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"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.
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 fascist puppet 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 Grandpa: He was around 50 during WW2, but could still beat the vast majority of his partisans in the endurance department.
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.
Boisterous Bruiser: He liked to show off, and had an incredible constitution. During WW2, 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!
Bunny-Ears Lawyer: 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.
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.
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 WW2, 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.
He bears the distinction of being the only military commander-in-chief to be wounded in action during WW2.
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.
Divide and Conquer: His strategy of ruling Yugoslavia; pitting the various constituent republics against each other in turn and then reeling them in to keep them under control in turn. While he was alive it worked; after he died the legacy of the policy caused it to blow up.
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.
Folk Hero: Basically became one during World War II. Also, Yugoslav state media often deliberately depicted him as this. His name was woven into many folk songs (often deliberately, but sometimes spontaneously.
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.
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.
Old Soldier: From World War II onwards he was 10+ years older than most of his subordinate commanders (this is partly because many senior Communists were wiped out in Stalin's Great Purge). He was sometimes called by the nickname "Old Man".
Pragmatic Villainy: 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!).
Tear Jerker: His death. Not only did an entire nation weep the death of their beloved leader but also kings, presidents, princes, prime ministers and ministers of foreign affairs from no less than 128 countries attended his funeral, making it the largest state funeral in history at this time. What made his death the most depressing was that most people of former Yugoslavia were well aware that he was the main reason that kept Yugoslavia together. When you fast forward eleven years it becomes apparent that on May 4th 1980 not only Tito, but Yugoslavia itself died.
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.