe.   

Ryan Noh
Ryan Noh

What as this, and how did this weaken them?

Mohamed Al Hashimi
Mohamed Al Hashimi

Because after Jewish were living for many years in Ottoman Country, they alliance with United Kingdom to make the fall of Ottoman Country which brought relation between European and Jewish until today.

MohamedAlHashimi
MohamedAlHashimi

@Aleksandar011 Ottoman doesn't start the war until the enemy decline the agreement by some crimes. Jewish don't have country and they were living in many place but large number of Jewish were assaulted in Europe then Ottoman country received them called Jewish Dönmeh. Sultan Fateh Muhammed was the first who used cannon against enemy. Churches are still in Turkey for hundred years not one year.

Aleksandar011
Aleksandar011

In Balkans majority of population were Orthodox Christians, under awful Turkish jihadist occupation.  This wars were freedom fighting in it's purist form. As for Jews they lived in Balkans since the times of Byzantine empire, in Thessaloniki for example, and they didn't took any part in fighting. United Kingdom was actually military supplier of Ottoman empire so your theory makes no sense. 

It's awful thing that parts of Balkans, Constantinople for example are still under occupation. Balkan peoples, specially Greeks should rule their lands.