Montenegroslavia

One of the more intriguing episodes of the First World War is the bravura performance of Serbia. It's not generally realized, but pound for pound, Serbia outfought any other power large or small. An isolated nation of less than five million people with a miserable strategic position held off Austria-Hungary for over a year, launched one near-successful offensive deep into enemy territory, and was only defeated by a combination of German intervention (Mackensen coming down from Poland with an army corps) and a stab in the back from Bulgaria.

There were several reasons for Serbia's startling military effectiveness, but I want to focus on one in particular: the social structure established when Serbia gained independence from the Ottomans.

Serbia was unique in the Balkans in that she was a nation, not of peasants, but of yeoman farmers. On the eve of WWI more than 60% of Serbian households owned land -- a figure unmatched anywhere in Eastern Europe, or indeed in the West outside the United States. Since the country was only just beginning to urbanize, what this meant was that the average Serb in 1914 was a small farmer who owned his own land.

This was so because Karageorge, the liberator of Serbia, made a far-sighted decision to distribute land seized from the Turks. Specifically, he distributed it not to himself and his friends, but to the _raiah_, the landless Christian tenant-peasantry. This policy, which was followed by Karageorge's successors, created a blood-and-soil bond between the Serbian people and their land that was strong even by Balkan standards... with long-term consequences that are still being felt today.

But suppose that this hadn't been the case?

Let's kill Karageorge off -- it's easy enough -- and let's say this butterflies his rival and successor, Obrenovitch, out of history too. Serbian independence is delayed 10-20 years. And when it takes place, let's say it happens under a Montenegrin prince, who descends from his mountains to defeat the Ottomans.

This is IMO plausible. The Montenegrins of this period considered themselves "mountain Serbs", and were the only Balkan peoples who had never formally submitted to the Turks. OTL there were a couple of near-miss conjunctions between Serbian uprisings and Montenegrin raids into the lowlands.

So Prince *Miodrag whips the Turks and establishes a new Serbian state. Perhaps he even moves his capitol from Montenegro north to Belgrade. But instead of distributing land seized from the Ottomans to the _raiah_, he simply hands it over to his Montenegrin friends and relatives.

Unfortunately, while 19th century Montenegrins were brilliant fighters, they otherwise pretty damn primitive. They were illiterate hillmen, often semi-nomadic, who lived by the bullet, the blade, and the code of vendetta. Highly religious, ruthless and violent even by the broad standards of the contemporary Balkans, they had nothing but contempt for tradesmen, owland peasants, and foreign ideas. As a ruling class, they'd be... colorful... but disastrous in almost every way.

So alt-Serbia's social structure now looks a lot like OTL Romania's: landless tenant peasants, arrogant and quarrelsome aristocrats, and hardly any middle class except for the Jews.

Now what?

Well... this Serbia is a lot weaker, both economically and militarily. Compare and contrast the WWI performances of Serbia and Romania! It's pretty striking, and IMO the two countries' different social structures had a lot to do with it. So alt-Serbia may never be strong enough to present a plausible threat to Austria; or, if it does, it'll be much easier to whip.

I think this may butterfly WWI right out of existence. *Serbia is rather weak and corrupt, and run by a small group of quarrelsome aristocrats. It will not be as attractive to Bosnian Serbs. Using the Romanian analogy again, ethnic Romanians in Transylvania were much less rebellious than ethnic Serbs in Bosnia -- even though Hungarian rule was much harsher for them. Pre-WWI Romania was just obviously inferior to Austria-Hungary in every way, so it didn't inspire the Transylvanian Romanians to yearn for union with the motherland.

Even if we do get a Princip, alt-Serbia will probably cave in to Austrian demands. It's going to be a lot weaker.

But let's say for argument's sake that WWI goes off much as in OTL. *Serbia will probably not be able to resist nearly as effectively as OTL's Serbia did. Much of the aristocracy will be Teutonophile, the government will likely be internally divided, corrupt and incompetent, and the army will consist of landless, illiterate peasant conscripts instead of freeholders fighting for their own hearths -- again, much like OTL's Romania.

Two questions arise:

1) Assume alt-Serbia collapses in 90-120 days, with Austrian armies arriving in Macedonia by Christmas 1914. How much difference will this make in the greater war?

Okay, this actually a rather roundabout way of asking the question, how important was Serbia's stubbornly heroic defense to OTL's WWI. I have my own opinion on the matter, but I'd be interested to hear what the rest of you think.

2) Assume (and I grant that this is a stretch) that the war ends much as in OTL, with an Allied victory and the disintegration of Austria-Hungary. alt-Serbia claims a seat at the victor's table... and incorporation of all the South Slav territories into a "Yugoslavia" dominated by the descendants of the Serbo-Montenegrin aristocracy.

"Montenegroslavia" is going to be a much uglier piece of work than OTL's Yugoslavia. Frex, OTL the interwar Croats were all over the board WRT Yugoslavia. That is, some were strongly pro-union and pro-Yugoslav, others were violently secessionist, and every shade of opinion in between was represented as well. In this TL, almost all Croats are going to probably correctly) see themselves as the subject peoples of a hostile and alien state. And as for the various peoples of Bosnia...

Hmm, a worse Yugoslavia. Dear me.

Knock-on effects, anyone?


Doug M.
 
Why not still have a Princip - with the attitude of this TL ruling class of Montenegrobia they'd probably renounce ANY foreign intervention setting WWI off anyway...
Interesting this is if Austria-Hungary is able to overrun Montenegrobia by themselves in 90-120 days will we see a Balkan front in Salonika???
Western Allied actions to establish communications with Russia through the Straits may still have the Ottomans join up with the Central Powers even if they don't try to "encourage" Greece to join up.
But apart from this...
 
(I just realized this should have gone in the "POD before 1900" forum. My bad.)

-- If there is a Princip, the Montegrin ruling class might be dumb enough to start a war. I just think a Princip is pretty unlikely here.

Salonika: this has weird knock-on effects. If the Austrians advance fast enough, Bulgaria may not join the CP... after all, they joined to get Macedonia, and in this TL Austria may try to grab that for herself. In this case, Bulgaria is probably a friendly neutral (it's surrounded by the CP, after all) but won't jump on board without a suitable bribe.

Still, it's a net gain for the CP: they have a quarter of a million soldiers released a year early. And the Romanians may think twice -- OTL, the heroic efforts of the Serbs gave them an entirely wrong idea of what was possible against Austria.


Doug M.
 
This is absolutely fascinating stuff- I wish I knew enough to comment more.

2) Assume (and I grant that this is a stretch) that the war ends much as in OTL, with an Allied victory and the disintegration of Austria-Hungary. alt-Serbia claims a seat at the victor's table... and incorporation of all the South Slav territories into a "Yugoslavia" dominated by the descendants of the Serbo-Montenegrin aristocracy.

"Montenegroslavia" is going to be a much uglier piece of work than OTL's Yugoslavia. Frex, OTL the interwar Croats were all over the board WRT Yugoslavia. That is, some were strongly pro-union and pro-Yugoslav, others were violently secessionist, and every shade of opinion in between was represented as well. In this TL, almost all Croats are going to probably correctly) see themselves as the subject peoples of a hostile and alien state. And as for the various peoples of Bosnia...
I would have thought that in a post-war situation where Serbia collapsed in 1914 and the Austrians fell apart at the end of the war we'd be more likely to see either a fully independent Croatia, or a genuine union of equals rather then OTLs tendancy towards a 'greater Serbia'. The Serbians probably won't have an army ready to move in as OTL, for example.

That said, a more fractious inter-war Yugoslavia would be interesting; I guess the Italians would probably succeed in splitting Croatia off at some point along the line.
 
(I just realized this should have gone in the "POD before 1900" forum. My bad.)

-- If there is a Princip, the Montegrin ruling class might be dumb enough to start a war. I just think a Princip is pretty unlikely here.

Salonika: this has weird knock-on effects. If the Austrians advance fast enough, Bulgaria may not join the CP... after all, they joined to get Macedonia, and in this TL Austria may try to grab that for herself. In this case, Bulgaria is probably a friendly neutral (it's surrounded by the CP, after all) but won't jump on board without a suitable bribe.

Still, it's a net gain for the CP: they have a quarter of a million soldiers released a year early. And the Romanians may think twice -- OTL, the heroic efforts of the Serbs gave them an entirely wrong idea of what was possible against Austria.


Doug M.
If no Salonika, Bulgaria CP friendly neutral, Romania neutral the Austria-Hungarians have a lot of troops for use in Russia or against Italy:
earlier defeat of one or both?
Perhaps early defeat of Russia without a Revolution... is this possible? They haven't been dragged through a long bloody war!
Italy - will they be willing to join, probably promised the right spoils. But an early and sustained bloodying... or perhaps defeat after a number of Isonzo's...
 
Does the Montenegro-based Serbian state control contiguous territory all the way to Belgrade? If it does, then Bosnia is completely cut off from the Ottomans. They might accept this if they get to keep troops in Serbia (as they did in OTL until cca 1867), but it will cause a lot of trouble if and when they are withdrawn.
 
I dont think that somebody trying to take back what u took from them, which is rightfully theirs, when they see your at a weak spot, is a "stab in the back".
Well, it wasn't "take back what u took from them"; Serbia took Macedonia from the Ottomans, not Bulgaria.

And it wasn't "rightfully theirs"; Macedonia was a mixed Bulgarian - Serbian - Greek - Albanian - Turkish - Jewish region, with no single group predominating, and at least four different countries had plausible claims on it.

Other than that, of course you're right -- it's perfectly okay to attack a neighboring country by surprise if you might get some advantage from it, and language like "stab in the back" is really not appropriate.


Doug M.
 
Does the Montenegro-based Serbian state control contiguous territory all the way to Belgrade?
I'm assuming yes -- that it controls about the same territory as OTL Serbia. Though of course this is not inevitable.


If it does, then Bosnia is completely cut off from the Ottomans. They might accept this if they get to keep troops in Serbia (as they did in OTL until cca 1867), but it will cause a lot of trouble if and when they are withdrawn.
Well, OTL it took some clever diplomatic maneuvering on the part of Serbia's King to get the Ottomans out. TTL that might not happen, in which case the Ottomans would probably remain until the Treaty of Berlin.


Doug M.
 
I would have thought that in a post-war situation where Serbia collapsed in 1914 and the Austrians fell apart at the end of the war we'd be more likely to see either a fully independent Croatia, or a genuine union of equals rather then OTLs tendancy towards a 'greater Serbia'...

That said, a more fractious inter-war Yugoslavia would be interesting; I guess the Italians would probably succeed in splitting Croatia off at some point along the line.
OTL, Croatia preferred union with Serbia in large part because of fear of Italy. The Italians had made it all too clear that they wanted the whole Adriatic coast, and most Croats considered Belgrade's rule -- however corrupt and bigoted -- preferable to Rome's.

TTL... hard to say. A Serbia that's weaker, poorer, and even more corrupt and backwards than OTL is going to be a much less attractive partner. Other hand, the Italians are still going to be dicks. So i could see this going either way.


Doug M.
 
ah lets see... Bulgaria neutral in WWI, nothing in it from either side...
Greece will be adamant that the Entente keep from dragging them into the fray if Montenegrislavia collapses that fast, it just gives the Bulgarians a reason to get involved them without any prompting from the A-H ( The Bulgarians afterall think the Greeks and Serbs jointly shortchanged them on their fair split of the Ottoman spoils afterall). they can be fairly confidant that A-H will not advance on them once Alt-Serbia is subdued, they have Tsarist Russia to handle.

Roumania probably does not enter unless Russia is doing really well at this point ( highly unlikely, the offensive is going to stall at the Carpathians and the rapid collapse of Alt Serbia will give them the heebie-jeebies) otherwise they are insane to join the Entente. True neutrality here, Hohenzollern on the throne afterall.

Italy will delay its entry until they can get a better price from the allies ( which the Entente will drag out not wanting to give too much, but then promise anyway once the A-H and German counter offensive against Russia begins to bight. Lets face it The Anglo-French can then conveniently "forget and modify their promises" at the final peace if they should still win).

With more troops available...perhaps Russia collapses earlier...or Italy suffers as some has said a few more Izonsos and its they not the A-H who throw in the towel.

And in Answer to the question Did the Serbs contribute out of their measure to the Allied win?.. Probably yes.

I'm thinking that if the allies still win, Croatia/Slovenia may not want to be part of the K of S/C&Sl. and prefer their own course.

However if the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes still forms...CIVIL WAR in the 20's or early '30's to get out of the Yugoslav morass.

Mind you all this depends on the outcome of the Eastern front. How does the extra manpower available to A-H affect the outcome against Russia and if it enters Italy. Perhaps the Danubian monarchy is strengthened by an earlier collapse of Russia or Italy leaving the Entente that the proposal for a reformed Federal Commonwealth that was proposed to address the concerns of the Slavs will succeed. Given the Serbia your proposing this is got to look just as good to the Serbs and Slovenes as union with this Alt-Serbia which has been thoroughly crushed in short order by the Danubian Hapsburgs. Keep the southern Slavs in and you probably can keep in the Czechs and Slovaks as long as you get true reform to reflect their numbers within the "Commonwealth". Galicia will still go though to Poland...too many Poles outside the Empire. Transylvania, while majority Romanian has subtantial minorities of Germans and Hungarians, among others, and is not as restless as say Bosnia, during this time, so could also remain with the Danube monarchy.

If they don't collapse during the interwar years...then no WWII along the lines of what we had. Of Course Herr Hitler could come to power at the head of an "Austrian Nazi Party" but its not likely they would ever achieve power in
in A federal postwar "Austrian Commonwealth".
 

HueyLong

Banned
You know, I always thought it was just Austrian incompetence that gave Serbia its advantage- I had not thought of its social structure.

Interesting, is all I can say. You don't often see a sociological approach to AH.
 

Oddball

Monthly Donor
OTL, Croatia preferred union with Serbia in large part because of fear of Italy. The Italians had made it all too clear that they wanted the whole Adriatic coast, and most Croats considered Belgrade's rule -- however corrupt and bigoted -- preferable to Rome's.

Doug M.
Eh, are you sure about this? IIRC Croatia was dragged into Jugoslavia kicking and screaming :confused:
 
"IIRC Croatia was dragged into Jugoslavia kicking and screaming"

My goodness, no.

Croatia joined Yugoslavia willingly. There was a substantial minority who wanted independence, and a smaller minority that wanted to stay with Austria, but by late 1918 Yugoslavists were a plurality or majority.

The largest party in Croatia was the Peasant Party, and it went through a 360 degree evolution on this point. In the summer and fall of 1918, as Austria-Hungary was disintegrating, the Peasant Party called for an independent and neutral Croatia. However, by November it was clear that Italy intended to annex Istria (the triangular penninsula at the top of the Adriatic) and most of the Dalmatian coast; and further, that the victorious Allies were lukewarm to the idea of an independent Croatia. It was also clear that if Croatia didn't join with Serbia voluntarily, the Serbs would claw off some Serb-majority pieces in the east and south (as they tried to do later in the 1990s). So the Peasant Party spun on a dime and jumped on the Yugoslav bandwagon.

Now, within a year or two the Peasant Party (and many other Croats) were having second thoughts; too many Serbs saw Croatia as conquered territory and/or a province of "Greater Serbia". So, Croat nationalists have little trouble constructing a narrative about how Croatia was forced into submission to Serbia. They just have to ignore the period of late 1918 and 1919 when Croatia, faced with dismemberment, was sensibly choosing Yugoslavia as the least of several evils.


Doug M.
 

Oddball

Monthly Donor
"IIRC Croatia was dragged into Jugoslavia kicking and screaming"

My goodness, no.

Croatia joined Yugoslavia willingly. There was a substantial minority who wanted independence, and a smaller minority that wanted to stay with Austria, but by late 1918 Yugoslavists were a plurality or majority.

The largest party in Croatia was the Peasant Party, and it went through a 360 degree evolution on this point. In the summer and fall of 1918, as Austria-Hungary was disintegrating, the Peasant Party called for an independent and neutral Croatia. However, by November it was clear that Italy intended to annex Istria (the triangular penninsula at the top of the Adriatic) and most of the Dalmatian coast; and further, that the victorious Allies were lukewarm to the idea of an independent Croatia. It was also clear that if Croatia didn't join with Serbia voluntarily, the Serbs would claw off some Serb-majority pieces in the east and south (as they tried to do later in the 1990s). So the Peasant Party spun on a dime and jumped on the Yugoslav bandwagon.

Now, within a year or two the Peasant Party (and many other Croats) were having second thoughts; too many Serbs saw Croatia as conquered territory and/or a province of "Greater Serbia". So, Croat nationalists have little trouble constructing a narrative about how Croatia was forced into submission to Serbia. They just have to ignore the period of late 1918 and 1919 when Croatia, faced with dismemberment, was sensibly choosing Yugoslavia as the least of several evils.


Doug M.
Hmm, interresting. If this is what happened I stand corrected :)
 
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Idea concerning this TL:

if Serbia becomes much weaker than OTL, it could lead to there not being a Bulgaria at all to stab it in the back.

The Serbo-Bulgarian War of the 1880's was a pretty one-sided conflict. Serbia was very powerful and were easily favored to win. The Bulgarians had no officers above the rank of captain. Still, the Bulgarians beat the Serbians to the point that Austria-Hungary (the real facilitator of the war in the first place. They didn't want their hold in the Balkans jeapordized.) threatened intervention on the side of the Serbs.

It is interesting to wonder if, assuming Serbia is weaker here than in OTL, and butterflies don't ruin everything, that Bulgaria beats Serbia quicker and forces the intervention of Austria-Hungary. Obviously, the victor is not in doubt. With a triumphant Austria-Hungary, you could easily see the partition of Bulgaria between East Rumelia and Bulgaria proper, both being backwater rump states. Russia would not want to intervene--it was opposed to the creation of Bulgaria as much as Austria-Hungary. However, you could see the Ottomans getting involved to protect a principality that is still nominally under their surveyance. This could lead to some very interesting AH.

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Anyway, following your example and assuming WWI still ignites as per OTL: pretty much what I was going to say concerning the war has already been said. In any case, allow me to echo everyone and say that this sociological approach to AH is very interesting. I look forward to more!
 
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