Hungarian and Bulgarian Interwar Revisionism: Part 14
Though the Allies were guilty of back-door dealings concerning various territorial promises to Central European states as mentioned above, Germany was not above this behavior either. In fact, it was their offers and promises to Bulgaria that helped in its decision to join the Central Powers.Vasil Radoslavov, the Bulgarian Prime Minister during the First World War, faced many disappointments towards the end of the conflict in the countries foreign policy.
As the internal situation deteriorated Radoslavov was faced with unexpectedand unusual difficulties on the diplomatic front.
For King Ferdinand things went from bad to worse. He finally realized the game was up with the release of Stamboliiski from prison. The Bolshevik Agrarian leader was to divide Bulgarian society just as Károlyi and Kun had divided Hungarian society. Chronic shortages on the front and at home in the countryside and cities broke the will of Bulgarian soldiers and civilian population to continue with the war.
Serbia occupied Serbian Macedonia in 1915, and made some advances on Greek territory in 1916. These fronts stayed relatively the same until the summer of 1918. By this time huge food shortages and a generally very inefficient supply system caused disquiet amongst soldiers and civilians along.
Following the Armistice Bulgaria had to retreat behind boundaries established after the Second Balkan war and surrender southern Dobrudja to the Romania. Bulgaria, though having lost nothing in comparison to Hungary in terms of territory, natural resources, and it’s own ethnic population after World War I, still pursued a revisionist foreign policy, though not to the obsessive level of the Hungarians. About 1 million ethnic Bulgarians (16% of total) were outside Bulgaria’s post-war borders.
Macedonia thus became the thorn in the side of Bulgarian interwar politics. In effect it was a pre-war revisionist problem that was never solved despite Bulgarian belief that joining the Central Powers would allow them to reacquire this historically important region.
The early interwar years under Stamboliiski was one in which the Agrarian leader tried to stabilise the country economically in a socialist form, but in this he was undermined by the I.M.R.O. Officially in the international affairs of Bulgaria rejected revisionism.
This can be compared to the Danubian Federation dreamt about by the Hungarian Oszkár Jászi amongst the states of the old Hungarian Kingdom. Neither federation ever materialized in this time of ethnic nationalism. Many Macedonians refused to accept the fact that Macedonia was a part of Serb dominated Yugoslavia.
It is interesting to note also that Bulgarian revisionism did not start with the post-World War I peace treaties in Paris.
Just a simple changing of some dates, locations and ethnic groups in the above passage and it could apply to the Hungarian case as well. Another interesting element in Bulgarian politics in the early interwar years was the part played by Russians who made up parts of the anti-Bolshevik White Armies and now found themselves in Bulgaria. They played their part against Stamboliiski as well.
The influence of the Macedonian extremist terrorist groups in Bulgaria was the reason for such vehement focus on “regaining” Macedonia.
I.M.R.O was first founded in 1893. Though a truly extremist Macedonian organization, it nonetheless pulled towards towing the Bulgarian line concerning the realistic fate of Macedonia as an independent state – however, this was highly unlikely any time soon. Here it is interesting to note that most territories demanded by countries are roughly those that they possessed at the time of their largest reach, despite the fact that this may only have lasted a few years at most, and quaintly disregarding any overlapping claims made by other states. The 1913 Balkan War, which pushed the Ottomans in Europe to a small spit of land across from Constantinople, saw major disputes arise between Greeks, Serbs, Bulgarians, and Romanians. The Second Balkan War, started when Bulgaria attacked Serbia and Greece without warning in June 1913, ended in a month due to the Ottomans, Romanians, and Montenegrins also joining in against the Bulgarians. During the early interwar years some Bulgarians also looked to Italy (as Hungary had done) as a potentially useful ally for its revisionist aims. Though not as central a focus in Bulgarian politics as in Hungary, revisionism of the Treaty of Neuilly-sur-Seine was always an important issue.
With the 1938 Vienna Awards, Bulgaria became the only losing Central Power from the first war which did not get back any of its lost territories. It would not be until 1940 that Bulgaria’s first revisionist dreams came true, but only because of an agreement between the Germans and Soviets. Bulgaria finally decided to join the war on Germany’s side in 1940, by allowing German troops to cross Bulgarian territory in March on their way to invade Greece. By April 1941 further revisions awarded Bulgaria its ex-territories in Thrace, plus large parts of Serbian Macedonia. Bulgarian trrops carried out massacres of local Greeks in Thrace after the beginning of a revolt (much as Hungarian troops massacred Serbs and Jews in Vojvodina); and Bulgarian troops were largely welcomed in Macedonia as liberators (much as Hungarian troops were welcomed as liberators in the Hungarian majority areas of Slovakia and Romania). However, until his death in 1943, King Boris refused to become fully embroiled on Germany’s side, and managed to keep limited tasks within the Balkans to aid the Germans (such as garrisoning parts of Serbia Germany had to leave; guarding railways etc) but not get too involved. From here on it is enough to mention that Bulgaria switched sides in the war on September 8 1944 as the last Germans were leaving and after the Soviets had declared war on them. Thus Bulgaria became occupied by the Soviets, and many Bulgarians fought with the Red Army all the way into Germany. Following the war Bulgaria’s borders went back to those of the interwar years. Both Bulgarian and Hungarian revisionism came with German help, and thus both failed after Germany’s defeat.
- Hungarian and Bulgarian Interwar Revisionism: Part 15
Part 15 of a series that compares and contrasts Hungarian and Bulgarian Revisionism of the interwar years which aimed to regain territories lost by each country at treaties in Paris following World War I.