The Marshal himself
"A locksmith in his youth. An Austro-Hungarian corporal. A case hardened revolutionary. Commissioner of the Comintern. A terrorist. Red menace. A robber. An illegal with ten different passports and names. A passionate hunter. Bon vivant. He had five wives and a party of his believers. An indomitable partisan. Undefeated by Hitler and Stalin. An adaptive statesman. A born Machiavellist. The lord of second Yugoslavia. No one before and after him has on this place more material for legends. He ruled the Serbs longer then Car Dušan, Knjaz Miloš and King Aleksander who probably would have used him as a pattern. A jovial dictator. The patron of the poor. The magnet of jet set. He sold his world vision like a new Christ of the Balkan peoples. A conjurer or the protagonist of an era, it was never clear to distinguish. One thing was for sure: Nothing in his proximity was of a small scale. Fortune and misfortune, deceit and truth, charm and actuality."
— The intro of the Serbian documentary series Crveno i Crno
Josip Broz (Tito) was born in Croatia in 1892. He came from a poor family
and worked as a mechanic before being conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian Army in 1914, and proved to be a very capable soldier. While fighting In the First World War
, he was captured by the Russian Army. Broz converted to Communism and took part in the Russian Revolution
Broz returned to the new Yugoslavia and became active in politics. The royalist government outlawed the Communists and in 1928, Broz was arrested and given a five-year prison sentence. On his release, he went to live in the Soviet Union and in 1934 began working for the Comintern. Soon afterward, he obtained the nickname Tito.
On the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War
, the Comintern established the Dimitrov Battalion. Named after Georgi Dimitrov, the battalion comprised Greeks and people from the Balkans. Tito eventually became one of the battalion's senior commanders.
The Yugoslavian government headed by Prince-Regent Paul allied itself with the fascist dictatorships of Germany and Italy. However, on March 27, 1941, a military coup established a government more sympathetic to the Allies. Ten days later, the Luftwaffe bombed Yugoslavia and virtually destroyed Belgrade. The German Army
invaded and the government was forced into exile. Large parts of the country were annexed by Germany, Italy, Hungary and Bulgaria, and several puppet regimes were installed - the largest being the Croatian Ustaše
regime of Ante Pavelić.
Tito returned to Yugoslavia and helped establish the partisan resistance fighters
. Initially, the Allies provided military aid to the Chetniks
led by Draža Mihailović. Information reached Sir Winston Churchill
that the Četniks had been collaborating with the Germans and Italians. At Teheran, the decision was taken in mid-1943 to switch this aid to Tito and the partisans.
1943 was a turning point for Tito's forces, since Italy surrendered in September and the Četniks' power was broken in the Battle of Neretva river (there's a famous movie about this). By the end of November the same year, Tito was able to establish a government in Bosnia.
In 1944 the fortunes of war continued to favor the partisans. Adolf Hitler
sent elite German paratroopers
to kill Tito in his hideout Drvar, but Tito managed to escape. In May 1944, a new government of Yugoslavia was established under Ivan Šubašić. Tito was made War Minister in the new government. Tito and his partisans continued their fight against the German Army and in October 1944, they liberated Belgrade (with some Soviet assistance), thus ending the Serb puppet regime of Milan Nedić.
In March 1945, Tito became premier of Yugoslavia. By now the remaining Axis forces were in full retreat. Zagreb, the capital of the Croatian Nazi state fell and its leaders either fled or were captured (and usually killed after a show trial). Some Axis forces continued to resist for a week even after Germany surrendered, but they were quickly overcome. Over the next few years he created a federation of socialist republics (Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia).
Tito had several disagreements with Josef Stalin
and in 1948, Tito took Yugoslavia out of the Comintern and pursued a policy of "positive neutralism". Influenced by the ideas of his vice president, Milovan Đilas, Tito broke with the Stalinist model of government and attempted to create a unique form of socialism that included profit-sharing workers' councils that managed industrial enterprises. Yugoslavia remained neutral throughout the Cold War
, refusing to join either NATO
or the Warsaw Pact
Although created president for life in 1974, Tito established a unique system of collective, rotating leadership within the country. Tito died on May 4, 1980, and the system did not last long. Lacking a strong leader, the Belgrade leadership pushed for a highly centralized state, but was resisted by the ruling parties of each republic. The economic situation of Yugoslavia also deteriorated after Tito's death and, with the collapse of the East Bloc, the communist parties lost their monopoly on power and lost the elections to the nationalists. In 1991, Slovenia and Croatia declared independence, which led to the Yugoslav Wars
Tito provides examples of:
- Abusive Dad: All the money the young Josip got from begging was spent by his father for gambling and alcohol.
- A Father to His Men: As his former comrade Milovan Đilas noted (who later fell out with him), Tito genuinely cared for his men, and went to great lengths not to abandon wounded partisans. He did balance this with a healthy regard for his own life, because he was greatly worried about what would become of his movement should he die.
- Arch-Enemy: Of the Chetnik Leader Draža Mihailović.
- And of Ante Pavelić, the leader of the Croatian Nazi state (and the ruling Ustaše movement).
- Badass: Starting as a locksmith he was a veteran of World War One, a spy, a Casanova, a freedom fighter who almost on his own liberated Yugoslavia and a statesman who, along with Nkrumah, Sukarno, Selassie, Nasser and Nehru, founded the Non-Aligned Movement, all in one single life.
- Badass Boast: The following message from Tito was found in Josef Stalin's personal papers following his death:
Stop sending people to kill me. We've already captured five of them, one of them with a bomb and another with a rifle... If you don't stop sending killers, I'll send a very fast working one to Moscow and I certainly won't have to send another.
- Badass Longcoat: He wore this look during World War 2.
- Bash Brothers: With Milovan Đilas and Aleksandar Ranković during World War II.
- Battle Couple: With Jovanka during his partisan years.
- Black and Gray Morality: Him versus Imperial Russia, him versus Alexander's royal dictatorship, him versus the Axis and their collaborators, him versus Joseph Stalin, him versus Enver Hoxha.... the man's life was basically one large collection of this trope. The fact that he was the lighter shade of black in pretty much all of this should tell you plenty about his life and times.
- Boisterous Bruiser: He liked to show off, and had an incredible constitution. During WW 2, he could march for really long distances without tiring, leaving his companions huffing and swearing as they forced themselves to keep up. And remember, he was around 50 years old then!
- But Not Too Foreign: He was born to a Croat father and a Slovene mother.
- The Casanova: He was a womanizer to be sure, but some modern biographers believe that this reputation may have been somewhat overstated - the evidence for many of his affairs is shaky at best, non-existent at worst.
- Conspiracy Theories: There are literally dozens of these about Tito. Some of the juicier ones include:
- The real Tito died in WW 1, and the guy remembered as Tito was actually a Russian spy.
- One "argument" used to back the thesis is Tito's strange accent that sounds like a Russian trying to speak Serbo-Croatian. As a matter of fact this accent is actually common in the Zagorje region where Tito was born. In fact one Croatian documentary suggest that Tito spent most of his childhood with his Slovene mother, making Slovenian his de facto native language.
- As above, but the guy who replaced him was a Polish count.
- As above, but this time it was a German soldier. (all three theories have been thoroughly debunked)
- On his death bed, Tito asked for a priest and converted to Catholicism. The priest was later assassinated by an unknown killer.
- Similar to the above, but he converted to Islam. (there was a very similar theory involving Lenin converting to Christianity on his deathbed, and both these theories greatly resemble it. There is no proof at all of Tito converting, or that the alleged priest was assassinated.)
- Tito had a secret space program (there is a grain of truth to this one, since Yugoslav scientists worked with both Soviet and American space agencies, and thus had a lot of knowledge on space technology. But that Yugoslavia had the economic strength to realize such a project is pushing it).
- Tito had Stalin assassinated (Stalin did send many assassins to kill Tito, and twice they managed to get close enough to actually endanger his life. In response, Tito made the Badass Boast mentioned above. But there's zero proof that a Yugoslav agent killed Stalin, who most likely died from natural causes).
- Tito was Winston Churchill's son (do we need to comment this one?).
- Tito was secretly a fascist (rubbish spread by the Enver Hoxha, the Stalinist dictator of Albania and his followers. This is very similar to how Stalin painted Leon Trotsky as a fascist spy).
- Tito secretly favored one of the Yugoslav nations against the others, usually the Serbs, Croats or Albanians (mostly spread by Serb or Croat nationalists, there is one again very little to prove this. The available evidence shows he identified himself as a Croat, but also clearly mentions he considered that subordinate to being a Yugoslav. While Tito's government did reduce the area directly under Serb control and most of those sent to the Goli Otok labour camp were Serbs or Montenegrins, it is also true that most of the POWs massacred after WW 2 were Croats. The accusation that he favoured Albanians is particularly absurd, as he for a long time turned a blind eye to the discrimination his lieutenant Alexandar Ranković was carrying out in Kosovo. In sum, Tito generally did his best to balance between the various national factions in his country, which was not an easy task, since Yugoslavia never got rid of it's powerful national lobbies - who eventually triumphed, and which led to the disintegration of the state).
- Crowning Moment of Awesome: Told Margaret Thatcher that women shouldn't meddle in politics to which she responded "Mister Tito, I don't meddle in politics, I am politics." Nobody lays down the smack like Thatcher.
- Cunning Linguist: Besides his native Slovenian and Serbo-Croatian Tito was also fluent in Russian, German and Czech. He could read French and Italian, and also learned English after WW 2, though he never became a fluent speaker. He even picked up some Kirghiz during World War I and the Russian Civil War.
- The Dandy: Wearing nice clothes was Tito's passion from an early age and he almost always took pains to look his best. However, this trope only really kicked in after World War 2; before that, he was generally not wealthy enough - or too busy fighting - to afford good clothes.
- Dark Messiah: While he presented himself as the new Christ to the Yugoslav population, he did commit (or at least tolerate) horrible acts in order to keep the nation together.
- He not only presented himself as a messiah, he genuinely believed it - at least according to the memoirs of his associates. In fact, there's a lot to suggest he had a belief he was somehow special since an early age.
- David Versus Goliath: The Tito-Stalin split had some elements of this, with Tito standing alone against the entire East Bloc. In the end, he won through diplomatic means (as well as purging most of the Stalinists in his party).
- Also, the struggle against the Axis occupation. Ironically, he was on the *receiving* end of this as well, towards or after the end of the war, when the JANL became vastly superior to their enemies, and later when he tried to seize parts of Austria only to be stopped dead by the hodgepodge local militias, and in his conflict with Hoxha and Albania.
- Determinator: Especially in World War II. For the most time he personally fought, starved and suffered along with his fellow partisans on the front line. Often wounded in battle and escaped death only by inches.
- He bears the distinction of being the only military commander-in-chief to be wounded in action during WW 2.
- Dirty Communists: Played with strongly, to the point of zig-zagging. That he was a totalitarian Communist strongman with a *lot* of blood on his hands no matter how you measure it is more or less beyond dispute. However, he also was a considerable improvement over the Yugoslav Kingdom and the Axis occupation, and his policies helped wield the country together in relative harmony. After the Tito-Stalin split in 1948 he and Yugoslavia secretly had a close relationship with the United States in contrast to every other Eastern Bloc country, without going so far as to outright alienate the Warsaw Pact. In fact, NATO was even willing to offer military assistance in case of a Soviet invasion while the Soviets were willing to offer it if NATO invaded.
- Egopolis: Titograd (today Podgorica) in Montenegro, Titov Drvar in Bosnia, Titova Korenica in Croatia, Titova Mitrovica in Kosovo, Titovo Užice and Titov Vrbas in Serbia, Titovo Velenje in Slovenia and Titov Veles in Macedonia. Those cities dropped Tito's name when Yugoslavia collapsed. Some streets and squares in these countries still bear his name, though.
- Equal-Opportunity Evil : One of the sources of his enduring popularity; he didn't care what or who you were so long as you were a competent, *loyal* member of he party,which was a vast improvement over the Serbian-dominated Royalists and the Axis puppet states.
- Evil Overlord: Depends on how evil you regard him. While almost half of the Croats and Serbs see him like this, Bosniaks and Macedonians would beg to differ.
- This probably has something to do with the fact that Tito actually supported the Bosniaks and Macedonians in their efforts to achieve autonomy. Bear in mind that a lot of Serbs and Croats live in Bosnia, and both nations have attempted to claim Bosnia as their own in the past. Similarly, Macedonia was considered by many historical Serb rulers to be "Southern Serbia".
- Folk Hero
- From Nobody to Nightmare: As above mentioned, he was in his youth a poor locksmith and ended as one of the most influential persons of the Cold War.
- Germans Love David Hasselhoff: Tito is still popular in quite a few countries that belong(ed) to the Non-Aligned Movement. You may find a street or two named after him in the most unlikely of places.
- Impaled with Extreme Prejudice: Happened to him during World War I, when a Cossack stabbed him in the back using a lance. He got better, though.
- Improbable Age: He was at the age of 22 the youngest Sergeant Major in the Austro-Hungarian army.
- Irony: Had a prison camp built on Goli Otok island, mainly to hold Stalinist dissidents.
- It's All About Me: He was quite vain, and rarely admitted his mistakes, but not foolish; although he hated to admit it, he would take note of his mistakes and try not to repeat them.
- Kavorka Man: Not only was he married to the 32 years younger Jovanka but was also rumored to have affairs when he was in his eighties.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: Subverted with the Massacre of Bleiburg. Not only were surrendering Wehrmacht soldiers, Ustasha, Chetniks, and Domobrani murdered en masse by the partisans, but sadly many civilians too.
- Leitmotif / Awesome Music: Has many.
- Made of Iron: According to one of his security chiefs, 57 assassination attempts were planned against Tito from the year 1928 to his death, and four times the assassins almost succeeded (he was wounded in one attempt in 1947, and survived another one in 1950 thanks to his bulletproof vest). He also barely survived being impaled by a lance during World War I (it took him 13 months to recover) and was lightly wounded by bomb shrapnel during World War II.
- Magnificent Bastard: He repeatedly evaded capture by the Axis forces (including the elite paratroopers and mountain divisions sent after him) and managed to pull off several clever ruses, such as one that involved blowing up the bridge over the river Neretva to make it look like his troops would go elsewhere, but then crossing the river using an improvised bridge.
- Master Swordsman: He won the silver medal at an Austro-Hungarian army sword-fighting championship.
- May-December Romance: With Jovanka.
- In fact, all four of his wives (and many of his mistresses) were a lot younger than him.
- Meaningful Funeral: His funeral was attended by 4 kings, 31 presidents, 6 princes, 22 prime ministers and 47 ministers of foreign affairs; together they represented almost every country of the Cold War-era.
- Mr. Vice Guy: He liked to live the good life. He only drank moderately, though.
- Multinational Team: His partisans - and later Yugoslavia itself - consisted of seven major nationalities (Slovenes, Croats, Bosniaks, Serbs, Macedonians, Montenegrins and Albanians) and three major religions (Catholics, Orthodox Christians and Muslims). There were also smaller groups such as the Czechs, Italians, Jews etc.
- No One Gets Left Behind: Tito was big on this one, and famously managed to keep his pledge to save all the wounded after the Battle of the Neretva.
- Only Known by Their Nickname: Almost everyone simply called him "Comrade/Marshal Tito".
- Pragmatic Villainy: Definitely! He gave the Axis soldiers several chances to surrender and receive amnesty. By the end of the war a lot of them ended up fighting for the partisans (the number of partisans grew from 250,000 to 800,000 from 1944 to 1945!).
- Rated M for Manly: Just read his biography or the rest of his entries. His depiction in Yugoslav propaganda did sometimes even go into Testosterone Poisoning.
- Really Gets Around: Tito was married four times and allegedly had children with at least 17 women. God knows how many affairs this man had.
- The Remnant: Played briefly straight during World War II after the provisorial Republic of Uzice was overrun by the Axis.
- White Stallion: As seen here◊.
- Included in the manga Ishi No Hana by Sakaguchi Hisashi, as a secondary character.
- Tito appears in The Battle of Sutjeska where he is played by Richard Burton.
- Mentioned in The Man Withthe Iron Heart by Harry Turtledove. Heydrich used Tito's tactics as an inspiration for the German Freedom Front.
- Dolgare from Tactics Ogre is based on him.
- The Serbian film Underground mentions him a number of times, and one of the two main characters is a disciple of his. Archive footage of Tito's funeral is used in the film, focusing on the many foreign dignitaries in attendance. The film was criticized in some circles for lionizing Tito and presenting a rose-colored view of Communist Yugoslavia.
- Appears in the Hearts of Iron series as both a military and a political leader.
- There was a board game released in the early eighties called Tito and his Partisan Army. It had a very innovative ending, but the abstract gameboard and lack of hexes (which were very popular back then) meant its sales were poor.
- His partisans, and later the Yugoslav People's Army feature in the Steel Panthers series.