Third Balkan War: Partitioning of Yugoslavia

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ArmchairSamurai
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Third Balkan War: Partitioning of Yugoslavia

Post by ArmchairSamurai » 01 Apr 2020 22:48

Hi all.

Let's propose Yugoslavia, for whatever reason, collapses in the year of its birth. It can be said the state was dead before it was ever truly alive, with some even labeling its formative years as a "prison of nations". Considering the Great War ends not too much earlier, and the plethora of independence wars breaking out across the continent, from Finland in the north to Turkey farther south and everywhere in between, the Balkans may see a similar route as the different ethnicities within the former Yugoslavia attempt to carve out their own existence. I see it as a mere possibility of direct Entente interference, though debatable, as they were already meddling in Turkey, Russia, the Baltic, even Germany to an extent. It is much more likely the League of Nations would attempt to temporarily cease the hostilities and see a patchwork of treaties be signed, guaranteeing specific boundaries between parties--of course ensuring future conflict over territorial rights ala irredentism.

The Treaty of Saint-Germain, which dissolved the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and created such states as Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia while reconstituting states like Poland, left both Austria and Hungary but rump states themselves. That being said, if hostilities between the former Yugoslav states were to resume, much like Poland & Lithuania's conflict over Vilnius, then the war may see a gradual escalation beyond the former Yugoslavia, with Hungary joining the fray to reclaim former territory by siding with a particular entity, and Balkan states like Albania, Bulgaria, Romania, and Greece taking sides, proclaiming neutrality or attempting to claim their own piece all the same. The League of Nations will try and make concessions, that much is true, but can that be enough to stop a Third Balkan War? Would the League, so soon after the Great War, and with other interventions ongoing elsewhere, really commit themselves to but another war? How much authority does the League have in the early 20's? Surely both Britain and France are on the verge of total military exhaustion, no? I doubt the US would involve themselves with anything else in Europe, especially after evacuating troops from Russia. Thoughts?
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OldBill
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Re: Third Balkan War: Partitioning of Yugoslavia

Post by OldBill » 04 Apr 2020 02:18

I think Serbia's losses, combined with that of the other nations of Yugoslavia, render this very unlikely if not impossible. They were absolutely devastated, that combined with the loss of Adriatic ports to Italy meant there wasn't a lot of capability to recover quickly. The nations more or less had to stick together, not to mention the sense of nationalism that was present in all the countries that supported the nation of Yugoslavia.

ArmchairSamurai
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Re: Third Balkan War: Partitioning of Yugoslavia

Post by ArmchairSamurai » 04 Apr 2020 18:14

OldBill wrote:
04 Apr 2020 02:18
very unlikely if not impossible.
Understandable. I have not quite found a suitable explanation for Yugoslavia to collapse. I am still pondering what could trigger it. What were Serbia's motivations to join Yugoslavia then? You would think nationalism and independence go hand in hand, especially given the activity of the Black Hand. In the Baltic, Estonia and Latvia resisted subjugation under a United Baltic Duchy; I would consider that similar circumstances, no? Unless, it was the others who joined Serbia, not the other way around. That makes sense if Serbia was recognized as a sovereign nation, but the others were not, incentivizing them to join into a confederacy to save their national identity. Regardless, I have reason to think that Croats and Slovenes were oppressed by Serbs in this arrangement all the same as they were under the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Trade one oppressor for another, in this case, the Hapsburgs for a Serbian Karađorđević dynasty. Given the concessions made in the Treaty of London, what if Serbia stuck with its original aspiration for Greater Serbia rather than Yugoslavia? Would that be a suitable trigger for a Balkan War?
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Sid Guttridge
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Re: Third Balkan War: Partitioning of Yugoslavia

Post by Sid Guttridge » 05 Apr 2020 10:00

The assorted South Slavs had more in common with each other than they had had with their previous imperial rulers, not least language and culture. Thus Yugoslavia was not entirely an unnatural proposition. (Indeed, in the post WWII censuses the option to describe oneself as "Yugoslav" rather than Serb, Croat, etc., etc., was slowly taken up by more people, particularly those with mixed parentage.)

However, without Austro-Hungarian and Turkish threats to drive them together, and Serb dominance apparent, Yugoslavia lost its cohesiveness within a couple of decades of 1918 and the differences of religion began to assert themselves over the commonalities of language and broader culture.

Cheers,

Sid.

ArmchairSamurai
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Re: Third Balkan War: Partitioning of Yugoslavia

Post by ArmchairSamurai » 06 Apr 2020 07:04

Sid Guttridge wrote:
05 Apr 2020 10:00
The assorted South Slavs had more in common with each other than they had had with their previous imperial rulers
That much is true. I agree. And yet, was this commonality what brought the states of Yugoslavia together in the first place, or was it simply an external threat of assimilation by forces larger than themselves that forced union with Serbia?--that is the question. "Are we [i.e. south slavs] stronger, together?", is the impression I get here.
Sid Guttridge wrote:
05 Apr 2020 10:00
However, without Austro-Hungarian and Turkish threats to drive them together, and Serb dominance apparent, Yugoslavia lost its cohesiveness
This is important for the plausibility of this scenario, wouldn't you agree? Given Serbia's previous inclination towards Greater Serbia, its attempted Serbiazation of Macedonia after unification, Nikola Pašić's unethical political dealings, and the Chetnik ethnic cleansing of Bosnians/Croatians, among other things, the conditions were ripe for a reactionary extremist faction like the Ustaše to come into existence, and worse, give them the opportunity to gain a popular front. Ironic, given the Serb's own extremists, the Black Hand, operated under the same pretense. That being said, is it so unlikely that such resistance to Serb domination could be instigated, earlier? Say, if Pašić's election rigging pushes the Croats to form a coalition against the Serbs for independence? The Croats already sought to make Yugoslavia a republic but were overruled and a parliament was established instead--namely to prevent a fair precedent I would imagine, especially when numbers are concerned. Majority rules and the Serbs are the majority in Yugoslav parliament.
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Sid Guttridge
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Re: Third Balkan War: Partitioning of Yugoslavia

Post by Sid Guttridge » 06 Apr 2020 08:01

Hi ArmchairSamurai,

My impression is that many Croats, at least, might well have wanted to go their own way from the start. However, the Allies felt obliged to reward "plucky little Serbia" for its achievements and sacrifices in WWI and therefore backed the largely Serb project of a united South Slav state. However, to other South Slav nationalists, a Serbian monarchy ruling from Belgrade, the Serbian capital, probably made it look as though foreign imperialism was being replaced by a local imperialism.

Serbs formed a little more than a third of the population of Yugoslavia, but were nearly twice as numerous as the next largest group - the Croats. If they gerrymandered the distribution of seats so that they had a majority in parliament, then this would have created resentment with all the other South Slave minorities. But do we have any evidence that this was the case in the early 1920s? (Wikipedia, speaking of elections in 1938, says, "Although the United Opposition, de facto led by Maček, had attracted 44.9% of the vote, due to the electoral rules by which the government parties received 40% of the seats in the National Assembly before votes were counted, the opposition vote only translated into 67 seats out of a total of 373." However, this was after the royal dictratorship of 1929 and doesn't clarify the situation in the early 1920s.)

If this was the case, a reaction by Croats was perhaps inevitable, but there were plenty of more more moderate Croats (Peasants Party?) than the vicious Ustasa, who were a small group put in power by the Axis, not the result of any popular mandate.

Had fighting broken out between Serbs and Croats in the immediate aftermath of WWI, the latter would have been in a weak position. The Serbs on their own were twice as numerous, could use most of the other South Slavs as well, and had a fully formed army equipped by the Allies. The Croats had none of these advantages and were, in addition, short of experienced officers due to their subordinate position within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. My guess is that the Croats would have been over run rather like the Hungarians were by the Romanians at much the same time. The Romanians could at least wihdraw from Hungary, but the downside for the Serbs would be the creation of an expensive, running sore within the new Yugoslav state.

Cheers,

Sid

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Re: Third Balkan War: Partitioning of Yugoslavia

Post by Futurist » 26 May 2020 20:38

Sid Guttridge wrote:
06 Apr 2020 08:01
Hi ArmchairSamurai,

My impression is that many Croats, at least, might well have wanted to go their own way from the start.
Possibly, but the risk of this is that this could have resulted in a weak Croatia that was largely susceptible to predatory German, Italian, and Hungarian pressure. This is at least a part of the reason why there was an emphasis on having larger countries after the end of World War I. It would be similar to a post-WWI independent Slovakia being ripe for German, Polish, and Hungarian predation. :( Geopolitics wasn't as nice in the post-WWI era as it is right now, where the US and NATO get to keep order in Europe in order to ensure that small countries aren't being abused or preyed upon.
However, the Allies felt obliged to reward "plucky little Serbia" for its achievements and sacrifices in WWI and therefore backed the largely Serb project of a united South Slav state. However, to other South Slav nationalists, a Serbian monarchy ruling from Belgrade, the Serbian capital, probably made it look as though foreign imperialism was being replaced by a local imperialism.
Yep, very possibly. Interestingly enough, though, there was this 1939 Yugoslav attempt to please the Croats:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cvetkovi% ... _Agreement
Serbs formed a little more than a third of the population of Yugoslavia, but were nearly twice as numerous as the next largest group - the Croats. If they gerrymandered the distribution of seats so that they had a majority in parliament, then this would have created resentment with all the other South Slave minorities. But do we have any evidence that this was the case in the early 1920s? (Wikipedia, speaking of elections in 1938, says, "Although the United Opposition, de facto led by Maček, had attracted 44.9% of the vote, due to the electoral rules by which the government parties received 40% of the seats in the National Assembly before votes were counted, the opposition vote only translated into 67 seats out of a total of 373." However, this was after the royal dictratorship of 1929 and doesn't clarify the situation in the early 1920s.)

If this was the case, a reaction by Croats was perhaps inevitable, but there were plenty of more more moderate Croats (Peasants Party?) than the vicious Ustasa, who were a small group put in power by the Axis, not the result of any popular mandate.

Had fighting broken out between Serbs and Croats in the immediate aftermath of WWI, the latter would have been in a weak position. The Serbs on their own were twice as numerous, could use most of the other South Slavs as well, and had a fully formed army equipped by the Allies. The Croats had none of these advantages and were, in addition, short of experienced officers due to their subordinate position within the Austro-Hungarian Empire. My guess is that the Croats would have been over run rather like the Hungarians were by the Romanians at much the same time. The Romanians could at least wihdraw from Hungary, but the downside for the Serbs would be the creation of an expensive, running sore within the new Yugoslav state.

Cheers,

Sid
In regards to an immediate post-WWI war between the Serbs and Croats, what would be really interesting would have been if Italy would have decided to militarily support the Croats in this war--perhaps in exchange for Dalmatia. That could have given a significant boost to the Croats in this war--perhaps even enough for them to actually win this war.

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Re: Third Balkan War: Partitioning of Yugoslavia

Post by Sid Guttridge » 26 May 2020 22:49

Hi Futurist,

Why would it be "really interesting"?

Was Italy displaying any interest in doing so at the time?

I would suggest that at the time Italy was more interested in grabbing as much of what is now Croatia's coastline as possible.

To be in any way interesting, it has to be a historically plausible proposition.

But is it?

Cheers,

Sid

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Re: Third Balkan War: Partitioning of Yugoslavia

Post by Futurist » 27 May 2020 02:55

Sid Guttridge wrote:
26 May 2020 22:49
Hi Futurist,

Why would it be "really interesting"?

Was Italy displaying any interest in doing so at the time?

I would suggest that at the time Italy was more interested in grabbing as much of what is now Croatia's coastline as possible.

To be in any way interesting, it has to be a historically plausible proposition.

But is it?

Cheers,

Sid
Italy was certainly interested in grabbing at least a part of Croatia's coastline, but it would have also served Italy's interests to subsequently have a weak Yugoslavia/Serbia so that there is no risk of Italy subsequently losing any territorial gains that it made in places such as Dalmatia.

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Re: Third Balkan War: Partitioning of Yugoslavia

Post by Futurist » 27 May 2020 06:03

Such an arrangement would have also given Italy a Croatian satellite state to dominate over.

Sid Guttridge
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Re: Third Balkan War: Partitioning of Yugoslavia

Post by Sid Guttridge » 27 May 2020 06:17

Hi Futurist,

But was it proposed at the time?

If it was, then it is a plausible historical option worth pursuing.

If it wasn't, then it is just one of an infinite number of ahistorical alternatives.

Cheers,

Sid.

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Re: Third Balkan War: Partitioning of Yugoslavia

Post by Futurist » 27 May 2020 06:21

Sid Guttridge wrote:
27 May 2020 06:17
Hi Futurist,

But was it proposed at the time?

If it was, then it is a plausible historical option worth pursuing.

If it wasn't, then it is just one of an infinite number of ahistorical alternatives.

Cheers,

Sid.
I don't know if it was proposed right after WWI, but this is in fact largely what the Axis did, in fact, do in and after 1941 in real life.

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Re: Third Balkan War: Partitioning of Yugoslavia

Post by Sid Guttridge » 27 May 2020 11:36

If I remember correctly, shortly after Mussolini came to power in the early 1920s he made a play for Corfu off Greece, but the British blocked him. So there was wider interest In the area as well.

Sid.

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Re: Third Balkan War: Partitioning of Yugoslavia

Post by SloveneLiberal » 27 May 2020 20:38

Yes Italy started to support Croatian separatism even before ustashe were formed in 1929. Hungary was on Italian side in this case also:

https://dspace5.zcu.cz/bitstream/11025/ ... amerli.pdf

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Re: Third Balkan War: Partitioning of Yugoslavia

Post by Futurist » 09 Jun 2020 02:53

What was their plan for Slovenia?

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