70th anniversary of World War Two is good time to share few impressions about Hearts of Iron III, the latest installment of war game series by Paradox.
Basics of the game didn't change much compared to Hearts of Iron II. The major blocs - Axis, Allies and Comintern - are same, as well as the time span (1936 - 1948). Unlike Doomsday expansion for HOI 2, HOI 3 doesn't appear to allow player to continue playing until 1955. On the other hand, some improvements are more than obvious - graphic is impressive, and the number of provinces wars are going to be fought over - 14000 - is mind-numbing.
Even better is the lower level of land forces organisation - brigades instead of divisions in HOI 2. Player is, on the other hand, given opportunity to create divisions out of those brigades, which looks quite neat.
Introduction of leadership as new concept could also give more depth and detail to the game. Difficult decisions about research are now separated from "guns and butter" considerations in production menu. Politics menu, on the other hand, has many details - political parties and their organisation - that aren't likely to have obvious impact for the game.
The best thing about HOI 3 appears to be AI option for various menus. Player now can allow computer to handle diplomacy, production, technology (leadership), politics and intelligence. Player can also let particular HQs to be handled by AI,. The only problem appears to be AI behaviour, which leaves much to be desired. In all games I played so far, AI had nasty tendency to request strong air force, which often led to AI-controlled production menu directing all ICs (industrial capacity) to production of tactical bombers, while not allowing any updates of tragically antiquated infantry equipment. One example is South Africa whose army - made out of 9 garrison brigades - had 19th Century Henry-Martini rifle as its standard infantry weapon.
AI looks even worse when handling other nations. While the events in some cases follow historical pattern and look plausible (Ethiopia falls to Mussolini, Nationalists win in Spain, Hitler gets Anschluss etc.), at other times history look quite different. For example, Japanese forces almost always are being creamed by Nationalist Chinese, and Germans at times happen to successfully invade Karachi and Hong Kong. This looks quite implausible.
Another, even more annoying, problem is slow tempo of the game which makes Road To War campaign boring - especially when small and neutral nations are played.
HOI 3 is in many aspects disappointing, but novelty of some features will please hard-core grognard fans. Few good patches should, in most likelihood, solve some of the more annoying problems and make playing HOI 3 as good as playing HOI 2 and HOI 1.
Simo Dubajić, retired Lt. Colonel of Yugoslav People's Army (JNA), died in Belgrade on Wednesday, aged 86. His death has probably ended one of the longest sought criminal proceedings in recent Croatian history. In March, Dubajić became target of Croatian State Attorney's Office due to his role in 1945 massacres in Kočevski Rog.
Kočevski Rog, an area in Slovenia, is site where at least 13000 Axis POWs (most of them belonging to forces of Independent State of Croatia) were executed by victorious Yugoslav Partisans, after being handed over by British near Bleiburg in Austria in May 1945, few days after Axis forces capitulation. Killings in Kočevski Rog is just one part of the campaign called Bleiburg Massacre which killed around 55000 people, making it into one of the more spectacular Allied war crimes of Second World War.
Bleiburg was taboo in Tito's Yugoslavia, only to become one of the topics most talked about after the break-up of the federation. This was especially evident in Croatia, where it became part of nationalist mythology and its victims became celebrated martyrs. The massacre also became formidable propaganda weapon against Social Democratic Party, successor of Communist Party of Croatia, political entity directly or indirectly associated with Partisans who took part in it.
However, despite all the talk about Bleiburg after 1990, there were very few attempts by Croatian authorities to prosecute those responsible. There are many speculations about resons for such reluctance, most of them based on the fact that Franjo Tuđman was Partisan in 1945 and, directly or indirectly, associated with massacres. Furthermore, Tuđman's idea of National Reconciliation - one of the basis of his party's ideology and one of pre-conditions for successful drive towards Croatian independence and victory in Patriotic War - would be compromised if there was widespread prosecution of Partisans. Since most of the suspects are in mid 80s, the prosecutions and trials could be as uncathartic and pathetic as 1986 trial Communist Croatia had against Andrija Artuković in Zagreb.
Lack of Partisan prosecutions in last 18 years was explained with the alleged non-participation of Croatian Partisan units in the massacres. Atrocities were instead committed by ethnic Serbs in Partisans and motivated by their "inherent and centuries old hatred of everything Croatian".
Dubajić, who is the only Partisan to actually become part of investigation, fits such description perfectly. In 1990, like some of his former comrades, he passionately embraced the cause of Serbian nationalism and even took part in organising paramilitary formation of Republic of Srpska Krajina.
Another, even more important reason why Dubajić was perfect is the fact that he is the only Partisan to actually admit killings and his role in it. In 1990 he gave interview to Svet, Belgrade weekly, in which he bragged about murdering "30000 Ustashas".
In 2006 Dubajić wrote a book in which he tried to give full account of his crimes, expressing regret for his actions. Most importantly, he named names and described how the killings in Kočevski rog were committed by members of 11th Dalmatian Brigade, which was manned mostly by ethnic Croats. Those claims - if taken seriously - could shatter the myth of Croatian Partisans being "clean" and serve as excellent propaganda fodder for Croatian right wing which became stronger during last two years of Sanader's mandate.
However, with Dubajić conveniently dead, it seems that there would be very little chance of Partisan prosecutions going any further. Perhaps that was the plan all along. Dubajić's death should mark the final curtain for Second World War in this part of the world. Or, at least, that is what any sensible person should hope for.
Unfortunately, experiences with Serbia and Battle of Kosovo show that there aren't historical traumas distant enough for contemporary politicians not to use them in order to create new ones.
After reading about historian Dr. David Starkey and his views about Scotland, Wales and Ireland as "feeble little countries" my first thought was "This is what Franjo Tuđman's career would have looked like if history took slightly different course".
It is that time of a year again. Spring in Croatia is in the past few years less associated with warmer weather or need to go on fast diet and more with activity Jutarnji list recently branded "May Games". This season, like many before, are going to be time when Croatians become obsessed with their nation's increasingly distant and decreasingly relevant past - usually at the expense of present day and future.
The season unofficially begins with April 10th - 68th anniversary of the creation of Independent State of Croatia, which is opportunity to all those closet or open sympathisers of that entity to express their feelings towards that chapter of Croatian history. Then comes April 22nd - 64th anniversary of liberation of Jasenovac Concentration Camp. Next important day is May 4th - 29th anniversary of Josip Broz Tito, which is opportunity of all of his supporters and fans to express their sadness over premature passing of a man who could have, in their way, prevented misery in which many live now. Then comes May 8th - 64th anniversary of a day when Tito's Partisans entered Zagreb, which some call liberation, while other call occupation.
Then comes May 15th - 64th anniversary of a surrender of Axis forces in Balkans, which triggered series of events in Croatia known as Bleiburg massacre. The season ends with 68th anniversary of formation of Sisak Partisan Detachment, the very first partisan unit in Croatia, former Yugoslavia (and, according to some hagiographic sources, entire Europe). The last day is also celebrated as public holiday in Croatia, known as Antifascist Struggle Day.
Needless to say, any mention of such days during May History season is opportunity for supporters of WW2 winners and losers to attack each other, treating any celebration or memorial service of such dates as unforgivable crime against historical memory and hundreds of thousands of innocent victims. Another ingredient of a debate, which tends to increase in intensity with each passing year, is discreet involvement of government and establishment media whose commentators tend to suggest - although not with much vigour and conviction - that modern Croatia has evolved out of "tragic ideological differences of 20th Century" and became "modern European liberal democracy".
Unfortunately, May History season of 2009 coincides with local elections which means that ruling HDZ party will shift to the right and give tacit blessing to the expressions of righteous right-wing anger over "evil Communists butchering innocent Croatian patriots" at the end of WW2. One of such examples happened during 2007 parliamentary elections campaign when Ratko Maček, while discussing mass graves in Slovenia, briefly mentioned that Tito and his Partisans murdered 450,000 people - which is probably on the same levels of historical accuracy as Serbian claims of 1 million Serbs butchered in Jasenovac.
This time, the major theme of May Games season is "discovery" of a mass grave in Huda jama in Slovenai, where remains of hundreds, probably thousands people have been found. This isn't something of a news in Slovenia - where it was, predictably, already used in their own Left vs. Right struggle. However, in Croatia it created sensation despite the fact that nobody knows whose remains were in that pit. Until proper investigation - for which few people have some palpalbe interest - is conducted, the mass grave could be filled with remains of Croatian Ustashas, Slovenian Home Guard, Russian anti-Communist volunteers (Circassians), Serbian Chetniks, Wehrmach soldiers or - which is probably most likely - mix of all above.
Faced with outrage over Partisan crimes, Mladen Bajić, Prosecutor General of Croatia launched high-profile investigation against alleged perpetrator. The name of a target shows how serious this investigation is going to be. Simo Dubajić, Partisan commander who took part in massacre and in early 1990s publicly bragged about "killing Ustashas" as born-again Serb nationalist only to express remorse in 2006 tell-all book, is 86-year old man at deathbed in Belgrade. If that man ever goes on trial - which is, based on the state of his health, highly unlikely - the public perception is going to be as pathetic and anti-cathartic as 1986 process that former Yugoslav authorities had against Andrija Artuković, Pavelić's minister of internal affairs, who was condemned to death only to have his execution postponed due to senility. And even if Serbia allows its citizen to be extradited, it is very possible that jurisdiction dispute with Slovenia (where crimes actually took place) would further complicate already bad relations between two countries.
That doesn't mean that there won't be any trial. In absence of government reacting against Communist crime, few enterprising individuals gathered in Croatian Cultural Movement (Hrvatski uljudbeni pokret) are announcing their brand of vigilante. After creating their own self-appointed Lustration Court, they are going to picket homes of old Partisans and Communist-era officials allegedly involved in Bleiburg massacre and "other crimes against Croatian people" and demand that the accused come out and "publicly express regret". Needless to say, most people associated with their movement used to belong to the far right of Croatian politics in 1990s. Their crusade, if put in practice, is most likely to resemble burning crosses and other acts of extremist intimidation in American South.
In normal circumstances, all this could be brushed away as inevitable election season folklore. In these economic conditions, however, exploiting ideological divisions for the purpose of short-term political gain might have same disastrous long term consequence as in 1930s.
This little gem ("Radenska connects us") shows that Nokia wasn't the first company to connect people. In light of recent events we might conclude that "Radenska" failed, but you can't fail to appreciate the effort.
You don't have to agree with presenter's views, but this piece was supposed to be interesting, illuminating and even educating.
And it was – until the mention of Enigma and its breaking. I wonder what it has to do with the subject matter. Or is this another proof that U-571 and similar products of Hollywood truth have much more damaging effect than previously thought?
Eric Gordy blogs about questions raised by Slobodan Milošević's (Slobodan Milosevic's) death and predicts the flood of conspiracy theories. Those theories are likely to be perpetuated into just another cycle of historical mythology.
Another contribution to the creation of Slobo mythology is provided by Croatian daily 24 sata with the headline "Worst Murderer Since Hitler". This headline may sell a lot of paper in former Yugoslavia, but I guess that victims of Idi Amin, Pol Pot or Saddam Hussein won't be that enthusiastic about that assessment.
This reminds me that there were times when those views weren't as politically correct as they are now. One example could be found in the words of current Croatian president Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic), spoken fifteen years ago.
In December 1990, following Milošević's victory on first multi-party elections in Serbia, Mesić, then a member of Yugoslav collective presidency, was asked to comment on it on Croatian Television. He said that he was an optimist and that the "peace option had won".
Most people tend to think that the second presidential term of Stipe Mesić (Stipe Mesic) is less eventful than the first.
Last night Mesić tried to make this period of Croatian history more "interesting" by making a dramatic televised speech and condemning Ivo Sanader - his former party comrade from HDZ days and recent political cohabitation partner - for his decision to sign special deal with Austria, promising lavishing compensation and return of property for Austrian citizens who had been deported or had their property confiscated by Yugoslav Communist authorities at the end of WW2.
Croatian public didn't show much enthusiasm for the deal. Many saw it as a nothing more than Sanader paying back Austrian government for its successful lobbying for Croatian EU candidate's status. Others saw it as humiliating episode of what otherwise could have been perceived as one of greatest national triumphs.
Mesić decided to exploit that sentiment for different reasons. Until very recently, all opinion polls named Mesić as the most popular of all Croatian politicians. Based on his popularity and international stature, Mesić has built symbiotic relationship with Sanader - an informal alliance that had survived even the surprisingly ugly presidential contest between Mesić and Sanader's personal favourite.
However, with EU membership becoming certainty, Croatian media establishment - which is pro-EU to tooth - found their new champion in Sanader, and this reflected in building of Sanader's personality cult on television and many magazines and newspapers. This gradually reflected on Croatian people, and some polls now show Sanader to be more popular than Mesić, who is, especially after his disastrous handling of Gotovina affair, seen either as a relic of past or insignificant accessory to Sanader.
Mesić, therefore, had to act quickly to set himself apart from Sanader and remind Croatian people of its existence. He probably succeeded in that in the short term. Ivica Račan, leader of Sanader's loyal "opposition", had to follow his example and blast the treaty with Austrians.
His speech, of course, left much to be desired in terms of historical accuracy. Instead of using strictly legal arguments to attack the treaty - as some former Constitutional Court justices did - he branded all Austrians - former owners of property in Croatia - as "Nazi collaborators". This sets very bad precedent, especially towards handling of Serbs in former Krajina. And his attempt to pin the blame on Potsdam Conference was equally misleading - that summit, just like Versailles Conference in 1919, gets bad reputation solely for treating certain decisions already made by local authorities in Eastern Europe as fait accompli.
Few days ago offices of "Prosvjeta", Serb cultural association, were broken into and vandalised. While the attacks on ethnic Serbs are on the rise in recent times, they usually tend to happen in smaller, rural communities, especially in the areas still affected by war.
Most observers, including "Prosvjeta" officials, explained this newest attack - committed in relatively more urban, liberal and enlightened city of Split - as the indirect consequence of Croatian media bombarding Croatian public with images and words of war due to 14th anniversary of the fall of Vukovar.
Thos who had followed this blog regularly are probably aware that this isn't the first time that the war anniversaries serve as an excuse for its perpetuation in this part of the world. Another series of attacks on ethnic Serbs, including one particularly cruel and still unsolved murder of an 80-year old man, was sparked by Srebrenica massacre tapes, extensively aired in Croatian media. The tape was released as an attempt to pressure Serbian authorities into arresting Radovan Karadžić (Radovan Karadzic) and Ratko Mladić (Ratko Mladic) and extraditing them into Hague before the 10th anniversary of the massacre.
Local bigots and hooligans aren't the only people whose actions are guided by certain anniversaries. Major governments and diplomats also tend to channel their actions through certain deadlines based on anniversaries. The latest example is US government's push to have Dayton Peace Treaty - the document that ended Bosnian war and had Bosnia-Herzegovina transformed into the complex web of ethnic confederal/federal entities - replaced with new constitution that would turn Bosnia-Herzegovina into unitary "civic and democratic" unitary state. The idea is to have new document, labelled "Dayton II", signed before the 10th anniversary of the last Dayton.
Americans, whose plan would lead to new Bosnia being dominated by Bosnian Muslims at the expense of Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats (the latter are already being marginalised in Muslim-Croat Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, unlike Bosnian Serbs and their Republic of Srpska) and therefore improve American standing in Islamic world, are aided by European political establishment, which would use success of "Dayton II" as an excuse to start the process of Bosnian accession to EU, unimaginable only few months earlier.
EU green light for Bosnia is followed by similar green lights for Macedonia and Serbia-Montenegro and coincides with intensification of joint US/EU diplomatic pressure on Serbia to give up any formal claim on Kosovo, whose de facto independence should become de jure as soon as possible.
Change of Kosovo's status have less to do with some noble self-determination principles or attempts to acquire long-term political stability than with the more prosaic desire to bring the simplest and quickest possible solution that would allow EU to sweep all ethnic and other Balkan problems under the carpet. In other words, Kosovo is going to be independent for the same reason Bosnia has evolved into "normal" state and Serbia-Montenegro, just as Croatia, "fully cooperates" with Hague - once high criteria for EU membership have decreased with its accelerated eastern expansion, which became an aim in itself. Having Turkey in EU is impossible without its former imperial possessions in Balkans. And, to make the process even faster and less reversable, new, even more ambitious deadline is proposed in 100th anniversary of Sarajevo assassination.
Therefore, some major political decisions - which would have serious consequences for Balkans, Europe and the world - are based on the anniversaries of certain unpleasant events.
There is some hope that EU will have more luck than Slobodan Milošević (Slobodan Milosevic) when he attempted to have some of its schemes pushed before the 600th anniversary of Battle of Kosovo.