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Origins of the Second Balkan War

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The First World War was an unprecedented catastrophe that killed millions and set the continent of Europe on the path to further calamity two decades later. But it didn’t come out of nowhere. With the centennial of the outbreak of hostilities coming up in 2014, Erik Sass will be looking back at the lead-up to the war, when seemingly minor moments of friction accumulated until the situation was ready to explode. He'll be covering those events 100 years after they occurred. This is the 57th installment in the series. (See all entries here.)

February 22, 1913: Origins of the Second Balkan War

Before the First Balkan War between the Balkan League and the Ottoman Empire was even over, another conflict was brewing—this time between the members of the Balkan League. Although Serbia and Bulgaria were still cooperating against the Turks, tensions were rising between the allies over the distribution of spoils in former Turkish territory. Meanwhile, Romania was also demanding Bulgarian territory, foreshadowing the formation of a new coalition against Bulgaria in the Second Balkan War, June through August 1913.

On the surface, relations between Serbia and Bulgaria were fine. At Bulgaria’s request, Serbian troops were helping lay siege to Adrianople, one of three big cities in the Balkans still in Turkish hands (the other holdouts were Scutari, under siege by the Montenegrins and Serbians, and Janina, under siege by the Greeks); Serbian heavy artillery would play a key role in the fall of Adrianople in March 1913.

Beneath the surface, however, the Bulgarian and Serbian governments were already facing off over the division of conquered Turkish territory in Macedonia. Before the war, a secret treaty parceled out most of Macedonia between the two sides—but left a large “undecided” zone in the middle. In their treaty, the allies agreed to submit any dispute over this territory to arbitration by Russia, the traditional patron of the Slavic kingdoms.

As it turned out, during the First Balkan War Bulgaria committed most of its troops to Thrace, leaving Serbia to do most of the work in Macedonia, where the Serbs conquered both the “undecided” zone and territory that was assigned to Bulgaria. And because the Great Powers were denying Serbia access to the sea (by creating an independent Albania) the Serbs were determined to compensate for the loss by holding on to their conquests in Macedonia, despite their agreements with Bulgaria.

On February 22, 1913, Serbian Prime Minister Nikola Pašić sent a diplomatic note to the Bulgarian government, formally requesting to revise the terms of the treaty to give Serbia a bigger share of Macedonia. The Serbians argued that Bulgaria had failed to provide the promised number of troops to their combined operations in Macedonia, while Serbia was providing more assistance than promised to the Bulgarians at Adrianople. In fact this wasn’t the first time the Serbs asked to revise the treaty: a previous note made the same request on January 13, 1913. Both notes were politely ignored by the Bulgarians, and Serbian patience was wearing thin.

Needless to say, the Bulgarians weren’t about to give up their claims in Macedonia, for a number of reasons. For one thing, the Serbians had signed the treaty, and the Bulgarians were counting on Russian support in mediation. Moreover Bulgarian claims were based on historical precedents from the medieval period, when the Bulgarians ruled an empire covering most of the Balkan Peninsula (of course, the medieval Serbian Empire covered much of the same territory, and the Serbs were equally committed to regaining their lost glory). More recently, Bulgarian claims were also aligned with the Bulgarian exarchate—the ecclesiastical territory of the Bulgarian Orthodox Church, which split from the Greek Patriarchate in 1872.



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Romania Joins the Fray

European balance-of-power politics in the early 20th century resembled children dividing up a cake: If one state expanded its territory, it was standard procedure for other states to demand “compensation,” in the form of territorial annexations for themselves. Thus Bulgarian success in the First Balkan War also attracted the envious gaze of Romania, the largest Balkan state, which had claims to Dobruja, a chunk of territory straddling Romania and Bulgaria between the Danube and the Black Sea. In return for recognizing Bulgaria’s conquest of Thrace, Romania demanded Silistra, the northernmost part of Bulgarian Dobruja, implicitly threatening war if Bulgaria refused.

On February 24, 1913, the Bulgarians agreed to submit their dispute with Romania to mediation by the Great Powers at the Conference of London, on the assumption that the Russians would protect the interests of their Slavic cousins in Bulgaria against the non-Slavic Romanians. However Bulgaria’s trust in Russia turned out to be entirely misplaced, as ineffectual Russian diplomats ended up siding with their enemies in both mediations. The Bulgarians were understandably embittered by these betrayals, which left Serbia as Russia’s only real ally in the Balkans—and that, in turn, meant that Russia had to back up Serbia in future disputes no matter what, or risk losing all its influence in the region. In 1914 this would have unforeseen, and incalculable, consequences.

See previous installment, next installment, or all entries.

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History
A Brief History of Time
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You may have heard that time is a social construct, but that doesn’t stop it from having consequences in the real world. If you show up to a party 10 minutes before it’s scheduled to start, you’ll likely be the first one there, and if you arrive to an interview 10 minutes late, you likely won’t get the job. But how did humanity agree on when and how to observe certain times of day?

In their new video, the It’s Okay to Be Smart team explains how humans “invented” the modern concept of time. The increments we use to measure time, like seconds, minutes, and hours, come from the ancient civilizations of the Egyptians and the Babylonians. Early clocks, like sundials and water clocks, were pretty crude, so people couldn’t pinpoint a time like noon down to the second even if they wanted to. But as clocks became more accurate, the problem wasn’t being unable to tell time accurately, but deciding which clocks qualified as “accurate” in the first place.

In 1884, President Chester A. Arthur organized the International Meridian Conference with the intention of deciding on a uniform definition of time to be followed around the world. The attendees ended up choosing the meridian running through Greenwich, England as the official Prime Meridian, and all clocks would be measured against the clock in the town’s observatory. Greenwich Mean Time is still used as the standard world time today.

Check out the full story below.

[h/t It’s Okay to Be Smart]

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Big Questions
Why Do Baseball Managers Wear Uniforms?
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Basketball and hockey coaches wear business suits on the sidelines. Football coaches wear team-branded shirts and jackets and often ill-fitting pleated khakis. Why are baseball managers the only guys who wear the same outfit as their players?

According to John Thorn, the official historian of Major League Baseball since 2011, it goes back to the earliest days of the game. Back then, the person known as the manager was the business manager: the guy who kept the books in order and the road trips on schedule. Meanwhile, the guy we call the manager today, the one who arranges the roster and decides when to pull a pitcher, was known as the captain. In addition to managing the team on the field, he was usually also on the team as a player. For many years, the “manager” wore a player’s uniform simply because he was a player. There were also a few captains who didn’t play for the team and stuck to making decisions in the dugout, and they usually wore suits.

With the passing of time, it became less common for the captain to play, and on most teams they took on strictly managerial roles. Instead of suits proliferating throughout America’s dugouts, though, non-playing captains largely hung on to the tradition of wearing a player's uniform. By the early to mid 20th century, wearing the uniform was the norm for managers, with a few notable exceptions. The Philadelphia Athletics’s Connie Mack and the Brooklyn Dodgers’s Burt Shotton continued to wear suits and ties to games long after it fell out of favor (though Shotton sometimes liked to layer a team jacket on top of his street clothes). Once those two retired, it’s been uniforms as far as the eye can see.

The adherence to the uniform among managers in the second half of the 20th century leads some people to think that MLB mandates it, but a look through the official major league rules [PDF] doesn’t turn up much on a manager’s dress. Rule 1.11(a) (1) says that “All players on a team shall wear uniforms identical in color, trim and style, and all players’ uniforms shall include minimal six-inch numbers on their backs" and rule 2.00 states that a coach is a "team member in uniform appointed by the manager to perform such duties as the manager may designate, such as but not limited to acting as base coach."

While Rule 2.00 gives a rundown of the manager’s role and some rules that apply to them, it doesn’t specify that they’re uniformed. Further down, Rule 3.15 says that "No person shall be allowed on the playing field during a game except players and coaches in uniform, managers, news photographers authorized by the home team, umpires, officers of the law in uniform and watchmen or other employees of the home club." Again, nothing about the managers being uniformed.

All that said, Rule 2.00 defines the bench or dugout as “the seating facilities reserved for players, substitutes and other team members in uniform when they are not actively engaged on the playing field," and makes no exceptions for managers or anyone else. While the managers’ duds are never addressed anywhere else, this definition does seem to necessitate, in a roundabout way, that managers wear a uniform—at least if they want to have access to the dugout. And, really, where else would they sit?

Have you got a Big Question you'd like us to answer? If so, let us know by emailing us at bigquestions@mentalfloss.com.

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