Today is the 100th anniversary
of the opening of the First Balkan War. As this is an English language blog, we will rely on reportage from British newspaper sources such as the London Times for “real-time” news updates, noting that in those days there was about a 24 hour delay, so that the news of today must always appear in the next day’s paper. This is preferable to relying on U.S. sources, where the delay is not only longer, but there was found to be the additional problem of the extraordinary provincialism of even the leading papers such as “the paper of record”, New York Times, for which foreign reportage was quite weak.
In addition we will rely on independent journalism in the English language whenever possible, and in the case of the Balkan War we are privy to the unique contributions of none other than Leon Trotsky, working as a wartime correspondent for the Russian language Kievskaya Mysl, as translated and published by Monad Press (1980). Trotsky at the time was living in exile in Vienna with his family, and traveled to the war front during October, 1912. It was Trotsky’s first experience with war, one that was to come in handy after 1917.
The tiny state of Montenegro has unexpectedly jumped the gun and initiated hostilities by invading the Sanjak of Novipazar, a narrow province separating Montenegro from Serbia. This forced the hand of the Balkan League consisting of Serbia, Bulgaria and Greece, who had made a pact against Ottoman Turkey for which they had prepared for war for years. The war preparations of the League had been spurred on by the Italo-Turkish War (September 29, 1911 – October 18, 1912), a war that was still engaged when the Balkan War broke out. In that war Italy has grabbed present-day Libya and the Dodecanese Islands in the Aegean Sea, exposing once again the ongoing military weakness of the Ottoman regime. The war in Libya also marked the appearance of Mustafa Kemal (Ataturk), the future founder of the Turkish Republic, as he distinguished himself in the defense of Tobruk against the Italians.