The Balkan Crisis

“The Balkan question should never be allowed to develop into a political crisis.”

This was a principle neglected by Kaiser Wilhelm II which led to the outbreak of

World War One.


Divided interest in the Balkans caused conflict between the strongest powers in Europe. It was Bismarck’s (chancellor of Germany) decision to establish a complex system of secret alliances in order to maintain the balance of power, and ensure that the major powers would not declare war on each other. With these alliances, Bismarck was able to avoid matters and questions regarding the Balkans, and steer clear of a political crisis.

Once Wilhelm II became Emperor of Germany, he immediately dismissed Bismarck as Chancellor. He broke down Bismarck’s system of alliances and thus neglected the principle upon which Bismarck built them. By doing this, he allowed the Balkan question to develop into a political crisis.

Turkey ruled over the entire Balkan Peninsula. She was, however, becoming a declining power, and in my opinion became an easy target. As a result of this, Russia planned to extend her political influence in the Balkans and encourage the citizens to riot against the Turkish rule. Russia had therefore led the way to the dismemberment of the Turkish Empire. Russia then declared war on Turkey and had ultimately defeated her. A greater part of the Balkans was now under Russian rule, as the Turkish rule curtailed.

A new political arrangement conflicted with Austria-Hungary’s political ambitions. She began to gain interest in the Balkans and was also intent on dismembering the Turkish Empire and extending her influence.

Austria-Hungary became perturbed by Russia’s position within the Balkans. Bismarck became worried over this political situation, and held the Congress of Berlin in order to sort it out. The results of the congress were as follows: Austria-Hungary was placed in charge of the administration of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Russia, however, received Bulgaria (a state which was decreasing in size). Thus Austria-Hungary received a better deal than Russia, causing Russia to end her involvement in the Dreikaiserbund (an alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia).

Bismarck decided that a new plan of action was in order. He formed various alliances, such as the Dual Alliance (an alliance between Germany and Austria-Hungary), the Triple Alliance (an alliance between Germany, Austria-Hungary and Italy), and the Reinsurance Treaty (an alliance between Germany and Russia). With these treaties, Bismarck never allowed the Balkan question to develop. By doing this he prevented a war from happening between Austria-Hungary and Russia.

When Wilhelm II became Emperor of Germany, he immediately discharged Bismarck as the Chancellor. This was a big mistake.

Bismarck had built up the German Empire based on these political concepts: He made sure that an alliance between France and Russia would be avoided, and he never allowed the Balkan question to develop into a political crisis. Both of these principles were neglected by Wilhelm II. Little did Wilhelm II know that his actions slowly led to the outbreak of World War One.

Wilhelm II took charge of German foreign policy and immediately broke down Bismarck’s complex system of alliances. Bismarck controlled the political rivalry between Austria-Hungary and Russia in the Balkans, and thus prevented the outbreak of war. Wilhelm II allowed the alliance with Russia to lapse, yet still supported Austria-Hungary in the Balkans.

Because the Reinsurance Treaty was not renewed, Russia went in search of an alliance with France, thus the Dual Alliance between France and Russia was formed.

The Triple Entente was then formed between Britain, France and Russia. The Triple Entente and the Triple Alliance were drifting towards war because Austrian and Russian interests were still clashing in the Balkans.

The Austrian Emperor annexed Bosnia and Herzegovina. The annexation provoked Serbia’s indignation. Serbia demanded Russia’s help, although Russia was still weakened by the defeat at the hands of Japan, and thus could not help. Russia protested against the annexation. While Britain was not prepared to enter the war over the Balkan issue, Germany intended to support Austria-Hungary.

The Serbs could not find ay allies to help them. The annexation therefore followed through, leading to a German-Austrian victory. This marked the beginning of Serbian hostility and Russian resentment toward Austria-Hungary.

Young Turks formed the Balkan League, which consisted of Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Greece. Their aim was to free the Balkans from