Yugoslavia and Josip Broz Tito
The Balkans, a region between the Mediterranean and Black sea was and is inhabited by many nations with various religions. This fact resulted often in unrests. To make peace in this area, it was necessary to unite the nations and to place a strong personality on the head. The Second World War helped by a considerable measure to the choice of such a personality.
I would like to concentrate my attention to the West Balkans where Yugoslavia might be an excellent example. It is a former federation of mainly Slavonic states in South- East Europe. The country was formed as the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes after the First World War. It comprised Serbia, Montenegro, and the former South Slavonic provinces of the Austro-Hungarian empire and assumed the name of Yugoslavia in 1929. Its capital was Belgrade. Invaded by the Axis Powers during the Second World War, Yugoslavia emerged from a long guerilla war as a Communist federal republic. Under the postwar leadership of Marshal Tito, in 1948 Yugoslavia refused to accept Soviet domination and pursued a policy of a non-alignment.
Who was this man? Josip Broz Tito was born on 7th May, 1892 in a Croatian village of Kumrovec near Zagreb. As a young man he took part in the fights of the Austro-Hungarian army and was captured by the Russians in 1915. He fought with the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution and became an active Communist organizer on returning to his country in 1920. He joined the illegal Communist party. In the period of worldwide economic crisis the Communists strengthened their position among the people. When the situation was stabilized, he was invited to Moscow, to the seat of the Communist International where he had worked in the bodies of the Communist International. After return to Yugoslavia in 1937, he became the Communist party leader. After Yugoslavia was occupied by the fascist Germany, the national-liberation fight has started. On 12th July, 1941 Tito declared the national uprising. All the nations, even Muslims were involved in the fights. The Germans started to persecute partisans but they did not succeed because the partisans were supported by people in villages as well as in towns. At that time Tito has already cooperated with the English and Russians. On 24th November, 1945 he became Prime Minister. Thus he became a wellknown statesman and in the position of the Prime Minister he remained until 1953. He has started to accept Communists reforms but in a more precautious way. In the same year he became President of Yugoslavia. Already in 1949 Stalin did not like popularity of Josip Broz Tito and he felt endangered by this. However, Tito has ignored Stalin. And then a Yugoslav embassador was ejected by Stalin from the Soviet Union. Since that time Tito has started to build up his own foreign policy. He oscillated between the West and the East. Economically Yugoslavia has risen very fast, standard of living increased even in the backward areas.
Tito has iniciated the establishment of non-participating countries in 1963. To devote to foreign policy he needed a calm political situation in the country. He supported ethnic tolerance and harmonization of relations among nations. He realized that the basis for stability and position of power for the whole of Yugoslavia was ethnic rest. He supressed and punished all the types of nationalism. Stability of the country was provided also by rotation of polititians. He wanted national peace to be remained even after his death.
At the beginning of the 70ties economic crisis emerged in Yugoslavia. It was caused by high foreign debt, high inflation and non-effective industry. Nationalism has appeared again on the Croatian or Serb side. Kosovo Albanians were not satisfied either. The rich North complained that it had to pay for the poor South. The South had the feeling that it was exploited by the North. The personality of Josip Broz Tito has become the only element that could be able to keep the federation together. Several times he had to solve the problems by cleansing in the Communist party of Yugoslavia where nationalist passions had started to appear. This solution could not be for ever and Tito was afraid of the fate of his country after his death. That was why he signed a new constitution in 1974 which has changed Yugoslavia de facto into confederation of 6 countries and 2 autonomous areas, in which each republic had the right to leave Yugoslavia.
And when he died on 4th May, 1980, it meant the end for Yugoslavia. In 1991 the civil war broke out. When Croatia, Slovenia and Macedonia became independent, the war among Serbs, Croatians and Muslims went on in Bosnia until November 1995. It was finished by the Peace Treaty in American Dayton.
Rest and peace were possible to keep due to repressions of the Tito totalitarian regime. Every time when the regime got free, nationalist passions had appeared, at the beginning of the 90ties it brought split.of Yugoslavia and a bloody civil war. Tito´s dictatorship and repressions againts all his oponents could at that time prevent the civil war. Though he ruled by a strong hand, he was adored by millions of Yugoslav citizens.
Diktátor, jehož stát zmizel z mapy Balkánu; Lidové noviny, 6.5.2000 /Newspaper/ -
Pelikan Jan: Dejiny jihoslovanských státu, NUK, Praha, 1998 -