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Hungarian and Bulgarian Interwar Revisionism: Part 13

Updated on May 22, 2012
Vasil Levski
Vasil Levski | Source

Bulgarian Interwar Revisionism

The revisionism of interwar Bulgaria had more to do with the pre-World War I Balkan Wars than with anything else. Following Bulgaria’s loss of land, population, an outlet to the sea, and the imposition of huge reparations ($450 million over 38 years) at the Paris peace conferences following World War I. The position that Macedonia held in the Bulgarian imagination is much like that of Transylvania in the Hungarian: as the cradle of national culture. The Bulgarian issue will be dealt with in one section but acts merely as a point of comparison with Hungarian revisionism. Some details that straight off can link the connections between the interwar situations in Hungary and in Bulgaria have some historical and ethnic roots. As it was mentioned earlier about the idea of the aristocracy’s loyalty to St Stephen’s Crown in Hungary amounted to being a Magyar despite ethnicity, something of the like was evident in Bulgaria, especially with the Jews. In Hungary the Jews were always seen as “different,” despite the fact that many considered themselves Hungarian. ). In the late 1860s and early 1870s, the Bulgarian revolutionary movement was dominated by a few men: Karavelov, Levski and Botev. These men were largely influenced by Western ideas and educations. The Russian sponsored pan-Slav movement was especially influential in the thinking of many young Bulgarians. Besides the obvious Russian connection and influence, many other young Bulgarians turned to the West as mentioned above. Through Bulgarian schools in Constantinople they were given a Western style education from whence they picked up revolutionary ideas, as well as ideas on liberty and freedom through American universities active in the region as well. The establishment of Bulgaria as a state came under Russian auspices and through a treaty. This however, proved to be an insufficient guarantee to the unstable newly reformed state. The Bulgarian state came officially into existence from under Ottoman rule in 1877 due to the Treaty of San Stefano. Complications in the region came about because of the mixed ethnic composition of the area. ). Here we see that the new Bulgarian state was automatically given huge tracts of land which would not suit her neighbor Serbia very well. This status quo of San Stefano did not last long however. Bismarck’s Congress of Berlin of 1878, which in fact laid the groundwork for World War I and even current problems over Macedonia.


Bulgaria acquired a German leader, Prince Alexander, who was chosen by the Great Powers. Another mainly ethnically Bulgarian area was set up in the form of Eastern Rumelia, which was controlled by a Christian, but to be appointed by the sultan. Bulgarian and Eastern Rumelia were finally united in 1885 because of a push for this from both sides. In 1908 Bulgarian Prince Ferdinand officially finally declared the country’s total independence, making its status de jure, and declared himself Tsar. Also, the next day Austria-Hungary officially announced its annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. This was a move that Hungary had been dreading, as it added even more Slavs to the empire. Bulgarian revisionism can in fact be dated back to 1878 and the fate of Macedonia.This obsession is much like the obsession Hungarians felt with revising the Trianon decisions concerning her new borders. Much as Trianon was one issue which could pull together interwar Hungarian politicians and society, the Macedonian issue did the same in Bulgaria. Nationalist feeling usually ovverrides domestic differences in countries, especially when dealing with the plight of one's own countrymen being persecuted (in reality or imagined) in a neighboring country.Those living the closest to one another, and thus having a closely related history, are the most likely to mortally hate one another. Familiarity breeds loathing, in personal relationships as well as those between nations and peoples.

The case of Bulgarian interwar revisionism is quite interesting and somewhat close to Hungarian revisionism. Though Bulgaria lost only a little land and population after World War I, it’s interwar revisionist goals were the incorporation of Macedonia into Bulgaria. Macedonia had a sizable Bulgarian population and was a part of Bulgaria in the Middle Ages. Macedonia was a major sticking point between Bulgaria and her neighbors for a long time, and no solution could be reached which would have satisfied everyone. Up to the First World War, three states vied for control of Macedonia. Again, even up to and after World War I Bulgaria was surrounded by hostile states, much as Hungary was as well. Serbia and Greece both felt threatened by Russia’s support of Bulgaria, and even Romania joined in this hostility against Bulgaria at the turn of the 20th century. Romanian intentions in Macedonia also came about with claims to the region due to the presence there of a miniscule amount of Vlach shepherds(!) During World War I the Bulgarian leaders were not exactly sure who to side with at first. In fact, it was revisionist politics that finally decided which side Bulgaria would enter the war on. Up to this point the Allies were sure that Bulgaria would join on their side of the war. Up to the last minute the Allies were convinced that Bulgaria would not attack Serbia, despite evidence to the contrary. This then is another glaring example of the Janus faced politics which mainly Britain and France used in their policies regarding Central Europe. Promising different sides different territorial rewards if they did as they were told by the Allies. The West somehow had a feeling that they had the ultimate right to draw Central European frontiers as they wished in accordance with which they could manipulate the various states against each other. The Allies have rarely been brought to task over their double-dealings during the First World War. The Paris Peace Treaties following the War were just of furtherance of this policy.


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