The Macedonian Question, 1908-1912.


Early in 1908 Russia and Austria-Hungary fell out over the execution of the Mürzsteg program, by the terms of which a system of reform had been instituted in Macedonia. In January, 1908, Baron Aerenthal announced that Austria-Hungary had applied for permission to survey the ground for a railroad to connect the terminus of the Bosnian Railway with the line running from Metrovitza to Salonica. Russia was especially disturbed by this announcement, which she regarded as destructive of the joint action which she and Austria-Hungary had been commissioned by the powers to exercise over Macedonia. Baron Aerenthal promptly dispelled all doubts as to the correctness of Russia's inference by declaring that the special task of Russia and Austria in Macedonia was concluded. In June, 1908, King Edward of England and Czar Nicholas met at Reval and drew up a further program for the pacification of Macedonia. The execution of this program was interrupted by the startling series of events which transpired during the latter half of 1908.

On July 24, 1908, the bloodless revolution by which the rule of Abdul Hamid was overturned and the Young Turk régime established in the Ottoman Empire was effected; on October 5 Prince Ferdinand proclaimed the independence of Bulgaria; on October 6 the Emperor Francis Joseph announced the formal annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Hapsburg dominions; and on October 12 the Cretan Assembly voted the union of the island of Crete with the Kingdom of Greece.


The belief of the Young Turks that a regeneration of the Empire was necessary to prevent the inevitable and irretrievable loss of European Turkey precipitated the revolution of 1908, and the paramount plank in the program of regeneration was the solution of the Macedonian problem. The policy which the Young Turk adopted to solve the Macedonian problem was to strengthen the Moslem element and to enroll Christians in the army.


After the annexation of Bosnia and Herzegovina by Austria-Hungary the Young Turks sent agents into those countries to induce the Moslem population to emigrate to Macedonia. These immigrants, or muhadjers, as they were called, were settled by the Government in those districts where the Moslem population was weak. The experiment, which was not without precedent, proved disastrous. The element which could be induced to emigrate was ignorant, unruly, fanatical, and economically worthless. The presence of this lawless, malcontent element in Macedonia ended in irretrievable disaster for Turkey. They readily united with the Albanian Moslem immigrants to perpetrate the succession of massacres in 1912 which resulted ultimately in the formation of the Balkan Alliance.


The second policy adopted by the Young Turks to secure the loyalty of their Christian subjects in European Turkey was the abolition of the Karadj or head tax, by which Christians were exempted from military service, and the enrolling of them in the army. This policy was attractive in theory but impracticable in application. The social, educational, temperamental, and religious incompatibility of Moslems and Christians, and the unspeakable and criminal conditions of the service rendered the plan of forming mixed regiments, officered exclusively by Moslems, a dismal failure. This system of obligatory military service was used from its inception as a means of extortion and terrorism; Jews and Christians who were financially able were forced to pay the £40 prescribed for exemption, and those who were unable to pay were practically reduced to military servitude. Under these conditions the Christian elements preferred exile, and between 1909 and 1914 Turkey lost hundreds of thousands of its best subjects by emigration.


The net result of the emigration and settlement of the muhadjers and the enrollment of the Christians for military service was that the people of Macedonia definitely abandoned the advocacy of autonomy under the suzerainty of the Sultan and sought to enlist the assistance of the Balkan States to emancipate them from Turkish rule.


The failure of the Young Turk policy in Macedonia and the series of outrages perpetrated there between 1909 and 1912 induced the Balkan States to compose their differences and to enter into the Balkan League. This league was perfected by a series of treaties, the first of which was signed on March 13, 1912, by Serbia and Bulgaria and the second by Greece and Bulgaria on May 10, 1912. On September 22, 1912, the defensive alliance of Greece and Bulgaria was followed by a detailed military convention.

In the spring of 1912 occurred the successful Albanian uprising. The Albanian insurgents were joined by a part of the Turkish troops who had been operating against them and presently demanded the cession to them of the entire vilayets of Monastir and Uskub. This demand aroused Greece and Serbia. Bulgaria was stirred to action by the massacre of Macedonian Bulgars at Kotchana and Berana. On August 14 a popular demonstration was held at Sofia to demand immediate autonomy for Macedonia and Thrace or war against the Porte. On August 26 Bulgaria agreed that war should be declared in October. In September the members of the Balkan League appealed to the powers to join them in demanding immediate and radical reforms in Macedonia. On October 8 the powers presented an identical ultimatum at Sofia, Belgrade, Athens, and Cettinje. On the same day Montenegro declared war on Turkey. On the 14th Serbia, Bulgaria, and Greece presented their ultimatum. On October 18 the Porte declared war on Bulgaria and Serbia, and on the same day Greece declared war on Turkey.

Source: Anderson, Frank Maloy and Amos Shartle Hershey, Handbook for the Diplomatic History of Europe, Asia, and Africa 1870-1914. Prepared for the National Board for Historical Service. Government Printing Office, Washington, 1918.

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