Causes & Impacts of the First & Second Balkan Wars

Instructor: Michael Gott

Mike is a veteran of the New Hampshire public school system and has worked in grades 1-12. He has a Master's of Education specializing in Social Studies.

The First and Second Balkan Wars drastically reorganized power in Southeastern Europe. It marked the demise of the Ottoman Empire, and would ultimately lead to World War I.

Reorganization of Power

Power, like a sock drawer, often needs to be reorganized. The First and Second Balkan Wars were a reorganization of power in Europe. The First War removed much of the Ottoman Empire's control of the Balkan Peninsula. The Second War demonstrated the newly freed Balkan countries attempting to gain as much power as possible. In order to understand how these events would lead to World War I, we first need to know what the Ottoman Empire was.

What was the Ottoman Empire?

The Ottoman Empire spanned 600 years ending in 1922. The empire was a collection of Turkish tribes that first formed in the 15th century. At the height of its power, the Ottoman Empire controlled land in Europe, Africa, and Asia. The Ottoman Empire included land from the middle east of Asia, the Balkan Peninsula of Europe, and the northeast tip of Africa. The Balkan Peninsula is the southeastern part of Europe that extends down to the Mediterranean Sea and is home to countries such as Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro, Kosovo, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Greece, & Turkey.

Balkan Peninsula

The First War

The first Balkan War began when Serbia and Greece with the support of Montenegro, Bulgaria formed the Balkan League and declared war against the Ottoman Empire in October of 1912. The Ottoman Empire at the time had its greatest power base in the country of Turkey. The decision of the Balkan League was prompted by Macedonia's rebellion in Ottoman-held territory. This rebellion caused waves in the region by demonstrating weakness in the Ottoman Empire.

Taking advantage of this chaos, Austria-Hungary invaded Bosnia and Herzegovina removing Serbian influence from the area. This action upset Serbia and its ally Russia. Russia had been attempting to get these countries of the Balkan region to unite in opposition to the Ottoman Empire. Russia wanted this to happen so they could take Macedonia from Turkish control. When the Balkan states invaded Turkey at the heart of the Ottoman Empire, the region was already weakened from a sustained war with Italy.

A Short War

Within a month, the Balkan allies had forced Ottomans from most of Southeastern Europe. The Ottoman defeat was so palpable that an armistice was signed in December of 1912. The peace process moved to London but was disrupted by a coup in Turkey. A coup is a violent and illegal action to take control of a government. The coup was led by a group known as the Young Turks. Fighting resumed, however, by May of 1913, a peace treaty was signed between the defeated Ottomans and victorious Balkan nations. The Ottoman Empire lost nearly all of its European held land, including Macedonia. As Ottoman forces returned to Turkey, newly freed countries emerged with inexperienced rulers.

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