For All Time WI: Soviet Union defied
What if the Mediterranean Federation had succeeded in punching the CPSD in its crib?
May 1954-August 1954
-With two great European crises happening in May one year apart, fringe social theorists will talk seriously of a yearly cycle of social unrest. It's about as true as most social theories, but will entertain some for several months. The summer of 1954 will inspire more than just social theories; it will have plays, movies, songs, and several best-selling spy novels. Too, it will begin the long, slow road towards the awakening of the American ostrich.
But all that's in the future on May 3, 1954, when Yugoslavian leader Josif Broz Tito announces that Yugoslavia will take no part in the Alliance of People's Democracies "or any other infringement of a foreign power upon her national sovereignty." Instead, he invites Albania, Bulgaria, Greece, and Italy to join him in a "Mediterranean Federation" of non-aligned states: "To steer our own path, not devoured by Russian imperialism on the left or pulled under and drowned by the capitalist whirlpool on the right."
Within a day, after Greek President Markos Vafiades declared his support for the Yugoslavian initiative, long-simmering sentiments of ill-will explode through Eastern Europe. Oppressed citizens of Berlin and Munich storm through the city after meeting in Atomic Square; where the damage caused by the final American atomic bomb has been preserved. Crowds of students gather around the office of liberal Hungarian Premier Imre Nagy, calling on him to mobilize the Army and expel the Soviet presence. In Poland, elements of the Polish Army (mobilized for a nation-wide civil defense drill) actually assault the Warsaw military base where the "Russian" Konstantin Rokossovski is reviewing his troops. (Czechoslovakia and Austria stay quiet thanks to a quick and merciless clampdown by the efficient local governments.)
Even in relatively stable Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania, suddenly thousands of people are on the streets, marching for liberty. A surprising number aren't actually Communists, and would likely find Josif Tito's Yugoslavia an unappetizing place...but repression breeds strange bedfellows, and a great deal of cognitive dissonance is at work on both sides, though Yugoslavia and Greece are careful to accept the support only of Communist organizations abroad. (Both Yugoslavia and Greece, by preemptive army deployments, manage to keep down their own Stalinists.)
Pietro Nenni likely would have joined Markos and Tito in their rebellion; but Italy is the only place where Soviet, Yugoslavian, Greek, and Bulgarian troops are side by side and armed (for the moment.) The Soviet commanders on the ground move first and best, and soon they're chasing the rebels into the hills while Pietro Nenni is rather nervously going on the radio and announcing his full support for the Kaganovich government and Soviet policy in Europe.
Meanwhile, in Moscow, Lazar Kaganovich, forced to do the one thing he hates (move quickly) gives a rather surprising order. Limited Soviet troops will be moved into Eastern Europe, if the local governments request it...but outside of Italy, no Soviet troops or troops from the Soviet Bloc will cross Yugoslavian or Greek soil. Indeed, Kaganovich proclaims his friendship to all the Yugoslavian and Greek peoples, urging them to overthrow their "capitalists in Leninist-Stalinist clothing" leaders.
-Cautious of tangling with the Communists so soon after the embarrassment and terror of the Sicilian Crisis, the Amsterdam Pact pledges support for "democratic movements" everywhere. Anthony Eden has begun to sink into a fugue of depression from some unidentified source, and Darlan is busy in Africa, where his whirlwind tour of Algeria is actually very safe, mostly because there are a paucity of non-assimilated Muslims in the major cities. They've been forcibly driven into the deep interior, many heading into Libya.
Joseph Kennedy Jr. doesn't pay much attention, though he makes similar statements that don't actually say anything at all. His America is listening to a 19-year old white from Florida belt out covers of songs by more gifted artists of the wrong skin color; he personally has decided which Southern Senator he'll appoint to the Supreme Court to satisfy the Southern Democrats who helped put him into office.
In July of 1954, Puerto Rico votes, by a razor-thin margin, for independence from the United States in 1956.
-As she has since the beginning of history, Poland becomes the fulcrum on which Europe turns. It will be events in Warsaw in the last half of May, that will shape all that comes next, in Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Much of it will turn on the character of Konstantin Rokossovski, the son of a Pole and Russian who became a Red Army general and rose to the highest rank, even while speaking his Russian with a marked Polish accent.
Had his nerve broken between May 4-11, things might have been very different in the summer of 1954, and after. Had he surrended his base, the largest Red Army base in Poland, and surrendered his title as Premier, perhaps the rising power of the Soviet Union might have been checked right there, on that day.
But, of course, it didn't. Personally leading a column of T-34s, the old Marshal broke the siege of Stalinsk Base between May 11 and May 14, finally battering his way out to a radio transmitter, where he signalled for help from Moscow before returning to the fray. Within a day, Soviet troops were pouring across the border to aid loyal Polish troops and the embattled Russians already in Poland, and by the end of the month, the Red Army boot was busy tramping out any resistance beyond a nuisance level.
With Poland crushed, Imre Nagy comes down on the side of not getting shot to death by the Soviets, and is soon directing the destruction of those who'd begged for his help and pledged alliegance only a few short weeks before in the middle of June. As fighting continues in Italy through July, the governments of Albania, Bulgaria, and Romania calmly and brutally shoot down their protestors in the streets, even as they invite Moscow in to help too.
Tito and Markos fight hard and well, but by the beginning of August, both can tell they've lost. Despite inflicting terrific casualties, the Yugoslavian and Greek troops in Italy have been pushed back over the border (rather ominously, over the border the Italians claim), and all their attempted offensives to assist Poland, Hungary, or the rest of the Communist world in breaking free of the Soviet yoke have met with bloody reverses. In Albania and Anatolia, the slightly mad Envers Hoxha and his even madder Turkish counterpart have mobilized their armies, perched on the border and ready to swoop down on the foe. The more stable Communist states await Moscow's orders. But Lazar Kaganovich has another plan. Another plan entirely.
On August 1, 1954, he makes a rare move; a televised address, from his office, to the people of Yugoslavia and Greece. If they do not remove their leaders by the middle of the month, he will do it for them, by the most terrible means known to man. Tito and Markos take their gamble and bet that if Joseph Stalin only used nuclear weapons once in wartime, the old shoemaker from Kiev and Turkestan will do no such thing. And if the Red Army does invade, well, they've won guerilla wars before. They issue a blistering reply.
-Kaganovich knows that for all Sudoplatov's security services are good, they're not that good, and anything the Soviet Union has will eventually get out to the West. Better to release the information publicly, and in a way to impress the other Soviet client states: this is what happens when you go up against the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, when you break treaty and cause a war. Too, he has to prove to the world that he's as tough as Joseph Kennedy Jr....and more power. Markos is next on his list, if he resists, but Tito is the center, the focal point of the conspiracy.
Two weeks after Tito and Markos dare him to do his worst, he does. At 8:45 AM local time, a high-level Soviet bomber detonates a 10-megaton hydrogen bomb in the skies over Zagreb, Yugoslavia. Roughly 500,000 people live in the relatively densely packed Croat city. Much of it is on the flat flood plain of the Savo River. Most people are on the street, going to work.
For All Time Pt. 68
August 1954-December 1954
-Despite countless romatic ballads penned by Yugoslav refugees afterwards (many who would have spat in the eye of Josif Tito while he was alive), Josif Broz Tito does not escape from his besieged capital during the battle for Belgrade. (August 21-30.) While his death in an artillery barrage just as the pro-Soviet forces push their way into the capitol district proper may lack Hollywood impact, the old partisan leader does die at the head of his men in a reasonably noble last stand. The new government tamely asks for Soviet help during reconstruction.
His Greek colleague is not so lucky; the things Markos Vafiades's secret police chief does to him after the coup on August 25 aren't pretty, and what the Athens mob does to his body(most of them acting out of fear for their lives, trying to impress the new government) after he's tossed to them are even worse. Just as their colleagues in Belgrade do, the new Greek government invites in the Soviets before the first of September.
With no more than 5,000 Soviet military casualties, (and perhaps 1000 dead), Lazar Kaganovich has restored order to Eastern Europe. (The remaining activists in the Soviet Bloc, not unreasonably afraid for their lives, quiet down very quickly indeed.) The occupation forces in Greece and Yugoslavia are multi-ethnic; Russian and Albanian, Bulgarian and Austrian, a grand solidarity of Communist countries and a good image for the infant CPSD.
There are, of course, over half a million civilian casualties; mostly in Greece and Poland. That excludes, of course, the apocalypse of Croatia. Three hundred and fifty thousand people died in Zagreb in the initial blast; another hundred thousand died within a week. The survivors joined the hundreds of thousands of Yugoslavians roaming Croatia and the nation, looking for...somewhere. Anywhere.