Plausibility Check: An anti-Ottoman Balkan (Greek, Serbian, Montenegrin, and Bulgarian) coalition in the 1890s?

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
18,741
SoCal
#1
Would it have been plausible for an anti-Ottoman Balkan (Greek, Serbian, Montenegrin, and Bulgarian) coalition to develop in the 1890s and to subsequently go to war with the Ottoman Empire to drive them out of Europe? Specifically, I am thinking of a scenario where Russia would have militarily intervened in Ottoman Armenia to stop the Hamidian massacres against Armenians in the mid-1890s--which in turn might have been a golden opportunity for the Balkan states to create an earlier anti-Ottoman coalition and to attack the Ottoman Empire just like they did in 1912 in real life with the hope of almost completely expelling the Ottomans from Europe.

Anyway, any thoughts on this? @Kotromanic @Maki
 
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Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
2,860
Republika Srpska
#2
Serbian PM Nikola Pašić did offer his Bulgarian counterpart Stefan Stambolov an alliance, but Stambolov refused and even informed the Ottomans about this. Thing is, Bulgaria and Serbia still carried bad blood from 1885 and Bulgaria didn't really like that Russia was starting to warm up to Serbia. Bulgarian government believed that alliance with Serbia wouldn't really bring anything good, especially since the Bulgarians and Serbs had competing claims on Macedonia.

Same thing happened with Greece. In 1892 Serbia pushed for an allince, however Greece also had its claim on Macedonia and during their negotiations with Serbia a town of Bitola proved be a dealbreaker. Neither Greece nor Serbia were willing to give the town to another and negotiations broke down.

After Stambolov's fall in 1894, relations between Serbia and Bulgaria improved. Ferdinand of Bulgaria visited Belgrade in 1896 and Serbian PM Stojan Novaković did want an alliance. It did not happen but relations improved. Serbian king Alexander also visited Greece in order to bolster that relationship.

Then the Greco-Turkish War of 1897 happened and it actually only created new problems. The Great Powers decided to give Crete autonomy and Serbia and Bulgaria feared the same thing would happen in Macedonia, something neither side wanted. It became clear that some sort of an agreement between Serbia and Bulgaria regarding Macedonia was needed. And it happened on February 19th 1897. The agreement basically stipulated that neither Serbia nor Bulgaria would attempt to change the status quo without prior agreement. So, at that point in time, Serbia and Bulgaria actually worked to preserve the status quo in the Balkans.

However, on October 7th 1897, former Serbian king Milan returned to Serbia and became the commander of the armed forces. The return of a man who led the war against Bulgaria natually lead to relations worsening. Bulgaria stopped abiding by the stipulations of the February Agreement and increasd its propaganda and the activity. In 1897 in Thessalonika a Bulgarian organization called Society against Serbs was formed in order to decrease Serb influence in Macedonia. Thing is, Serbs gained some privileges in Macedonia due to their diplomacy in Istanbul, so this organization was a backlash against that. It started massacring Serbs. Its first victim was Ilija Pejčinović, a professor in the Serb Gymnasium in Thessalonika. He was found dead with a cross carved across his forehead. This lead to Serbian counter-measures. In 1899, a Serb Chetnik leader Golub Janić started sending men into Macedonia.

Former king Milan clarified Serbia's position in a talk with a German attache on February 2nd 1899. He said that Serbia will not speed up the Ottoman collapse, but did say that Serbia will protect its interests if needs be.

So, during the 1890s, Serbia and Bulgaria wanted to preserve the status quo because neither of them felt that their position in Macedonia was secure enough. It was more prudent for them to keep the Ottomans there and spread their propaganda and influence.
 
Likes: Futurist

Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
18,741
SoCal
#4
Serbian PM Nikola Pašić did offer his Bulgarian counterpart Stefan Stambolov an alliance, but Stambolov refused and even informed the Ottomans about this. Thing is, Bulgaria and Serbia still carried bad blood from 1885 and Bulgaria didn't really like that Russia was starting to warm up to Serbia. Bulgarian government believed that alliance with Serbia wouldn't really bring anything good, especially since the Bulgarians and Serbs had competing claims on Macedonia.

Same thing happened with Greece. In 1892 Serbia pushed for an allince, however Greece also had its claim on Macedonia and during their negotiations with Serbia a town of Bitola proved be a dealbreaker. Neither Greece nor Serbia were willing to give the town to another and negotiations broke down.

After Stambolov's fall in 1894, relations between Serbia and Bulgaria improved. Ferdinand of Bulgaria visited Belgrade in 1896 and Serbian PM Stojan Novaković did want an alliance. It did not happen but relations improved. Serbian king Alexander also visited Greece in order to bolster that relationship.

Then the Greco-Turkish War of 1897 happened and it actually only created new problems. The Great Powers decided to give Crete autonomy and Serbia and Bulgaria feared the same thing would happen in Macedonia, something neither side wanted. It became clear that some sort of an agreement between Serbia and Bulgaria regarding Macedonia was needed. And it happened on February 19th 1897. The agreement basically stipulated that neither Serbia nor Bulgaria would attempt to change the status quo without prior agreement. So, at that point in time, Serbia and Bulgaria actually worked to preserve the status quo in the Balkans.

However, on October 7th 1897, former Serbian king Milan returned to Serbia and became the commander of the armed forces. The return of a man who led the war against Bulgaria natually lead to relations worsening. Bulgaria stopped abiding by the stipulations of the February Agreement and increasd its propaganda and the activity. In 1897 in Thessalonika a Bulgarian organization called Society against Serbs was formed in order to decrease Serb influence in Macedonia. Thing is, Serbs gained some privileges in Macedonia due to their diplomacy in Istanbul, so this organization was a backlash against that. It started massacring Serbs. Its first victim was Ilija Pejčinović, a professor in the Serb Gymnasium in Thessalonika. He was found dead with a cross carved across his forehead. This lead to Serbian counter-measures. In 1899, a Serb Chetnik leader Golub Janić started sending men into Macedonia.

Former king Milan clarified Serbia's position in a talk with a German attache on February 2nd 1899. He said that Serbia will not speed up the Ottoman collapse, but did say that Serbia will protect its interests if needs be.

So, during the 1890s, Serbia and Bulgaria wanted to preserve the status quo because neither of them felt that their position in Macedonia was secure enough. It was more prudent for them to keep the Ottomans there and spread their propaganda and influence.
Very interesting information! Thanks for sharing this information, Maki! :)

BTW, what changed between the 1890s and 1912--besides Italy's war against the Ottomans in 1911-1912?
 
Dec 2011
4,722
Iowa USA
#5
Very interesting information! Thanks for sharing this information, Maki! :)

BTW, what changed between the 1890s and 1912--besides Italy's war against the Ottomans in 1911-1912?
The priority on Southern expansion for Serbia was much greater after the Russians got Serbia "bupkes" in Bosnia & Herzegovina.
 
Likes: Futurist
Dec 2011
4,722
Iowa USA
#9
Yes, but that's not necessarily incompatible with a desire to expand further south.
Serbia seems to have had a large demographic push (maybe over 5 children per woman) and slow improvements to rail transport with Greek ports made Serbia of 1909-1913 functionally full sovereign. It just wasn't, my opinion, at the beginning of the 1890s, though would have been on a path to being fully sovereign by 1897 on Maki's timeline above.
 
Likes: Futurist
Dec 2011
4,722
Iowa USA
#10
Yes, but that's not necessarily incompatible with a desire to expand further south.
I'll send more thoughts in a PM. The primary issue is that both Greece and Serbia were modernizing in the intervening 20 years so that each of them were a more formidable or legitimate challenger for a war of conquest than the 1890s.
 
Likes: Futurist