Useful Notes: Josip Broz Tito

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 than Emperor Dušan, Duke 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 ("Red and Black")

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 World War I, he was captured by the Russian Army. Broz converted to Communism and took part in the Russian Revolution in 1917. He spent most of the Russian Civil War in hiding in Siberia, where he worked as a mechanic at a Kirghiz mill and occasionally acted as a spy for the local Bolsheviks. After the Red Army drove out the local White Army forces, Tito joined the communist party and married a local girl, Pelagia Belousova.

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. He also had a falling out with his wife (allegedly he was disappointed by how she treated their son), and divorced her. In 1937, he met Herta Haas, an experienced revolutionary, whom he married in 1940.

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, the Serbian people rebelled, not wanting to allow German forces to kill Jewish and Roma people on their teritory or to let them pass without a fight through Serbia to attack Greece and a military coup established a government more sympathetic to the Allies, nominally led by the underage Peter Karađorđević. 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 which annexed a part of northern Serbia and the whole of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Tito returned to Yugoslavia and helped establish the partisan resistance fighters. Initially, the Partisans took heavy casualties, while the Allies provided military aid to the Chetniks led by Draža Mihailović in fighting against Croatian, Italian and German fascists. Information reached Sir Winston Churchill that the Četniks had been collaborating with the Germans and Italians against communist partisans. 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. The Germans launched several offensives to try and destroy the Partisan movement or at least eliminate its leadership but, while the partisans took heavy casualties, they were always able to regroup and strike again. Italy surrendered in September, while the Četniks' power was broken in the Battle of Neretva river (there's a famous movie about this - it even got close to achieving an Academy Award) when the Allies finally turned their backs on them, and the partisans inflicted such heavy casualties on them that they never recovered. 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. From that moment on, the Germans were no longer able to launch major anti-partisan operations. In May 1944, a new government of Yugoslavia was established under Ivan Šubašić. Tito was made War Minister in the new government. He 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. By now, the Partisans had began reforming into a regular army.

In March 1945, Tito became premier of Yugoslavia. By now the remaining Axis forces were in full retreat. Zagreb, the capital of the Croatian Fascist 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, and many were massacred by the vengeful partisans. Over the next few years Tito 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.



Appears in the following works:

  • 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 with the 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.

Alternative Title(s):

Josip Tito