CLOSE
Original image
Wikimedia Commons

Second Balkan War Ends

Original image
Wikimedia Commons

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 81st installment in the series.

August 12, 1913: Second Balkan War Ends

After the Balkan League’s victory over the Ottoman Empire in the First Balkan War, Bulgaria attacked its former allies Serbia and Greece over the division of Turkish territory—but the Second Balkan War immediately proved to be a disastrous mistake. Following Serbian and Greek victories over Bulgarian forces in Macedonia, Bulgaria’s fate was sealed when Romania and the Ottoman Empire attacked from the rear. Bulgaria’s Tsar Ferdinand begged for peace on July 21, 1913, and ten days later, the belligerents met in the Romanian capital, Bucharest. The terms of peace were agreed on August 10, and on August 12, 1913, the Treaty of Bucharest was finally ratified, ending the Second Balkan War. 

The Treaty of Bucharest stripped Bulgaria of most of its gains from the First Balkan War, as well as its own pre-war territory of Dobruja along the Black Sea coast. Between the First and Second Balkan Wars, Serbia increased its territory 82 percent, from 18,650 square miles to 33,891 square miles, and Greece grew 67 percent, from 25,041 to 41,933 square miles, with more than half of this coming at Bulgaria’s expense; adding insult to injury, Romania snipped off 2,700 square miles in Bulgaria’s northeast.

Most contemporary observers realized there was little chance of a lasting peace. Unsurprisingly, the Treaty of Bucharest left the Bulgarians embittered and resentful; in a few years, Tsar Ferdinand would lead his country into the maelstrom yet again, in an effort to redeem its lost territories and self-respect. The Second Balkan War also upended the diplomatic status quo in the Balkans, by turning Bulgaria against its traditional patron Russia, which had failed to protect Bulgaria against its enemies. Seeking a new protector among the Great Powers, Bulgaria turned to Austria-Hungary, which shared Bulgaria’s enmity towards Serbia and its backer Russia.

Indeed, on July 27, 1913, Tsar Ferdinand warned the Austro-Hungarian ambassador that “An opportunity has been wasted of wiping Serbia off the map. War between [Austria-Hungary] and Russia was inevitable and would come within a few years… The aim of his life was the annihilation of Serbia, which ought to be partitioned between Bulgaria, Austria-Hungary, and Romania…” On August 1, 1913, the Austro-Hungarian Foreign Minister Count Berchtold—now converted to the idea of war by the hawks in Vienna—agreed that “in a not-too-distant future [Serbia] will compel us to have recourse to violent measures.” Meanwhile Russia was left with Serbia as its only client state in the Balkans, meaning the Russians had no choice but to back the quarrelsome Serbs in their future disputes, or risk forfeiting all their influence in the Balkans.

The Balkan states and their Great Power backers were on a collision course that was about to plunge the region, and the rest of Europe, into unimaginable bloodshed and misery. 

Germans, British Partition Portuguese Colonies

While tensions were brewing in the Balkans, the situation in Western Europe seemed to be improving, as Britain and Germany worked to iron out longstanding sources of friction. After Germany accepted a compromise to slow the naval arms race in February 1913, in March the two leading Great Powers reached an agreement to settle the boundary between the British colony of Nigeria and the German colony of Cameroon. Then, in August 1913, they followed up with a preliminary agreement secretly divvying up Portugal’s African possessions.

Europe’s first colonial power, Portugal, led the conquest of Africa beginning in the 15th century, but like its fellow colonial pioneer, Spain, the small maritime state had suffered a long decline, surpassed by a new generation of colonial powers including Britain, France, and eventually Germany. It still held some large chunks of African real estate, in Portuguese West Africa (modern-day Angola) and Portuguese East Africa (modern-day Mozambique)—but as the unclaimed areas of the world shrank, it was only natural for the dominant colonial powers to turn their gaze to these remnants of empire, directly adjacent to their own African possessions.

Under the terms of the Anglo-German Convention agreed in principle on August 13, 1913, Britain and Germany assigned most of Angola—312,000 square miles in area, with a population of two million, located north of German Southwest Africa (Namibia)—to Germany, with Britain getting a small corner southeast of the Zambezi River. Meanwhile, most of northern Mozambique abutting German East Africa (Tanzania) would also go to Germany; the southern part of Mozambique, geographically contiguous with the Transvaal of British South Africa, would go to Britain.

The British and German representatives agreed to “compensate” Portugal with a $100 million loan on easy terms, but the agreement was still fairly treacherous on the part of the British, who were partners with Portugal in the world’s oldest alliance, the Treaty of Windsor, agreed in 1386; in fact, the British diplomat Arthur Nicolson called it “one of the most cynical diplomatic acts in my memory.” But British Foreign Minister Edward Grey was willing to strong-arm Britain’s weak ally in order to improve relations with Germany, a much larger and more important state.

In the end, the Anglo-German Convention was never ratified, as it was first delayed by predictable Portuguese objections, and finally superseded by the Great War. But the existence of even the preliminary agreement had an “excellent effect in clearing the air between England and Germany,” according to a contemporary analysis—and ironically, this may have contributed to the outbreak of war. As with the Nigeria-Cameroon boundary treaty, the Germans overestimated the importance of these colonial compromises to Britain: Of course British diplomats were happy to clear up minor disagreements about African borders, but that didn’t mean they were going to stand aside and let Germany violate Belgian neutrality, crush France, and establish hegemony in Europe. In less than a year the Germans would pay a heavy price for this fatal miscalculation. 

See the previous installment or all entries.

Original image
Getty
arrow
Lists
13 Fantastic Museums You Can Visit for Free on Saturday
Original image
Getty

On Saturday, September 23, museums and cultural institutions across the United States will open their doors to the public for free, as part of Smithsonian magazine’s annual Museum Day Live! event. Hundreds of museums are set to participate, ranging from world-famous institutions in major cities to tiny, local museums in small towns. While the full list of museums can be viewed, and tickets can be reserved, on the Smithsonian website, we’ve collected a small selection of the fantastic museums you can visit for free this Saturday.

1. NEWSEUM // WASHINGTON, D.C.

The Newseum in Washington, D.C. is an entire museum dedicated to the First Amendment. Celebrating freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly and petition, the museum features exhibits on civil rights, the Berlin Wall, and the history of news media in America. Their latest special exhibitions take a look back at the event of September 11, 2001 and go inside the FBI's crime-fighting tactics.

2. INTREPID SEA, AIR & SPACE MUSEUM // NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK

iStock

New York's Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum doesn’t just showcase America’s military and maritime history—it is a piece of that history. The museum itself is one of the Essex-class aircraft carriers built by the United States Navy during World War II. Visitors can explore its massive deck and interior, and view historic airplanes, a real World War II submarine, and a range of interactive exhibits. Normally, a ticket will set you back a whopping $33 (or $19 for New York City residents), but on Saturday, general admission is free with a Museum Day Live! ticket.

3. AUTRY MUSEUM OF THE AMERICAN WEST // LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA

Perfect for art lovers, history buffs, and cinephiles alike, the Autry Museum of the American West (named for legendary singing cowboy Gene Autry) offers up an eclectic mix of art, historical artifacts from the real American West, and Western film memorabilia and props.

4. MUSEUM OF ARTS AND SCIENCES // DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA

A massive art, science, and history museum located on a 90-acre nature preserve, the Museum of Arts and Sciences features the largest collection of Florida art anywhere in the world, as well as the largest collection of Coca-Cola memorabilia in all of Florida. Its diverse exhibits are alternately awe-inspiring, informative, and quirky, ranging from an exploration of 2000 years of sculpture art to an exhibition of 19th and 20th century advertising posters.

5. INTERNATIONAL MUSEUM OF THE HORSE AT THE KENTUCKY HORSE PARK // LEXINGTON, KENTUCKY

The International Museum of the Horse explores the history of—you guessed it!—the horse. That might sound like a narrow scope, but the museum doesn’t just display horse racing artifacts or teach you about modern horse breeds. Instead, it endeavors to tackle the 50-million-year evolution of the horse and its relationship with humans from ancient times to modern times.

6. THE PEGGY NOTEBAERT NATURE MUSEUM // CHICAGO, ILLINOIS

Pete LaMotte, Flickr // CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

The 160-year-old Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum is pulling out all the stops for this year’s Museum Day Live! In addition to their vast exhibits of animal specimens and cultural artifacts, the museum will be hosting a live animal feeding and a butterfly release throughout the day.

7. OGDEN MUSEUM OF SOUTHERN ART // NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA

The Ogden Museum of Southern Art aims to teach visitors about the rich culture and diverse visual arts of the American South. Right now, visitors can view a collection of William Eggleston's photographs and check out the museum's 10th annual invitational exhibition of ceramic teacups and teapots.

8. BALTIMORE MUSEUM OF INDUSTRY // BALTIMORE, MARYLAND

Marcin Wichary, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Located in a 19th century oyster cannery on the Baltimore waterfront, the Baltimore Museum of Industry tells the story of American manufacturing from garment making to video game design. Visitors this weekend can meet video game designers and create custom games at the museum’s interactive “Video Game Wizards” exhibit.

9. SYLVAN HEIGHTS BIRD PARK // SCOTLAND NECK, NORTH CAROLINA

You can meet 2000 birds from around the world this weekend at the 18-acre Sylvan Heights Bird Park. Visitors to the massive garden can walk through aviaries displaying birds from every continent except Antarctica, including ducks, geese, swans, and exotic birds from all over the world.

10. DELTA BLUES MUSEUM // CLARKSDALE, MISSISSIPPI

Visit Mississippi, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

Visitors to the Delta Blues Museum can learn about the unique American musical art form in “the land where blues began,” with audiovisual exhibits centered on blues and rock legend Don Nix, as well as Paramount Records illustrator Anthony Mostrom.

11. NATIONAL MUSEUM OF NUCLEAR SCIENCE & HISTORY // ALBUQUERQUE, NEW MEXICO

America’s only congressionally chartered museum dedicated to the story of the Atomic Age, the National Museum of Nuclear Science & History features exhibits on everything from nuclear medicine to representations of atomic power in pop culture. Adult visitors to the museum will delight in its impressively nuanced take on nuclear technology, while kids will love the museum’s outdoor airplane exhibit and hands-on science activities at Little Albert’s Lab.

12. MUSEUM OF THE MOUNTAIN MAN // PINEDALE, WYOMING

sporst, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Dedicated to the mountain men who explored and settled Wyoming in the 19th century, the Museum of the Mountain Man brings American folklore and legends to life. The museum features exhibits on the Rocky Mountain fur trade and tells the story of American folk legend and famed mountain man Hugh Glass (the man Leonardo DiCaprio won an Oscar playing in 2015's The Revenant).

13. BESH BA GOWAH ARCHAEOLOGICAL PARK AND MUSEUM // GLOBE, ARIZONA

Arizona’s Besh Ba Gowah Archaeological Park and Museum lets visitors connect with history firsthand. The museum is home to the ruins and artifacts of the Salado Indians who inhabited Arizona from the 13th century through the 15th century, and even lets visitors wander through an 800-year-old Salado pueblo.

Original image
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
arrow
Art
‘American Gothic’ Became Famous Because Many People Saw It as a Joke
Original image
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

In 1930, Iowan artist Grant Wood painted a simple portrait of a farmer and his wife (really his dentist and sister) standing solemnly in front of an all-American farmhouse. American Gothic has since inspired endless parodies and is regarded as one of the country’s most iconic works of art. But when it first came out, few people would have guessed it would become the classic it is today. Vox explains the painting’s unexpected path to fame in the latest installment of the new video series Overrated.

According to host Phil Edwards, American Gothic made a muted splash when it first hit the art scene. The work was awarded a third-place bronze medal in a contest at the Chicago Art Institute. When Wood sold the painting to the museum later on, he received just $300 for it. But the piece’s momentum didn’t stop there. It turned out that American Gothic’s debut at a time when urban and rural ideals were clashing helped it become the defining image of the era. The painting had something for everyone: Metropolitans like Gertrude Stein saw it as a satire of simple farm life in Middle America. Actual farmers and their families, on the other hand, welcomed it as celebration of their lifestyle and work ethic at a time when the Great Depression made it hard to take pride in anything.

Wood didn’t do much to clear up the work’s true meaning. He stated, "There is satire in it, but only as there is satire in any realistic statement. These are types of people I have known all my life. I tried to characterize them truthfully—to make them more like themselves than they were in actual life."

Rather than suffering from its ambiguity, American Gothic has been immortalized by it. The country has changed a lot in the past century, but the painting’s dual roles as a straight masterpiece and a format for skewering American culture still endure today.

Get the full story from Vox below.

[h/t Vox]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios