Josip Broz Tito (born Josip Broz, 1892–1980) was an ethnic Croat who led Yugoslavia, from 1943 until his death. Tito was an independent Communist. Tito spent much time in the Soviet Union and became a member of the Comintern. He became general secretary of the Yugoslav Communist Party (CPY) in 1937 and returned to Yugoslavia during World War II and led the Yugoslav Partisans. After World War II he defied Stalin and founded the Non-Aligned Movement and received military and economic aid from the United States. Throughout his rule, he served as the prevailing force holding Yugoslavia together; almost immediately upon his death, it disintegrated into chaos and civil war.
Born to a peasant family with 15 children in Croatia, Broz became a locksmith. He was drafted in World War I by the Austro-Hungarian army and became a sergeant. He was wounded and taken prisoner by the Russians; in prison camp he learned about Bolshevism. He escaped, joined the Red Army and became a Communist.
Returning home in 1920, Broz led an active career as a revolutionary, and was jailed several times. In 1927 he became secretary of the Zagreb committee of the outlawed Communist Party, and by 1934 he had become a member of the Yugoslav party's Politburo. In 1936 he went to Moscow as a member of the Comintern's Balkan secretariat. In 1937 he became secretary general of the party in Yugoslavia, the top position, and started calling himself "Tito."
Leading the Yugoslav Partisans
In 1941 Nazi Germany invaded Yugoslavia and swiftly reduced it to submission. The government of Yugoslavia fled and joined other exile governments in London. Colonel Draja Mikhailovitch remained behind in Yugoslavia to lead the Chetnik army to lead the Chetnik underground army in the fight for the right of self determination of peoples against the fascists. The Chetniks' prime goals were the destruction of Communism and the fight for a Greater Serbia (Chetniksdestruction often slaughtered Croats and Bosnians on nationally-mixed territories). The Yugoslav government-in-exile in London continued to support Mikhailovitch and his Chetniks. The British Foreign Office cut a middle path; it denied use of BBC radio to the exiles.
Tito organized guerrilla bands—at first but a handful of men and women—called partisans. He directed their strategy and personally led them in battle, not only against the Germans and Italians, but also against the supporters of the royal government-in exile, commanded by Gen. Mihajlovic.
As the partisans' successes mounted and their ranks swelled, Tito found himself engaged in high-level international politics. He entered into military assistance arrangements with the British and Americans. President Franklin Roosevelt at the Tehran conference in 1943, joined with Winston Churchill and Stalin in support of Tito. Churchill in February 1944 indicated Britain was no longer sending supplies to Mikhailovitch. Tito took control of the anti-Nazi forces and after the war Mikhailovitch was executed as a collaborator with the Nazis.
Tito he was less successful in getting aid from the Russians. Tito's criticism of this Kremlin policy and his insistent demands for Soviet aid irritated Joseph Stalin and caused a level of mutual distrust that led to the split in 1948.
After the Russians liberated Belgrade in 1944, Tito was militarily strong enough to secure the immediate departure of the Red Army from Yugoslavia. On March 7, 1945, Tito—who had already appointed himself a marshal—became premier and minister of defense. In 1953 he was elected president.
Break-up with Moscow
The Soviet army never reached Yugoslavia, or else the Soviets might have seized control. Instead Tito installed a comprehensive dictatorship of the Communist Party.
When Tito refused to obey Stalin's orders, he was denounced and his party was read out of the Cominform, on June 28, 1948. The excommunication stunned Tito and his top leaders. They reoriented their party: although they still called themselves Communists, their new model of Communism involved sweeping decentralization, an increase in personal freedom, and opposition to military blocs both East and West. Furthermore, now supported by military and economic aid from the United States, Tito no longer saw the capitalist West as implacably hostile.
"Titoism" meant a form of Communism trying to be independent from the Soviet Union. Tito accepted fellow Yugoslav Communist Milovan Djilas's proposal of self-management of factories to show that Yugoslavia was more communist than the Soviet Union yet more democratic than the West. The new constitutional law of 1953 contained the concept of socialist direct democracy as the expression of the working people through self-management. With the death of Stalin, Tito was reconciled with the Soviet leaders, and Djilas's attempt to apply criticism of Soviet Communism to Yugoslavia led to his trials and incarceration. Liberalization of Communism ended in Yugoslavia and Tito turned his ambitions as a leader outside the two blocs, to the countries of the Third World. Tito then followed an independent course in foreign affairs—maintaining good relations with the East European Communist satellite states, while establishing ties with the Western powers and nonaligned nations. He built a multiethnic Communist state notable for its policies of economic decentralization and increased worker participation in government.
- Barnett, Neil. Tito (2006) excerpt and text search
- Beloff, Nora. Tito's Flawed Legacy: Yugoslavia and the West since 1939. (1986). 287 pp.
- Brands, Henry W. "Redefining the Cold War: American Policy toward Yugoslavia, 1948–60," Diplomatic History (1987) v.11 #1 pp 41–54
- Dedijer, Vladimir. Tito (1972), official biography; pro-Tito online edition
- Djilas, Milovan. Tito: The Story from Inside (1980) highly revealing memoir by top aide.
- Korbel, Josef. Tito's Communism (1951) 370 pp. online edition
- Lees, Lorraine M. "The American Decision to Assist Tito, 1948–1949," Diplomatic History (1978) v. 2 #4, pp 407–422; online at Wiley Interscience
- Lees, Lorraine M. Keeping Tito Afloat: The United States, Yugoslavia, and the Cold War (1996) 247pp online edition
- Pavlowitch, Stevan K. Tito, Yugoslavia's Great Dictator (1992).
- Roberts, Walter R. Tito, Mihailovich, and the Allies, 1941-1945 (1973) online edition
- Vucinich, Wayne S., ed. At the Brink of War and Peace: The Tito-Stalin Split in a Historic Perspective. (1982). 341 pp.
- West, Richard. Tito and the Rise and Fall of Yugoslavia. (1995). 448 pp. excerpt and text search
- online books on Tito