By 1914, there were several new, independent countries in the Balkans, such as Serbia, Bulgaria, and Romania. Based on the map, do you think the people of these new countries felt that their independence was secure? Explain.
Like the Hapsburgs, the Ottomans ruled a multinational empire. It stretched from Eastern Europe and the Balkans to North Africa and the Middle East. There, as in Austria, nationalist demands tore at the fabric of the empire.
In the Balkans, Serbia won autonomy in 1830, and southern Greece won independence during the 1830s. But many Serbs and Greeks still lived in the Balkans under Ottoman rule. The Ottoman empire was also home to other national groups, such as Bulgarians and Romanians. During the 1800s, various subject peoples staged revolts against the Ottomans, hoping to set up their own independent states.
Such nationalist stirrings became mixed up with the ambitions of the great European powers. In the mid-1800s, Europeans came to see the Ottoman empire as “the sick man of Europe.” Eagerly, they scrambled to divide up Ottoman lands. Russia pushed south toward the Black Sea and Istanbul, which Russians still called Constantinople.
Austria-Hungary took Bosnia and Herzegovina, angering Serbs. They had ambitions to expand their influence in the area. Meanwhile, Britain and France set their sights on other Ottoman lands in the Middle East and North Africa.
In the end, a complex web of competing interests contributed to a series of crises and wars in the Balkans. Russia fought several wars against the Ottomans. France and Britain sometimes joined the Russians and sometimes the Ottomans.
Germany supported Austrian authority over the discontented national groups. But Germany also encouraged the Ottomans because of their strategic location in the eastern Mediterranean. In between, the subject peoples revolted and then fought among themselves. By the early 1900s, observers were referring to the region as the “Balkan powder keg.” The explosion that came in 1914 helped set off World War I.
How did Balkan nationalism contribute to the decline of the Ottoman Empire?