1896-1914 1918-1926

Bulgaria in World War I

Administration . General elections were held in 1914. The office of PM was held by Vasil Radoslavov (Liberal, 1913-1918). King Ferdinand (Prince Regent since 1887, King since 1908) abdicated on October 3rd 1918.

Foreign Policy : Neutrality 1914-1915 . When World War I broke out in August 1914, Bulgaria still suffered from it's defeat in the Second Balkan War of 1913. Both the Entente and the Central powers courted King Ferdinand because Bulgaria, because of it's relatively strong army and it's strategic position, would make a respectable ally. King Ferdinand, himself of German origin, however, pursued a policy of strict neutrality. According to Bulgaria's constitution, foreign policy was a royal prerogative; the Subranie, the nation's parliament, had no right to debate it.
Both sides offered Bulgaria territorial gains in case it would join their side. The Entente was willing to concede gains in (Ottoman) eastern Thrace and in both Vardar and Aegean Macedonia, depending on Serb and Greek approval. The Central Powers had more to offer - entire Vardar Macedonia.
Foreign Policy : The War, 1915-1918 . When in the summer of 1915 the Central Powers had had significant military successes - the British were defeated at Gallipoli, the Russians pushed out of Russian Poland, Bulgaria on October 14th 1915 entered World War I on the side of the Central Powers. Serbia's defense collapsed; Bulgarian forces occupied all of Vardar Macedonia and a part of Greek eastern Macedonia (the area around Serres, Kavala, Drama). The Serbs were able to retake Bitola, then the front stabilized. Romania entered the war in August 1916; Bulgarian forces occupied the Southern Dobruja. Romania's defense soon collapsed, and Bulgaria had only one front in Macedonia. Greece declared war on Bulgaria in June 1917.
Meanwhile the Central powers placed the Northern Dobruja under joint German-Austrian-Bulgarian administration; Bulgarian hopes to gain the entire province were disappointed, Prime Minister Vasil Radoslavov resigned (June 1918). His successor Alexander Malinov succeeded in gaining sole control over the Northern Dobruja, a short and futile diplomatic victory.
In September 1918 the Entente launched an offensive into Bulgarian-occupied Vardar Macedonia; the Bulgarian lines were penetrated. Physically exhausted, on September 29th, Bulgaria signed an armistice.

Occupied Territory . In 1919 Bulgaria was accused of having implemented a policy of forced Bulgarification in the areas she had occupied during the war (Vardar, parts of Aegean Macedonia).

Political History . The war soon became unpopular for two reasons - (1) the economic hardship caused by the war, and (2) the fact that Bulgaria was fighting fellow Orthodox christians (Serbs, Romanians) while being allied to Muslims (Ottoman Turks) was repelling to practicing Orthodox christians. The outbreak of the Russian Revolution in 1917 had an impact on this nation with her traditional affinity for Russia.
Alexander Stamboliyski, leader of the Agrarian Union, was arrested for his opposition to the war (1915-1918).

The Economy . Just before the war had broken out, German banks had granted Bulgaria a much needed loan.
Bulgaria's wheat production dropped from 1.184 million metric tons in 1913 to 0.632 million metric tons in 1914; the figures for 1915 were 0.967 million, for 1916 0.808 million, for 1917 0.791 million and for 1918 0.631 million (IHS p.261).
The economic side of the war quickly became more pressing. There was a shortage of food, inflation became a serious problem; prices rose 7fold until summer 1918. As the regulated official market could not answer the demand, an illegal black market emerged, with even more exorbitant prices. In some Bulgarian-occupied areas, food riots broke out (1917).

Social History . The census of 1910 (borders of 1910) had counted 4.337 million inhabitants of Bulgaria, of which 3.49 million were ethnic Bulgarians, 466,117 Turks, 121,435 Roma (Gypsies), 79,787 Romanians, 43,272 Greeks, 40,118 Jews, 21,145 Pomaks, 18,050 Tatars, 12,914 Armenians (NIYB 1916 p.104).
In 1917-1918, some Bulgarian troop units facing Russians - the Russian Revolution was going on - formed Soviets.

Articles Elections in Bulgaria, List of Prime Ministers of Bulgaria, Vasil Radoslavov, Ferdinand I. of Bulgaria, Bulgaria during World War I, Alexander Stamboliyski, from Wikipedia
Library of Congress, Country Studies : Bulgaria
DOCUMENTS Table of Bulgaria's Prime Ministers, 1879-present, from Bulgaria Online
World Statesmen : Bulgaria, from Ben Cahoon
Historical Population Statistics : Bulgaria, from Population Statistics, Univ. Utrecht
Map featuring the Balkan states in 1917, from The New Encyclopedic Atlas And Gazetteer Of The World (Reynolds 1917) , posted by PerryCastaneda Library at UTexas, has prewar borders
Ethnographic map of Macedonia, Bulgarian view, from Report of the International Commission To Inquire into the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars, 1914, posted by Perry Castaneda Library, UTexas
Ethnographic map of Macedonia, Serbian view, from Report of the International Commission To Inquire into the Causes and Conduct of the Balkan Wars, 1914, posted by Perry Castaneda Library, UTexas
6 October, 1915, Tsar Nicholas' Declaration Against the Bulgarians, English translation, from World War I Document Archive; from First World War.com
Vasil Radoslavov on Bulgaria's Entry into the War, 11 October 1915, from First World War.com
Daily Telegraph Report of a Meeting Between the Bulgarian Tsar and Opposition Members, October 1915, from First World War.com
Treaty of Bucharest, 7 May 1918, from First World War.com
1918, Report on War Guilt by the 'Commission on the Responsibility of the Authors of the War', from World War I Document Archive
Statement by the Bulgarian Peace Delegation on Alleged Bulgarian Atrocities in Serbia, 1919, from First World War.com
Bulgarian banknotes, from Ron Wise's World Paper Money
REFERENCE B.R. Mitchell, International Historical Statistics. Europe 1750-1988, NY : Stockton Press 1992 [G]
R.J. Crampton, A Concise History of Bulgaria, Cambridge Concise Histories 1997 pp.140-147; KMLA Lib.Sign. 949.7 C889a
Article : Bulgaria, pp.623-636, in : Encyclopaedia Britannica, 15th edition, Macropaedia vol.14, KMLA Lib.Sign. R 032 B862n v.14
Raymond Detrez, Historical Dictionary of Bulgaria, Lanham Md. : Scarecrow 2006, KMLA Lib.Sign. R 949.9003 D 483h
Article : Bulgaria, in : The New International Year Book 1916 pp.104-106, 1918 pp.101-103, 1919 pp.120-122 [G]
Frank Fox, Bulgaria (1915), posted online by Gutenberg Library Online
Entry : Bulgaria, in : Statesman's Year Book 1918 pp.726-734 [G]

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First posted in 2000, last revised on September 14th 2008

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