Welcome to the latest in a series of posts looking at minor countries in the game Hearts of Iron IV by Paradox Entertainment. Hearts of Iron IV is an epic historical simulator that allows you to experience the Second World War as any country, and perhaps, change history. These articles examine the benefits and drawbacks of playing as any of dozens of minor countries in HOI IV. This week I’ll be looking at Yugoslavia.
Historically, Yugoslavia disappeared under the fascist boot heel in 1941. The German puppet state of Croatia, led by the ultranationalist Ustaše, helped fight partisans in the region. At the end of the war, communists under Josip Broz Tito seized power and became an independent socialist state outside the Soviet Union’s influence.
Yugoslavia starts the game in 1936 as a neutral authoritarian regime led by Prince Paul, with the national spirit Anti-German Military, which grants +5% to ideology drift defense. There is also a chance the military might stage a coup if Yugoslavia aligns itself with or gives military access to Germany. It has a volunteer military, civilian economy, and export focused trade law. It is governed by a Regency Council that holds elections every three years, with the next election in May 1938.
The fascist party, led by Milan Stojadinovic, has 10% popularity, the democratic party, led by Milan Grol, has 15%, the communist party, led by Josip Broz Tito, has 15% support, and the ruling nonaligned party, led by Prince Paul, has 60% support.
Yugoslavia starts 1936 with a fairly good economy. It has 4 steel, 154 aluminum, 152 chromium, 3 military factories, 1 naval dockyard, 14 civilian factories, and 19 free factory slots. Strong aluminum and chromium reserves allow you to trade resources for civilian factories, and a base of 14 civilian factories means you can more rapidly build industry than neighboring minor countries. Minister Ivan Ribar is an additional asset. As a captain of industry, he grants +10% civilian factory, infrastructure, and refinery construction speeds.
Yugoslavia only has 3 research slots, so you want to get the 2 bonus slots through national focuses as quickly as you can. It has researched Infantry Weapons I, Mountain Infantry I, Engineer Company I, Light Tank I, Destroyer I, Light Cruiser I, Submarine I, and Interwar Fighter. You don’t have access to artillery or motorized units in 1936.
Yugoslavia’s initial military is small for its size, with only 16 infantry, 3 cavalry, 2 mountain, and 1 light tank divisions, 96 interwar fighters, and 1 light cruiser, 1 destroyer, and 4 submarines. This is 9 less land divisions than Romania and only 6 more than Hungary, so building up your army should be a priority if you wish to expand. It has 29,850 manpower initially available for new units, and two generals available to command your troops. Vladimir Cukavac, skill level 3, is a trickster, giving him a +25% recon bonus, and Ivan Gosnjak, skill level 3, is an urban assault specialist, granting him a +5% movement and +10% attack and defensive bonus in urban terrain.
Strategic Advantages: With the exception of Italy, weaker countries surround Yugoslavia, and its mountainous terrain and large rivers offer good defensive positions. There is plenty of opportunity for expansion in Eastern Europe. A fairly long Mediterranean coastline offers an opportunity to build a strong navy, though you may want to focus on commerce raiding and defense. Choosing the right alliance almost guarantees coming out of World War 2 as a regional power.
Strategic Disadvantages: Remaining neutral offers no guarantee of survival. Yugoslavia will be whittled away to nothing through hostile events, or face war with the Axis powers. If Italy, Hungary, Romania, and Bulgaria join the Axis (as they did historically), you will face war from all sides. Another problem is that while most of Yugoslavia is hilly or mountainous terrain, its capitol sits on an open plain, vulnerable to any land force.
Radikalna Yugoslavia. If Yugoslavia is to survive the coming war, it must unify under the nationalist banner. At least, that’s the argument Yugolavia’s fascist party makes in its path to power. The fascist National Focus tree gives large bonuses to recruitable population, so there are merits to this argument. In this play through, Italy began provocations in December 1937, with claims on the Yugoslavian states of Slovenia and Dalmatia. In preparation for a confrontation with Italy, I decided to invade and puppet Bulgaria. It took another year before Milan Stojadinovic came to power and I was able to begin justifying war goals.
I declared war on Bulgaria on June 28, 1939, and they surrendered two weeks later. For some reason, they cannot become a Yugoslavian puppet (making them a puppet at the peace conference has no result), so I settled for taking Sofia and entered into a non-aggression pact with the remaining rump state. This added 2 military and 4 civilian factories, as well as 2 aluminum, to my arsenal. I focused on pumping out as many submarines as I could early on, so when war came I could make sure there would be no naval invasions from the adjoining sea.
Romania joined the Axis in December 1939, and I entered into a non-aggression pact with them as well, though I doubted they would honor that pact if Italy and Yugoslavia went to war. Historically, German, Italian and Hungarian forces invaded Yugoslavia in April 1941, but the AI waited until April 1942 to do the same. I immediately went on the offensive against nearby Italian territory, including Albania. With forces distracted deep in the Soviet Union, Romania and Hungary quickly surrendered.
Seizing on the opportunity, I pointed 12 armored divisions at Berlin and let them fly. This didn’t go quite as planned, although I did seize most of (former) Austria and Czechoslovakia. After a few months of preparation, and aided by Allied armies advancing through France, I once again went on the offensive and this time broke through to Berlin. Germany capitulated on December 17, 1942. At the Treaty of Konigsberg, Yugoslavia received the province of Istria from Italy. The United States occupied Albania and Zara (along the Mediterranean coast), even though I held onto those provinces for the entire duration of the war.
SFR Yugoslavia. I decided to go with an ahistorical scenario for this game to see if I could create an independent communist Balkan alliance. I appointed Ivo Lola Ribar as a minister and completed the communist National Focus tree. In September 1937, communist revolutionaries seized control without gaining majority public support (I chose “Those who wish to make history must act today!” when “The September Revolution” event triggered). Supporters of Prince Paul started a civil war from the provinces of Macedonia, Bosnia, Dalmatia, and Slovenia. The rebel army mysteriously disappeared (glitch?), and Yugoslavia surrendered to SFR Yugoslavia, led by Josip Broz Tito, without a fight. Unfortunately, this left me with half as many divisions and planes and without General Vladimir Cukavac.
With the political power bonus from the newly acquired “Reign of Terror” National Spirit, I began boosting communist party popularity in Greece, Bulgaria, Romania, and Hungary. As I prepared for war, the London Diktat event occurred. Giving in means losing Slovenia to Germany. Refusing means war with Germany. Slovenia is an undeveloped region with no resources, so I reluctantly gave it up. Meanwhile, a civil war erupted in the Soviet Union–not a good sign for the leader of the Comintern!
Without warning, in June 1939 I lost Vojvodina to Hungary and Macedonia to Bulgaria. Unlike the previous land grab, the game didn’t give me an option to fight back. I began justifying war goals against Bulgaria to reclaim my core state, since Macedonia contains a large reserve of chromium and aluminum. Before that could happen, however, Germany carved up the remainder of SFR Yugoslavia and puppetted Croatia via “The Fate of Yugoslavia” event. Once again, I didn’t have the option to refuse. Game over!
Yugoslavian Confederation. Appointing minister Milovan Dilas, democratic reformer, will incrementally increase support for democracy in Yugoslavia. The Liberty Ethos National Focus path does not help build support for democracy. I chose the Interventionism path, avoiding neutrality. Popular elections were finally held on October 6, 1938, and Milan Grol became head of state. I began influencing the growth of democratic parties in Bulgaria, Greece, Hungary, and Romania. The democratic party already has 43% support in Hungary, so I was hoping to effect a change in government there before they joined the Axis. Romania is already a democracy, but for how long? To boost diplomatic prospects there, I guaranteed their independence and began improving relations.
A new Europe began to take shape, though it was not the one I intended to build. After Poland surrendered to Germany and Romania ceded Bessarabia to the Soviet Union, Romania chose to align itself with Germany and became fascist. After losing their war with the Soviet Union, Finland became communist and joined the Comintern–a rare outcome. Despite the democratic party growing to 57% popularity in Hungary, it joined the Axis after being awarded North Transylvania. I decided to fund a coup there, which would take 3,000 infantry equipment and 400 days to execute. Civil war erupted in Hungary on August 3, 1941. I sent two armored divisions to help, but by the time they arrived it was practically too late. The volunteers were surrounded and destroyed. This farcical episode did nothing except return North Transylvania to Legionary Romania.
Bulgaria and Greece were my last hope for a democratic Balkan alliance. The Republic of Bulgaria was finally proclaimed in May 1943, but still resisted creating a faction. Germany completed justifying war goals against the Yugoslavian Confederation, but did not declare war. As months ticked by, I was left to decide whether to abandon my plans for an independent alliance and join the Allies, or sit and wait things out. It is doubtful whether a democratic Yugoslavia would have deliberately gone to war with Germany, Italy, Hungary, and Romania if unprovoked. Still, in a computer game, sitting on the sidelines gets pretty boring.
Rather than get directly involved in the war, I decided to send two medium armored divisions as volunteers to the United Kingdom. They landed in British-occupied Italy and I sent them to help liberate France. Although the democratic party in Greece reached 70% popularity by June 1945, a civil war broke out as the Hellenic Republic declared independence, claiming everything except Central Macedonia. I invited them to join a faction called the Delian League (after the ancient Athenian alliance) and helped them crush the remaining resistance to democracy.
Meanwhile, my volunteer armored divisions were instrumental in liberating Denmark and rolled into Berlin on January 9, 1946. Germany surrendered in August, just as the Soviet Union was beginning to falter. By the end of September, the war in Europe was over. Bulgaria joined the Allies, so I didn’t achieve my goal of getting them into my alliance, but at least the immediate threat of war was removed. Yugoslavian volunteers fought bravely to end the Axis threat.