Marshal Tito ­- the West's favourite communist who kept Yugoslavia together - becomes president PDF Ispis E-mail
Thursday, 23 January 2014

ImageTito, whose own mixed nationality symbolised the multi-ethnic state, was able to unite the second Yugoslavia by promoting “brotherhood and unity”. Marshal Tito – the West’s favourite communist and the only leader who managed to keep Yugoslavia together - became president of the former state on JAN 13, 1953. The revolutionary had already helped reunify the federation of six nations following World War II when the 22-year-old Kingdom was broken up by Nazi aggression. He led the Partisans, Europe’s most successful resistance movement, in ousting the German occupiers from Serbia, Slovenia, Montenegro and Macedonia.

The Croat-Slovene former peasant also expelled the fascist Ustase rulers from the Nazi puppet state of Greater Croatia, which included Bosnia and Herzegovina.

And he defeated the Chetniks, a rival resistance group of Serb royalists who went on to collaborate with the Germans in what became a particularly brutal conflict.

In total, 1.7million Yugoslavs died – with the Germans, who routinely executed 100 locals for every soldier they lost, killing 700,000 people between 1941 and 1945.

But it was Yugoslavs killing Yugoslavs that accounted for the majority of the bloodshed, which included several appalling atrocities inspired by racial hatred.

Ethnic cleansing, which included Bosnian Muslims murdering and evicting Serbs from their land, would back come to haunt the Balkan peninsula five decades later.

But Tito, whose own mixed nationality symbolised the multi-ethnic state, was able to unite the second Yugoslavia by promoting “brotherhood and unity”.

The First World War soldier, who became a communist after being captured by Imperial Russians and then helping the Bolsheviks, was also trusted by the Soviets.

But he chose to distance himself from Moscow and founded the Non-Aligned Movement of states that were neutral during the Cold War.

As a result, he was popular in the West, where his brand of independent socialism was viewed non-threatening.

He received 98 foreign decorations, including the French Legion of Honour and given an honorary knighthood by Britain.

A British Pathé newsreel showed the fanfare received by Tito, whose real name was Josip Broz, when he visited London in 1953 after assuming the title of President.

He was taken by boat up the Thames before stepping ashore to be greeted by the Duke of Edinburgh and then Prime Minister Winston Churchill, who doffed his hat at Tito.

His independence from Moscow enabled him to pursue different policies to Eastern Bloc neighbours, who risked Soviet invasion if they strayed from the Kremlin’s path.

He encouraged more private enterprise and allowed greater freedom of speech and religious expression than other communist states.
He also allowed Yugoslavs to travel outside the Eastern Bloc – a move that contrasted deeply with East Germany, which built the Berlin Wall to keep its citizens in.

During his leadership, Yugoslavia’s economy boomed in the 1960s and 1970s – growing faster than all other communist countries and many capitalist states.

But Tito was also an authoritarian who enforced a one-party system by suppressing political opposition, particularly nationalists.
Yugoslavia began to unravel upon his death at age 87 and subsuquent funeral, which was attended by representatives from 128 countries, including Margaret Thatcher.

Serbia, the most populous of the six republics, started to demand more power for itself and as the economy worsened nationalism increased in the rest of the federation.

Slovenia and Croatia, the richest two republics, fearing Serbian domination and wanting to conserve their wealth for themselves, were the first to break away in 1991.

Initially, the the Yugoslav National Army (or JNA) tried to crush the independence movement in Slovenia.

But it quickly gave up because the republic had a largely homegenous population of ethnic Slovenes, who had once included Tito’s mother.
But Croatia, where Tito was born and where his father came from, was a different matter as it had a large Serbian minority who feared Ustase-like persecution.

Serbs set up independent republics within Croatia’s territory and the JNA – which had become a Serb dominated force – helped them ethnically cleanse towns and villages.

Eventually, after massacres such as in Vukovar where 264 Croats were murdered by Serb militias, Croatian forces took back the land and enacted similarly brutal revenge.

But it was in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where no one ethnicity was a majority, that the civil war was most shockingly violent.

Muslims, who accounted for 43% of the population, feared being swallowed up by a Serb-dominated Yugolsavia and the republic declared its independence in 1992.

The Orthodox Christian Serbs (31% of the people) declared their own republic within Bosnia and the Croats (17%) later followed suit.

The three-way war resulted in mass ethnic cleansing, particularly by the better armed Serbs, including massacres such as Srebrenica where 8,373 Muslims were murdered.

It also led to the longest siege in modern history after the Army of Republika Srpska surrounded Sarajevo between April 5, 1992 and February 29, 1996.

In total, around 200,000 people died in Bosnia, which is now a federation of a multi-ethnic state and a Serb one, and Croatia, where 20,000 were killed on both sides.

Macedonia also broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991 – but without dispute – and more multi-ethnic Montenegro peacefully ended its union with Serbia in 2006.

Kosovo, which was an autonomous province of Serbia with an Albanian majority, declared independence in 2008.

It came nine years after a Nato bombing campaign ended more ethnic cleansing on behalf of the Serb minority, who view the region as sacred to their national identity.

Now, in light of all this bloodshed, Tito is often viewed favourably by all the peoples of the former Yugoslavia and towns in each of its nations are still named after him.

By Julian Gavaghan

Yahoo News 10.1.2014.

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