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Alternative history: Yugoslavia

Discussion in 'World History' started by innonimatu, May 3, 2013.

  1. innonimatu

    innonimatu Deity

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    A comment on another thread got me wondering: can you imagine any scenario starting in, say, 1980, where Yugoslavia wouldn't split? All other major world events remaining the same.

    I never learned the details of the events leading up to the dismemberment of Yugoslavia.
     
  2. Lord Baal

    Lord Baal Deity

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    Tito needed to leave a successor capable of holding the federation together. That's essentially it. Tito, while facing greater difficulties every year, held the federation together through a skillful combination of applied force and political machinations. He often gave a constituent republic a small amount of leeway, watched his detractors make their views public, then clamped back down and had the newly-revealed enemies rounded up. Astonishingly, the Yugoslavian intelligentsia never seemed to catch on to this tactic - though his control of the press may have had something to do with this.

    If ou're asking if the state could have democratised without splitting, that I can't tell you. It seems very, very unlikely. Despite Tito's attempts to suppress it, nationalism was a huge problem in Yugoslavia, as evidenced by their ugly ethnic conflicts in the 1990s.
     
  3. Atticus

    Atticus Deity Retired Moderator

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    Not long ago I browsed through a book called Tito's heritage and heirs, which was printed in 1980. It speculated on that question and the options they had was a strong man to lead the country, or the circulating presidency which was apparently more or less what happened then.

    The best strong man candidate the book offered was Stane Dolanc, who Wikipedia tells was a member of the collective presidency. So, it's probably not far fetched to say that what happened was the best case scenario, or almost.

    The writers weren't very optimistic on the thing. Some Newsweek article was cited, which said that barely no one expects Yugoslavia to hold together.
     
  4. Lord Baal

    Lord Baal Deity

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    The collective presidency, while "fair," was a terrible idea. It invited the very same nationalistic tensions that Tito spent decades fighting.
     
  5. Domen

    Domen Misico dux Vandalorum

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    Let's unite Israel with Crete (separated from Greece), Cyprus, Syria, Lebanon and Egypt into one state and see if this federation survives.

    You can hold such a thing together only with use of force and terror - like Tito did with Yugoslavia.

    Then let's unite the USA with Mexico and Cuba into one state - and let's see how long everyone will be happy to live in such a federation. Of course in a federation of the USA, Mexico and Cuba, Raul Castro should be the new president of this new state - not Barack Obama. Everyone should like it.

    =============================

    Or let's force a Catholic gay into marriage with a Muslim lesbian - and see how long it survives.
     
  6. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    The US already are a federation. As is Germany. (And if I'm not mistaken, so is Mexico.) Seem to be working fine.
     
  7. Louis XXIV

    Louis XXIV Le Roi Soleil

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    Were there any institutional reforms that were possible that did not depend on a single qualified leader (in particular, one that could work even with a weak leader)?
     
  8. History_Buff

    History_Buff Knight of Cydonia

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    And Canada. Even though we have issues with separatists, we had a couple votes and it turns out support for separatism remained a minority. Absolutely no violence on the scale of Yugoslavia.

    Federalism in itself isn't the problem.
     
  9. Lord Baal

    Lord Baal Deity

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    Not by 1980. Earlier it could have been done, but by that point the damage was done. It may not have been possible after WWII. Too much baggage and violence.
     
  10. innonimatu

    innonimatu Deity

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    That's a bleak view of the situation. But I admit that having read some accounts of WW2 in Yugoslavia I had the same impression. Some times old hatreds are overcome - otherwise the whole world would be completely Balkanized now :p - so I was kind of hoping that an alternative outcome for Yugoslavia could be realistic.

    The rotative arrangement was less than ideal, encouraging the creation of localized power bases for the major politicians, but did that had to break up? Or to put the question another way, is there some counter-example? Has there been a federal-like polity with similar rotative institutions that managed to remain stable for a long time?
     
  11. Ajidica

    Ajidica High Quality Person

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    Correct me if I'm wrong, but wasn't the situation made Rather Bad when Serbia started to use force to keep Bosnia a part of the Republic which created a snowball effect as other ethnic groups decided it was time to leave?

    If so, couldn't the Serb leadership have adopted a more conciliatory position with limited autonomy?
     
  12. Louis XXIV

    Louis XXIV Le Roi Soleil

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    I guess my question is broader and it doesn't have to be 1980. I was thinking post-WWII, though.

    Can someone fill me in what happened during the war? My understanding is simply Yugoslav Communist partisans (presumably not exclusively Communist) fighting against Nazis. I assume it's vastly more complicated than that?
     
  13. innonimatu

    innonimatu Deity

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    I'll try to give you a short version. It was a more like everyone fighting against everyone. The italians had the bright idea of trying to occupy southern Yugoslavia, where even the montenegrins kicked their ass regularly. The Nazis invaded the north and set up several puppet regimes, the most infamous of those in Croatia where they created a militia, the Ustashi, that actually managed to gain a worse reputation as wholesale murderers than the nazi SS. Some of the royalists (loyal to the old king of Yugoslavia) set up another militia, the Chetniks, that was actually (as the name implied) a serbian nationalist one. Which received support from the british but had no problem allying with the nazi occupiers (note: no one cared to ally with the italians) because they had a common enemy, the communist partisans. Those were originally stronger on the south (what with the italians pretending to conquer it...) and gradually expanded major operations to Bosnia and then across the country. Caught in the middle were everyone else, with several weaker militias organized by the puppet regimes and even by villages and towns with ethnic and religious minorities being trampled by the major ones. For example, both the Chetniks and the Ustashi liked to massacre muslims, apparently. And I guess sure the hate got returned whenever possible And they liked to massacre croats and serbs, respectively. And come war's end the partisans had their revenge in the form of a big massacre of ustashi and other assorted collaborators supplied by the british who did not want to be left dealing with resettling a bunch of murderers and other unsavoury types who had outlived their usefulness. Finally, there was a massacre of italians in the portions of former Austria-Hungary annexed by fascist Italy then annexed by Yugoslavia, where the time-honoured expedient of making a show of killing a number of people was used to make the rest of the "unsuitable" population flee. Which was payback for a previous massacre of 'slavs in the same area by the fascist italians earlier, done with the same purpose...

    Bloody little history, isn't it?

    I think that tshhtf right from the start when Slovenia seceded. It was just that Croatia was in the process of doing it also and prevented speedy transit of federal troops there, wasn't it? Plus some confusion ans allegiances of units shifted? :confused:

    I don't know whether more autonomy short of independence was ever on the table.
     
  14. Louis XXIV

    Louis XXIV Le Roi Soleil

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    I'll say so. It also doesn't sound like Yugoslavia was very cooperative in the pre-war years either if they collaborated with the Nazis to fight with each other.
     
  15. Lord Baal

    Lord Baal Deity

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    What happened was that the various political heads of the federation's states - of which the Serbian President, Milosevic, is the most famous - gathered localized power around themselves. At first this wasn't based on separatism or exclusivism, but simply the only way to gain any sort of continuing power under the rotating presidency model. From here it becomes quite complicated. I will simplify it as best as I can.

    Slobodan Milosevic, the leader of the Serbian state, was a hard-line communist, arguably moreso than Tito himself had been. He originally supported the idea of regional autonomy, which has historically been the communistic norm; see the variety of ethnic autonomous states in the USSR and China for examples. This meant that Milosevic supported the existence of an autonomous Kosovo within Serbia. The problem was that one of Milosevic's political opponents - it was never quite clear who, since this was all happening behind closed doors in Serbia - cleverly used the Albanian minority in Kosovo as a scapegoat to further his own political ends in the hope of taking Milosevic's place. Kosovar autonomy had never been popular amongst the average Serbian, for whom nationalism was more important than abstract ideas of the communist revolution. Milosevic, a consummate politician, saw which way the wind was blowing and performed an about-face, abolishing the regional autonomy of Kosovo. This won him a huge amount of popularity amongst Serbs, just as the one-party system was collapsing, making him an obvious choice for Serbians to vote for in the upcoming elections in other federal republics, especially Croatia and Bosnia. Montenegro was already solidly Serbian in outlook and followed Milosevic all the way.

    Milosevic, realising he was onto a winning idea, similarly abolished the autonomy of Vojvodina, the ethnic-Magyar autonomous republic north of Belgrade in Serbia. Then Milosevic began to make loud noises about the ethnic Serbs in neighbouring constituent republics, notably Macedonia and Bosnia and Herzegovia. IN response to the obvious threat of a Serbian-dominated Yugoslavia, Croatia elected a rabidly nationalist President, Franjo Tudman.

    Slovenia, seeing the writing on the wall - and noticing that all the Yugoslavian troops due to begin the next year's deployment on Slovenian soil were suspiciously Serbian and Montenegrin - withdrew from the Yugoslav republic. For six days it appeared as if Milosevic might use the military to retain Slovenia, but then Tudman, who had been relying on Slovenia to help him balance Milosevic's power, also withdrew from Yugoslavia. This saved Slovenia, since Croatia stood between it an Serbia. Slovenia also had a population that was 97% ethnically Slovenian, so it was spared any ethnic difficulties. Croatia was not.

    Now finding themselves part of an independent Croatia just days after it appeared they would become the dominant-ethnic group in all of Yugoslavia, some Serbian nationalists in Croatia rioted. Tudman, either believing this was a Serbian plot to give Milosevic a casus belli to intervene in Croatia, or, more likely, simply because he was a genocidal xenophobic scumbag on par with Hitler, began ethnically cleansing all the Serbs on Croatian soil. Tudman, incidentally, invented the term "ethnic cleansing" in a speech about ridding Croatia of "Serbian vermin."

    Milosevic was left with no option but to respond by invading Croatia; even if the mass-rape, murder and deportation of Serbs hadn't disgusted him personally, it would have ben political suicide for him to not respond to ethnic Serbian appeals to the Serbian government for assistance. He invaded Croatia, and simultaneously began his own cleansing of the Croat minority in Serbia.

    This is when the Bosnian War started. Bosnia, even moreso than any other Yugoslavian republic, was an ethnic hodgepog. It was roughly one-third Serbian, one-third Croatian and one-third Muslim. The Bosnian government knew it was likely to become a bloody battleground in any Serb-Croat conflict, and therefore similarly withdrew from Yugoslavia and declared its neutrality in the Serbia-Croatia war. But the Serbian and Croatian minorities in Bosnia had already started fighting each other, and the Serbian and Croatian governments immediately invaded to defend their own ethnic groups in Bosnia. Both sides immediately started killing the Bosnian Muslims, which neither side liked. The Muslims also inhabited the most strategically and economically important areas of the country, and as such both sides wanted that territory, if not permanently, then at least for the duration of the current conflict.

    Milosevic now realised that he couldn't possibly hold on to all of Yugoslavia, but understood that he might be able to create a "Greater Serbia" out of its ashes. He let Macedonia, which had very few Serbs and was no threat to him, secede from Yugoslavia without a fight, cut a deal with the Kosovo Liberation Army so as to be able to pull troops out of Kosovo - the KLA wanted to increase its own strength while Serbia was worn down by Croatia and what was left of the Bosnian government - and concentrated as much of his forces as possible on Bosnia. He already controlled the Serbian parts of Croatia, but Bosnia was an easier target, and if he was able to take it over he'd be able to flank the Croatians fighting in Croatia itself.

    This led to the US and NATO interventions against Serbia in Bosnia. As it was, Milosevic eventually allowed himself to be bought off with the promise of regional autonomy for the Serbs in Bosnia. This gave them 49% of the country. While the Dayton Accords made a partition of Bosnia illegal and unconstitutional, Milosevic still hoped to annex the Serbian part at a later date. He also cut a similar deal regarding the Serbs in Croatia, though he was far less successful there. Again, he hoped to seize power there at a later date.

    Oh, incredibly complicated. The ustache were a collaborationist group of Croatian ultra-nationalists who massacred Serbs with such intensity that even the SS were disgusted, stepping in to stop them on at least one occasion. The Italians were only able to control a small portion of Serbia and Macedonia, as well as the coastline. The Germans took control of Serbia, succeeding in wiping out the entire Jewish population of that country, a feat even they didn't manage anywhere else in Europe, due in no small part to enthusiastic Croatian assistance. The Serbian resistance was mostly royalist, as inno stated, and did not mesh well with the other major resistance movement, Tito's communists.

    Tito himself was Croatian, but not a nationalist. He seems to have been of the old school of thought which believed that all of the "South Slavs" should be under the control of one state. As such, he attempted to dominate the Albanian communist resistance as well, which led directly to Enver Hoxha taking control of that movement (Hoxha was vehemently anti-Yugoslavian, and succeeded in ousting the pro-Yugoslavian wing of the movement by intrigues with the British and Greeks). Tito pan-Slavic ideals won him the allegiance of the non-Communist resistance movements which feared a return to Serbian domination post-war, enabling him to eliminate the Cetniks before the Red Army arrived in Yugoslavia. For the most part, Yugoslavia was liberated without the assistance of Red Army or British troops, since the Germans and Italians evacuated it in order to concentrate their forces in Hungary and Italy. As such, Tito's primary enemy was the ustache which were hated by all but ultra-nationalist Croats. When he massacred the ustache in February 1945, Tito effectively became the only mote of power in all of Yugoslavia.
     
  16. Lord Baal

    Lord Baal Deity

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    Inititally the Slovenes, Montenegrins and Croats joined Serbia in good faith, under the condition that they would be treated as separate but equal nations with a single king. So, like Austria and Hungary under the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy. They quickly discovered that Serbian support of "Pan-Slavism" had been in fact a code-word for "Serbian domination of Southeastern Europe." In addition to accepting the three other Slavic groups in the area into the "Kingdom of the South Slavs," the Serbs also annexed patently non-Slavic territories from Hungary and Bulgaria, while simultaneously making a play for Albania. Albania wisely resisted calls to join the new Kingdom, and were proven right when the Serbs began treating the Croats and Slovenes as second-class citizens.

    This mistreatment led to a nationalistic resistance in Croatia, which morphed into an incredibly ugly strand of ethnonationalism when it was combined with Italian Fascist principles and pseudo-Nazi racial doctrines. The ustache actually considered themselves "Aryans," remarkably. The incredible ugliness of the Croatian nationalism was a very unfortunate accident of history; Mussolini supported Croatian nationalism because Yugoslavia was an obvious regional rival to Italy and an autonomous Croatia would weaken it. Croatian nationalists in exile in Italy picked up Fascism, and, most unfortunately of all, the man the Germans put in charge just happened to be one of the few Croatian leaders who believed in Nazism as well. The Croatian leadership after Tito's death was largely a re-iteration of the ustache, since Tito successfully eliminated the more moderate nationalists.
     
  17. Quackers

    Quackers The Frog

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    This is a very good post.
    Out of curiousity are you writing this all down from memory? Or are you glancing at a textbook, university notes or something?
     
  18. Silurian

    Silurian Deity

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    Franjo Tudman was involved in the Croatian language dispute in the 60s and lost his job as a result.
    That may not have helped his views of the Serbs.
     
  19. innonimatu

    innonimatu Deity

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    That description of the end of Yugoslavia was informative, thanks. Trouble was just waiting to happen in this unequal federation, it seems. Too many serbs compared to the rest, someone eventually tries to use nationalism to seize power by using the serbs...
     
  20. Lord Baal

    Lord Baal Deity

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    Mostly memory, though I double-checked wiki to make sure I had Tudman's name right.

    The main problem was less that there were "too many Serbs," but more that there was nothing equal about any of the different federal states.

    Serbia was the largest and had the highest population, hence Tito's attempts to break it into several autonomous regions - he likely planned to break up Albania in a similar fashion had he succeeded in taking power there - but it was also one of the poorest areas of the country.

    Slovenia, having been heavily developed by the Austrians due to the importance of Trieste, was by far the wealthiest of the different republics. It was also fairly small.

    Croatia was the second-largest and most populous state after Serbia, but while it suffered from poor infrastructure - the Hungarians had not done as well in Croatia as the Austrians in Slovenia - it was actually considerably wealthier. As such, there was natural resentment between Croatia and Serbia, with most of the other states caught in between.

    Montenegrins are basically Serbs who had a separate state more by accident than design, and so almost always followed Serbia's lead.

    Macedonia was pretty much the ******** cousin of the arrangement, with an ethnic hodgepodge of Albanians, Serbs, Greeks and Bulgarians. Rather than saddle Serbia with it, Tito chose to make it a republic in its own right, both to offset Serbia's already poor financial situation and to limit the calls for autonomous republics from its various minority groups. There's less reason to be angry that you aren't autonomous when you make up 40% of Macedonia's population that 4% of Serbia's.

    Bosnia was originally just a Muslim enclave, but was enlarged to bring its population up to a level that actually warranted becoming a republic in its own right. Otherwise both Serbia and Croatia would argue over which of them should get the territory.

    The tensions between Serbs and Croats existed from day one of the establishment of the Kingdom. The Croats thought they were being brought in as equals, but were treated as second-class citizens. This led, inexorably, to the violence of WWII. After Tito seized power, he attempted to ameliorate concerns of Serbian domination by giving in to some Croat demands, breaking up Serbia with a few autonomous regions and developing the rotational presidency idea. Unfortunately, he couldn't outright detach Vojvodina from Serbia for several reasons. Firstly, as it had a Magyar majority, giving it its own republic would be an invitation to Hungarian revanchism, at a time when Tito had been kicked out of the Comintern by Stalin. Secondly, the Hungarians had done a fantastic job of developing Vojvodina, unlike Croatia, and therefore the region provided a not-inconsiderable portion of Serbia's wealth. Taking it away would have crippled the Serbian economy and angered Serbs immensely. Vojvodina begins just a few miles north of Belgrade, so the Serbs saw it as integral to their state.

    Having such limits placed upon them frustrated Serbs, but at the same time didn't satisfy Croats. Serbia was still the largest federal republic in Yugoslavia, and its capital, Belgrade, was also the capital of Yugoslavia as a whole. This couldn't really be avoided; Serbia was far and away the greatest city in Yugoslavia, and moving the capital anywhere else would be ridiculous, not to mention a logistical nightmare. At the same time, Serbian sensibilities would hardly allow Tito to detach Belgrade from Serbia as some sort of District of Columbia or Australian Capital Territory type region, with another city becoming the capital of Serbia. As such, he was forced to adopt the USSR's model of having the Russian and Soviet capitals in the same city.

    These issues meant that Tito couldn't really go too far in either direction with the Serbs and Croats. It didn't help that Tito himself was Croatian, and therefore not trusted by the Serbs, who saw him as a Croatian dictator, or the Croats, who saw him as a national traitor. He certainly tried to establish a stable succesion, but it was next-to-impossible given Yugoslavia's federal nature. And federalism was only tried after a centralised state had already failed. Yugoslavia was next-to-impossible to hold together. It's a testament to both Tito's political acumen and his sheer brutality that he held i together as long as he did.
     

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