Old Newspaper, Eternal History…

Svetlana Bunina

June 28, 2022

A few weeks ago I came across the Bulgarian newspaper “Утро” (“Morning”), published in Sofia on October 7, 1912. A historical release with Tsar Ferdinand’s Manifest to the Bulgarian Nation (Манифст към българския народ), where he announced a War against the Ottoman Empire. Created on October 5, the Manifest urged to fight for the human rights of the Christian population in Turkey and called this campaign “right, great and sacral”. What the Tsar didn’t say, was that according to the national conception of “Great Bulgaria”, the intended borders of the country should include Moesia, Thrace, and Macedonia, making Bulgaria the #1 country in the Balkans. What he didn’t say also, was that Russia, supporting this war, hoped to take possession of Constantinople and let lose the Austro-Hungarian Empire in its Balkan influence.

The newspaper accents, that Bulgarians met the war with great enthusiasm, and the allies of Bulgaria – Serbia, Greece, and Montenegro – have the same determination against Turkey. However, it happened, that just in a year the Balkan union fell apart because of the exorbitant territorial claims of its participants – and Serbia, Greece, and Montenegro united with Turkey to fight Bulgaria. In 1914 demoralized Bulgaria (so-called The First National Catastrophe) took the side of Germany and Austro-Hungary, while Russian Empire supported Serbia.

The First Balkan war was a prologue of the large conflicts in Europe in the XX-th century. It set the base for the Second Balkan War, WWI, and – indirectly – WWII. It largely explains the background of the Balkan tragedy at the end of the century and still speaks even now, in the problem of Macedonia, which is blocked entering the EU due to the Bulgarian veto.

Let’s look at the top figures of the military campaign, which started in 1912. The newspaper provides ascetic, severe portraits of the heroic leaders of the Balkan Union – Tsar Ferdinand, kings Peter I of Serbia, Nikolas I of Montenegro (in the newspaper he is called Nikita by mistake), and George I of Greece.  However, nobody of them owned history and couldn’t predict the way it will turn. Tsar Ferdinand lost his power in 1918 after The Second National Catastrophe, which befell Bulgaria during WWI. King George I was shot in Thessaloniki in March of 1913, and his long successful reign was changed by the decades of critical instability in Greece… Serbian king Peter I died in 1921 after several years of exile… he is still popular in Serbia, although his national project of the Kingdom of Serbians, Croatians, and Slovenians was clearly unsuccessful. King Nikolas died in exile, totally forgotten, but before his death was deposed in Montenegro, which became a part of the Kingdom of Serbians, Croatians, and Slovenians. Russian tsar Nikolay II was executed by Bolsheviks. The Russian Empire, Ottoman Empire, and Austro-Hungarian Empire all ceased to exist.   

Reading this superficially bold newspaper (what is newspaper rhetoric if not apotheosis of superficiality?), looking at the map on its first page, where the proud reader had to note new battles and future conquests, this thought immediately comes to mind. Can we rid ourselves with the ancient strategy of territorial conquests, and be done with the brutality of the national greatness? Too many pieces of our common land is watered with blood. And if somebody still monetizes these categories, and endangers human lives and the stability of the whole world, our meaningful solidarity has to be a coordinated and resolute response opposing him. We need to choose this solidarity every day – to develop our countries in peace, to make an unfalsified history of people.

Front page of the Bulgarian newspaper “Morning” October 12, 1912.
Bulgarian Tsar Ferdinand’s Manifest to the Bulgarian Nation (Манифст към българския народ), where he announced a war against the Ottoman Empire. October 5, 1912.
Map of the Balkan Peninsula, 1912.
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Portraits of national leaders of the Balkan Union 1912. Pictures from the left moving right, King Peter of Serbia, King Nicholas of Montenegro, King George I of Greece, Tsar Ferdinand of Bulgaria.