Balkan Wars between the Lines: Violence and Civilians in Macedonia, 1912-1918
Papaioannou, Stefan Sotiris
Lampe, John R
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This dissertation challenges the widely held view that there is something morbidly distinctive about violence in the Balkans. It subjects this notion to scrutiny by examining how inhabitants of the embattled region of Macedonia endured a particularly violent set of events: the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 and the First World War. Making use of a variety of sources including archives located in the three countries that today share the region of Macedonia, the study reveals that members of this majority-Orthodox Christian civilian population were not inclined to perpetrate wartime violence against one another. Though they often identified with rival national camps, inhabitants of Macedonia were typically willing neither to kill their neighbors nor to die over those differences. They preferred to pursue priorities they considered more important, including economic advancement, education, and security of their properties, all of which were likely to be undermined by internecine violence. National armies from Balkan countries then adjacent to geographic Macedonia (Bulgaria, Greece, and Serbia) and their associated paramilitary forces were instead the perpetrators of violence against civilians. In these violent activities they were joined by armies from Western and Central Europe during the First World War. Contrary to existing military and diplomatic histories that emphasize continuities between the Balkan Wars of 1912-1913 and the First World War, this primarily social history reveals that the nature of abuses committed against civilians changed rapidly during this six-year period. During the Balkan Wars and the opening campaigns of the First World War, armed forces often used tactics of terror against civilians perceived to be unfriendly, including spontaneous decisions to burn houses, murder, and rape. As the First World War settled into a long war of attrition, armed forces introduced concentration camps and other kinds of bureaucratically organized violence against civilians that came increasingly to mark broader European violence of the twentieth century. In all of these activities, the study reveals, Balkan armies and paramilitary forces were little different in their behavior from armed forces of the era throughout the Western world.