- Author: N Dankov
- Publisher: Liga Bulgaria, Sofia
- Date: 1913
- Dimensions: sheet: 59 x 47.5 cms
Exceedingly rare Bulgarian propaganda map published in early 1913 & depicting the events of the little-known First Balkan War
About this piece:
Po pet’ na nosh! [lit: five on the bayonet all at one go!]
Separately published, lithographic colour-printed broadsheet map with descriptive letterpress below. Wide margins. Traces of old folds. Some soiling and foxing to lower left and right corners of sheet. With all an attractive and well-preserved example.
Extremely rare satirical propaganda map designed by the Bulgarian artist N Dankov and published in Sofia by the “Liga Bulgaria” in early 1913, at the time of the First Balkan War.
This was a short, regional and very costly military preamble to the wider hostilities of World War One initially fought between the Bulgarian League (Bulgaria, Greece, Serbia & Montenegro) and Turkey during the period between October 1912 & May 1913. It would be followed by a disastrous second War initiated by an unsatisfied Bulgaria against its former Allies Greece & Serbia (now supported by Romania as well) which concluded with its complete military collapse only a few weeks later in July 1913.
The map’s title was apparently the unofficial patriotic war cry of Bulgarian troops during the First Balkan War, seemingly a corruption of the command “napred na nosh” (“fix bayonets” or “bayonets forward”).
The French war correspondent and Futurist, Filippo Tomasso Marinetti, would incorporate the phrase into his remarkable futurist account of the Battle of Kir Kilisse, published in Zong Toomb Toomb [Adrianople, 1912].
The British MP, Noel Noel-Buxton, later Baron Buxton [1869-1948], who visited Bulgaria with his brother during the course of the War, provides the following alternative explanation of the phrase in his book, With the Bulgarian Staff :
The men’s eagerness for the bayonet amounted almost to insubordination, and led to serious mishaps, though it was, no doubt, in the main, a decisive factor in creating the original panic among the Turks which made the turning-point of the war. I often asked the wounded whether there were any bayonet wounds among them. They invariably replied with eagerness that the Turks would never let them get near enough. Their contempt of the Turks prevailed over their desire to show that they had beaten a valiant enemy. It is said that on only one occasion did the Turks stand by their trenches. This was at a village east of Bunarhissar, where the Bulgarians were four times driven back and four times re-took the position. I was often told by the wounded and officers the following story: The fear of the bayonet was always great, but its terror was increased by the adroitness of the Christians in the Turkish ranks. The order to “fix bayonets” is, in Bulgarian, “Na pret, na nosh” The Turks heard the words across the intervening three hundred yards, and asked the Christians what they meant. The sound it suggested to the Christians was the words “‘Pet; na nosh” ‘”Pet”‘ means “five” and it occurred to the Christians to tell the Turks that the order meant “five on each bayonet”. [pp.32-33].
The map itself focuses on the principal theatre of the War on the Western side of the Bosphorus in Thracian or European Turkey. The Turkish capital Constantinople (Tsarigrad) and the Bosphorus are visible in the lower right with the waters of the Sea of Marmara & Black Sea to south and north. The Bulgarian border, Eastern Rumelia and the Black Sea Port of Bourgas can be seen in the upper left.
A green-uniformed Bulgarian soldier advances threatening towards Constantinople and the principal battle front of late 1912. Rifle in hand and with fixed bayonet, the Bulgarian has already symbolically spiked five miniature Turkish soldiers (pop pet’ na nosh) on the now bloody blade.
Behind him can be seen, amid a scattering of small yellow & red conflagrations, the Turkish city of Adrianople (Edirne), its garrison of perhaps 75000 men besieged by combined Bulgarian & Serbian forces between November 1912 and March 1913, when the supposedly “impregnable” fortress finally surrendered. To its east lie the equally hard-fought battlegrounds between Lule Burgas, Bunarhissar, Kir Kilisse & Vize, here denoted by similar fiery markers.
Just ahead of him lies the so-called Catalça line. The Catalça line was one of the finest defensive positions in Europe providing a natural defensive barrier for Constantinople against land attack from the west. It was a series of well-prepared Turkish fortifications sited along an easily defensible ridge rising in places to heights of 150-200 metres and running some 25 kilometers from the Büyük Çekmece Gölü inlet on the Sea of Marmara in the west (just in front of the Turkish Sultan’s left foot) to the Lake of Terkos Gölü (just below the Bulgarian’s dripping bayonet). The front is marked by another series of dotted flaming conflagrations surrounding what appear to be the numerous circular Turkish forts. It was to here that Turkish forces had retreated following initial Bulgarian successes in late 1912 and here that the Turks first defeated them at the First Battle of Catalça in November 1912. It also delineated the temporary Armistice line between the two sides that was maintained between December 1912 and Feb 1913, until hostilities resumed and a series of thrusts and counter-thrusts marked the Second Battle here, one that rumbled on for several weeks through the Spring of 1913 before the final Turkish surrender of Adrianople effectively brought the First War to a premature end.
To the right of the Bulgarian soldier, the figure of a turbaned Turkish skeleton stands carrying a tall scythe (a version of the grim reaper), its blade inscribed with the words “Asiatic Cholera“. This references the series of cholera epidemics which had repeatedly struck the populations of the Ottoman Empire with devastating consequences between July 1910 and Autumn 1913.
The terrible conditions in the Turkish villages behind the battle front provided a ready breeding ground for the disease in the winter of 1912-13, as graphically described by Daily Telegraph war correspondent, E Ashmead-Bartlett, in late December 1912 :
VILLAGES OF DEATH. The attacks of the Bulgarians against the front of the Turkish lines are one phase of the present struggle, but I also wish to give without the smallest exaggeration, because such would be impossible under the circumstances, some account of the movements of that terrible enemy which is devastating this unfortunate army in its rear. No words of mine can convey an adequate impression of the terrible ravages of Asiatic cholera which is carrying off hundreds of men a day, and which has cast such dread into the hearts of a resolute foe. The most distressing feature of this disease is the rapidity with which it works. A man may be perfectly well in the morning; a few hours later he may be writhing on the ground in agony, and a corpse by nightfall. Every village through which I have passed Jhas its victims; every road over which the troops move to the front ia marked by a trail of corpses or of men dying by the roadside. As there are no medical arrangements of any sort it is impossible to succour and to save any of these wretched victims of war. Such is the fear of infection that once a soldier is seized with cholera he is regarded by his comrades with whom he has lived, and by whose side he has fought, as a pest to be avoided as if he were the devil himself. Those who fall are left to die where they drop, and no pleading or prayers will move the living to raise a helping hand, even if they are in a position to do so.
The international complexities of the geo-political situation in the region are highlighted by the other figures and vignettes: an archetypal Turkish general, perhaps the Turkish Sultan himself, Mehmed V, in ceremonial uniform and with richly bejewelled sword, recoils in horror at the sight of the advancing Bulgarian and his bloodied bayonet. His collapse is prevented by the figure of a wooden toy Romanian soldier who supports him from behind, as the latter stands swaying on a curious spring-loaded platform, its static base inscribed “Compensatia Romäneaska”. The latter appears to be connected by electrical wires to a ship in the Black Sea manned by German and Austrian soldiers who are seen cranking electrical generators. The ship’s sails are labelled with the words “Orient-Politik”. Another boat, probably Russian (a long-standing ally of Bulgaria) sits further offshore in the Black Sea, its military occupant sitting idly, rifle in hand, observing unfolding events. Bulgaria’s northern neighbour, Romania, regarded itself as the political policeman of the Balkans. The initial Bulgarian military successes against Turkey in late 1912 & early 1913 dramatically changed the regional power dynamic, with the result that Romania now wanted to try and ensure it remained the predominant power in the Balkans. It was already allied with Austro-Hungary and Germany and well-disposed towards Turkey. Whilst preliminary negotiations between Bulgaria and Romania had taken place before the outbreak of war in 1912 whereby Bulgaria sought to offer concessions to secure peace top her rear, they had proved inconclusive. Romania now wanted to await the final outcome of the War to extract from Bulgaria the maximum price of her peaceable non-intervention. By early 1913, Romania had suggested the secession of the fertile Danubian enclave of Dobrudzha, in North West Bulgaria, a demand regarded as blackmail & extortion by Bulgaria and strongly resisted despite growing international pressure. Bulgaria hoped (in vain) that its Russian ally might exert appropriate influence on Bucharest to lessen its demands. It was a refusal which would prove far more costly to Bulgaria in the long run given the greater territorial losses it suffered in Macedonia following its collapse in July 1913 in the wake of the disastrous Second Balkan War (against its former allies Serbia & Greece (now joined by Romania)).
It is perhaps one of the great ironies of the Balkan Wars that Turkey and Bulgaria would both subsequently side with Germany and Austro-Hungary in World War One. Both initially remained neutral, before Turkey joined the Triple Alliance in November 1914 as did Bulgaria a year later, in October 1915
The letterpress below the map expounds Bulgarian military actions from October 1912 onwards.
An exceedingly rare and highly unusual satirical propaganda map focusing on this little-known but significant Balkan preamble to World War One.
Refs: N Markov et al: National Museum of History – 2001 Guide [Sofia, 2001] – Third Bulgarian Kingdom [1878-1946], ill. p.13