Reflections on Yugoslav-Italian Diplomacy in “Ostalgie”

Earlier this evening, I recently finished a few amazing playthroughs of Yugoslavia in Ostalgie: The Berlin Wall, an outstanding geopolitical strategy game developed by the Russian indie gaming cooperative Kremlingames. In the “Disorder in Yugoslavia” DLC, the player gets to play as one of three playable Yugoslavian Republics during the same period as the base game, 1989-1991, where they are put into the position of deciding the fate of Yugoslavia. One could opt for the historical route and work towards dissolving Yugoslavia and then vie for power in the ensuing civil war, but there are also other routes to choose from. Most of these alternate historical routes involve preventing the civil war and trying to reform the political system, which would entail granting autonomy to Yugoslavian Republics or granting greater powers to the central government. The DLC received a recent update last month, and I felt it would be nice to discuss about the new content after having experienced them.

The new content pertains to an aspect of the Cold War that has been left unaddressed in preceding World Wars, the question of Yugoslavian relations with Post-1945 Italy. Unlike Germany or Japan, the Parliamentary Democracy of Italy in the late 20th century was a two-party system between Italian Christian Democrats and an Italian Communist Party giving way to Eurocommunism, a Marxist ideology that existed primarily in Western European countries during the 1970s and 1980s. The two-party system was as much a product of Jeffersonian meddling with Italian politics as it was also a consequence of corruption from organized crime groups in Southern Italy. By the late 1980s and early 1990s, the corruption and inefficiencies of the Italian government had reached where the two-party consensus began to break down under the pressure of political scrutiny. This event is known in Italian history as the Mani Pulite (Clean Hands) Scandal:

“Mani pulite was a nationwide Italian judicial investigation into political corruption held in the 1990s. Mani pulite led to the demise of the so-called First Republic, resulting in the disappearance of many parties. Some politicians and industry leaders committed suicide after their crimes were exposed. In some accounts, as many as 5000 people have been cited as suspects. At one point more than half of the members of the Italian Parliament were under indictment. More than 400 city and town councils were dissolved because of corruption charges. The estimated value of bribes paid annually in the 1980s by Italian and foreign companies bidding for large government contracts in Italy reached 4 billion dollars (6.5 trillion lire). The corruption system uncovered by these investigations was usually referred to as Tangentopoli. The term derives from tangente, which means kickback and in this context refers to kickbacks given for public works contracts., and poli meaning city; it is thus sometimes translated as “Bribesville” or “Kickback City” and initially attributed to the city of Milan, where the investigations started, and later used as a synonym of the corruption system.

Tangentopoli began on 17 February 1992 when judge Antonio Di Pietro had Mario Chiesa, a member of the Italian Socialist Party, arrested for accepting a bribe from a Milan cleaning firm. The PSI distanced themselves from Chiesa. Bettino Craxi called Mario Chiesa mariuolo, or “villain”, a “wild splinter” of the otherwise clean Italian Socialist Party. Upset over this treatment by his former colleagues, Chiesa began to give information about corruption implicating his colleagues. It was the start of the Mani pulite (clean hands) investigation. News of political corruption began spreading in the press.

Should the player be able to prevent Yugoslavia from descending into civil war, an opportunity to exploit the Mani Pulit by Yugoslav intelligence will emerge before the Scandal came to light in 1992 (when the game ends). Here, the player is given the choice of going for one of the following options:

  • Help the Christian Democrats stay in power.
  • Subvert the the Social-Democrats (through a combination of assassination and political intrigue) and help them gain an electoral majority.
  • Assist the Italian Greens win electoral power by using the MT Haven Oil Spill as the Pretext.
  • Or work with Italian Nationalists and Social-Fascists to discredit the Italian government and help them restore the Italian Social Republic.

For those interested in the MT Haven Oil Spill:

“On 11 April 1991, the Cyprus-flagged Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) ‘MT Haven’, formerly ‘Amoco Milford Haven’, had returned from the Persian Gulf and was unloading an Iranian cargo of 230,000 tons of crude oil to a floating platform, about 11 km off Genoa.

Having transferred 80,000 tons, the ship disconnected from the platform for a routine internal transfer operation, to allow oil to be pumped from two side-holds into a central one. The process was a routine.

Unexpectedly, something went wrong. A vast explosion occurred in tank number 2 in the bow area, tearing away the sides of the ship.

Italian authorities acted quickly and fire-fighting operations were initiated rapidly after the initial explosions, but Haven was seven miles off the coast making it difficult to fight.

As men fought to bring the fire under control, barriers were deployed around the Haven to contain the oil pollution.”

The long-term goal of engaging in this combination of diplomacy and subterfuge is for Yugoslavia to compel Italy to either eliminate the NATO military presence on the port city of Fiume, adopt a Hard Eurosceptic stance and abandon the EU/NATO, or seize control of the port city and bring it under Yugoslavian control. So far, I have only gotten Berlusconi and Green Endings. I have yet to get the Christian Democrat, Social-Democrat, Social-Fascist, and Yugoslav Fiume Endings. Overall, I totally recommend playing the DLC if anyone is interested.

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