The Balkan Wars
history of Europe in the latter half of the nineteenth century and
the first decade of the twentieth is a sordid history of land grabbing
and conflict among European states. The Ottoman Empire, nearing
its death, was dragged into these conflicts.
In 1911, Italy and France were in competition
over Libya. Fearful that France might attack the Ottoman Empire
and seize Libya, the Italians attacked first. They defeated the
Ottomans and, through a peace treaty, obtained the Dodacanese Islands
and Libya from the Ottomans.
Seeing this as a good idea, the states of Greece,
Serbia, Bulgaria, and Montenegro attacked the Ottomans, hoping to
gain all of the Ottoman provinces in the north of Greece, Thrace,
and the southern European coast of the Black Sea. They easily defeated
the Ottomans and drove them back, almost to the very edge of Europe.
The Second Balkan War erupted just two years later (1913), when
Greece, Serbia, and Montenegro disapproved of the amount of territory
that Bulgaria had annexed. Joined by the Ottomans, these three powers
managed to roll back Bulgarian territorial gains. This was the last
military victory in Ottoman history. It is a strange note in history
that this last defeat and triumph for the Ottomans would precipitate
a situation that would snowball into the First World War. Although
this is a story for another day, the Ottoman territories that fell
into European hands precipitated a crisis among European powers
that would eventually lead directly World War I.
a result of this conflict and the Treaty of Versailles in 1919,
the Ottomans lost all their territory in Syria, Palestine, Arabia,
and Mesopotamia. The European powers fought each other in Africa
and the Middle East by encouraging revolution among the people there.
The British, for instance, promised Arabs independent states if
they revolted against the Ottomans and aided the British. By 1919,
the Ottoman Empire was reduced to Turkey only, which extended from
the southern European shores of the Black Sea, to Asia Minor in
the west, to Iran in the east, and Syria and Iraq, newly created
states in 1919, in the south. Ottoman power had effectively come
to an end. The Russians, torn apart by a revolution in 1917, could
not annex any Ottoman land. After a brief period of constitutional
rule, the leadership of the CUP emerged as a military dictatorship
with power concentrated in the hands of a triumvirate consisting
of Mehmet Talat Pasha, Ahmet Cemal Pasha, and Enver, who, as minister
of war, was its acknowledged leader in the war.