The Balkan Wars: Unraveling the Complex History of the First and Second Balkan Conflicts

Table of Contents

  1. Introduction
  2. The End of the First Balkan War
  3. Division of Balkan Lands
  4. The Secret Agreements and Alliances
  5. Bulgaria’s Ambitions and the Outbreak of the Second Balkan War
  6. The Course of the Second Balkan War
  7. The Treaty of Bucharest
  8. Conclusion


On the 30th of May, 1913, the First Balkan War came to a close, marking the end of a conflict that had spanned nearly 8 months. This war had far-reaching consequences for the Balkans, bringing both triumph and turmoil to the region. In this narrative, we will delve into the events surrounding the conclusion of the First Balkan War and the subsequent outbreak of the Second Balkan War, examining the geopolitical dynamics and secret agreements that played a pivotal role in these conflicts.

The End of the First Balkan War

The First Balkan War was a historic achievement for the Balkan League, which consisted of Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Montenegro. Their combined forces successfully challenged the Ottoman Empire, a dynasty that had held sway in the region for centuries. During the war, the Ottomans lost significant strategic territories in continental Europe, including the historic city of Adrianople (Edirne), which had been an early conquest of the Ottoman dynasty.

Division of Balkan Lands

As the First Balkan War concluded, the European lands previously held by the Ottomans were distributed among the victorious Balkan nations. Additionally, Albania emerged as an independent state. While this was a considerable success for each member of the Balkan League, dissatisfaction simmered beneath the surface, particularly regarding the division of lands, notably in Macedonia.

The Secret Agreements and Alliances

Prior to the outbreak of the First Balkan War, Serbia and Bulgaria had signed a secret agreement in March 1912, outlining the division of Northern Macedonia between them. However, during the course of the war, the Serbs expanded beyond the agreed-upon borders. Simultaneously, Bulgaria aimed to capture the vital port city of Thessalonica, but the Greeks preempted this move, establishing a common border with Serbia.

Bulgaria’s Ambitions and the Outbreak of the Second Balkan War

Bulgaria, dissatisfied with the changing situation, called upon Serbia to adhere to the pre-war agreement over Northern Macedonia. However, the Serbs, under pressure from great powers to relinquish their gains in Northern Albania, were unwilling to comply. This disagreement ultimately led to the collapse of the Serbo-Bulgarian alliance.

The Course of the Second Balkan War

With Bulgaria now seen as a potential threat, Serbia initiated negotiations with Greece, a country equally concerned about Bulgarian intentions. Just 28 days before Bulgaria’s attack on Serbia, Greece and Serbia signed a secret defensive alliance, reinforcing their mutual border and solidarity in the face of a Bulgarian or Austro-Hungarian attack.

The Treaty of Bucharest

Bulgaria, faced with increasing isolation and encirclement by its former allies, launched an ill-conceived attack on both Serbia and Greece. The ensuing conflict, known as the Second Balkan War, unfolded with Bulgaria struggling to maintain its position. Romania also joined the fray, declaring war on Bulgaria and advancing towards its capital, Sofia. This dire situation led to the Treaty of Bucharest in August 1913, resulting in the further division of Macedonia and significant territorial changes for all parties involved.


The Balkans, once united against the Ottoman Empire, found themselves divided and embroiled in conflict due to competing ambitions and secret agreements. The Second Balkan War reshaped the region’s political landscape, leaving Bulgaria discontented and sowing the seeds for its subsequent alignment with the Central Powers in World War I. The Balkans, a historically volatile region, continued to experience unrest and geopolitical shifts, demonstrating the complexity of its history and the enduring impact of these early 20th-century conflicts.

  1. How did the Second Balkan War differ from the First Balkan War?

    The Second Balkan War differed significantly from the First Balkan War as it involved conflicts among the former allies, particularly Bulgaria, Serbia, and Greece. The main cause was Bulgaria’s dissatisfaction with the territorial division and secret agreements. This time, Bulgaria fought against its former allies, resulting in the Treaty of Bucharest, which redrew the map of the Balkans.

  2. What were the main causes of the First Balkan War?

    The First Balkan War was primarily driven by the desire of Balkan nations, including Serbia, Bulgaria, Greece, and Montenegro, to liberate their territories from the declining Ottoman Empire. These nations formed the Balkan League to achieve this goal and cooperated militarily against the Ottomans.