War of the Stray Dog – A War Sparked by Ridiculous Reasons

obedient curious dog standing in forest and looking away
Photo by Lachlan Ross on Pexels.com

What can a dog do? Well, less than a hundred years ago, a stray dog started a war. 

Bulgaria and Greece relations were at a breaking point in the early 20th century CE due to their dispute over the territory of Macedonia and Western Thrace, which led to years of warfare between armed groups from 1904 CE to 1908 CE (the Macedonian Struggle) and a few years later, in the apparent conflict between Bulgaria and Greece during the Second Balkan War and the First World War. The conflicts’ results were half of the broader region of Macedonia coming under Greek administration after the Balkan Wars, accompanied by Western Thrace after the First World War implemented by the infamous Treaty of Neuilly. Most of the population in both sections was primarily Bulgarian, so they remained scapegoats of Bulgarian irredentism throughout the interwar years.

The familiar spark that torched our today’s battle came on Oct. 18, 1925 CE. In the morning hours, a Greek Soldier was guarding a border post at Demir Kapou pass. Suddenly, he saw a stray dog running to the other side, and the Greek soldier took a few steps into the Bulgarian territory to retrieve this lost dog. As expected, the Bulgarian guard aimed and shot the Greek soldier dead. This eventually started the infamous War of the Stray Dog.

The War

Bulgaria emphasized that the firing was a result of an apparent misunderstanding and communicated its regret. Additionally, the Bulgarian government proposed forming a commission of Bulgarian and Greek officers to investigate the incident. When the 47-year-old Theodoros Pangalos, the Greek’s lieutenant-general, learned of the killings, he saw it as just more proof of Bulgarian treachery. The Greek administration refused any mediation as long as Bulgarian troops stayed on Greek territory. 

Under lieutenant-general Theodoros Pangalos, the Greek administration issued an ultimatum to Bulgaria of two days to punish those who were responsible, offer an official apology, and a couple of million French francs as compensation for the victims’ families.

The Battle between Bulgarian and Greek forces started after the former refused to pay 2 million French francs in 48 hours. The Greek army moved through the enemy defenses with almost zero trouble and drove deep into the heart of Bulgaria, pillaging, looting, and leaving a trail of burned towns everywhere. The Greeks also used the opportunity to strike at Macedonian enclaves in Bulgaria, hoping to deal a blow to the long separatist movement. Rather than risking additional bloodshed, the Bulgarians retreated in the face of the invaders, favoring withdrawal and evacuation over fight.

Despite their triumphant victory in initial war times, the Greek soldiers soon got exhausted. They were still recovering from defeat in the 1919 war with Turkey and found it challenging to sustain their operations in Bulgaria. Pangalos concluded that Greece needs allies. Athens looked to Serbia to help destroy Bulgaria. In exchange for alliance with Greece, Athens would offer the Serbs a railroad to the Hellenic port city of Thessaloniki and a zone of control in the province.

However, at Bulgaria’s request, the League of Nations (comprising almost all the major European powers) soon intervened. The League ordered an immediate ceasefire. They asked the Greek troops to retreat from Bulgaria and Greece to pay around £45,000 as compensation to Bulgaria. Both nations accepted the decision, but Greece protested about the inequality between its treatment and Italy’s treatment during the Corfu incident in 1923 CE. Italy had previously unrighteously occupied and invaded the island, pushing Greece to pay war restitutions. There was one rule in the League for the sweeping powers like Italy and another for the more minor powers like Greece. This angered Greece, but they accepted the ceasefire decision.

The League Council sent attaches from Italy, France, and the United Kingdom to report when the hostilities stopped and record the Greek troops’ retreat. 

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