Search This Blog

Showing posts with label cold war. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cold war. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Country Formerly Known as Yugoslavia

Though it came into existence before the start of the Cold War, Yugoslavia was a major communist player on the world stage during the 1900s. Officially and formally dissolving for good in 2006, Yugoslavia managed to last for nearly a century in some form or another.

Image result for yugoslavia map
Yugoslavia at its height.
Yugoslavia, as a country, had three distinct periods. Pre WWII Yugoslavia, Post WWII Yugoslavia, and Serbia-Montenegro Yugoslavia. However, when people talk about 'the former Yugoslavia', they are usually referring to the second incarnation--Post WWII Yugoslavia.

Today, the region that was once Yugoslavia is now the six¹ independent countries of FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia) or Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, and Montenegro. These countries have, ostensibly, very little in common. A mix of Catholic, Orthodox Christian, and Muslims, Yugoslavia wasn't even composed of a singular ethnic group--a fact that led to great tension during its (relatively) short time as a country.

The greatest unifying factor of the nations that became Yugoslavia was the fact that they were 1) Southern Slavic peoples² and 2) part of someone else's empire for hundreds of years. For years Serbia³, Macedonia⁴, and Montenegro were a part of the vast Ottoman Empire, and Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina,and Slovenia were a part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. Though both Serbia and Montenegro had gained their independence at the time of WWI, the memories of former oppression was still strong.

It was these memories of oppression that ultimately brought these Southern Slav people together. Yugoslavian intellectuals believed that the only way to retain their freedoms and ethnic identities was to band together and protect each other from everyone else. In order to realize this idea the 'Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes' was created in 1918.

This first reincarnation of Yugoslavia went about as well as could be expected. Multiple ethnic groups with their own interests unified only by a general shared ancestry couldn't really be expected to get along well. Throw in a large minority of Albanians who really didn't want to be there, and you have a recipe for disaster. The young state was plagued with infighting and violence until it was invaded by Third Reich Germany in 1941.

As in most cases, when faced with a common enemy, the Yugoslavs managed to band together, and take out the Germans. By the end of WWII Yugoslavia was ready to go again, this time as the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.
Image result for josip broz tito
Josip Broz Tito, Leader of Yugoslavia from 1946-1980
In 1946 Josip Broz Tito, the Croat leader of the Yugoslav army, liberated Yugoslavia from Germany, and was installed as president. Tito was a great admirer of Stalin, and wanted to create a communist state in Yugoslavia. Basing his system on the same system used in the USSR, Tito formed a centralized government, with all six member countries having an equal say in governing. However, many constitutional changes led Yugoslavia to become a loose confederation of states largely run by independent companies working on the government's behalf.

This wasn't very communist, and Stalin didn't care for it. However, Tito, who had been declared president for life, didn't really care what Stalin thought, and divorced himself and Yugoslavia from the USSR. Though a communist country, Yugoslavia allowed tourism to, and from, the west. They experienced a post war economic boom, and the north and west of Yugoslavia did very well financially.

However, Yugoslav prosperity was built on a series of loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other countries. Following Tito's death in 1980, leadership of Yugoslavia was delegated to a rotating set of representatives from each country, and the IMF demanded a restructuring of the Yugoslavian economic system. That, in addition to internal violence, lead Slovenia to declare independence in 1991.

Following Slovenia's departure, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Macedonia were close behind. Only Serbia and Montenegro remained, and they banded together to become the third Yugoslavia.

However, the third Yugoslavia, now just known as Serbia and Montenegro, wasn't to last long either, in 2006 the union disbanded, breaking up Yugoslavia for good.

There's many reasons why Yugoslavia is no longer on the map, but the major reason is the lack of a stable leadership system. Josip Tito was president for nearly 40 years, and it was his leadership that largely kept Yugoslavia together. Lack of a workable system for deciding executive leadership after his death is what lead to the breakdown of the Yugoslav economy and unity.

Image result for yugoslavia flag
Yugoslavia flag
Though seemingly innocuous, Yugoslavia played a major part in the Cold War. Tito was the first communist leader to defy Stalin, and his refusal to bow to the USSR or the US made Yugoslavia the first non-aligned state. As a non-aligned state, Yugoslavia was able to concentrate on its own interests instead of playing the communist vs. capitalist game for the last half of the 20th century.




¹Seven if you consider Kosovo to be its own country
²'Yugoslavia' means 'Land of the Southern Slavs'
³Serbia was actually part of both the Ottoman and the Austro-Hungarian Empires at one point in their history. Additionally, Serbia gained its independence from the Ottomans in 1878. Serbia then spent the next three decades being a major trouble maker on the Austro-Hungarian border until a Serbian shot Archduke Ferdinand in 1914, starting WWI
⁴There is quite a bit of controversy between Greece and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia concerning the name 'Macedonia', and the FYROM right to use it. However, for simplicity's sake, FYROM will be referred to simply as 'Macedonia' in this article

Sources
Yugoslavia-Encyclopedia Britannica
The Breakup of Yugoslavia: 1990-1992
Yugoslavia: 1918-2003
What is the Former Yugoslavia
Yugoslavia-Holocaust Encyclopedia

Sunday, January 28, 2018

The Time Pepsi (Briefly) Had a Navy

For a few days in 1989 the Pepsi Corporation was the owner of the world's 6th largest navy.

Image result for pepsi bought part of the russian navy
Russian Pepsi logo.
Yes, you read that correctly. Pepsi, the makers of sugary sodas, had a naval fleet consisting of seventeen submarines, a cruiser, a destroyer, and a frigate. Finally, at the height of the 'Cola Wars' , they had the means to destroy their rival, Coco-Cola--at sea anyways. Thankfully, they didn't resort to battle, and instead opted to sell their fleet to a Swedish scrap yard.

Pepsi came by their small navy while doing business with the USSR. Pepsi, the first American consumer brand to be sold in the Soviet Union, was renegotiating its trade deal with the Kremlin. The original deal, made in 1974, had allowed Pepsi to open up 24 plants in Moscow, and paid the Pepsi Corporation in Stolichnaya Vodka. This payment in vodka was to circumvent the fact that the ruble could not be converted into US Dollars. At the time, this was an excellent deal for Pepsi, but by the time 1989 came around vodka wasn't quite as lucrative as it had once been, and Pepsi required additional payment to continue their business in Russia.

For the Soviets, millions of jobs were at stake. The Pepsi Corporation employed some 1.5 million Russians in their factory, and was the largest foreign corporation operating in the USSR. In order to save the deal, they decided to make up the difference in ships--essentially giving Pepsi their ships for a measly $150,000 apiece.

Pepsi, as mentioned, sold their fleet to Swedish scrappers, but not before the Pepsi CEO, informed President George Bush that the Pepsi Corporation was disarming Russia faster than he was.

Sources
The Day Pepsi Became a Great Military Power
Pepsi Had Its Own Soviet War Fleet
Soviets Buy American
Pepsi Will Be Bartered For Ships and Vodka in Deal With the Soviets

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Chilly Neighborhood Relations-the Dew Line

I know, objectively, that the Cold War was a serious matter, and that it caused some major political tensions all across the globe, but in retrospect, it's a little funny. The sheer amount of paranoia and fear of communist nations caused the United States to do some crazy things, and occasionally they dragged Canada, the mild mannered cousin of North America, into their nonsense. There's lots of crazy shenanigans to talk about, but today let's focus on the time that America essentially built a fence in the middle of Canada's yard, and Canada had to pretend that they were cool with it so the local Homeowner's Association didn't think they were weak.

Image result for DEW line
Greenland DEW Station
Brought to you by AT&T, the Distant Early Warning Radar Line, or the DEW line, is a line of radar stations stretching from the arctic coasts of east of Alaska to the ice sheets of Greenland. Mostly abandoned now, the DEW line was constructed in the late 1950s to provide early warnings should the Soviet Union decide to launch nuclear missals so far north they started to come south.

This genius idea was the brain child of American scientists from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), and Robert A. Lovett, the US Secretary of Defense, latched onto the idea immediately. Before even pitching the idea to his counterparts in Ottawa, he called up Cleo F. Craig, CEO of AT&T, and asked him to start working on something. Craig put his best men on the job.

When Lovett did get around to telling the Canadians his plans, the Canadian government was less than amused. While they had signed a treaty in the 1940's saying that they wouldn't allow foreign attackers into America from their territory, and despite the fact that Canada was in just as much danger from a Soviet attack as Russia was, Ottawa had several reservations, mainly the cost and the loss of sovereignty over their Arctic territories.

Image result for DEW line
Black dots are DEW stations
Canada has always been a bit sensitive about its Arctic regions. While the Canadian government has had very little interest in developing the Yukon, Nunavut, and the Northwest Territories, they sure want to hang on to them. The American government sniffing around the arctic wasn't uncommon, and lead to Canadian efforts like the relocation of the Arctic Exiles  to keep the Americans out. Since it was proposed that American military personnel would build and staff the stations on the DEW line, the Canadian government was worried that de facto arctic sovereignty would pass to the United States due to lack of Canadian presence.

Additionally, the Canadian economy wasn't doing too great. They were already spending half of their budget on defense, and the money required to build the DEW Line would require increasing their military budget by 6%. Canada just wasn't down for that.

However, Canada needed to keep up appearances. They instructed their PR teams to only refer to the DEW line as a joint project between the US and Canada, and to make sure that it didn't seem as if the US was giving Canada aid. Once the line was finished, several members of the RCMP (mounties), were sent to Stations on the DEW line. As many Canadians were put into leadership positions as possible. Canada did their best to make it seem like the DEW line had been their idea.

Image result for DEW line
DEW emblem
The United States also built a little bit of that fence in Greenland's yard, however, as far as my research proves, the Greenlanders didn't really care. It's possible that there was a massive uproar, but it's also very possible that both Copenhagen and Nuuk just didn't care about the United States challenging its arctic sovereignty. Historically, because of its inhospitable climate very few nations have actually wanted to own Greenland, though should the nation start tapping its plentiful oil wells, that could certainly change. The stations in Greenland were more of an after thought than anything; no one seriously expected a Soviet attack through Greenland.

The DEW line was abandoned in 1985 in favor of the Northern Warning System. Many of the stations were dismantled, and hauled away for parts but there are still several abandoned stations across Alaska, Canada, and Greenland. Building it took three years, and cost something around 750,000 million United States dollars.

Sources
Adventures from the Coldest Part of the Cold War
The Distant Early Warning Line, and the Canadian Battle for Public Perception
Distant Early Warning Line (DEW Line)
DYE-2 A Relic From a Not So Distant Past
The Distant Early Warning (DEW) Line


Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The High Arctic Exiles OR The Time the Canadian Government Abandoned 92 Inuit in the High Arctic

It's 1950, and the Cold War is downright frigid. The Russians and the Americans are sniffing around Canada's arctic islands, and Canada needs to assert its sovereignty. So what do they do? They force around 92 people to leave their homes in more reasonable climes, and move them to the high arctic. Sound like a human rights abuse? That's because it is. Or if it isn't, it should be. However, because it happened to First Nation people, nobody cared. It wasn't until 2011 that Canadian government finally acknowledge the immorality of what they had done, and apologized for the suffering of the Arctic people.
Image result for high arctic exiles
Resolute, 1953


The town of Inukjuak, located in northern Quebec, was the original home of many of these exiles. It was, and still is, home to a large Inuit population. In 1953 members of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) swept through the community, looking for volunteers to go live in the towns of Resolute and Grise Fiord in what is today Nunavut. The stated reasoning behind this was that the Canadian government was worried that the area around Inukjuak was becoming over-hunted, and would no longer be able to support the local population. The RCMP promised plentiful hunting and a better life to people who made the move, as well as the opportunity to come back to Inukjuak after two years should those who relocated wish to return. Several families eagerly agreed, and they set off for their new homes in the C.D. Howe.

Image result for high arctic exiles
From Inukjuak to Resolute and Grise Fiord
Or so the Canadian government claims. The Inuit who actually made the move tell a far different story. Instead of being asked politely to move the RCMP brutally harassed, and all but forced the families to make the move. The Inuit were told that upon arriving in Resolute and Grise Fiord there would be houses, clothes, and boats for hunting waiting for them. They were promised that their families wouldn't be split up. The RCMP spun a tale of a life with better hunting and good employment opportunities, with, of course, the offer that anyone who didn't like it up north could come back after two years. The RCMP lied.

Once they were on board this ship the people were told that they would be divided into two communities--one for Resolute and one for Grise Fiord. The Inuit were, to understate, not at all pleased with this, and they were less pleased when they landed and found out that there were no houses, no boats, and no animals to hunt. They had left a city with a school and medical facilities, they were taken to a frozen wasteland.

The Exiles lived in tents that first year. They survived mainly of of seal meat and scraps that they found in the RCMP garbage dump. Finding water was difficult, and catching anything was near impossible. Not only was it always dark, but there were just no animals around to hunt. And in the summer when the birds returned, and on the rare occasion they found a musk ox, the Inuit were unable to shoot them, because they were protected species. When the Inuit asked to go home they were told that it was impossible, and that they needed to stay where they were.

Image result for high arctic exiles
Monument to the exiles in Grise Fiord.
Though the Canadian government claimed that this was for the good of the Inuit people, there are other theories which seem much more believable. As I mentioned above, the Cold War was positively glacial at the time, and both the US and Canada feared that Russia would attempt to establish a base in the Canadian High Arctic, so they would have a good vantage point to attack North America. To combat this, the US wanted to snatch up the Canadian High Arctic, and basically make it part of Alaska. Canada wasn't down for this.

The problem with the High Arctic was that it was largely uninhabited. Canada could say that it was theirs, but they weren't really doing anything with it, so what would it matter if the US or the USSR took it? The prevailing theory is that the Canadian government sent the Arctic Exiles to Resolute and Grise Fiord as 'human flagpoles' to establish their sovereignty.

The communities of Resolute and Grise Fiord are still running today. Both communities are very small, with less than 400 inhabitants between them. In 1996 the Canadian government offered the Exiles and their families a settlement of $10 million to make up for what they put them through. Much of this money has failed to appear.


Sources
The High Arctic Relocation
Out in the Cold: The Legacy of Canada's Inuit Relocation Experiment in the High Arctic
Inuit Get Federal Apology for Forced Relocation
Inuit Were Moved 2,000km in Cold War Maneuvering
Exile (documentary)