The president of Yugoslavia
and the leader of its Communist Party from 1945
until his death in 1980
, Josip Broz Tito came to power on the strength of the victories won by his resistance
army, the Partisan
s, during World War II
The first Communist leader to defy Stalin
, his rule was characterised by the evolution of Yugoslavia's distinctive brand of socialism
, which became known as Titoism
, and by the international profile he obtained as one of the most active figures in the non-aligned movement
Tito was born Josip Broz in 1892
in the village of Kumrovec
, in modern-day Croatia
; his father, Franjo Broz
, was a Croat and his mother, Marija Janovšek
, a Slovene
. Theories about how he acquired his nickname abound: perhaps the most unflattering suggests that he was in the habit of ordering his colleagues 'You, do that' - ti, to
. More prosaically, Tito may just have been a common Zagorje name, convenient for anonymity.
Tito learnt his trade as a locksmith
and had become a socialist in 1910
. He was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army
, despite the protests of his well-connected girlfriend of the time, Tereza Stacner
. With the rank of sergeant, Tito participated in the first Austro-Hungarian offensive
before being sent to the Russian front, where he was captured.
Like many other prisoners of war in Russia, Tito was receptive to Bolshevism
, and took part in the July Days
uprising in Petrograd
before serving with the Red Army
during the Russian Civil War
. When he returned home in 1920
to the new Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes
, he brought with him the first of his four wives, Pelagija Belousova
Despite the ban on the activities of the Yugoslavian communists, the KPJ
, Tito rose through its hierarchy in the late 1920s, and served a prison sentence from 1929
, the first years of King Alexander
's royal dictatorship
He joined the KPJ's Politburo
, in exile in Vienna
, on his release, and then worked for some time with the Comintern
, going to Paris
to organise volunteers for the International Brigades
to fight in the Spanish Civil War
. In 1937
, Tito became the leader of the KPJ after Stalin fell out with his predecessor, Milan Gorkić
While in Paris, Tito had conducted several affairs before meeting his second wife Herta Haas
. During World War II, Haas, an Austrian, was arrested by the Nazis but exchanged with the Partisans for a German officer; she returned to Tito's side only to find he had taken up with another Partisan girl, Zdenka Paunović
Brotherhood and Unity
When World War II
reached Yugoslavia in April 1941
, Tito was able to use the 7,000 members of the KPJ as the nucleus of the Partisan
resistance; only 3,000 would survive the war. The Partisan struggle almost assumed the character of a Yugoslavian civil war within the European conflict: as well as harassing German and Italian occupiers, the Partisans fought the Ustaše
, who collaborated with the Germans, and the Chetnik
s commanded by Dragoljub Mihailović
The Chetniks, mainly army officers, aimed to restore Yugoslavia's pre-war government and the Karađorđević
dynasty. Tito hoped to turn victory into revolution, and the Anti-Fascist Council for the Liberation of Yugoslavia
, declared itself the country's future government on 29 November, 1943
The British Special Operations Executive
switched its support from the Chetniks to the Partisans in 1943
, recognising that Tito's army was killing more Germans than Mihailović's. Being in the right place at the right time to pick up equipment left behind by the hurried Italian withdrawal after the fall of Mussolini
was undoubtedly of assistance too.
However, the Partisans also had a genuine appeal to many Yugoslavians. Corruption and disputes over national autonomy had dogged political life between the wars, culminating in the assassination of the Croatian leader Stjepan Radić
during a parliamentary sitting in 1928 and the introduction of the royal dictatorship.
The ideals of Communism were thought to provide an alternative to this deadlock and the ethnic violence which had accompanied the war in many areas, and Tito's great slogan became bratstvo i jedinstvo
: brotherhood and unity
. In Communist Yugoslavia, the comradeship of the Partisan years would achieve the status of legend.
More Leninist Than Lenin
In the light of the speed with which the KPJ nationalised industry and eliminated its political opposition, Tito seemingly had good reason to believe himself the Kremlin
's favourite son. Less palatable to Stalin, however, was Tito's self-confidence in foreign policy.
He helped to arm Greek communists during their civil war
, even though Stalin had agreed with Winston Churchill
that Western influence in Greece should outweigh Soviet, and also envisaged incorporating Albania
or both into a Balkan Federation
Anxious about his own authority in the Balkans, or perhaps afraid that Tito might become belligerent enough to embroil the Soviet Union
in conflict with the rest, Stalin expelled Yugoslavia from the Cominform
on June 28, 1948
: the anniversary, whether or not Stalin knew it, of the Battle of Kosovo
, a powerful symbol from medieval Serbia
Tito and his comrades appear to have been profoundly shocked by the expulsion, and several, including Tito, came down with psychosomatic
illnesses; Tito was also grieving for Paunović, who had died of tuberculosis
less than two months before.
Initially, Tito attempted to demonstrate his loyalty to Stalin and Stalinism by stepping up the pace of agricultural collectivization
on the Soviet model. Gradually, however, a new version of socialism emerged which, according to the KPJ, was more authentically Marxist-Leninist
than the Soviet Union itself.
At the same time, up to 55,000 party members suspected of showing more allegiance to Moscow than Belgrade were persecuted in equally authentic Leninist fashion, and 8,000 were sent to the barren prison island of Goli Otok
The cornerstone of the 'separate road to socialism
' was the idea of workers' self-management
, developed by Tito's friends Edvard Kardelj
and Milovan Đilas
. At first, the pair had some difficulty talking Tito around, until Kardelj explained its distinctiveness and an intrigued Tito exclaimed: 'Factories belonging to the workers - something that has never before been achieved!' Collectivization was also halted, in response to severe droughts and widespread peasant resistance.
The corollary of workers' self-management was the decentralisation of state authority itself. During Tito's lifetime, the powers of Yugoslavia's constituent republics increased at the expense of the federal government, and 'enterprise
s' - factories, local councils and public services - obtained increased economic responsibility, enshrined in Yugoslavia's mammoth constitutions.
Under Kardelj's pet system, republic and federal assemblies increasingly operated on the principle of functional representation
, not unlike corporatism
, where people voted, indirectly, into different chambers according to their occupation.
The Yugoslav Experiment
The first wave of reforms reached their peak in 1952
, when Tito announced that not only should the state wither away in accordance with Lenin's vision but so too should the Communist Party itself. He changed its name to the League of Communists of Yugoslavia
, and emphasised that League members should exert their influence as individuals carrying out Communist doctrine, rather than through the bureaucratic apparatus employed in other Communist states.
However, apathy set in among a large part of the membership for whom the nuance was too much, and others such as Đilas interpreted it as a green light
to call for even more liberalisation. Tito initially sanctioned Đilas' articles, but once they began to impinge on the morals of the leaders themselves, summoned him to a televised meeting of the Central Commitee.
The plenum, at the presidential villa on the Adriatic island
, had the same intent, although not the result, of a show trial
: Đilas was not even expelled from the party then, although resigned of his own free will some months later and was imprisoned for 10 years for continued criticism in 1957
After Stalin died, Tito's rapprochement
with Nikita Khrushchev
was public, although relations between Belgrade and Moscow waxed and waned throughout his lifetime after the invasions of Hungary
Yugoslavia was never accounted part of the Soviet bloc, and kept up more trade with the West than did its neighbours, providing many Yugoslavians with an increased standard of living
and more freedom to travel, often exercised in cross-border shopping trips across the border to Trieste
for those all-important blue jeans
Internationally, Tito was among the leading lights of the non-aligned movement, which added to his moral authority
at home. Alongside Nehru
, Tito conceived of his country as equidistant
between the two sides in the Cold War
, and discovered these like minds at the Bandung Conference
. The first formal meeting of the non-aligned movement took place in Belgrade
, Tito oversaw the purge of another of his wartime comrades, his security chief Aleksandar Ranković
. Ranković had opposed the liberal trend of a second wave of reform, which appeared to be leading Yugoslavia closer and closer to something approaching a free market. The liberals themselves received Tito's displeasure in 1971
, after they appeared to be allowing Yugoslavia's various nationalisms to become too vocal.
After Tito, Tito?
The question of Tito's succession was raised as early as the 1960s, when Kardelj and Ranković were appointed joint vice-presidents; in 1974
, the year that Tito was formally made president for life, another decentralising constitution set up a State Presidency with one representative from each republic and from the autonomous Vojvodina
Locating a replacement for Tito's executive functions might have been a tall order
in itself, but locating another individual with the same talisman
ic nature as the Partisan and Communist leader was impossible. Tito symbolised the unity of the confederation
in much the same way as the old Austro-Hungarian emperor Franz Josef
had done, and was perhaps similarly irreplaceable.
Tito had displayed a longevity to rival Fidel Castro
, but died on May 4, 1980
, and Yugoslavia's collective presidency
was instituted, with the official title rotating between the members of the State Presidency year on year: the semi-official motto became 'After Tito, Tito'. Perhaps because Tito's own constitutional arrangements had turned ambitious politicians towards the republics rather than the federal structure, the presidency lacked strong leaders in Yugoslavia's last, critical decade.
Tito was mourned by his last wife, Jovanka Broz
, and the children of his other many liaisons. The state, however, inherited his well-appointed villas where he had liked to receive other world leaders and sometimes even film stars such as Sophia Loren
. The Brioni islands, mostly open to the public, still boast the remnants of Tito's private zoo
, which included a forlorn elephant
, too large to be taken off the island, presented to him by the King of Thailand
Phyllis Auty, Tito
Ivo Banac, With Stalin Against Tito
Stevan K. Pavlowitch, Tito
Dennison L. Rusinow, The Yugoslav Experiment, 1948-1974
Thanks to shallot for corrections