The Beginning of the End of the Ottomans

The Beginning of the End of the Ottomans

On 4 September 1912 a momentous event took place: the Ottoman Empire, whose expansive powers formerly terrified European Christendom with its relentless advance across the continent, agreed to the terms demanded by their small Balkan province of Albania.

The reasons for this capitulation had been in the making for over 100 years, as “the Sick Man of Europe” hemorrhaged territory and funds trying to keep rebellious subjects and their newly discovered nationalist pride under control.  Explosive population growth at home, coupled with a refusal to modernize were a recipe for disaster the Ottomans refused to admit.  

Pre-Balkan War Ottoman Europe. In mere months the Empire would be decimated.

As momentous as the Ottoman defeat by their Albanian vilayet was, it was quickly overshadowed by the events that their victory touched off – The Balkan Wars.

The four countries of the Balkan League in front of the Hagia Sophia. The four countries of the Balkan League were never actually in front of the Hagia Sophia, but they certainly created a hurricane of consequences for the world.

Without the victory of the Albanian rebellion, the Balkan Wars might have happened much differently.  As it was, the four Balkan nations (Greece, Montenegro, Serbia, and Bulgaria) that participated were able to seize the momentum created by the Albanians and turn it into a monumental victory that not only put an end to Ottoman Europe, but also put the Great Powers on notice that the “insignificant” Balkan nations that they viewed with a patronizing eye toward exploitation could not only accomplish great tasks of their own without the help of European benefactors, but that those same “insignificant” nations could join together to create a rather big problem for the Great Powers themselves.

King Nicholas of Montenegro receives the Ottoman flag in surrender, and also takes the most appealing photo to Montenegrin national pride that has ever been produced.

 Such a possibility could not, of course, be allowed to develop. As soon as the successes of the Balkan League began to be evident, the Great Powers swung into action.  Austria-Hungary made it a primary political aim to deny Serbia access to the Adriatic and to agitate between the Bulgarian and Serbian allies.  Russia continued to promise the stars in the sky to nations that would buy into the Pan-Slavic Movement.  Great Britain wasn’t terribly concerned with anything other than Greece.  And Germany wanted to secure Bulgaria as an ally, separate from the rest of the Slavic world, as a bulwark against the encroaching Russian influence. 

The end result was anger amongst former allies that reverberated through forty years and two World Wars; the first war having started, as predicted by Bismark, by some “damn foolish thing in the Balkans.”

For a more in-depth examination of the politics of the Balkan Wars of 1912/13, please read: Typically Twisted – Politics of the Balkan Wars

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