Tito, beyond the 'Yugo-nostalgia,' evokes mixed feelings

5th May 2009, Comments 1 comment

Across the Balkans, feelings towards the man who ruled the former Yugoslavia for three decades are conflicted, to say the least.

Belgrade -- Almost 30 years after his death, the legacy of former Yugoslav communist leader Tito still evokes mixed feelings in the Balkans: from nostalgia to dark memories of his decades-long rule.

Josip Broz, better known as Tito, died on May 4, 1980 in Ljubljana, after continuously ruling the former Yugoslavia since the end of the World War Two.

Only a decade after his death, Yugoslavia fell apart, destroyed in a bloody series of wars that erupted between the peoples once united in the communist federation.

The wars are now over, but the tensions between former partners still remain over a number of disputed issues.

But whether you are in Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia or Bosnia, there are high chances you will still find bars and restaurants fueling so-called Yugo nostalgia.

The bars are decorated with portraits or busts of the former leader, with busy waiters in white shirts and blue pants, red scarf around the neck -- like perfect image of Tito's pioneers, school children dressed in such fashion for festivities marking important state holidays or celebrations.

Many streets throughout the six former Yugoslav republics still carry his name, like in Belgrade suburbs or in the Bosnian capital Sarajevo.

In the Croatian capital Zagreb, one square is still named after him, despite numerous demands to change it.

In Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia -- the only one of the six former republics that has become the member of the European Union -- one of the main roads leading into the town will soon be named after Tito.

But not only happy memories are evoked. Many are ready to blame the former communist leader for being pitiless towards his political opponents.

Tito committed "one of the worst crimes" after the World War Two by killing "tens of thousands, some say even hundreds of thousands of people," his ideological rivals after the end of the war, estimated Serbian historian Cedomir Antic.

"We must explore more darker sides of Tito's reign, especially the political violence", said historian Ferdzad Forto from Bosnia.

So far the media, while debating Tito's rule and legacy, have portrayed him either as "our greatest son" or "the greatest criminal in the history" of Yugoslavia, he noted.

"But a critical, historic study of him is still lacking," Forto said.

Antic said Tito is believed to have left three great legacies: the policy of self-management, of brotherhood and unity, as well as of non-alignment, with his Yugoslavia leading the group of non-aligned world countries.

"The three ideas all failed shortly after his death," said Antic.

Prominent Kosovo lawyer Azem Vllasi, once Tito's close ally, was resolute in calling the former leader "a dictator".

"But you can not compare him to Mao Zedong, Stalin or Enver Hoxha," he warned.

"On the contrary, Tito can be considered as a liberal when you compare him" to these leaders, he added.

Kosovo, for example, said Vllasi, has benefited during his rule, notably thanks to the "significant national emancipation" granted by the Yugoslav Constitution.

In 1974, it gave the then Serbian province the autonomy which was in 1990 stripped away during the rule of late strongman Slobodan Milosevic.

Violeta Ackovska, a historian from Macedonia, noted that "for several decades, Tito succeeded to control nationalist passions in this part of the Balkans."

That could explain why Yugo-nostalgia is still been present among the ethnic minorities in Macedonia: Albanians, Roma, Bosniaks and Turks, Ackovska said.

In Montenegro, Marko Perkovic still refuses to accept the dissolution of Yugoslavia. He has founded a Yugoslav "consulate" in the coastal town Tivat.

"Tito personified a happier era, when we lived in a big and powerful state," Perkovic insisted.

As a symbol of these better times, one can often hear memories of an old Yugoslav passport, which allowed citizens visa-free travel to European states, without "humiliation" they face nowadays when all but Croats and Slovenians are demanded to ask for it, said Forto.

But youths, born years after his death, seem to be unaware of the past.

"And who is that Tito?" inquired 12-year old Macedonian girl Simona when asked about the former leader.


1 Comment To This Article

  • Josip Broz - Dobar Skroz posted:

    on 5th May 2009, 17:34:22 - Reply

    Few comments I want to make.....

    "Tito committed "one of the worst crimes" after the World War Two by killing "tens of thousands, some say even hundreds of thousands of people," his ideological rivals after the end of the war, estimated Serbian historian Cedomir Antic.

    Mr. Antic, tens of thousands (or even hundreds of thousands bodies as you claim couldn't simply disappear). I would advise you to do your homework (after all you call yourself a historian) and back up your statement with the facts. Tito died 29 years ago. You had enough time to crunch in the numbers.

    As for the failure of the three ideas that died with Tito's death. You're right. They did die with him going 6 feet under. Unfortunatelly, should I add, because there was anything wrong with the ideas he had had. After all, Mr. Antic, you probably remember his funeral. If there was anything fundamentaly wrong with the ideas he had, he wouldn't have had four kings, thirty-one presidents, six princes, twenty-two prime ministers and forty-seven ministers of foreign affairs at his funeral. Total of 128 different countries from a non-aligned world, West, and East. His funeral was the biggest funeral ever that one President of a country have ever had. Mr. Antic, you must be a really smart fella because obviously you were the only one not fooled and the entire world was. As for the failed ideas Mr. Antic, I am sure you have plenty new ones. You just failed to mention a few in this article. When and if you do come up with one, only ONE, that is sustainable in the Balkans, you should be nominated for a Nobel prize. Our current "beloved" leaders in Croatia, Bosnia, and Serbia came up with a few of their own after Tito's death. Very sustainable ones including corruption, intimidation, violation of human rights, two million displaced persons and refugees, concentration camps, ethnic cleansing, genocide, poverty and forgive me if I had omitted dictatorship of a very few families. Oh, yes, we should be really proud of these new ideas. Mr. Antic, history is written by winners and as such is subject to constant changes. However, this doesn't mean that "historians" like you can toss around numbers based on hatred rather then the fact because sooner than later your numbers will get tossed out of history books too. Just a matter of time Mr. Antic. With that saidt, Tito's legacy will continue to live on. Yours Mr. Antic? I am sorry, you have none. Nor will you have one ever. Soon, you will be an edit in someone's 4th edition of the Balkans History. If you make it that far.