Now all roads lead to France and heavy is the tread
Of the living; but the dead returning lightly dance.
Edward Thomas, Roads

Thursday, March 29, 2018

Bulgaria's War

A Formation of Specially Trained Bulgarian Assault Troops

I discovered this excellent little summary and accompanying photos at the website of “Eco Dragoyna” a tourist service and development organization registered in Bulgaria. 

Bulgarian Officers Departing a Headquarters

Bulgaria entered WWI on 1 October 1915 on the side of the Central Powers against Great Britain, France, Russia, and Italy, as well as fighting against its enemies of the Balkan Wars: Greece, Serbia, and Romania. The goal was to restore the territories of Macedonia and Dobrudzha lost in 1913, following the Bucharest Peace Treaty.

An Imitation of a British Mark-Series Tank

In the autumn of 1915 the Bulgarian Army won a victory over the Serbians and defeated two French divisions advancing along the valley of the river Vardar. But it received an order from the German Supreme Command to stop its pursuit at the Greek border. The Thessalonian front resulted, dooming the army to three years of positional war for which it had no resources. There were 878,000 men on the front, about 15 percent of the population of the country, with 87,000 soldiers and officers killed on the battlefield. No banner, however, fell into the hands of the enemy.

Two Future Emperors on a State Visit to Sofia—
Karl I of Austria-Hungary and Boris III of Bulgaria

In the summer of 1918, Bulgaria was in deep crisis, its resources were completely exhausted. Between 15 and 18 September, the Macedonian Front was broken at Dobro Pole because of the supremacy of the Allied forces both in number and in technical equipment. The retreat of the army turned into mutiny. The insurgents took the headquarters in Kyustendil, and on 27 September 1918 in Radomir the agrarian leader Raiko Daskalov declared Bulgaria a republic. The insurgent soldiers headed for Sofia, but on 30 September they were crushed near the village of Vladaya. 

Postwar Bulgarian Prime Minister Alexander Stamboliyski (2nd from right) in 1920

On 20 September 1918, the government was forced to sign the Thessalonica Peace under very unfavorable conditions. On 3 October, King Ferdinand I abdicated in favor of his son, King Boris III. The peace treaty, signed on 27 November 1919 in the Paris suburb of Neuilly by the Bulgarian prime minister Alexander Stamboliyski, imposed severe requirements on Bulgaria. The country lost its access to the Aegean Sea and 11,278 sq km of its territory (Western Thrace, the Strumitsa region, Bosilegrad, Tsaribrod, and part of the area of Trun and Kula), and confirmed the clauses of the Bucharest Peace Treaty of 1913 that gave away Southern Dobrudzha to Romania. Heavy reparations of 2.25 billion gold franks, 70,825 head of cattle, and 250,000 tons of coal were imposed on Bulgaria. The army, the police, and the soldiers at the borders could not exceed 30,000 men, and specific kinds of weapons were prohibited. Using the treaty of Neuilly , Greece made Bulgaria sign the so-called convention for "voluntary deportation." In his book Bulgaria After the Neuilly Treaty (1930), the French scholar George Desbont wrote that—following its clauses—Serbia received 2,566 sq km and Greece received 8,000 sq km of Bulgarian territory.