Austria and Bulgaria rip up the Ottoman Empire:
the Bosnian Crisis, 1908
International politics in the Balkans at the start of the Twentieth Century was too tangled and volatile to easily summarize, but it basically consisted of small, ambitious states playing increasingly dangerous games of power politics.
As the Ottoman Empire weakened in the Nineteenth Century, the long-submerged Balkan nations began to reappear, though their independence was compromised as they became pawns for competing European powers. But by about the turn of the century, the local kingdoms began to assert themselves; most importantly, from 1903 Serbia became increasingly defiant of its former protector Austria-Hungary. When the Young Turks seized power in Constantinople in 1908, Austria took advantage of the confusion and annexed Bosnia, hoping to get a firmer grip on the Balkans. Instead, the annexation brought on a grave European crisis and provoked Serbian nationalists into launching a terror campaign against Austria that further destabilized the area. In early 1912, Russia tried to form a Balkan alliance against Austria, but the Balkan states had other ideas: they redirected the alliance against the Ottoman Empire, launched the First Balkan War in October, and within a few months had almost completely driven the Turks out of Europe. The victors soon squabbled over how to carve up the conquests. During the summer of 1913 disgruntled Bulgaria attacked its former allies in the Second Balkan War - and was promptly trounced.
The Balkan Wars left the region dangerously unstable. The loosers were eager for revenge, the winners were recklessly overconfident, and the great powers were actively interfering in the area. The tensions soon came to a head. In June 1914, the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated by a young Bosnian Serb with ties to a nationalist faction in the Belgrade government. Within a few weeks the Balkans slid into war, and drew the rest of Europe along with it.
Balkan internal affairs, and the July Crisis that was brought about by Franz Ferdinand’s assassination, are listed in separate chronologies.
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