|“||None of our republics would be anything if we weren't all together, but we have to create our history — our Yugoslavian socialist history, that is unique, in the future — that is our path; not touching the national rights of the some republics to preserve their own traditions, not at the expense of, but in the interest of the whole community, to mutually complete each other. That is what we want, and not the destruction of our unity.||„|
|~ Josip Broz Tito, 1962|
Josip Broz (7 May 1892 – 4 May 1980), commonly known as Tito, was a Yugoslav communist revolutionary and statesman, serving in various roles from 1943 until his death in 1980. During World War II, he was the leader of the Partisans, often regarded as the most effective resistance movement in occupied Europe. While his presidency has been criticized as authoritarian and concerns about the repression of political opponents have been raised, Tito has traditionally been seen as a benevolent dictator.
He was a popular public figure both in Yugoslavia and abroad. Viewed as a unifying symbol, his internal policies maintained the peaceful coexistence of the nations of the Yugoslav federation. He gained further international attention as the chief leader of the Non-Aligned Movement, alongside Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt, Nicolae Ceaușescu of Romania, Sukarno of Indonesia, and Kwame Nkrumah of Ghana.
Broz was born to a Croat father and Slovene mother in the village of Kumrovec, Austria-Hungary (now in Croatia). Drafted into military service, he distinguished himself, becoming the youngest sergeant major in the Austro-Hungarian Army of that time. After being seriously wounded and captured by the Imperial Russians during World War I, he was sent to a work camp in the Ural Mountains. He participated in some events of the Russian Revolution in 1917 and subsequent Civil War.
Before and during World War II
Upon his return to the Balkans in 1918, Broz entered the newly established Kingdom of Yugoslavia, where he joined the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (KPJ). He later was elected as General Secretary (later Chairman of the Presidium) of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (1939–1980). During World War II, after the Nazi invasion of the area, he led the Yugoslav guerrilla movement, the Partisans (1941–1945).
After the war, he was selected as Prime Minister (1944–1963), and President (later President for Life) (1953–1980) of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). From 1943 to his death in 1980, Tito held the rank of Marshal of Yugoslavia, serving as the supreme commander of the Yugoslav military, the Yugoslav People's Army (JNA). With a highly favourable reputation abroad in both Cold War blocs, he received some 98 foreign decorations, including the Legion of Honour and the Order of the Bath.
During the Cold War
Tito was the chief architect of the second Yugoslavia, a socialist federation that lasted from November 1943 until April 1992. Despite being one of the founders of Cominform, he became the first Cominform member to defy Soviet hegemony in 1948. He was the only leader in Joseph Stalin's time to leave Cominform and begin with his country's own socialist program, which contained elements of market socialism. Economists active in the former Yugoslavia, including Czech-born Jaroslav Vanek and Croat-born Branko Horvat, promoted a model of market socialism that was dubbed the Illyrian model. Firms were socially owned by their employees and structured on workers' self-management; they competed in open and free markets.
Dominic McGoldrick writes that as the head of a "highly centralised and oppressive" regime, Tito wielded tremendous power in Yugoslavia, with his authoritarian rule administered through an elaborate bureaucracy that routinely suppressed human rights. The main victims of this repression were during the first years known and alleged Stalinists, such as Dragoslav Mihailović and Dragoljub Mićunović, but during the following years even some of the most prominent among Tito's collaborators were arrested. On 19 November 1956 Milovan Đilas, perhaps the closest of Tito's collaborator and widely regarded as Tito's possible successor, was arrested because of his criticism against Tito's regime. The repression did not exclude intellectuals and writers, such as Venko Markovski, who was arrested and sent to jail in January 1956 for writing poems considered anti-Titoist.
Even if after the reforms of 1961 Tito's presidency had become comparatively more liberal than other communist regimes, the Communist Party continued to alternate between liberalism and repression. Yugoslavia managed to remain independent from the Soviet Union and its brand of communism was in many ways the envy of Eastern Europe, but Tito's Yugoslavia remained a tightly controlled police state. According to David Mates, outside the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia had more political prisoners than all of the rest of Eastern Europe combined.
Tito's secret police, the UDBA, was modeled on the Soviet KGB. Its members were ever-present and often acted extrajudicially, with victims including middle-class intellectuals, liberals and democrats.Yugoslavia was a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, but scant regard was paid to some of its provisions.
Tito's Yugoslavia was based on respect for nationality, although Tito ruthlessly purged any flowerings of nationalism that threatened the Yugoslav federation. However, the contrast between the deference given to some ethnic groups and the severe repression of others was sharp. Yugoslav law guaranteed nationalities to use their language, but for ethnic Albanians the assertion of ethnic identity was severely limited. Almost half of the political prisoners in Yugoslavia were ethnic Albanians imprisoned for asserting their ethnic identity.
Yugoslavia's post-war development was impressive, but the country ran into economic snags around 1970 and experienced significant unemployment and inflation. Between 1961 and 1980, the external debt of Yugoslavia increased exponentially at the unsustainable pace of over 17% per year. By 1970 debt was not anymore contracted to finance investment, but to cover current expenses. The structure of the economy had formed in such a way that the future survival of the economy relied on the exclusive condition of future enlargement of the debt.
Declassified documents from the CIA state in 1967 it was already clear that although Tito's economic model had achieved growth of the gross national product around 7%, it also created frequently unwise industrial investment and a chronic deficit in the nation's balance of payment. In the 1970s, uncontrolled growth often created chronic inflation, both of which Tito and the party were unable to fully stabilize or moderate. Yugoslavia also paid high interest on loans compared to the LIBOR rate, but Tito's presence eased investor's fears, since he had proven willing and able to implement unpopular reforms. By 1979 with Tito's passing on the horizon, a global downturn in the economy, consistently increasing unemployment and growth slowing to 5.9% throughout the 1970s, it had become likely that "the rapid economic growth to which the Yugoslavs [had] become accustomed" would aggressively decline.
Death and aftermath
When Tito died, Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, the then President of Sinn Féin, stated in An Phoblacht that: "The death of President Tito deprives the world of a dedicated socialist and staunch internationalist. Tito instituted a federal democratic and socialist regime based on shared sovereignty and pioneered an economic and political system founded on workers' control and the principles of decentralised self-management...[He had an] enlightened and progressive internationalist policy of non-alignment and defiance of both major power blocs".
Orson Welles once called him "the greatest man in the world today."