Ass. Prof. Aleksandar Grebenarov, PhD
The gunshot in Sarajevo on 15/28 June 1914 against the Austro-Hungarian crown prince Franz Ferdinand marks the beginning of something new and unknown to that time. For the first time, the majority of world’s population was caught in a war that engaged in a death struggle millions of soldiers from dozens of countries. An enormous number of civilians were killed. Tens of thousands of individuals were captured. The victor’s armies triumphantly marched in the capitals of defeated countries. Balkan Peninsula was not left aside from the global apocalypse. On the contrary. It became an important militant center, where crucial battles occurred.
Its geostrategic location and the stress between the countries in the region after the Balkan wars, seen as a prelude to a global conflict, escalate strong tension during the years of the global conflict. Bulgarian state was no exception to the general war enthusiasm that reigned in the Balkans. On 1/14 October 1915 with a manifesto signed by King Ferdinand and the members of the Council of Ministers headed by Dr. Vasil Radoslavov the country officially entered the First World War on the side of the Central Powers. After the act of accession postcards were distributed with images of allied monarchs showing their proximity and strength, cheerful little boys dressed as soldiers from Germany, Austria-Hungary, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria. Government created illusory atmosphere for a forthcoming victory over opponents of the Entente. The rapid defeat of the Serbian Army and the liberation of the western Bulgarian lands formed the breeding ground for the spread of such expectations. The ensuing purposeful state intervention in the newly liberated and incorporated lands indicated the long-term intentions of Bulgaria. The state undertook many creative activities in the field of education, culture and church. Bulgarian state opened schools, where thousands of children were taught to read and write in Bulgarian, which contributed to spreading the word of God by restoring the Bulgarian dioceses and churches and sent many priests.
The general fervor and zeal of the Bulgarian army in the autumn of 1915 did not falter even after Varna was bombarded by a Russian squadron. A whole century passed from the event, and that is a long enough period of time, so that more truthful assessments of the past, possible alternatives and more accurate analyzes of the consequences are made. That is why many stories from World War I attract scientists and continue to be subject of investigation, analysis and comments. Such dissection of the era did the participants in the International Scientific Conference "World War I in the Balkans and the entry of Bulgaria into it (1914–1915)", held 13–16 October 2015. Its main organizer was the "Georgi S. Rakovski" National Defence Collge and co-organizers were the Institute for Historical Research – BAS, Institute of Balkan Studies and centere of Thracology – BAS, Macedonian Scientific Institute, the Military History Commission, museums, unions and others.
The forum was attended by many researchers from different countries. Because of the large public and scientific interest in the event it had to be organized in Sofia and to be prolonged in three regional centers – Vidin, Kyustendil and Kardzhali. The articles in this collection will allow the honorable reader to become familiar with the statements of most of the conference participants, who came from Italy, Poland, Russia, USA, Serbia and Montenegro and the hosts from Bulgaria. The variety of themes and different viewpoints represented in the texts make it possible to reveal with scientific means a new pages of World War I history and the participation of Bulgaria in it.
They examined issues concerning the politico-military choices in the preparation for war, the campaign against Serbia in the autumn of 1915, the formation of the Southern Front, the creation of Bulgarian institutions in the liberated lands, the problems of military historiography, diplomacy, economics, media, propaganda and others. Last but not least, the collection will help to get out of oblivion native politicians, diplomats, soldiers, intellectuals, public figures and honorable functionaries who struggle for the realization of the Bulgarian national ideal. We hope it will contribute to the perception of a more objective assessment, that will rectify the layers of negative image of Bulgaria because of its position in the camp of the "losers" and punished countries in Paris in 1919.