Bulgāru un latviešu ceļš 1918. gada rudenī : salīdzinošā analīze. The Bulgarian Way and the Latvian Way in the Autumn of 1918 : an Attempt at a Comparative Approach. In: Latvijas zemes no 19. gs. beigām līdz 1918. gadam: ceļš uz valsti. Latvia’s lands at the end of the 19th century to 1918: the road to statehood. Ed. by Eriks Jekabsons. – Riga : Iespiests SIA "Jelgavas Tipografia", 2020, p. 258-273. ISBN 978-9984-850-92-4
The article aims at some events at the same end of the First World War - the breakthrough of the Southern Front by the troops of the Entente of 14-15 September followed shortly after by the Salonica Armistice of 29 September 1918, and the proclamation of the Latvian independence on 18 November 1918. The author considers the Balkan and the Baltic regions in a comparative approach analyzing the Bulgarian and the Latvian position in the great military conflict and European politics in the autumn of 1918. The analysis is mainly focused on the final stage of World War I when both Bulgarians and Latvians were actively involved in great campaigns suffering heavy human and material losses. Like that of the Bulgarians, whose historical future was decided on the Southern Front, modern Latvian history was directly influenced by the Eastern Front during the years of the First World War. Therefore, according to the author, the analysis of the situation on the Eastern Front is of high importance for explaining and understanding the events in Latvia in the summer and the autumn of 1918.
Several important facts and events dominate the author’s analysis. In the first place, he focuses on Bulgaria's involvement in this conflict and the factors that led to the Bulgarian defeat in September 1918. Among the reasons for the intensification of Bulgarian war-weariness was the German strategy that was focused on the Western Front in 1917-1918. As Germans prepared for their great Western Front offensive, they shifted most of their detachments and much of their equipment away from the Balkans in late 1917. Next, another important change in German strategy in 1917 is considered in the paper. According to the author, the German strategy at the Baltic region, including the Latvian lands, was strengthened after the end of 1917 which had a direct impact on the Bulgarian military capabilities of the Thessaloniki front in the last year of the war. As a result of this strategic regrouping, of the Bulgarian economic, demographic, and military collapse, and the effective actions of the Entente, the Bulgarian cause was doomed to failure. After the breakthrough at the front, the armistice agreement was signed with the Entente on 29 September and Bulgaria became the first of the Central Powers to exit the war. All this gives grounds for formulating the following question: Were there any direct and indirect links between the events at the end of the First World War and the Bulgarian and the Latvian way in the autumn of 1918?
In search of an answer, the author focuses on the role of German, French, British and Russian politics in the dramatic end of this European and global conflict. The paper considers that in the summer of 1918, Germany practically tore their forces apart, acting on different directions, and thus underestimated the role of the Southern, Thessaloniki Front. Thus, in 1917 and especially in 1918, the German command considered it secondary and did not meet the demands of the Bulgarians for auxiliary troops, since it was too engaged in the Western and the Eastern Fronts, as well as in the Baltic region. Acсording to the author, the German Baltic policy in 1918 outweighed the interests of the German empire in Southeastern Europe and the Balkans because the expected benefits to the North-East were much more significant than those in Southeast Europe. The main reason, from a German point of view, was that the Balkans were historically, politically and culturally fragmented, with relatively young, small and middle-sized, but historically shaped national states, while the break-up of the Russian Empire and the Russian civil war created favorable conditions for the occupation of formal Russian imperial heritage. The occupation of Arkhangelsk by the English troops in July 1918, further directed the German priorities to the northeast.
Following the logical analysis, the author underlines that the consequences of the Russian Revolution and the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk led indirectly to the Bulgarian catastrophe – the break-up of the Entente at Dobro Pole from 15 September and the Salonica Armistice of 29 September 1918. Besides, all these events and processes had a direct and indirect impact on the political and military situation in which Latvian independence was proclaimed. Also, the article focuses on the important role of French and British policy on the eve of the declaration of Latvian independence in 1918. It is worth to point that, according to the author, the unequivocal efforts of German and Russian policy to control the Baltic region intensified French and British support at this crucial time.
In conclusion, the author emphasizes, that the Bulgarian drama of September 1918 played out in parallel with the rise of the Latvian Republic. Both cases, Bulgarian and Latvian, differ in their specific characteristics, but ultimately result from the same general events and processes. In both examples, there was an obvious undermining and underestimation of the national expectations and the perspectives of Bulgarians and Latvians. Thus, the author underlines, at the end of the war, the Latvians were in a position and condition to negotiate and seek support for recognition of an independent state, as the region was still dynamic, and still under strong Russian and German pressure. In this situation, the Latvians were backed by British diplomacy and the British Navy actions. At the same time, Bulgaria, already out of the war, was in absolute isolation and could not rely on solid diplomatic support. As a result, the end of the First World War and the postwar system brought to a successful end the emergence of independent Latvia and, at the same time, triggered a second national catastrophe in the history of modern Bulgaria.
Finally, the author emphasizes that the comparative analytical study of the events and processes at the end of the First World War in the Balkans and the Baltic region require further and deeper analytical research.
Keywords: World War I, Thessaloniki Front, Eastern Front, Bulgaria, Latvian Independence.
Keywords: World War I, Thessaloniki Front, Eastern Front, Bulgaria, Latvian Independence