Anna M. Cienciala (
History 557 Lecture Notes
Spring 2002 (Revised Fall 2003. Fall 2007)
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General Characteristics and Problems.

The problems here were even worse than those inherited by the states of East Central Europe: backward agrarian economies; poverty; overpopulation; illiteracy; corruption; authoritarian governments; mistreatment of minorities; lack of western capital investment. It is true that land reform gave more land to the peasants, but small holdings, poor soil, high taxes and lack of capital investment meant that peasant poverty was dire.

Although frontiers conformed more to self-determination than ever before, ethnic tensions were high. There were significant numbers of Hungarians in Slovakia,Transylvania and Yugoslavia. Also, tensions between the two largest constituent nationalities of Yugoslavia, the Serbs and Croats, dominated the political life of that country. Finally, there was a deep sense of insecurity due to Hungarian and Bulgarian revisionist demands and, in the case of Romania, also of Soviet refusal to recognize the Romanian possession of Bessarabia. Yugoslavia feared Italian expansion at her expense.

(All landscapes, peasants, and kings, from: L.S. Stavrianos, The Balkans since 1453, New York, 1959, unless referenced otherwise. Note that the shepherd is wearing a turban, so he is a Moslem).

I. Economic Problems.

(a) Overpopulation. The growing population could not be absorbed by underdeveloped economies, or by emigration to the U. S., as had been the case before WW I., because U.S. immigration quotas discriminated against the peoples of southern and eastern Europe. 1930 estimates of overpopulation in proportion to available arable land were: 61.5% in Yugoslavia; 53% in Bulgaria; 51.% in Romania, and 50.3% in Greece.

(b) Low productivity. This was due to the generally poor quality of the soil, the use of the old scattered strip system and lack of machines and fertilizers. Furthermore, there was widespread malnutrition and lack of health care for peasants.

(c) Education. This was out of the reach of most people, so illiteracy was an average 60% in the whole region in 1939, except for Romania. Furthermore, in all countries, most of those who managed to get university degrees had nowhere to go except into the civil service, which was riddled with corruption like the old Ottoman service.

(d) External Pressures The Great Depression led to the establishment of tariff barriers all over Europe and a radical decline of agricultural prices. However, in the late 1930s, agricultural produce was exported to Nazi Germany in exchange for German manufactured goods (see point g. below).

(e) The role of Government. Governments did very little to help the peasants. On the contrary, they were burdened with high taxes on commodities. These taxes provided 55-65% of national revenues.

(f) Failure to industrialize. Little could be done for lack of foreign capital investment. There was some industrial expansion in Yugoslavia but industrial workers increased only from 200,000 to 385,000, while total population growth was from 11.6 million to 15.6 million.

(g) German economic domination and lack of British and French interest in the Balkans. German economic influence began in the mid-1930s and became dominant by 1938. This was due to the fact that Nazi Germany was willing to buy Balkan agricultural produce and raw materials. Germany lacked foreign currency, so she paid for Balkan products in German currency held in blocked accounts in the German National Bank. In 1938, the trade exchange percentages were as follows:
Imports from Germany
Exports to Germany

But Germany faced problems in her Balkan trade. By 1939, she could not supply the large quantity of arms wanted by Balkan countries because Hitler needed them for the war he was preparing to launch.  At the same time, these countries could not supply Germany with the huge amounts of raw materials she needed for her war industry. Indeed, German economic experts said that adequate supplies of raw materials for a world war could only come from the USSR.

France and Britain failed to counter German economic domination of the Balkans in the late 1930s largely because they had their own sources of agricultural products. France was still mostly an agrarian country; also, it invested heavily in developing corn production in French Indochina (Vietnam), so it could not import much Romanian corn. Britain applied imperial preferences to food imports from Canada, Australia and New Zealand, so she did not want to import Balkan foods. Balkan tobacco, grown mainly in Bulgaria, might have been imported by Britain, and this suggestion was made by the Foreign Office to British cigarette manufacturers in 1938, but they refused  because British smokers were used to the smoother Virginia tobacco. It is true that France and Britain did not need Balkan agricultural products, but they could have established a few import quotas and increased their investments to counter German economic domination. Better still, they could have concluded alliances with some of the Balkan states. But they did neither because of British policy makers’ aceptance of Germany’s leading economic influence in Eastern Europe.

We should note that  France had allies in Eastern Europe: Poland and Czechoslovakia, also friendship treaties with Romania and Yugoslavia. However, British statesmen and most members of the Foreign Office considered both Central Europe and the Balkans as the natural sphere of German economic influence. All they wanted was equal access to Balkan trade, but this was only a matter of prestige because British trade with the Balkans accounted for 2% of total British foreign trade.

A good example of British attitudes is provided by the head of the Foreign Office, Sir Alexander Cadogan (1884-1968) in mid-October 1938, or just after the Munich Conference which gave the Czech Sudetenland to Germany. Assuming that there would be no "sensational change in Europe," Cadogan wrote in his diary that France and Britain must be on the defensive and Britain must maintain her position in the Mediterranean.

That is not to say that we are to abdicate from such positions as we have been able to create for ourselves in eastern and south-eastern Europe...But any deliberate, uneconomic ‘encirclement’ of Germany appears to me to be a mistake, and probably a costly one. When States like Turkey (and it may be Greece, Roumania and Yugoslavia) wish to be saved from being sucked into the German orbit, and when they can offer sound business, it would seem important to take advantage of the offer, and make very effort to turn it to good account.

German economic preponderance in certain countries of central and eastern Europe is bound to develop, provided the German economic and financial structure can stand the strain....

We must cut our losses in central and eastern Europe* - let Germany, if she can, find there her "lebensraum,"** and establish herself, if she can, as a powerful economic unit. I don’t know that that necessarily worsens our commercial and economic outlook. I have never heard that Mr. Gordon Selfridge ruined Harrods.*** (Oddly. enough, small shops flourish under the shadow of both of them). I know that it is said that "Mitteleuropa" **** will turn and rend us. But many things - may happen before that.
Finally, Cadogan still hoped for a conference " to review the Peace Settlement and put it right."

[The Diaries of Sir Alexander Cadogan O.M. 1938-1945, edited by David Dilks, London, 1971, pp.119-120. * Here, by central Europe Cadogan meant Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Hungary; by eastern Europe, he meant the Balkans.

** Lebensraum = German word meaning Living space’; **

***Selfridges, a shopping complex with reasonable prices, one block long and several stories high, Oxford Street, London; Harrods, an even larger store in Knightsbridge, London, with very high prices;

**** German term for Central Europe.].

Cadogan’s boss, Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax (1881-1959, Foreign Secretary 1938-40) put it more bluntly. In a letter of November 1, 1938 to the British Ambassador in Paris, Sir Eric Phipps, he wrote:

Henceforward we must count with German predominance in Central Europe.* Incidentally I have always felt myself that, once Germany recovered her normal strength, this predominance was inevitable for obvious geographical and economic reasons.* *[Documents on British Foreign Policy, 3rd series, vol. III, 1938-1939, London, 1950, 285, p.252. Halifax mentioned only Central Europe, by which he meant Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary, but his views on the Balkan States agreed with Cadogan’s. For more on British policy toward E.Europe see Lec. Notes 15 on Appeasement].

III. Political Trends

Here the Balkan pattern was also similar to East Central Europe - Czechoslovakia excepted - that is, the development of authoritarian governments. Royal dictatorships appeared in Bulgaria, Romania and Yugoslavia. Greece was a monarchy, then a republic, then again a monarchy but with a military dictator.

Agrarian/peasant parties were the largest political parties, but they could not form and sustain governments except for early 1920s Bulgaria. Most of these parties opposed industrialization and armaments, but were unable to do much against authoritarian governments which controlled the army and civil service. Also, as mentioned earlier, an average 60% of the population in the region was illiterate and extremely poor.

Communist parties emerged from the left wings of Social Democratic Parties in 1918-19, as they did elsewhere in Europe. They were outlawed, but were insignificant in any case because they could not rival the peasant parties in size or appeal. Furthermore, the Comintern (Communist International) program adopted in 1924 called for the sort of "self-determination" which would weaken the East Central and South-Eastern European states because Moscow saw them as satellites of France. Thus, The Fifth Congress of the Comintern declared that:

(a) Greece was to lose Macedonia and Thrace;
(b)Yugoslavia was to lose its part of Macedonia, also Croatia and Slovenia;
(c) Romania was to lose Transylvania, Dobrudja, Bukovina and Bessarabia.

The lands to be lost by Greece, Yugoslavia and Romania were to become independent states except for Bessarabia and Bukovina which were to join the Soviet Ukraine. (They were annexed by the USSR in 1940 and again in 1945).
Likewise, "oppressed peoples" (minorities) were to be separated from Czechoslovakia, Poland, and Greece. Poland was to give up her eastern territories to Soviet Belorussia and Ukraine (these lands were annexed by the USSR in 1939-41 and again in 1945), while Upper Silesia and the "Polish Corridor" were to return to Germany.

The Fifth Congress of the Comintern (June-July 1924) enshrined the above program in a "Resolution on Central Europe and the Balkans; The Yugoslav Problem." In some respects, it foreshadowed Soviet strategy in building up communist-led "national" resistance movements in Eastern Europe in World War II. Among other things, this Resolution stated:

...The national question has thus attained new importance since the war and has become at the present time one of the essential political questions of Central Europe and the Balkans. At the same time the struggle of the oppressed peoples against national oppression has become a struggle against the power of the imperialistic bourgeoisie who were victorious in the world war...

The importance of the struggle against national oppression is still further augmented by the fact that the nationalities oppressed by Poland, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia, Romania, and Greece .. are largely peasants, and the struggle for their national liberation, is at the same time the struggle of the peasant masses against foreign landlords and capitalists.

.............The slogan "the right of every nation to self-determination, even to the extent of separation," in the present pre-revolutionary period must be expressed in the case of these newly arisen imperialist states in the more definite slogan, "the political separation of the oppressed peoples from Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Yugoslavia and Greece."

The congress charges all the communist parties of Central Europe and the Balkans with the task of ...organizing communist nuclei in the national revolutionary organizations, in order to win the leadership of the national revolutionary movement of the oppressed peoples and to direct it ....against the power of the bourgeoisie..

On Yugoslavia, the Fifth Congress stated: The Serbs, Croats and Slovenes represent three separate nations. The theory of a united trinity of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes is only a mask for Serbian imperialism...the general slogan of the right of nations to self-determination, launched by the communist party in Yugoslavia, must be expressed in the form of separating Croatia, Slovenia, and Macedonia from Yugoslavia and creating independent republics out of them...*.. *[Helmut Gruber, SOVIET RUSSIA MASTERS THE COMINTERN. International Communism in the Era of Stalin’s Ascendancy, New York, 1974, Pt.I, 1, doc. no. 3, pp.131-134., also documents 3,4.

   Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia became independent with the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1990-91, but the USSR also collapsed in late 1991, losing the Baltic States, Ukraine, and others, so it could not derive any benefits from the new situation. However, the Russian governments of President Boris S. Yeltsin (1991-1999) and his successor Vladimir Putin, supported the Yugoslav President, Slobodan Milosevich, for most of the time during the wars of the early 1990s between the Serbs and Croats, the Serbs and Bosniaks (Moslems) in Bosnia, and the Serbs and Kosovar Albanians, (see Lecture Notes 20). Russia still sided with Serbia in opposing Kosovo independence in 2007.

Of course, the Comintern's "national revolutionary program" of 1924 greatly weakened the appeal of Communist parties in the countries covered by the Resolution.  However, the Comintern - directed to do so by Stalin - shelved this program in 1935, when it began supporting "Popular Fronts," that is coalitions of communist and socialist parties in every country formed to oppose Fascism. The Soviet goal of dominating East European countries through communist governments was to be realized after World War II in all East Central European and Balkan states, except Greece. Yugoslavia became an independent communist state in 1948, but disintegrated in the early 1990s.

In the interwar period, the Balkan communist parties built up only a small following in each country. Their calls for social justice and revolution appealed mostly to intellectuals An example can be seen in the life of Milovan Djilas, who was to become Tito’s right hand in World War II and a famous dissident after it.*

*[See Milovan Djilas, Land Without Justice, New York, 1958, and same: Memoir of a Revolutionary, New York, 1973].

The fact that communist parties had to be underground meant that by 1940-41 they had trained cadres to lead resistance movements to German and Italian occupation. However, the only communist-led mass movement was to emerge in Yugoslavia, and it owed much less to communist ideology than to the widespread desire to resist German and Italian occupants. (See Lec. Notes 16B: Eastern Europe in World War II).

IV. The Balkan countries and their problems

As in East Central Europe, so too  in South-Eastern Europe (Balkans)  state frontiers were not drawn up  by western statesmen at the Paris Peace Conference in 1919. These states emerged from the war as victors or vanquished, and most of the frontiers were established by the victors on the ground, to be confirmed or modified in Paris. Furthermore, all the peace treaties were worked out at the Paris Peace Conference --not at Versailles. The Versailles Treaty, signed in the main palace at Versailles on June 28, 1919, was the peace treaty concluded with Germany. Other treaties dealt with other countries:

the Treaty of St.Germain , September 10, 1919, was signed by the allied powers and Austria;
the Treaty of Rapallo,        November 12, 1919  "        "      by Italy and Yugoslavia.
the Treaty of Neuilly, November 27, 1919, was signed by the allied powers with Bulgaria;
the Treaty of Trianon , June 4, 1920 -             "       "       "   "     "          "          "    Hungary.
the Treaty of Sevres August 10, 1920   -         "       "       "   "     "          "          " the Ottoman Empire.

In all cases, the East European supporters of the western Powers  took territory from the vanquished states before the the Peace Conference opened. However, the Poles had to abide by allied decisions regarding the Polish-German frontier. (There was a contingent of British troops in East Prussia, and another of  British-French-Italian troops in Upper Silesia). The Paris Peace Conference also determined the borders of  Austria.
Hungary claimed the Burgenland, but a plebiscite decided it was to stay in Austria.

 Balkan States by country.

1. The Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes -Yugoslavia. (Yugoslavia).

Yugoslavia, like the other East European states supporting the Western Powers, came into existence,in early December 1918, that is, before the Paris Peace Conference opened on January 12, 1919. The only controversial frontier in this region was the one between Yugoslavia and Italy. It was negotiated by the two countries and established by the Treaty of Rapallo, November 12, 1919:

Fiume (Rijeka) was to be an independent state (it was later annexed by Italy);
Italy gave up her claims to Dalmatia, except for Zara;
Istria was divided between the two countries.

(See Magocsi, Historical Atlas of East Central Europe, section 42 on Trieste, Istria and Albania, and map 42a, also map 44, which shows Zara).

The Yugoslav government claimed the Slovene region of Klagenfurt/Celovec. However, a plebiscite yielded 59% of the local Slovene vote for Austria, so the region did not join Yugoslavia.

During World War I, Croat and Slovene leaders aimed at autonomy in a federation with Serbia, but gave this up in December 1918 in favor of a Kingdom ruled by the Serbian king Alexander I, because they feared Italian intervention.

                                                                                (from Stavrianos, The Balkans since 1453).

The National Council of Zagreb, Croatia, fearing Italian expansion, declared its desire to unite with Serbia. Serbia's King Alexander I accepted it on December 1, 1918, and this marked the birth of the "Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes," the official name of the state until 1929, when it was changed to Yugoslavia. (The name Yugoslavia is generally used until 1992).

Only Stepan Radic (1871-1928, pron. Raadeech), leader of the Croat Peasant Party, refused to recognize the transfer of power to King Alexander I and demanded an independent Croatia. The King of Montenegro, who opposed the union, was deposed, and the kingdom became a province of Yugoslavia. The Macedonian Slavs were not even asked for their views, nor were the Albanians of Kosovo.

[From: Robert J. Donia and John A. Fine Jr., Bosnia & Hercegovina. A Tradition Betrayed, New York, 1994].

Interwar Yugoslav Political Systems.

The constitution of 1921 established a constitutional monarchy, but gave great powers to the King. There was a multi-party system with proportional representation. Contrary to Croat and Slovene desires, Yugoslavia was a centralized state in which the Serbs, who constituted the largest single ethnic group - 35% of the population - ruled the rest and staffed 99% of the bureaucracy and military officer cadres. Thus, the new state realized the Serbian dreams of a great, Serb-led south slavic state, though not quite as large as the one sketched out in the "Nacertanje" of 1844 [see Lecture Notes 9].

Nicola Pasic (1845-1926) who was the Premier of Serbia, then Yugoslavia from 1906 to his death, managed to control the legislature in the years 1919-26 by buying Slovene and Moslem votes, a tactic followed by his successors. The non-Serbian peoples of the kingdom never accepted its legitimacy.

On June 20, 1928, Radic and three other Croat deputies were assassinated on the floor of the legislature by a terrorist. The Croats responded by demanding a "Free Croatia." King Alexander rejected the idea of a federal state. Instead, on January 6, 1929, he abolished the 1921 constitution and dissolved the legislature. He suppressed political parties and established a personal dictatorship. He abolished the old national/ethnic provinces and replaced them with 9 new ones called "banovinas," [ban = old term from governor] which had no connection with historical territories. Finally, he changed the name of the state to: Yugoslavia. The goal of all these measures was to overcome, or at least suppress the national divisions in the country.


Alexander was assassinated in Marseilles on October 9, 1934, when wounded host, the French Premier Jean- Louis Barthou.(1862-1934), bled to death. The assassin was a member of the "Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization" - IMRO - which was supported by Hungary, while its members were trained in Italy. IMRO also had links with Croat fascists called "Ustashe" (Insurgents), led by Ante Pavelic (1889-1959) - who was to head the Croat puppet state under German domination in World War II. (He died in Argentina).

King Alexander’s brother, Prince Paul became regent because the heir to the throne, Peter II (1923-1970, King 1940-45), was a minor. In the mid and late 1930s, Yugoslavia shifted toward Italy, then Germany, seeking protection from the former in the latter. Milan Stoiadinovic ( pron: Stoyadeenoveech, 1881-1961), who was both Prime Minister and Foreign Minister in the years 1935-39, established a government party called "The Yugoslav Radical Union," made up of the Serbian Radical Party, Moslems and Slovenes, all under his control.

National-Ethnic Policies.

Serb-Croat tensions exacerbated the nationalism of both peoples. In particular, Serbian hatred of the Moslems of Bosnia-Herzegovina was expressed with no attempt to disguise it. These Moslems were Slavs, but had converted to Islam in the 17-18th centuries and were therefore favored by Ottoman rulers. They had been landowners, but lost their estates to Serbs and Croats in the land reform that began in 1919, after which most of them moved to the towns. Serbs viewed them as parasitic and nationally disruptive "Turks." In keeping with the idea of a Great Serbia, some Serbian writers suggested that these people would have to be "de-islamized" either by intermarriage with Serbs, or if that failed - by extermination. In interwar Yugoslavia, the Moslems of Bosnia-Herzegovina, who made up about 40% of the population - followed by Serbs, then Croats - generally supported the government of the day and voted accordingly.*

*[See: Ivo Banac, THE NATIONAL QUESTION IN YUGOSLAVIA. Origins, History, Politics, Ithaca and London, 1984, pp. 372-73, also Robert J. Donia & John V.A. Fine Jr., BOSNIA & HERCEGOVINA. A Tradition Betrayed, New York, 1994].

A policy of forced Serbian assimilation was applied to the Albanian population of Kosovo. This region, which the Serbs call "Kosovo-Metohia," was, and is sacred to them as the cradle of Serbian culture. It has many medieval Serbian churches and monasteries and   Kosovo Polje (pron. Polye, trans: the field of Blackbirds) is just a few kilometers south-west of Kosovo's capital, Pristina (see map). Here, the Serbs suffered a decisive defeat by Ottoman armies on June 28, 1389. This defeat, after a great battle in which the Serbs fought heroically against the armed might of the Ottoman Empire, was the theme of epic poems sung by wandering Serbian minstrels over the centuries - and it was learned by generations of Serbian school children in the late 19th and 20th centuries. Kosovo was rejoined to Serbia in the First Balkan War, 1912, and this was recognized in the Treaty of London, May, 1913. Every Serbian child learned at school that Kosovo was Serbian and must belong to Serbia. This is still the majority belief in Serbia today.

                                            (Map from Miranda Vickers, Between Serb and Albanian. A History of Kosovo, New York, 1998)

However, the majority of Kosovo’s population did not consist of orthodox Serbs - but of Moslem and Catholic Albanians, with a preponderance of Moslems. After World War I, the Yugoslav government set out to make them Serbs. When it was clear they could not be "serbianized" in Serbian language schools. where  they gained knowledge they could use to oppose the government, the latter abolished these schools and allowed only catechism instruction by Moslem and Catholic clerics. As one Serbian official put it, the goal was to keep the Kosovar Albanians "backward, unenlightened and stupid...It is in our interest that they remain at the present level of their culture for another twenty years, the time we need to carry out the necessary national assimilation in these areas." * However, the Albanian Kosovars obtained some education in their religious schools. Also, they had one secondary school in Skopje, Macedonia, which was designed to train Moslem clerics - but became the center of Kosovar nationalist and communist activity. The Serbs then tried colonization, taking land from Kosovars and giving thousands of acres to mostly Serb settlers. This led to insurrections in Kosovo and northern Macedonia which sometimes developed into guerrilla wars. A"Kosovar Committee" was established in neighboring Albania.*

*[Ivo Banac, The National Question, pp.299; see also Miranda Vickers, Between Serb and Albanian. A History of Kosovo]

Thus, the  nationalist wars over Croatia, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo of the 1990s have long roots, including the interwar period and especially the bloody struggles in World War II. Still, it seems that at least Serb-Croat hostility might have been resolved or at diminished at the end of the interwar period. In the shadow of the oncoming war, the Serb Premier Dragisa Csvetkovic (pron. Tsvetkoveech) and the Croat leader Vladko Macek (1879-1964, pron. Flaatko Machek) concluded an agreement on August 26, 1939, defining the frontiers of an autonomous Croatia. Furthermore, Macek was to become Deputy Premier in the Yugoslav government, and four Croats were to be ministers. However, the agreement met with furious protest from the Serbs, while the Slovenes and Moslems of Bosnia-Herzegovina demanded autonomy for their regions. The outbreak of World War II put paid to any further efforts at state reform and national reconciliation.

Foreign Policy.

On March 25, 1940, Yugoslavia joined the "Anti-Comintern Pact," thus lining up with Germany and Italy. However, on March 26-28 1941, the government of Prince Paul was overthrown by a group of officers, the 16 year old Primce Peter was proclaimed King, and a pro-allied government was established. When it hesitated to accept the German demand for troop transit to Greece, the Luftwaffe bombed Belgrade, German forces invaded the country on April 6, and overran it. King Peter and his government fled to London where a government-in-exile came into being. A royalist resistance movement called the "Chetniks"(Companions) was organized immediately under General Dragoliub ("Draza") Mihailovic (1893-1946). The partisan movement led by the head of the Yugoslav Communist Party, Josip Broz Tito (1902-1980) did not appear on the scene until after the German attack on the USSR on June 22, 1941.* (For Yugoslavia in WW II, see Lec.Notes 16).

*[For an excellent survey of interwar, postwar and the end of Yugoslavia, see: John R. Lampe, Yugoslavia as History. Twice there was a Country, 2nd ed., Cambridge, 2000; see also the older work of Barbara Jelavich, History of the Balkans. vol. 2. Twentieth Century, Cambridge, England,1983 and reprints; also Ivo J. Lederer, "Nationalism and the Yugoslavs," in Peter F. Suger and Ivo J. Lederer, eds., NATIONALISM IN EASTERN EUROPE, Seattle, WA, 1974, reprinted with a new preface, 1994].

2. Interwar Bulgaria.

Bulgaria had sided with the Central Powers, so it was a defeated country losing western Thrace to Greece, four border districts to Yugoslavia, and Dobrudja to Romania.

[From: R.J. Crampton, A Concise History of Bulgaria, Cambridge, 1997].

The Treaty of Neuilly also burdened Bulgaria with reparations amounting to $450,000,000 (very little of which was actually paid), as well as reparations in kind (which were paid), and her military was reduced to 35,000.
Furthermore, Bulgaria was burdened by the influx of about 500,000 Bulgarian refugees from Thrace and Macedonia, as arranged by the Greek-Bulgarian convention of 1919. (There was also an exodus of many Greeks from Bulgaria.) The influx of so many Bulgarians into a nation of 6,000,000 people was a great burden on the country, though not as great as the much more numerous influx of Greek refugees from Turkey into Greece. (See Greece below).

Bulgaria was a largely homogenous country, in which Bulgarians formed 81.3% of the population in 1926, with a Turkish minority of about 10%. It was also a more egalitarian society than those of other Balkan countries and there were very few large landed estates. This was largely due the extermination of most Bulgarian nobles during the Turkish conquest.

Land reform was pushed through after 1918 by Agrarian Party leader Alexander Stamboliskii (1879-1923, Prime Minister 1919-23), who imposed a 60 acre limit on landed estates and distributed the excess land to the peasants. He wanted to make Bulgaria a model agrarian state and dreamed of a "Green" federation of agrarian states across Eastern Europe. Stamboliskii also signed the Agreement of Nis with Yugoslavia, giving up some Bulgarian claims. This led to his gruesome murder on June 23, 1923, by members of the IMRO (Internal Macedonian Organization) who kidnapped him along with his brother, tortured Alexander, cut off his right hand, with which he had signed the Nis agreement, and killed them both.

Indeed, IMRO was so powerful that it controlled the Bulgarian army and bureaucracy. It demanded all of Macedonia for Bulgaria and had the support of some 200,000 refugees from Yugoslav and Greek Macedonia. Its hold over the country was not broken until the mid-1930s.

The largest and most effective Balkan communist party developed in Bulgaria, partly because of resentment against the Peace Treaty of Neuilly, and partly because Bulgarians traditionally looked on Russia as "their big brother." (Russia had won Bulgarian independence by defeating the Ottoman Empire, 1878.) However, the communist party was politically insignificant because the peasants had benefitted from the Stamboliskii land reform. In April 1925, the communists discredited themselves by blowing up part of Sofia Cathedral in a failed attempt to kill the king and members of the government, after which the government almost destroyed the communist party.

[From Crompton, A Concise History of Bulgaria]

The most famous member of the Bulgarian communist party was Georgii M. Dimitrov (1882-1949), who survived a Nazi trial in Germany to be the Secretary General of the Comintern in 1935-43, Moscow, and made Bulgaria a communist country on the Soviet model when was Premier in 1946-49.

In May 1934, an organisation called the "Military League" took over the government by a military coup. They were supported by a civilian organization called "Zveno" (the link), an elite group which aimed to modernize Bulgaria. They abolished the constitution of 1879 and suppressed political parties, also trade unions. There was a national assembly (legislature), but its members were appointed and the government ruled by decree. The regime, supported by the military and moderates in IMRO, managed to disband this terrorist organization. The government then achieved closer relations with France and established diplomatic relations with the USSR.

However, the regime lacked broad support and there was dissent within the Military League. In this situation, King Boris III (1894-1943, King 1918-43) secured the removal of the head of the "Zveno," Col. Kimon Georgiev, in a bloodless coup in January 1935. Two months later, the King restored civilian control of the government, abolished the Military League, and established a royal dictatorship. The legislature was elected, but deputies stood for election only as individuals, not party members, and the assembly had only consultative powers. Even so, in 1938, 32 Agrarians, 8 Social Democrats and 5 Communists were elected; they formed a bloc called the "Bulgarian Workers’ Party" which had 45 deputies in an assembly of 160 members. Some of these deputies were expelled.

[From Crampton, A Concise History of Bulgaria. In 2001,
Simeon became Premier of Bulgaria as Simeon Habsburgsky].

Bulgaria’s revisionist claims to Macedonia and Dobrudja made it impossible for it to align with France and the "Little Entente" made up of Czechoslovakia, Romania and Yugoslavia. Even though Bulgaria entered the "Balkan Entente," it remained a revisionist power and lined up with the Axis Powers on the outbreak of World War II. However, Bulgarian troops did not join the German war against the USSR, and the Soviet Embassy continued to function in Belgrade. Most Bulgarians looked on Russia - which they identified with the USSR - as their "big brother" because it had liberated them from Turkish rule in 1878.

Bulgaria was a very poor country. Its main exports were tobacco and the "atar of roses," used to make perfume. It was a century behind the economically advanced Czech lands (Bohemia-Moravia), as can be seen in the photos below.

[from: Ivan T. Berend, Decades of Crisis. Central and Eastern Europe Before World War II, Berkeley CA.,1998, after p. 190. The caption on the lower picture should read: Works].

Short bibliography.
For an excellent survey of interwar Bulgaria, see: Barbara Jelavich, History of the Balkans vol. 2,. Twentieth Century, Cambridge, England, 1984 and reprints. See also R.J. Crampton, A Short History of Bulgaria, Cambridge, England, 1984, or same: A Concise History of Bulgaria, Cambridge, England, 1997, and John R.Lampe, The Bulgarian Economy in the Twentieth Century, New York, 1988; see also John D. Bell, Peasants in Power: Alexander Stamboliskii and the Bulgarian Agrarian National Union, 1899-1923 Princeton, N.J., 1977, and Martin V. Pundeff, "Bulgarian Nationalism," in Sugar and Lederer, , NATIONALISM IN EASTERN EUROPE, Seattle, WA, 1974, 1994.

3. Romania. [The old spelling was Roumania or Rumania, and the latter is still used by some western historians of the country].

                                                                                    [From: Stavrianos, The Balkans in our Time].

Romania nearly doubled its size by taking over Bessarabia from Russia, Bukovina from Austria, Transylvania and half of the Banat from Hungary (the other half went to Yugoslavia), and Dobrudja from Bulgaria.

[From Dennis Deletant, "A Balancing Act - Romania, 1919-1940," Current History, vol. 42, June 1992].

The Romanians and Saxons of Transylvania had voted for union with Romania in November 1918, but did so on the assumption the region would have autonomy. However, the Romanian government refused to consider this option. Also, it followed a policy of assimilation and oppression against the large Hungarian minority, which was to be continued after World War II by Romanian communist governments. (The Hungarian minority in Transylvania still causes occasional tensions in Romanian-Hungarian relations today).

The Romanian government carried out drastic land reform in 1918-21 in order to avert a revolution (like the peasant revolt of 1907). However, the largest peasant holdings were in Transylvania, while  the "Regat" (old kingdom)  had mostly small farms insufficient to feed peasant families .The "National Peasant Party" was the largest political party. Communists were regarded as traitors after the publication of the Comintern "self-determination" program of summer 1924. [See under Yugoslavia]. 

Romanian Politics.

Iuliu Maniu (1873-1953) was one of the most prominent politicians of the interwar period. A Romanian from Transylvania, who voted for its union with the Kingdom in November 1918, he united his Romanian National Party of Transylvania with Ion Mihalache’s Peasant Party, thus forming the "National Peasant Party." He was Prime Minister in 1928-30 and 1932-33. (In August 1944, he led the coup against the Romanian fascist government, but was imprisoned by the Communists in 1947 for being independent, and died in prison).

Other prominent politicians were the leaders of the dominant "National Liberal Party" (NLP):  Ion C. Bratianu who led it in 1909-1927, and represented Romania at the Paris Peace Conference of 1919 along with Take Ionescu (1858-1922); Vintila Bratianu, leader in 1927-1930; Ion Gheorghe Duca, leader in 1930-1933; and Constantin "Dinu" I.C. Bratianu, leader in 1934-1947. The NLP represented the Romanian middle class. The Romanian Communist Party was insignificant, partly because it supported the Comintern program of "self-determination" until the Comintern shelved it in 1935, and partly because most of its leaders were Jewish Romanians. It had a maximum membership of 5,000 in 1936, but this fell to 1,000 in 1940.

Gheorghe Bratianu

Ion Bratianu

Iuliu Maniu

        [These and other pictures of Romania are taken from: Kurt W.Treptow, ed., A History of Romania, Iasi, 1997, unless noted otherwise].

Carol II (1893-1953, King 1930-40) was a clever but dissolute ruler. His second wife was the beautiful Helen of Greece with whom he had a son, Michael (b. 1921, King 1940-46, then in exile). In 1925, Carol renounced his right of succession to the throne in Michael’s favor and went to Paris with his mistress Magda Lupescu. King Ferdinand died in 1927, and Michael succeeded to the throne at age six, but Carol returned and was proclaimed King in June 1930. He manipulated a whole series of governments, of which there were 25 between 1930 and 1940.

At first, Carol supported the fascist "Iron Guard,"led by Corneliu Zelea Codreanu (1899-1938). Codreanu had formed the "Legion of the Archangel Michael" with nationalist-fascist-antisemitic slogans. The Iron Guard was its militia, but the name came to mean the movement as a whole, though  its members were also called "Legionnaires." His call for a Romanian "renewal" through patriotism and emphasis on the Orthodox religion, also readiness to sacrifice one’s life for the cause, appealed to many people of all classes. However, the Iron Guard won only 15.5% of the vote in the elections of December 1937.

In early 1938, Carol established a royal dictatorship and a new constitution was issued giving full powers to the King. The legislature was elected on a corporatist basis, on the Italian model. The constitution was approved overwhelmingly by a plebiscite - but the voting was public, so many people voted yes out of fear. In December, Carol organized his own party, "The Front of National Rebirth," which adopted many of the Iron Guard themes. In April, Codreanu was arrested and the Iron Guard disbanded. Codreanu was condemned to ten years in prison, but was murdered in November 1938 with twelve of his supporters "while trying to escape."

Still, the Iron Guard survived, led by Horia Sima. Indeed, in September 1939, they assassinated Armand Calinescu (1893-1939), leader of the Peasant Party, Minister of Internal Affairs, and a very close associate of King Carol. Nevertheless, in April 1940 there was a reconciliation between the Iron Guard and the King, after which the Legionnaires joined his party,The Front of National Rebirth. This testified to their strength in the country.


Foreign Policy.

Carol tried hard to interest the British and French governments in investing more capital in Romania, where they already owned  a significant share of Romanian oil. When he realized these powers were not interested in supporting Romania, he turned to Nazi Germany. On March 23, 1939, Romania signed an economic treaty with Germany, giving the latter virtual control over the country’s economy. Following on Hitler’s seizure of the Czech lands and coinciding with his seizure of Memel from Lithuania, the treaty sparked rumors of a German "ultimatum" to Romania and gave the British government a powerful push toward granting Poland a guarantee of its independence. (March 31, 1939). The British wanted Poland to guarantee its help to Romania if attacked by Germany, but at this time neither country wanted to provoke Germany,see Lec.Notes. 16).

                                                                                    [From Dennis Deletant,"A Balancing Act." Note: The German diplomat on the left does not look like Ribbentrop.]

The main goal of Romanian foreign policy, was to keep the territorial gains made in 1918-19. This, of course, put Romania at odds with Russia over Bessarabia, for the Soviet government never recognized Romanian possession thereof, nor of  Bukovina. Romanians predominated in Bessarabia and southern Bukovina, but both regions had large Ukrainian-speaking populations. Soviet Russia wanted Bessarabia - which had belonged to Imperial Russia - as an entry into the Balkans, and aimed to annex both this region and Bukovina - which had been ruled from Vienna before WWI - to round out Soviet Ukraine, thus eliminating bases for anti-communist Ukrainians. (The largest such Ukrainian base was in former East Galicia, which was part of interwar Poland). Romania was also at odds with Hungary (Transylvania) and  Bulgaria  (Dobrudja).

No wonder Romanian politicians and statesmen followed a zigzag policy between the Western Powers and Germany, while also trying  to secure good relations with the USSR. The outstanding Foreign Minister was Nicolae Titulescu (1882-1941), a Romanian delegate to the Paris Peace Conference, Romanian minister in London, 1921-27, Foreign Minister 1927-28 and 1932-36. He worked for close relations with France, the Little Entente and the Balkan Entente. He also tried to improve relations with the USSR, but could not  find a way around the Bessarabian issue. He was also opposed by King Carol, so he resigned. (He died in France in March 1941). Grigoire Gafencu (1892-1957), who was Foreign Minister in 1938-40 did not measure up to Titulescu, and his memoirs, published after the war, are sometimes fanciful and misleading.*  In 1940-41, Romania tried to balance between Hitler and Stalin [See cartoon below].

*[Grigoire Gafencu, The Last Days of Peace, New Haven, 1948. Gafencu gives long accounts of his conversations with various national leaders in 1939, including one with Polish Foreign Minister Jozef Beck in March 1939. Gafencu claims the conversation lasted all night on the train he was traveling on through Poland to Berlin. However, Polish records show the conversation took less than an hour, the time they were both on the train between Krakow and Katowice, and there is no Polish record of the statements attributed by Gafencu to Beck. See:  Jan Weinstein, "Scenariusz Ministra Gafencu," (The Scenography of Minister Gafencu), Zeszyty Historyczne, no. 13, Paris, 1968, pp. 140-61].

[From Dennis Deletant, "A Balancing Act.']

Romania’s line up with the Axis Powers in World War II was dictated by her fear of  Germany, Hungary and the USSR. Nevertheless, after interning the Polish government which crossed into the territory of its Romanian ally on the night of September 17-18  1939 - an action carried out under great German pressure - the Romanian government allowed most members of this government as well as tens of thousands of the military to leave for France, while former  Polish President Ignacy Moscicki was allowed to leave for Switzerland. (He had dual Polish and Swiss citizenship.) But Hitler insisted that former Polish Foreign Minister Jozef Beck not be released, so he, his wife and a few close friends remained in captivity. (Beck died of tuberculosis in Romania on June 5, 1944, the day before the allied landings in Normandy. He was reburied with honors in Warsaw after the collapse of communism in Poland).

1940 was a disastrous year for Romania. On June 24, two days after the French signed an armistice with the Germans at Compiegne, the Soviets occupied Bessarabia and northern Bukovina. (The latter’s population was mostly Ukrainian-speaking, but was not asked for its consent). On August 30, Hungary took  northern Transylvania, while Bulgaria took southern Dobrudja on September 7.  Carol abdicated the day before in favor of his son Michael and on September 16, he fled with Magda Lupescu to Yugoslavia. His train arrived in Belgrade riddled with bullets. Later, he found asylum in Spain, and finally Portugal, where he lived out the rest of his days with Magda..

The great achievement of interwar Romania was the spread of education, and thus the decrease of illiteracy from an average 57% in 1918 to about 20% in 1940. There was also a significant development of university studies. The greatest Romanian historian,  also well known in the West, was Nicolae Iorga (1871-1940). His major publications were a five volume History of the Ottoman Empire, published in German in 1908-13, and an eleven volume History of the Romanians, published in Romanian in 1936-39. He was also a journalist and a prominent politician. He founded the short-lived Democratic Nationalist Party and was Prime Minister in 1931-32. He supported King Carol  and was involved in the trial that led to the imprisonment and later murder of Codreanu. This led to Iorga's assassination by members of the "Legionnaire Movement" (Iron Guard) on November 27, 1940. Iorga was condemned as a "bourgeois historian" in communist Romania, but his work was recognized again after the fall of communism in that country in late December 1989.

Romanian Oil.

Romania was economically important for its oil and agricultural products. In 1934, Romanian oil production was 8,5 mln tons, or 4.05% of world output, but sank to 6.6 mln tons and 2.4% of world output in 1936 because some wells were exhausted and foreign investment was unavailable. The chief Romanian food products were cereals, cattle, and fruit.

Short Bibliography.
For a survey of interwar Romania, see B. Jelavich, The Balkans, vol. 2; for a detailed history, see: Keith Hitchens, Rumania 1866-1947, Oxford, England, 1994. For an illustrated history favorable to Romania, see:  A History of Romania,edited by Kurt W. Treptow et al., Iasi, Romania, 1997; see also: Stephen Fischer-Galati, "Romanian Nationalism," in Sugar and Lederer, NATIONALISM IN EASTERN EUROPE.

    For a favorable view of interwar Romania and wartime dictator General Ion Antonescu, see: Larry L. Watts, Romanian Cassandra: Ion Antonescu and the Struggle for Romania, East European Monographs, Boulder, CO., 1993; for a balanced review of same, see: Paul E. Michelson, "In Search of the 20th Century: Marshal Antonescu and Romanian History - a Review Essay," Romanian Civilization,  vol. III, no. 2, 1994, pp. 71-103.

4. Greece.

Ruins of Thelos, Delphi.

The postwar period started out well for Greece. Prime Minister Eleutharios Venizelos (1854-1936) enjoyed great prestige with the western powers because he had brought his country into the First World wWar on their side. He managed to get almost everything Greece wanted in the Treaty of Sevres, 1920, the peace treaty concluded by the  powers with the defeated Ottoman Empire. Greece obtained Thrace right up to Constantinople/Istanbul, some important Aegean islands, and the right to rule Izmir (Smyrna) and its hinterland for a period of five years, after which a plebiscite was to be held. Greeks formed a majority of the population in the coastal areas of western Turkey (Anatolia).

(Maps from: M.L. Smith, Ionian Vision - note, Greeks also formed the majority on the island of Cyprus, shown at right, bottom, of the second map above. Cyprus remained under British rule).

 In June 1920, Greek forces landed in Anatolia with western support, for the British and French had no troops there to enforce The Treaty of Sevres - the settlement imposed on the Ottoman Empire. Venizelos saw the chance to realize Greek Megali, or " The Great Idea." This nationalist program envisaged  a Greece spanning "two continents and five seas." Basically, this meant joining to Greece the heavily Greek coastal areas of western Anatolia and the Greek populated offshore islands.

This goal seemed to have British backing, though in fact the main backer was  British Prime Minister David Lloyd George (1863-1945). [He lost his premiership in October 1922,  partly for supporting the Greek venture].  Lloyd George supported the Greeks because he hated the Turks and saw an opportunity for extending British influence to Anatolia.
However, by the time the Greeks went to war with the Turks on June 22, 1920, the allies were in the process of recognizing the Turkish regime of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (1881-1938), who had defeated the British and Australian forces at Gallipoli in 1915. Ataturk took over power from the decrepit Sultan. Venizelos and his party suffered defeat in the Greek elections of November 14,1920, because of popular dissatisfaction with the course of the war.


(From M.L. Smith, Ionian Vision).

The Greco-Turkish war went on for two years, and a British military force was involved on the Greek side. The final victory went to the Turks whose troops entered Izmir in September 1922, when the city was destroyed by fire. The defeat led two Greek generals to take control of the government in Athens and King Constantine abdicated in favor of his son, George II (1890-1947, King 1922-23 and 1933-39, in exile 1939-45, King 1945-47). Six leaders were tried for treason and executed, including the commander-in-chief. They were the scapegoats for the defeat.

Peace was concluded in the Treaty of Lausanne,  signed on July 23, 1924 between the western Powers and the Turks. Turkey gave up claims to all non-Turkish territory lost by the Ottoman Empire, except for Eastern Thrace up to the Maritza river. Turkey also received the Imroz and Tenedos islands, which were Greek, while the rest of the Aegean Islands went to Greece. Italy kept the Greek Dodecanese Islands while Britain retained preponderantly Greek Cyprus which she had administered since 1878. *

*[On the Greco-Turkish war, see: Michael Llewellyn Smith, IONIAN VISION. Greece in Asia Minor 1919-1922, London, 1973]

Turkey also agreed to the demilitarization of the Straits. They were to be open to all nations in time of war if Turkey was neutral; if it was not, enemy ships, though not neutrals, could be excluded. The allies evacuated Constantinople/Istanbul on August 23 1924 and it was occupied by the Turks on October 6. However, it was no longer the capital, which moved to Ankara.
On October 29, 1922, the Turkish Republic was proclaimed with Kemal Ataturk as President; he retained this post until his death in 1938. He accomplished much to modernize and secularize Turkey, but an Islamic revival has been challenging his work since the 1980s.

A separate Greek-Turkish agreement provided for a massive exchange of populations. This meant that 1,250,000 Greeks had to leave western Anatolia and settle in Greece -which had a population of 4,300,000 -  while some 500,000 Turks left Greece to settle in Turkey. The influx of over one million Greek refugees was a tragedy for those involved since most lost all they had and could not find equivalent business or employment in Greece. They were a heavy burden on the Greek economy.

Greek Politics.

The Greek catastrophe sent King George II into exile in December 1923 and Greece was proclaimed a Republic on May 1, 1924. In October that year, Greece attacked Bulgaria and there was some fighting, but the conflict was resolved by the League of Nations which fined Greece. In August, a general overthrew his predecessor and imposed a new constitution. Venizelos was Premier in 1928-32, and again in 1933, after which he led the opposition and attempted a military and naval revolt in March 1935. The revolt failed and Venizelos went into exile.

Greece was hit hard by the Great Depression, which greatly reduced its agricultural exports and aggravated the problem of coping with over one million refugees from western Anatolia. It was this critical economic situation, plus the lack of mass support for democracy, which paved the way for authoritarian government.

The 1935 elections showed much support for Venizelos’s Populist Party, which stood for a Republic, while the royalist "Unionist Party" led by General Ioannis (John) Metaxas (1871-1941) won only a small minority of votes. However, the royalist army opposed the Populist republicans and General Kondylis forced through a bill abolishing the Republic.
In late November 1935, King George II returned from exile, granted an amnesty to Republican prisoners, appointed a non-party government and prepared for honest elections. These were held in January 1936; the Royalists won two more seats than the Republicans (143 to 141), and the Communists held the balance.

In April 1936, George II appointed General Metaxas as Premier, and the national assembly agreed to recess for five months to allow him to govern by decree. When he made strikes illegal, the Communists banded together with labor organizations to proclaim a general strike on August 3. Metaxas saw this as the opportunity to seize absolute power and the next day, Aug. 4, George II approved the move. Political parties were abolished and many leaders were jailed . The dictator was commander-in-chief, minister of foreign affairs, and in 1938 also minister of education.

The Metaxas regime, known as "The Regime of the 4th of August," was similar in many ways to Mussolini’s Italy and Franco’s Spain, after spring 1939 when Franco won the Civil War. The dictator’s title was "Archigos," or leader but his movement, which had its own uniforms and slogans, etc., never commanded great support. It emphasized the conservative virtues of family, religion, stability, and social-political order. (Compare with Philippe Petain’s Vichy France, 1940-44.) In his capacity as Minister of Education, Metaxas censored school textbooks, even cutting out Sophocles’s "Funeral Oration" because it praised democracy.

It should be noted, however, that while the Metaxas regime closed down the Trade Unions, it tried to help the workers by establishing a minimum wage. It also tried  to help the peasants. But its most important achievement was the acquisition of arms for the military, which enabled the army to give a good account of itself against Italian and German forces in 1941.

Foreign Policy.

Metaxas strove for closer relations with Gt.Britain. This policy seemed to be yielding success when Britain and France guaranteed Greek (and Romanian) independence on April 13, 1939, a week after Mussolini  invaded Albania. However, just as the earlier guarantee to Poland was part of the British policy to deter Hitler from aggression while working for a peaceful settlement with Germany, so the guarantees of Greece and Romania were a move to deter Mussolini while working for a settlement that would keep him on the western side in case of war with Germany. Therefore, Britain did not sign alliances with these countries, though it did sign one with Poland (August 25, 1939), but the alliance was seen as the ultimate deterrent to Hitler, while the British still hoped he would come to the negotiating table. [On this, see Lec.Notes 16].

Greece stayed neutral  until it was attacked by Italy in late October 1940. The Greek army gave the Italians a good licking, so Hitler felt obliged to intervene. His troops attacked Yugoslavia and then Greece in April 1941. The Greek army could not cope with the Germans and the British forces were too small to help, so it surrendered on April 23. The Germans imposed a ruthless occupation which, together with guerrilla resistance, cost many Greek and Jewish lives and lasted until October 1944, when the allies occupied Athens.

Short Bibliography.

 For a general introduction and survey of Greek history, see: Richard Clogg, A Concise History of Greece, Cambridge, England, 1991. For a survey of interwar Greece, see B.Jelavich, History of the Balkans, vol. 2. Twentieth Century.; on Greek nationalism, see: Stephen G. Xydis, "Modern Greek Nationalism," in Sugar and Lederer, Nationalism in Eastern Europe; on the population exchange, see S.P. Ladas, The Exchange of Minorities, Bulgaria, Greece, and Turkey, London, 1932; Pentzopoulos, Dimitri, Balkan exchange of minorities and its impact upon Greece, (Paris, 1962). For Greek-British relations and especially British policy toward Greece, see: Giannes S. Koliopoulos, Greece and the British Connection. 1935-1941, Oxford, 1977; on Greek politics, 1922-1936, see: George T. Mavrogordatos, Stillborn Republic: Social Coalitions and Party Strategies in Greece, 1922-1936, Berkeley, CA., 1983.

5. Albania.

(from Stavrianos, The Balkans since 1453)

Albanian independence was declared by a national assembly in Vlore (Italian:Valona)  in 1912, and was recognized in the Treaty of London, May 30 1913.  In fact, Albania owed its statehood to Austria-Hungary, which aimed to prevent Serbia from obtaining a piece of the Adriatic coast with sea ports.

During the First World War, the country was occupied by seven armies: Italian, Austrian, Greek, French, Serb, Montenegrin and Bulgarian. Greece and Italy agreed to divide Albania between them, but the French and British opposed this.

In January 1920, British Premier David Lloyd George and Italian Premier Francesco S. Nitti (1868-1953) agreed that Italy was to have all of Istria and Fiume, while Yugoslavia was to be compensated with Albania. However, President Woodrow Wilson was opposed, as were the Albanians, so nothing came of it. The Italians evacuated all of Albania except the port of Vlore  which had been granted to Italy by the secret Treaty of London, 1915. (The treaty granted Italian demands in return for Italy joining the western powers in WW I).

The country inherited its problems from centuries of Ottoman misrule. Above all, it was extremely poor. The population consisted of two peoples: the Tusks and the Ghegs, ruled by chiefs with tribal followers. In religion, it was divided into Moslems - the majority -  with the Christians, mostly Catholics and Orthodox, forming the minority.

The man who was to dominate Albanian politics was Ahmed Bey Zogu (1895-1961), who came from the traditional ruling family in Mati province. He had served in the Austrian army in World War I, held posts as minister in 1920-22, and was a political rival of Bishop Fan Noli, who had worked for Albanian independence for decades. However Noli only governed from May to December 1924, because his land reform program alienated the landowners. Furthermore, he failed to organize a military defense for his government.
Zog raised a mercenary force in Yugoslavia, invaded Albania in December 1924 and became Premier. In January 1925, the national assembly proclaimed Albania a republic with Zog as President.
In September 1928, he was proclaimed King as Zog I and established his dictatorship over the country. While stifling social, political and economic reforms, he give the people a stable and ordered existence. Moreover, Zog pursued a program of modernizing the country, which included secularization and education. This program provoked a Moslem uprising in southern Albania in 1937.

Albania faced predatory neighbors - Greece and Yugoslavia. Therefore, Zog  followed a policy of cooperation with Italy, which began in 1925. This led to large scale Italian investments and loans, which allowed the building of roads, ports, etc., and even Zog’s palace. From 1932 on, Zog  tried to reduce Italian influence, but was unsuccessful and agreements concluded in 1936 strengthened Italy’s hold on the country.
Nevertheless, Zog was not just an Italian puppet and this worried Mussolini, who also wanted an Italian conquest. On April 7, 1939, - after the German annexation of the Czech lands in mid-March - Italy launched an invasion of Albania to put it completely under Italian control. Zog fled into exile with his wife, who was expecting their first child. (Zog’s son made efforts to regain his throne after the collapse of communism in Albania, but  was unsuccessful.)

On balance, Zog’s dictatorial reign was beneficial for the Albanians. He not only pushed forward improvements in road building etc., but created a very good system of public education. This, along with opportunities for university studies abroad, created a small, native intelligentsia. It is true that most of the population lived in great poverty, and that it was governed - as it still is - by an antique and ruthless moral code (an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth), based on family- tribal affiliation. However, it would be unrealistic to expect any great economic-social changes over a period of twenty-one years.
    Albania was to become a communist state in 1945 and was the last Balkan country to overthrow the communists in 1992. It is still the poorest country of the former Soviet bloc.

Short Bibliography.

For a brief survey of Albanian nationalism, see: T. Zavalani, "Albanian Nationalism," in Sugar and Lederer, NATIONALISM IN EASTERN EUROPE, Seattle, WA., 1974, 1994. For developments in the interwar period, see also B. Jelavich, History of the Balkans. vol. 2. Twentieth Century. For a detailed history, see Miranda Vickers, The Albanians. A Modern History, New York, 1995; on the Zog period, see the detailed, though critical work by Vandeleur Robinson, Albania’s Road to Freedom, London, 1941].