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The Balkan wars (1912-1913)


The ICRC opens a relief agency in Belgrade as hostilities break out between the Ottoman empire and a coalition grouping Bulgaria, Greece, Montenegro and Serbia. The Committee sends delegates to visit prisoners and to monitor relief distribution.

The 1878 Congress of Berlin rejected the plan for a " Greater Bulgaria "   and restored Ottoman domination over Macedonia, which then fell prey to continuous unrest.

In October 1912, Bulgaria, Serbia, Greece and Montenegro declared war on the Ottoman Empire and were victorious. On 3 December 1912, the Empire asked for an armistice, but hostilities resumed briefly in 1913. This conflict ended Turkish rule in Macedonia.

However, the victorious alliance broke up after this first Balkan War. A second Balkan War pitted Bulgaria against a coalition of Serbia, Greece, Romania and Turkey. On 30 July 1913, a defeated Bulgaria laid down its arms.

On 16 November 1912, the International Committee announced the opening in Belgrade of an International Relief Agency, under the supervision of the Swiss consul. Its main task was to centralize information on the wounded and prisoners of war.

The Agency drew up a list of all Turkish military personnel in captivity in Serbia; ICRC delegates visited the camps and inquired about the fate of soldiers who were wounded or had disappeared. The Bulgarian Red Cross, however, did not receive any information on captured Turks, obtaining a list of them only after the fighting was over. The Ottoman authorities did not provide any information on the prisoners they held.
An ICRC delegate travelled to Serbia, Bulgaria, Montenegro and Greece in November and December 1912, visiting field hospitals at the front and the rear, and collecting the wounded on the battlefield, identifying them and organizing relief at the rear.
Another ICRC delegate went to Serbia, Turkey and Greece in the spring of 1913.
These two delegates in essence enabled the ICRC in Geneva to obtain information on the manner in which voluntary relief was being provided to the wounded and on the forwarding of information about prisoners of war.



Balkan war, 1912: cholera strikes the Turkish army.  

Balkan war, 1912: cholera strikes the Turkish army.
© ICRC / hist-00274