Слике страница
PDF
ePub

The Prince of Bulgaria took the initiative. Throwing off the last shadowy trace of Turkish suzerainty and of the tutelage of the great powers, he proclaimed himself no longer Prince, but King, Emperor and Tsar. In this assumption of dignity the powers acquiesced, partly because they could not easily prevent it and partly because they fondly imagined that it would amount to nothing more than a change of name. But it did amount to a great deal more. The government of Bulgaria and Serbia, which because of the rival intrigues and influences of Russia and Austria had long been unfriendly and at one time had been openly at war, realized that the interests of both would be promoted by the establishment of a friendly understanding. So negotiations to that end were quietly begun, and soon were extended to include also Montenegro and Greece. Meanwhile all these four powers began, in profound secrecy but with unmatched energy and devotion, to stock their arsenals, to recruity and discipline their armies, and to prepare for a war which would be a war to the knife and the knife to the hilt.

Never, probably, in the history of the world was so important and extensive a movement conducted with so profound a degree of secrecy and so complete a measure. of success. Turkey and all the powers of Europe knew. nothing and suspected nothing of what was going on, either in diplomacy or in the armies of the Balkan States. If any symptoms of the campaign were observed they were contemptuously disregarded because of the habit which all Europe had formed of refusing to take seriously anything which the Balkan States might do. But the rulers and the peoples of the Balkan States were tremendously in earnest. In the early fall of 1911 the Prime Ministers of Serbia and Bulgaria met in a railroad car on the frontier

between the two countries. There the outline of a treaty of alliance, offensive and defensive, was formed and adopted. It was agreed that as Bulgaria was the largest of the four states, the headquarters of the alliance should be at her capital, Sophia, and in that city on the last day of February, 1912, a formal treaty between the two powers was signed. At the middle of May following a similar treaty was made with Greece and with Montenegro, so that by the beginning of summer all four states were firmly united in a Balkan League, which was to last for twenty-five years and the object of which was the waging of war upon Turkey and the partitioning among the allies of a large part of the Turkish domains. It was on August 13, 1912, that King Ferdinand of Bulgaria presided over a council of the four allies, at which it was formally resolved that if Turkey did not promptly grant and put into effective execution the reforms in Macedonia and elsewhere to which she was bound by the Berlin Treaty of 1878, then the four Balkan States should unitedly wage war upon her.

PLANS OF CONQUEST That resolution was formed on August 13, 1912, and it was agreed that, in order to interfere as little as possible with the occupations of the people, the war should be started as soon as the farmers had gathered in their autumn harvests, which at that time were already beginning to ripen in the fields. And down to this time not another government in Europe outside of these four had the slightest inkling of what was going on and of what was about to occur. A few weeks later Bulgaria made peremptory demands upon Turkey for the granting of reforms in

Iacedonia, which were as usual, and as was expected,

ignored. Then the military preparations and purposes of the allied states began to be hinted at. The great powers regarded them with mingled amusement, impatience and contempt. The armies and governments of the Balkan States had lately been travestied upon the stage as “chocolate soldiers" and "puppet kingdoms" and it was universally assumed that if they were so foolhardy and presumptuous as to begin war they would be speedily overwhelmed by the vast and invincible legions of the Turks. The Turks were a warrior race, who had no superiors in the world as first-class fighting men, and for the petty Balkan States to attack them would be much like committing suicide; of which fact the allies were solemnly warned by the powers.

But little the powers knew or dreamed of what had been going on behind the veil of secrecy which the four allies had so well maintained. In October came the declaration of war, and then there was seen the spectacle of four nations simultaneously springing forth in the panoply of war, like the fabled Minerva from the brow of Jove. In a twinkling, the streets of Athens, as of Belgrade and Sophia, were thronged with a populace frenzied with zeal to join the colors and to march to the conquest of the hated Turkish Empire. The cattle pastures of Serbia, the flower gardens of Bulgaria from which the world gets its supplies of attar of roses, the rocky heights of Montenegro, and the hills and valleys and fertile plains of classic Greece, were deserted by every able-bodied man, and even by many women who put on male attire and marched in the ranks. The ruined temples of Greece, which in their prime had seen the triumphs of Platea and Salamis and Marathon commemorated, and had echoed to the footsteps of Pericles and Xenophon and Epaminondas, now saw stern musterings of men who had inherited the traditions of Thermopylae. And so while the great powers of Europe awaked from their slumber and gaped and gazed and wondered, there burst through the encircling mountain from four sides at once the storm of pent-up wrath of centuries upon the hated Turk.

A SHORT, SWIFT WAR It was on October 8th that Montenegro declared war on Turkey, but her early operations were not important. It was not until October 17th that war began between Bulgaria and Serbia on the one hand and Turkey on the other, and the next day Greece also began to fight. Date the beginning of the war, then, at October 17th. In just eight days, on October 25th, the Bulgarians had swept half way across Thrace and had captured the important city of Kirk Kilisse, between Adrianople and Constantinople; capturing it after a battle and storm which made its streets a shambles and a wilderness of ruin. The next day a Serbian army, pressing far into the heart of Macedonia, captured the city of Uskub. By October 30th, scarcely a fortnight after the declaration of war, the Bulgarians had fought at Lule Burgas a four days' battle, extending over a line of more than thirty miles, had crumpled up and put to rout the main Turkish army of 150,000 men, had cut Adrianople off from Constantinople, and were closely besieging the ancient capital of the Sultans. On November 3d, only seventeen days after the declaration of war, the Turkish Government in its despair begged the great powers to intervene to save it from the victorious allies. But the powers, which a few weeks before had scorned those allies and had patronizingly warned them not to get into trouble by attacking the superior might of Turkey, now stood in open-mouthed amazement and stupefaction, and ventured not to raise a hand or speak a word to stay the triumphant tide of war. Five days later the Greeks captured the great Macedonian city and seaport of Salonica, anciently known as Thessalonica to the church in which Paul's Epistle to the Thessalonians was addressed. On November 13th, less than a month from the beginning of the war, Turkey asked the allies for a cessation of hostilities to discuss terms of peace, but the conditions which she suggested were not acceptable and the campaign went on. On November 18th the completion of a month of war was celebrated by the Serbians in the capture of Monastir, the most important inland city of Macedonia, while the Bulgarian army drove the Turks within the lines of Tchataldja, in the very suburbs of Constantinople itself. Ten days later, when the Serbians triumphantly marched to the shore of the Adriatic at Durazzo, gaining the outlet to the sea which their country had long desired and needed, the Albanians raised a flag of their own, proclaimed their national independence, and called upon Austria-Hungary and Italy to recognize and protect them. Finally, on December 3d, an armistice was signed between Turkey and the allies at the village of Kadin Keni, and on December 16th, a day less than two months after the beginning of the war, the envoys of the five powers met in London to negotiate a treaty of peace. In two months' time those "puppet states,” as they were contemptuously called, those "chocolate soldiers” who had been the favorite butts of ridicule and travesty in works of fiction and on the stage, had achieved a consummation which no great power would have undertaken. They had overthrown and practically annihilated the Turkish Empire in Europe, leaving it nothing of all

« ПретходнаНастави »