Wars between wars
A good deal of territory had changed hands during the short war, and it was time to negotiate the peace. Anyone who expected that to be easy hadn’t been paying attention. Certainly the Balkan allies as well as their defeated Ottoman enemy were fully aware that they were playing for high stakes. It would be worth taking a look at the map to see who, at this point, was in possession of what. Click the button below if you’d like to do that.
Two simultaneous peace conferences began in London in December, 1912: one between diplomatic representatives of the belligerents, to work out a treaty, and one between the foreign ministers of the six great powers who had signed the Treaty of Berlin in 1878, to ensure that nothing in the peace treaty threatened the greater interests of Europe (to wit, their own). This was the last time the tradition of arbitrating an international dispute through a great-power congress, begun with the Congress of Vienna in 1815, was ever invoked. World War I was only a year and a half away.

In the meantime, the Greeks, who had not signed the armistice, turned their attention to northern Epirus, which had been a sideshow up to then. The small force they had sent in was insufficient to capture or even to surround Janina, which was strongly fortified. Now that the Macedonian front was quiet, they transferred troops and siege artillery to Epirus, although they didn't dare weaken the army in Macedonia too much, sensing that a conflict with Bulgaria in that neighborhood was likely to come. The Bulgarian siege of Adrianople and the Montengrin-Serbian siege of Scutari were also continued, although neither was prosecuted very actively during the armistice.

Though it had not signed the armistice, Greece did, of course, send delegates to the belligerents’ conference in London—which, needless to say, was unable to take any action not approved by the powers’ foreign ministers in their conference. Serbia, the only member of the Balkan League that had captured all the territory it claimed (and more besides), saw its hope for an outlet to the sea slip away as the opposition of Austria-Hungary and Italy led those two countries to insist on the creation of an independent Albania.

This idea wasn’t simply sprung on unsuspecting Albanians. They had been generally content under Ottoman rule, but had in recent years grown restive as the empire’s power weakened. Albanian hopes that the Young Turks and constitutional government would bring them greater autonomy went unfulfilled, and there were anti-Ottoman uprisings in 1908 and 1910. In late November, 1912, with Serbs marching in at one end of the country and Greeks at the other, a national assembly in the city of Vlorë (Valona), located in the very small part of Albania that had not been overrun, declared independence and set up a provisional government. The Serbian troops pushing to the sea were harassed by guerillas, the only forces that Albania—which emphatically did not long for Serbian rule—was in a position to muster.
Three proposed Albanias
Serbia, forced to give up Durrës, demanded that the Albanian town of Gjakova (Serbian Djakovica) be added to its territory in Kosovo. Such issues kept the two conferences’ delegates occupied for quite some time. This map shows three possible Albanias of different sizes. The largest was, naturally enough, proposed by the Albanians themselves, as represented by the provisional government. The smallest was proposed by France and Russia, the two powers that tended to be most sympathetic to the Balkan League, and came as close as possible to satisfying Greek, Montengrin, and Serbian claims. The one in the middle is the compromise that was finally worked out, contenting no one except Austria-Hungary and Italy, who had no interest in Albania except as an obstacle to keep Serbia away from the Adriatic.

Russia supported the Serbs’ desire for a seaport, but couldn’t prevail, except in the matter of Gjakova, which was not a seaport but merely a sop for not getting one. Even this took two months, and it became clear that Serbia’s primary war aim would not be fully realized. Naturally enough, the Serbs were inclined to seek compensation for their disappointment in the form of a larger slice of Macedonia, and—since quite a lot of Macedonia was in their hands at the time—they were in a fairly good position to press this claim. Their government sent Bulgaria a formal request that the terms of their treaty be adjusted.

Bulgaria, of course, considered itself betrayed and refused angrily. The acquisition of Macedonia had been their chief war aim, even though the fortunes of the war had taken most of their soldiers in the opposite direction. At one point, while deeply involved in their eastern conflict—and it should be acknowledged that during the brief war Bulgaria had fought more stubborn opponents, won bigger victories, and lost more of its sons than either Serbia or Greece—they had asked the Serbs to please hurry and occupy Monastir in the southwestern corner of Macedonia, lest the Greeks get to it first. The Bulgarian-Serbian treaty declared explicitly that Monastir was to become Bulgarian territory, but now the Serbs (who had indeed taken the town) showed little inclination to give it up.

The Ottoman delegate at the belligerents’ conference was mainly interested in buying time for the empire to recover and regroup for the next round. The powers unintentionally assisted this effort by their wrangling over whether there was to be an independent Albania and what its boundaries should contain. The Turks insisted that, to protect their capital, they should be allowed to hold onto Edirne (Adrianople) and the four islands nearest the mouth of the Dardanelles. But the Bulgarians, after losing their only chance to overwhelm the defenses of Constantinople, insisted on having Adrianople instead, even though few Bulgarians lived in the city or near it. And Greece wouldn’t hear of giving up its claim to the islands of Samothrace, Lemnos, Imbros, or Tenedos.

No independent Albanian state would have been possible if the Serbs were allowed to keep Durrës, the Adriatic seaport they had occupied. Not only was it economically necessary to Albania, but a corridor connecting it to Serbia would have cut the country in half. Two cities still under siege, Shkodër in the north and Janina in the south, were Albanian. (The latter could be disputed, however, depending on where one stood on the ‘Northern Epirus’ vs. ‘Southern Albania’ question. Hall says on one page that Janina’s defenders “could not depend on the loyalty of the civilian inhabitants, most of whom were Greeks,” but on another page describes it as “a predominantly Albanian town.”)
Enver Bey
The next item on the agenda was unexpected: the war started up again. On January 23, the Ottoman government was ousted in a military coup led by officers affiliated with the Young Turks. Their movement, which had seized power in 1908 and introduced a democratic constitution, still held a parliamentary majority, but a conservative military group calling itself the “Savior Officers” had taken control of the government in 1912. This government in its turn was now overthrown by force, and the insurgents attempted to expunge the dishonor of the Balkan war by starting it up again. Enver Bey, one of the original Young Turks, led the coup and now served as Minister of War. (The previous minister, Nazim Pasha, had been shot and killed in the confusion of the insurrection.)

Their effort proved to be a fiasco; not only did the Ottoman armies fail to gain any ground, but all three of the besieged cities, which they had agreed in the armistice not to resupply, capitulated. Serbian reinforcements helped the Bulgarians mount the final assault that captured Edirne. In mid-April, the Turks had to sign another armistice with Bulgaria. The London conferences, suspended during the renewed hostilities, went back into session.
Crown Prince Constantine at Janina
After a Greek attack that almost but not quite captured Yanina, Crown Prince Constantine took over the command on January 23 (the same day as the coup in Istanbul, although there was certainly no connection). He prepared very carefully for a final assault, which wasn’t launched until March 5. But when it did come, it was fully successful, and the city surrendered the next day. This picture by the French artist-correspondent Georges Scott shows Constantine observing one of the daily artillery duels that went on during the weeks between his arrival and the victory.
Bulgarian soldiers after taking a fort outside Adrianople
Bulgaria put all the heart and strength it could muster into the battle for Adrianople, but its physical and psychological resources were close to exhaustion, and the government felt it had to ask Serbia for help. The Serbs responded with troops and artillery, and an attack by the allies (the great majority Bulgarian) finally succeeded in taking the city on March 26, at the cost of heavy casualties. Hall points out that, while Adrianople was important to the Ottomans as a defense for Istanbul, it lacked any corresponding strategic value to Bulgaria, and was not home to many Bulgarians. They wanted it mainly because, if negotiations over Macedonia (their true heart’s desire) should go the wrong way, this large and important city would compensate them for their disappointment. The price they paid for this dubious reward was far too high. After the Bulgarians retook some ground they had lost the previous autumn at the Chataldja defense line, returning to but not exceeding their farthest point of advance, the Ottomans once again asked for an armistice, which was duly signed in mid-April, 1913. It affected only these two nations, however; the Turks had no truce with any of their other Balkan League adversaries.
Montenegro's moment of triumph (on the cover of an Italian periodical)
Montenegro’s soldiers, raised in a culture that honored personal heroism, were courageous men and, as individuals, fine warriors, but they were less fine as soldiers of a modern army, and Montenegro’s capability on a 20th-century battlefield was inferior to that of any of its allies or enemies. Their army besieged Scutari (Albanian Shkodër) for months but couldn’t take it, until finally their King Nikola asked Serbia for help. Serbia responded generously, and the city was almost captured in late March, but it was clear that an independent Albania, which the powers had agreed on as far back as December, would be impossible without Shkodër. The powers applied pressure, and Austria-Hungary even threatened war with both Serbia and Montenegro if they continued the siege. The Serbs backed down, but the Montenegrins had another go. The city was in desperate straits by this time, losing lives each day to disease and starvation, and the Albanian-Turkish commandant, Esad Pasha (who harbored an ambition of becoming the chief executive of the new Albanian homeland) negotiated an honorable surrender that allowed his troops to depart with their weapons, although they did have to abandon their artillery. The Montenegrin army entered the city on April 28. King Nikola and his subjects had a couple of weeks to feel victorious, but by the end of that time the king had been forced to confront reality, and the Montenegrins marched out of Scutari and went home.
What the London conference did (and didn't do)
The Treaty of London was signed at the end of May, 1913. This map shows how little it actually settled. Albania was now a nation-state, although many Albanians continued to live outside its borders (inevitably, given the mixture of populations in all surrounding territories). This was of course good for the Albanians—few would now argue that they should have been denied independent statehood in order to satisfy the territorial appetites of Greece, Serbia, and Montenegro—but everyone knew that this gift was bestowed not for their sake, but to gratify the desires of Italy and Austria-Hungary. Albania’s borders were defined in terms that had been the subject of long negotiations, but finishing the details was left to be done by a subsequent conference. (Hall suggests that Janina was left in Greek hands mainly because the Italians and Austrians weren't especially interested in that end of Albania at the moment, and neither had much fear of Greece.)

Turkey-in-Europe was reduced to a stub, the definition of which was the only other substantial accomplishment of the London conferences. The new border was an arbitrary straight line running diagonally across Thrace from one small town on the Aegean to another on the Black Sea. This was, from the Ottoman point of view, a very minor improvement on the Chataldja armistice line a few miles from Istanbul. It left both sides of the waterway connecting the two seas in Turkish hands, but it was drawn without consideration of terrain and offered little support for effective defense. On the map I’ve colored in this small gain for the Turks, and marked each of the three recently besieged cities with a star. All were now lost to the Ottoman empire, but Shkodër and Durrës, incorporated in the new state of Albania, were lost to their captors as well.

The treaty also formally ceded Crete to Greece, but it left the fate of the many Aegean islands taken by the Greek navy to be determined by the great powers. In due course, all of these islands did become Greek except Imbros and Tenedos, the two that lay closest to the entrance of the Dardanelles, which France and England preferred to see under Turkish rather than Greek control.

The Treaty of London resolved neither the conflict between Serbia and Bulgaria over Macedonia nor the separate conflict between Greece and Bulgaria over western Thrace, southerastern Macedonia. and particularly Salonika. One reason the negotiations took so long was the inability of the Balkan allies to agree about these matters, and while the conference continued each country tried in various ways to push its own agenda.

Bulgaria appealed to Russia to make Serbia stick to the terms of their 1912 treaty, but this was beyond Russia’s capability, and the appeal was ignored. The Bulgarians began to realize that, without Russian help, their only chance of getting what they wanted was by fighting another war. They tried to reach an agreement with either Serbia or Greece that would take that country out of the fight, leaving Bulgaria only one opponent to contend with, but in both cases they refused to make compromises that might have accomplished this goal.
Stoyan Danev, Bulgarian prime minister
Venizélos had approached the Bulgarian prime minister, Stoyan Danev, once during the negotiations and again on his way home after signing the treaty, offering concessions that would leave Bulgaria in possession of most of southern Macedonia (much of which it already occupied), provided only that Greece got to keep Salonika. But Bulgaria, trusting in its military superiority to Greece, turned him down both times.
Venizélos with Nikola Pašić, prime minister of Serbia
Serbia insisted that the terms of the 1912 treaty defining each nation’s share of Macedonia should be renegotiated, because the creation of Albania had frustrated its principal war aim. Once again, Bulgaria, though it didn't want to fight both Greece and Serbia at the same time, refused to consider any change. So the Greeks and the Serbs, neither at odds with the other, and both wary of Bulgarian strength, began talking in March about an alliance against their former partner. This picture shows Venizélos (right) conferring with Nikola Pašić, the Serbian prime minister. The picture was dated 1913, but there is no information on whether it was taken before, after, or during the Second Balkan War. The two political leaders had a great deal in common, though evidently this didn't include their barbers.
Titu Maiorescu, prime minister of Romania
Just to make things a little more complicated for the Bulgarians, the Romanians, who had stayed out of the Balkan league and the war, let them know in January that they wanted a piece of Bulgaria as compensation for the Bulgarians having tipped the balance of Balkan power slightly away from them. Allied with Austria-Hungary and friendly to the Ottoman empire, Romania was considered by many to be the strongest Balkan nation. Before the war began Bulgaria had taken this notion seriously enough to ask the Romanian government what it might like from them in return for staying on the sidelines. But the Romanian prime minister, Titu Maiorescu, put them off with the remark that nothing had yet happened to make such a discussion necessary.
Dobrudja, north and south
In the autumn, as Bulgarian victories piled up, the Romanians suggested that they might be given Silistra, an important port on the Bulgarian side of the Danube at a point where that river was the boundary between the two countries. By January, however, Romania was demanding not merely Silistra, but the entire district, Southern Dobrudja, in which it was located. Dobrudja (Dobrogea in Romanian) is a fertile territory bounded on the east by the Black Sea and on the west by the Danube, which at that point runs from south to north, parallel to the seacoast, before turning east to the sea. The Congress of Berlin in 1878 had divided Dobrudja in two, giving the northern part (pink on the map) to Romania and the southern (purple) to Bulgaria. (Sorry about the colors. This found map wouldn't accept much tinkering.) The population of both was a mixture of Bulgarians and Romanians, and each country felt vaguely that all of Dobrudja should belong to it alone.

Bulgaria was offended by the Romanian demand, but wary of provoking its powerful neighbor. The government bought a little time by offering a few minimalist border adjustments, but the great powers pressured them to make more substantial concessions, and at length proposed a conference of ambassadors in St. Petersburg to work out an arrangement. The Bulgarian government took part in the conference, but continued its resistance to the Romanian proposal, hoping that Russian support would make it unnecessary to comply. (At this point in the spring, they were still counting on Russia to force the Serbs to live up to the 1912 treaty, and had not yet become thoroughly disillusioned with their powerful patron.) But the conference ended by handing Silistra, though not the rest of Southern Dobrudja, to the Romanians. As Hall says, “Naturally this decision antagonized both sides.”

Having both failed to induce Bulgaria to accept any compromise, Greece and Serbia signed a treaty of alliance a few days after signing the Treaty of London. Their treaty not only bound each to come to the other’s assistance in the event of a Bulgarian attack, but also outlined a plan for dividing Macedonia between themselves if and when the Bulgarians were defeated.
The assassination of King George, as envisioned by a perspective-challenged artist
Another momentous occurrence during the few months of tenuous peace between the two Balkan wars was the assassination of King George of Greece while out on a stroll in Salonika. Ever since making a triumphal entry in November, only a few days after the Greek army secured the city, he had been residing there (the better to assert his kingdom’s claim to it.) The murderer was a Greek named Aléxandros Schinás, who had lived for a time in New York. News accounts described him variously as a socialist, an anarchist, and a madman. He was also described as a suicide when, after several days of interrogation, his life ended in a fall from an upper story window of the Salonika police station. (None of these assertions is certain. More than one are probable, but I wouldn’t bet much on the last.) Crown Prince Constantine was now King Constantine, and would lead the Greek army into battle as their monarch.