Tito, Josip Broz

views updated May 29 2018

Josip Broz Tito

Born May 7, 1892
Kumrovec, Croatia, Austria-Hungary
Died May 4, 1980
Ljubljana, Yugoslavia

President of Yugoslavia and revolutionary

J osip Broz Tito established a communist government in the country then known as Yugoslavia. Fiercely independent, Tito managed to successfully distance himself and his country from Soviet leader Joseph Stalin (1879–1953; see entry) and Soviet control. During the entire Cold War period, Tito took his country down a liberalized path in agriculture, management of workers, trade with Western nations, art, education, and travel between Western nations and Yugoslavia. The Cold War was an intense political and economic rivalry from 1945 to 1991 between the United States and the Soviet Union falling just short of military conflict. Tito stressed nonalignment, the right of nations to be neutral and not align with either superpower, the United States or the Soviet Union.

Early years

Josip Broz was born the seventh child in a large peasant family of fifteen children (he acquired the name Tito in 1934). His hometown of Kumrovec was located northwest of Zagreb, the capital of the province of Croatia. Broz attended school for five years from ages seven to twelve, then was apprenticed to a locksmith. He completed his training in 1910 and joined the Social Democratic Party (Communist Party) of Croatia-Slavonia the same year.

After traveling and working around the region, Broz was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian Imperial Army. He was assigned to fight on the Russian front in 1914 when World War I (1914–18) broke out. Seriously wounded and captured by the Russians in 1915, he was treated at a Russian hospital then detained at a prisoner of war camp. Broz became fluent in the Russian language and also studied the Marxist ideas of the Bolshevik, or communist, revolutionaries. Marxist philosophy was based on the teachings of German philosopher Karl Marx (1818–1883), considered the father of communism. Communism is a system of government in which a single party, the Communist Party, controls all aspects of people's lives. In economic theory, it prohibits private ownership of property and business so that all goods produced and wealth accumulated are shared relatively equally by all. The term "Bolshevik" was later replaced with the term communist.

Broz decided to join the Bolshevik cause and headed for Petrograd, formerly Saint Petersburg, to demonstrate in the streets. He was arrested and imprisoned for a short time until the October Revolution of 1917. In the October Revolution, Bolsheviks overthrew the tsar, or royalty, and put themselves in power in Russia. The Russian Civil War followed, and Broz joined a Red Guard unit. "Red" is a term that often refers to communists, and the Red Army was indeed communist. In 1920, Broz married a Russian woman, Pelege ja Beloussaowa, and they returned to Croatia.

Rise in the Communist Party

A confirmed communist revolutionary, Broz joined the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (CPY). He steadily rose through the ranks, holding several leadership positions and organizing trade unions. In 1928, Broz's revolutionary activities again led to his arrest and imprisonment, this time for five years. Upon his release in 1934, Broz adopted the pseudonym "Tito." He would use the name Tito to work under-ground in the CPY, since it was banned by the royal Yugoslav dictatorship in power at the time.

In 1935, Tito went back to Russia to work for the Comintern, a Soviet-sponsored organization to promote communism internationally. By 1937, Tito returned to the CPY. As a result of Stalin's purges, many CPY leaders were murdered or disappeared. Tito handpicked new leaders and rebuilt the party. Tito's CPY was ready when World War II (1939–45) started.

World War II—Partisans

In 1941, when the German army invaded the Soviet Union, Tito formed the Partisans to fight German and Italian armies as they moved into Yugoslav territories. Tito named himself military commander about this time and also became known as Marshal. For the rest of his life, he would frequently be called Marshal Tito.

The Partisans came from the well-organized under-ground cells of the CPY. They staunchly withstood the German army attacks in the first half of 1943 and defeated their rivals, the Serbian Chetniks. The big three Allied powers—the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union—met in Tehran, Iran, in 1943 and officially recognized the Partisans. As a result, Allied aid was parachuted in to support the victorious and continuously strengthening Partisans. Tito consolidated his power at the end of World War II by purging, just as Stalin had done, those who opposed him. From his many loyalists, he formed a large army and secret police. By late 1945, the Communist Party was firmly in control of all of the Yugoslav territories. Tito proclaimed the area as the Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia in November 1945.

Stalin versus Titoism

Immediately after World War II, the Soviets continued to occupy the countries of Eastern Europe, where communist parties had taken control of several governments. Some officials were local communists and some were appointed by Stalin. Then in 1948, a new, more centralized Sovietization of Eastern Europe began. Each nation was to be controlled by its Communist Party but subject to absolute control from Moscow. Tito immediately balked. Those in Belgrade, the capital

of Yugoslavia, would not seek prior approval from Moscow for their policies and activities. Tito had ignored Stalin's suggestions on how to run the government and the economy. Stalin was enraged, and was also angry at Tito for his support of communists in the Greek Civil War, a war in which Stalin did not want to be involved. Stalin was further displeased with Tito's relations with Bulgaria and Albania.

For its continuing rebellious attitude, Stalin expelled Yugoslavia from the Cominform. He imposed an economic blockade that negatively impacted Yugoslavia but not its government or people's lives. Stalin even considered military action but refrained. The independent stance taken by Tito came to be known as Titoism. Titoism became the reason Stalin used to further crack down on communist parties in other Eastern European countries. Between 1948 and 1953, the year of Stalin's death, Soviet-styled communism was imposed on the Eastern Bloc. Collectivization of agriculture and development of heavy manufacturing while ignoring consumer goods became the rule. Collectivization meant elimination of all privately owned farms and grouping farmers together to work state-owned land, returning most food produced to the state.

Meanwhile, Tito used his secret police for another purge and a "reeducation" of communists who still supported Stalin. While the economy of the Soviet Union and Eastern European countries remained highly centralized, Tito began a program of decentralization. He began experimenting with allowing worker self-management in local areas. He allowed workers to form councils, and though he did not collectivize smaller farms, he did require them to supply the state with large portions of their goods. Tito also turned to the Western countries for loans and offered some cooperation with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), a peacetime alliance of the United States and eleven other nations, and a key factor in the attempt to contain communism. He signed a trade agreement with the United States in 1949 and eventually received $150 million in aid from the United States. Tito withstood hostility from the Soviet Union and maintained his independent communist state.


When Stalin died in 1953, Tito decided to explore a somewhat reconciled relationship with the new Soviet leadership. In May 1955, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev (1894–1971; see entry) surprised other communist leaders when he went to Yugoslavia and visited with Tito. Khrushchev said it was time to "bury the hatchet" and reestablish the Soviet Union's relationship with Tito and Yugoslavia.

Nevertheless, Tito's and the Soviet Union's relationship would run hot and cold. It was particularly cold one year later with the Soviet intervention in Hungary to suppress unrest among the population. The Soviets blamed the Yugoslavs for encouraging and supporting Hungarian rebels. Again, twelve years later in 1968, Tito was infuriated with and opposed to the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia. He had supported Czech leader Alexander Dubcek (1921–1992) as he attempted to reform and modernize communist policies.

Nonalignment and symmetrical federalism

The independent-minded Tito came to think of his foreign policy as "actively neutral"—neither favoring the communist Eastern Bloc countries nor the democratic Western countries, but occupying a position in between. (A democratic system of government allows multiple political parties; their members are elected to various government offices by popular vote of the people.) Tito was particularly close to Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru (1889–1964) of India and President Gamal Abdel Nasser (1918–1970) of Egypt and tried to develop common policies for a group of nations he hoped would form a nonaligned bloc, neither favoring the East nor the West. In 1956, he called together a meeting of twenty-five neutral countries to his island in the Adriatic Sea. There, he proposed a neutral bloc or his policy of "nonalignment." In the 1960s and 1970s, Tito traveled to many countries to promote nonalignment.

Between 1945 and 1953, Tito's title in Yugoslavia was premier. Beginning in 1953, he was known as president, which remained his title until 1980, the year of his death. Tito was repeatedly elected president after 1953 and eventually his term was made unlimited—or president for life. In 1971, Tito established a system, "symmetrical federalism," that he hoped would lead to a systematic succession of power after his death. Symmetrical means having dissimilar or different parts in a balanced fashion, while federalism means forming a political unity of different states under a central power.

The United States, for example, operates under federalism with its fifty states and central government. Tito's federalism consisted of six Yugoslav republics (Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia) and two autonomous provinces (Kosovo and Vojvodina). He established a twenty-two member collective presidency of the eight presidents from the republics and provinces and fourteen members chosen from the assemblies in each of the eight regions. Tito, of course, was chairman of the collective presidency, and he purged any leaders who did not go along with his ideals or political agenda.

Federation breakup

Throughout the decades after World War II, Tito had relied on his strength of character, charisma, and continuing popularity to hold power and to push Yugoslavia down its own independent path. He encouraged relatively broad liberties in culture and education. He allowed Yugoslavs to work and travel in Western Europe. Likewise, the Adriatic coast of Yugoslavia became a popular tourist destination for Westerners. He maintained a strong army, but as the years passed, he lessened the powers of the secret police.

During the 1970s, the economy began to weaken under high inflation (rising cost of goods), inefficient industry, and a heavy foreign debt. Despite his Yugoslav federation, nationalist issues between the republics and provinces continued to surface in ever more radical tones. Croatians called for secession from the federation; Serbia also agitated, or stirred up public debate on the issue, and pressed the federation leaders to give it a greater voice. Croatia and Serbia, the two larger regions, were unhappy that smaller regions had almost as much representation as they did. Tito tightened control, but after a four-month health decline, he died in May 1980. After his death, tensions between the republics and provinces reared up with a vengeance, eventually leading to civil wars and a violent federation breakup in the 1990s.

For More Information


Auty, Phyllis. Tito: A Biography. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1970.

Djilas, Milovan. Tito: The Story from Inside. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1980.

Maclean, Fitzroy. Josip Broz Tito: A Pictorial Biography. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1980.

Pavlowitch, Stevan K. Tito: Yugoslavia's Great Dictator, A Reassessment. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 1992.

Ridley, Jasper G. Tito. London: Constable, 1994.

West, Richard. Tito and the Rise and Fall of Yugoslavia. London: Sinclair-Stevenson, 1994.

Web Site

"Josip Broz Tito." CNN Cold War.http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cold.war/kbank/profiles/tito (accessed on September 14, 2003).

Yugoslavia after Tito

The nation of Yugoslavia changed at least three times through the twentieth century. During Josip Broz Tito's reign as president, Yugoslavia was a federation of six republics and two autonomous provinces he held tightly together. The republics included Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Montenegro, Macedonia, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The provinces were Kosovo and Vojvodina.

Following the death of Tito in May 1980 and the failure of the communist economy, the political federation fell apart. Most of the former republics and provinces wanted independence from the historically dominant Serbia and wished to establish independent nations such as the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. By the beginning of the twenty-first century, only Serbia and Montenegro were left as members of Yugoslavia, officially called the Federation Republic of Yugoslavia.

Tito (Josip Broz)

views updated May 21 2018

Tito (Josip Broz) 18921980




Josip Broz Tito was born in Kumrovec, Croatia, on May 7, 1892. His first contact with political and social issues came in October of 1920 when he joined a union of metallurgy workers. In 1929, because of his active participation as political agitator, he was imprisoned for five years. After his release in 1934, he became a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Communist Party, then located in Vienna, Austria, and in 1937 he became the Secretary General of the Central Committee of Yugoslavia.

After the German invasion of Yugoslavia in 1941, Tito became the national leader in the fight against the foreign occupation. It is during this period that his role as the leader of the Yugoslav people became clear, and he was soon able to attract a much wider base of support. His charismatic personality, his successful military guerrilla tactics, and his idea of a united Yugoslavia had a wide appeal. In addition to the Communists, he was joined by various resistance groups, such as the Chetniks of Draža Mihajlović, the Serbian resistance leader. After the liberation of the country in November 1943, Tito negotiated what would become the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and became marshall of the new Yugoslav government.


Tito ruled Yugoslavia as prime minister and chief of defense from 1945 until 1980. His ruling style appealed to both communists and noncommunists, and he unified Yugoslavia in a more liberal form of communism, commonly referred to as Titoism. However, this independence from mainstream communism created a schism between Tito and Joseph Stalin, the Soviet Communist Party leader, in 1948.

Although Tito succeeded in unifying the Yugoslav people, he faced many challenges in keeping this unification peaceful. Many viewed Yugoslavia as a single unified nation, but it was actually a federation of different republics and two autonomous regions. Tito was trying to hold this federation together by fighting nationalistic tendencies in both the Serbs and Croats. He also had to heal the wounds accumulated during the areas war-torn past. One way Tito preserved the nation was through a more liberal economic policy that enabled the Yugoslavs to travel and often work in Western European countries. This policy contributed to the stability of the period. Titos open policy toward both the West and the East contributed to good relations with various nations that were otherwise politically opposed to each other. As a result, citizens of some communist European countries, such as Czechoslovakia or Hungary, could vacation in Yugoslavia, where they were joined by Western European tourists from Germany and Italy. Furthermore, in 1961 the first conference of the states of the Non-Aligned Movement was held in Belgrade. In 1971, Tito established a twenty-two member collective presidency, which was composed of the presidents of the six republics and the two autonomous provincial assemblies, in addition to fourteen members chosen from the republican and provincial assemblies for five-year terms. Tito was elected chairman of the new presidency.

While his policy of openness provided positive economic incentives to Yugoslavs, Croats and Slovenes benefited more than those in the other regions because of their proximity to Western Europe. Being the most economically advanced in Yugoslavia, the Croats and Slovenes resented having to transfer their profits to the poorer regions of Yugoslavia, which was a way for Tito to minimize discrepancies and redistribute wealth. This inequality between republics fueled increased nationalistic feelings from states such as Serbia and Macedonia, which did not benefit as much from the same trade. Croat and Serb nationalists who promoted independence were exiled, and many were assassinated in their new countries of exile, where they were planning insurgencies to break up Yugoslavia. Many were also sent into forced labor camps in different parts of Yugoslavia.

Titos legacy came under threat in the 1970s. The economic downturn in the 1970s came as a consequence of rising foreign debt, inflation, and economic inefficiencies. Furthermore, Croatian nationalist secessionists were pressuring for independence, and Tito had to crack down on them by tightening the dictatorship. However, upon his death in 1980, the nationalist sentiments came to the surface and exploded in what became the Yugoslav civil war, which led to the breakup of the federation in the early 1990s.


As a consequence of ethnic tensions, the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s was seen by some as inevitable after fifty years of Titos suppression of the Croat and Serb nationalist movements. First, Slovenia and Croatia, the two most economically advanced republics of the federation, were no longer willing to be tightly controlled by the central government and share their economic wealth through redistribution to poorer republics. The disappearance of Titos tight control also created an opportunity for Croats to declare independence, while the Serbian nationalists wanted to preserve a claim over Yugoslav territories, including Croatia. The war eventually spilled into the republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which to this day remains divided into cantons.

SEE ALSO Communism; Non-alignment; World War II


Auty, Phyllis. 1970. Tito: A Biography. New York: McGraw-Hill.

West, Richard. 1994. Tito and the Rise and Fall of Yugoslavia. New York: Carroll and Graff.

Dagmar Radin


views updated May 17 2018

Tito (1892–1980) Yugoslav statesman, b. Croatia as Josip Broz. As a soldier in the Austro-Hungarian army, he was captured by the Russians (1915), but released by the Bolsheviks in 1917. He helped to organize the Yugoslav Communist Party, and adopted the name Tito in 1934. He led the Partisans' successful campaign against the Germans in Yugoslavia (now Serbia and Montenegro) during World War 2. In 1945, Tito established a communist government and was prime minister (1945–53), and thereafter president, although virtually a dictator. Soviet efforts to control Yugoslavia led to a split between the two countries in 1948. At home, Tito sought to balance the ethnic and religious divisions in Yugoslavia and to develop an economic model of communist ‘self-management’. Abroad, he became an influential leader of the Non-Aligned Movement. As later events confirmed, Tito's greatest achievement was to hold Yugoslavia together.