In 1992, I had completed a second scenario pack for LEG called Welcome to Hell: War In the Balkans Scenario Pack. The scenario pack dealt with the breakup of Yugoslavia. These traumatic events were the consequence of the fall of the Soviet Union, which saw the Warsaw Pact crumble and collapse as a wave of reform and revolution swept through Eastern Europe.
LEG ceased operations before the manuscript could be completed. Reproduced in full on these pages is the entire Welcome to Hell scenario pack.
The Balkan Peninsula has written much of European and even World history. The cultural diversity of the people of the Peninsula has led to substantial internal ethnic friction over time while the location of the Peninsula on the borders of Europe and Southwest Asia has meant that the region has been used as a staging area for conquerors on both borders seeking to invade and rule lands on the other side. Both internal and external belligerence gained the Balkans the title of “powderkeg of Europe,” a title which has proved apt over time as irredentist and nationalist pressures have kept the region in perpetual conflict.
Now, with the removal of Communism throughout Eastern Europe and the Balkans, the people of the Balkans are beginning to find their independent political identity in the World, and this has thrown the Balkan nations into turmoil.
In Romania, a vicious dictator was removed by a popular uprising. In Yugoslavia, the old borders have been torn apart in a bloody civil war by people eager to express their nationalism. And all across the Balkans, the decades of communism have left a legacy of refugees, economic ruin, and political uncertainty. These, combined with the blood spilled in the bitter ethnic and revolutionary fighting have started the fuse on the powderkeg burning again, and while there is little risk of the keg detonating another World War, even local explosions have proved to generate terrible misery and significant international repercussions.
This scenario pack features a mix of scenarios for the Small Arms and Mechanized Combat System scenarios, allowing the supplement to be used with both.
Perspectives on the Balkans
The historical chronicle of the Balkan peninsula is fascinating not only for the factual record of events it encompasses, but also for the cultural and philosophical insights it provides into the current ethnic and political conflicts sweeping across the region. This section provides an overview of Balkan history and examines how that history has contributed to the current strife.
Histories of Nationalism and Irredentism
The current ethnic tensions in the region are driven by the twin forces of nationalism and irredentism. Nationalism, the desire of an ethnic group to have a nation of their own both combines and competes with irredentism, which is the concept that areas settled by an ethnic group should be ruled by that ethnic group. Balkan history is filled with instances of ethnic clashes caused by nationalist and irredentist motives.
Balkan History and Geography offer an explanation for the strength of nationalist and irredentist movements in the region. Following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire and the barbarian invasions of the Byzantine Empire in the fifth to seventh centuries, the northern Balkan peninsula was left sparsely-populated and became settled by Slav and Bulgar peoples. The first Slavs in the regions were vassals of the Avars, a Turkic people from Russia and they engaged in raiding the Byzantine empire. The Avars were defeated by the Byzantines and Slavic tribes of Serbs and Croats were invited by Byzantine Emporer Heraclius to settle in the Balkans in A.D. 626. These tribes settled in Dalmatia and present-day Serbia and Croatia. The fall of the Avars also permitted their vassals the Bulgars, a Turkic tribe, to conquer Slavs in the eastern Balkans. The pattern of resettlement and conquest displaced the Thracian population of Dacia and the Illyrian population of the Southern Balkans. These people would eventually become Vlachs (Romanians) and Albanians.
Over the next several centuries, the various Balkan groups engaged in empire building and were themselves the subjects of larger empires. Bulgarians and Serbs expanded their holdings until finally joined into the Ottoman empire. Bulgaria fell to the Ottomans in A.D. 1396 following political and economic destabilization from a succession crisis and Mongol raids of a century before. Serbia itself broke away from the Byzantine Empire in A.D. 1180 and began building its own empire under Stefan Dusan in 1331, eventually encompassing Albania, Epirus, Thessaly, and Bulgaria. But in 1389, the Ottoman Turks defeated the Serbs at Kosovo, fragmenting the Serbian empire into tiny holdings and all of Serbia except Montenegro was swallowed by the Ottomans. Unlike their southern neighbors, the Croatians and Dalmatians faced Frankish conquest, but would break away to form the independent kingdom of Croatia in 925. Croatia would remain independent until a succession crisis permitted Hungarian King Ladislas I to take the throne in 1089, effectively making Croatia a province of Hungary. Hungary would also later fall under to the Ottomans in 1526, bringing all of the Balkan states under Ottoman dominion.
The geographical and cultural boundaries which had existed in the Balkan peninsula and had allowed the development of unique ethnic identities for many of the Balkan peoples were superceded by the Ottoman conquest. During the Ottoman rule, a great deal of internal migration took place as required by the dictates of the Empire and of Commerce. The internal migration served to muddy the national boundaries and provided a stong breeding ground for irredentist politics.
By the 19th Century, many Balkan nations were able to gain their modern political identity with the slow collapse of the Ottoman Empire. This brought the Balkans to the forefront of Western European concern. The strategic location of the Balkans made them important to Russia and Habsburg Austria as frontier territories, to Britain as a communications link with its far Eastern colonies, and to the Ottomans themselves, who on seeing the decline of their empire were unwilling to cede and more territory to their rivals. In the midst of the international concerns, Balkan nationalism rose to start the formation of independent states. Serbia staged an uprising in 1804-1813 that would eventually gain it autonomy in 1830, with Montenegro receiving international recognition as an independent state in 1860. The Greeks also engaged in revolution and civil war in the 1820s, gaining independence in 1830. Danubian principalities, which under the Crimean War’s Treaty of Paris were to remain separate, elected Alexandru Cuza as sole prince and achieved unification in 1861 to create Romania. Bulgarian revolutionaries used the new state of Romania as a staging area to throw off the Ottomans in 1875. Albania also had an insurrection in 1909-1912, but failed to achieve independence until 1926.
By the start of World War I, the Balkan Peninsula was a region of several small states each seeking to expand their own territories while simultaneously trying to prevent powers outside of the Balkans from exerting their influence. Several major crises occurred in the period before the wars, but the most serious was the 1908 Austrian annexation of Bosnia-Hercegovina from the Turks, an action protested by all the then-independent Balkan states. Austria and Serbia almost went to war over the issue, and could have drawn in the whole of Europe as many of the treaty obligations which contributed to the expansion of World War I were already in place. Two Balkan wars would be fought before the start of the Great War. The first Balkan War (1912) removed the remnants of Turkish rule from Europe in a battle between Turkey on the one side and the nations of Serbia,
Bulgaria, Montenegro, and Greece on the other. Great Power diplomats brokered a peace unsatisfactory to Serbia and Bulgaria, and these two former allies fought each other in the Second Balkan War (1913). Serbia, Greece, and Turkey were eventually able to beat Bulgaria into submission and gained substantial territorial concessions from the defeated nation.
By the end of all of this history, the forces of nationalism and irredentism had permanently marked the face of the Balkans. Nationalism gained the Balkan nations their independence, while irredentism threw them against one another. At this point, the stage was set for the start of the Great War.
Serbia had been angered over the Bosnian annexation and so supported Serbian independence movements within Bosnia-Hercegovina. One of which, the Black Hand under the command of Serbian Colonel Dragutin Dimitrijevic, would finally start the war when their Bosnian Serb member Gavrilo Pricip assassinated the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife Sophie duchess of Hohenburg on June 28, 1914. The Powderkeg of Europe had exploded into the Great War.
Following the Great War, the victorious Allied nations attempted to divide the Balkans in a way that would stabilize the region for the forseeable future. Many borders were redrawn as territories were taken from central power allies and given to Entente allies. The old Austro-Hungarian empire was shattered. Transylvania was given over to Romania, and Slovenia and Croatia were surrendered to the Serbians and rearranged into Yugoslavia, the South Slav state. Greece received Western Thrace from Bulgaria and Eastern Thrace and Smyrna from Turkey. The Diplomats, in proposing this solution, failed to take into account the strong nationalism of the minorities in the South Balkans, which would lead to the Greco-Turk War, which led to a solid defeat for the expansionist Greeks.
In the rest of the Balkans, nationalism also caused interwar friction. The rise of peasantist, communist, and later fascist organizations along ethnic lines in Yugoslavia, Romania, Bulgaria, and Albania led to the collapse of parliamentary breakdowns in those nations, creating effectively authoritarian states. Rather than stabilizing the region, the rise of authoritarianism led to even more unrest.
Yugoslavia’s king Alexander was assassinated in 1934 by IMRO Macedonian revolutionaries, forcing his brother Paul to take power as regent. Greece suffered repeated Coup-d’etats. King Carol II of Romania waged a covert war against Corneilu Codreanu and his Iron Guard fascists. King Boris III of Bulgaria launched a military coup which drove IMRO revolutionaries from his country.
All of these revolutionary and nationalist tensions would be stilled for the next fifty years by events transpiring far beyond the Balkan Peninsula, first by the arrival of World War II, and then by the post-war Communist governments in Albania, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, and Yugoslavia during the Cold War.
Repression and Consequences
It was only the repression practiced by the former Soviet Bloc nations of the Balkan Peninsula that was able to mask and control much of the existing ethnic tension and keep the region from exploding into violence from 1945. Harsh object lessons like Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968 emphasized that the Soviet Union would use military force to quickly and brutally crush dissent in its European Empire, and that the national governments had the military might of Moscow at their summons to help in controlling unrest. The threat of Soviet military intervention bolstered the repression of Eastern Bloc nations and controlled the simmering ethnic friction. But then came Soviet ”Perestroika” reforms, and the military threat evaporated as former Eastern Bloc nations began digging themselves out from over four decades of Communism and liberalizing their government structures. Much of the repression that had controlled ethnic tensions also disappeared, and in ethnically diverse regions such as the Balkan nations, the ethnic tensions became dangerously high.
Of course, there were governments which tried to continue their repression despite the lack of Soviet support. In Bulgaria, the slow reform process under President Todor Zhivkov tried to assimilate Bulgarian Turks, resulting in Turkish protests, police crackdowns, and a 300,000 member exodus across the Turkish border. The domestic and international censure Bulgaria received for bringing about the exodus eventually forced Zhivkov’s resignation and the liberalization of Bulgaria. In Romania, leader Nicolae Ceausescu bled his nation white of assets to attempt to repay foreign debts and forced the Romanian people through a bizarre systemization policy of destroying villages and settling the residents in urban apartment complexes. Ceausescu paraded himself as absolute leader of his nation, but when demonstrators attempting to block the arrest of Hungarian priest Laszlo Tokes were shot and killed by Securitate, Ceausescu was removed from power in a bloody week-long revolt by protestors no longer facing Soviet military intervention.
Another nation, however, found that the ethnic tensions which had been controlled by the central socialist government were strong enough to tear the nation apart. Yugoslavia in 1991 found that several of its component republics wanted independence and for a while, the central government fought to keep the nation together. Eventually, the central government itself was replaced by a Serbian command, which used the Army and irregular forces to realize Serbian territorial claims. Yugoslavia which was born out of the First World War as an amalgam of several smaller republics had disintegrated some seventy years later in a fit of irredentist bloodletting.