By Vladimir Jokanovic. In a month's time, the Balkans and the world at large will mark the 30th anniversary of the death of Josip Broz Tito, the president of the former Yugoslavia and the most successful locksmith who ever walked the earth. Beyond the official version of his biography, his life remains shrouded in mystery and conspiracy theories. The only undisputed fact seems to be that he is dead. But the rest - the exact dates of his birth and death, the place where he is buried, his origin and identity - remain controversial.
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Drafted into military service, he distinguished himself, becoming the youngest sergeant major in the Austro-Hungarian Army of that time. After being seriously wounded and captured by the Imperial Russians during World War I , he was sent to a work camp in the Ural Mountains.
He participated in some events of the Russian Revolution in and the subsequent Civil War. Despite being one of the founders of Cominform , he became the first Cominform member to defy Soviet hegemony in He was the only leader in Joseph Stalin 's time to leave Cominform and begin with his country's own socialist program , which contained elements of market socialism.
Economists active in the former Yugoslavia, including Czech-born Jaroslav Vanek and Yugoslav-born Branko Horvat , promoted a model of market socialism that was dubbed the Illyrian model. Firms were socially owned by their employees and structured on workers' self-management ; they competed in open and free markets.
Tito managed to keep ethnic tensions under control by delegating as much power as possible to each republic. The Yugoslav Constitution defined SFR Yugoslavia as a "federal republic of equal nations and nationalities, freely united on the principle of brotherhood and unity in achieving specific and common interest.
Lastly, Tito gave Kosovo and Vojvodina , the two constituent provinces of Serbia , substantially increased autonomy, including de facto veto power in the Serbian parliament.
Tito built a very powerful cult of personality around himself, which was maintained by the League of Communists of Yugoslavia after his death. Ten years after his death , communism collapsed in Eastern Europe , and Yugoslavia descended into civil war.
While some criticise his presidency as authoritarian   and compare him to the brutality of Stalin,  many see Tito as a benevolent dictator.
His parents had already had a number of children die in early infancy. Franjo Broz had inherited a 4. By the time he returned to Kumrovec to begin school, he spoke Slovene better than Croatian ,   and had learned to play the piano.
In July ,  at the age of eight, Broz entered primary school at Kumrovec. He completed four years of school,  failing the 2nd grade and graduating in After leaving school, he initially worked for a maternal uncle, and then on his parents' family farm. Jurica helped him get a job in a restaurant, but Broz was soon tired of that work. He approached a Czech locksmith , Nikola Karas, for a three-year apprenticeship, which included training, food, and room and board.
As his father could not afford to pay for his work clothing, Broz paid for it himself. Soon after, his younger brother Stjepan also became apprenticed to Karas. After completing his apprenticeship in September , Broz used his contacts to gain employment in Zagreb. At the age of 18, he joined the Metal Workers' Union and participated in his first labour protest. He returned home in December He joined his first strike action on May Day On arriving at his new workplace, he discovered that the employer was trying to bring in cheaper labour to replace the local Czech workers, and he and others joined successful strike action to force the employer to back down.
He next travelled to Munich in Bavaria. He also worked at the Benz car factory in Mannheim , and visited the Ruhr industrial region. By October he had reached Vienna. He stayed with his older brother Martin and his family, and worked at the Griedl Works before getting a job at Wiener Neustadt. There he worked for Austro-Daimler , and was often asked to drive and test the cars.
In May ,  Broz was conscripted into the Austro-Hungarian Army ,  [e] for his compulsory two years of service. After learning to ski during the winter of and , Broz was sent to a school for non-commissioned officers NCO in Budapest ,  after which he was promoted to sergeant major. At 22 years of age, he was the youngest of that rank in his regiment.
Broz was arrested for sedition and imprisoned in the Petrovaradin fortress in present-day Novi Sad. In it was discovered that he had been recommended for an award for gallantry and initiative in reconnaissance and capturing prisoners. On 25 March , [g] he was wounded in the back by a Circassian cavalryman's lance,  and captured during a Russian attack near Bukovina.
Before we knew it they were thundering through our positions, leaping from their horses and throwing themselves into our trenches with lances lowered.
One of them rammed his two-yard, iron-tipped, double-pronged lance into my back just below the left arm. I fainted. Then, as I learned, the Circassians began to butcher the wounded, even slashing them with their knives. Fortunately, Russian infantry reached the positions and put an end to the orgy". After recuperating, in mid he was transferred to the Ardatov POW camp in the Samara Governorate , where he used his skills to maintain the nearby village grain mill. When he complained, he was beaten and put in prison.
A Bolshevik he had met while working on the railway told Broz that his son was working in an engineering works in Petrograd , so, in June , Broz walked out of the unguarded POW camp and hid aboard a goods train bound for that city, where he stayed with his friend's son. Less than a month after Broz arrived in Petrograd, the July Days demonstrations broke out, and Broz joined in, coming under fire from government troops.
He was imprisoned in the Peter and Paul Fortress for three weeks, during which he claimed to be an innocent citizen of Perm. They recruited him into an International Red Guard that guarded the Trans-Siberian Railway during the winter of and In May , the anti-Bolshevik Czechoslovak Legion wrested control of parts of Siberia from Bolshevik forces, and the Provisional Siberian Government established itself in Omsk, and Broz and his comrades went into hiding.
He moved back to Omsk and married Belousova in January In early October Broz returned home to Kumrovec in what was then the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes to find that his mother had died and his father had moved to Jastrebarsko near Zagreb.
Upon his return home, Broz was unable to gain employment as a metalworker in Kumrovec, so he and his wife moved briefly to Zagreb, where he worked as a waiter, and took part in a waiter's strike. In the elections it won 59 seats and became the third strongest party. Due to his overt communist links, Broz was fired from his employment.
In the contest of ideas between those that wanted to pursue moderate policies and those that advocated violent revolution, Broz sided with the latter. In , Broz was elected to the CPY district committee, but after he gave a speech at a comrade's Catholic funeral he was arrested when the priest complained.
Paraded through the streets in chains, he was held for eight days and was eventually charged with creating a public disturbance. With the help of a Serbian Orthodox prosecutor who hated Catholics, Broz and his co-accused were acquitted.
Since their arrival in Yugoslavia, Pelagija had lost three babies soon after their births, and one daughter, Zlatina, at the age of two. Broz felt the loss of Zlatina deeply. In mid, Broz's employer died and the new mill owner gave him an ultimatum, give up his communist activities or lose his job.
So, at the age of 33, Broz became a professional revolutionary. The CPY concentrated its revolutionary efforts on factory workers in the more industrialised areas of Croatia and Slovenia, encouraging strikes and similar action. Broz built up the trade union organisation in the shipyards and was elected as a union representative.
A year later he led a shipyard strike, and soon after was fired. In October he obtained work in a railway works in Smederevska Palanka near Belgrade. In March , he wrote an article complaining about the exploitation of workers in the factory, and after speaking up for a worker he was promptly sacked. Identified by the CPY as worthy of promotion, he was appointed secretary of the Zagreb branch of the Metal Workers' Union, and soon after of the whole Croatian branch of the union.
In July Broz was arrested, along with six other workers, and imprisoned at nearby Ogulin. The trial was held in secret and he was found guilty of being a member of the CPY. Sentenced to four months' imprisonment, he was released from prison pending an appeal. On the orders of the CPY, Broz did not report to the court for the hearing of the appeal, instead going into hiding in Zagreb.
Wearing dark spectacles and carrying forged papers, Broz posed as a middle-class technician in the engineering industry, working undercover to contact other CPY members and co-ordinate their infiltration of trade unions. During the conference, Broz condemned factions within the party.
Broz proposed that the executive committee of the Communist International purge the branch of factionalism, and was supported by a delegate sent from Moscow. After it was proposed that the entire central committee of the Croatian branch be dismissed, a new central committee was elected with Broz as its secretary.
They failed to identify him, charging him under his false name for a breach of the peace. He was imprisoned for 14 days and then released, returning to his previous activities. He was ill-treated and held for three months before being tried in court in November for his illegal communist activities,  which included allegations that the bombs that had been found at his address had been planted by the police.
After his sentencing, his wife and son returned to Kumrovec, where they were looked after by sympathetic locals, but then one day they suddenly left without explanation and returned to the Soviet Union. Their work allowed Broz and Pijade to move around the prison, contacting and organising other communist prisoners.
He was finally released from prison on 16 March , but even then he was subject to orders that required him to live in Kumrovec and report to the police daily.
He returned to a warm welcome in Kumrovec, but did not stay for long. In early May, he received word from the CPY to return to his revolutionary activities, and left his home town for Zagreb, where he rejoined the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Croatia.
The Croatian branch of the CPY was in disarray, a situation exacerbated by the escape of the executive committee of the CPY to Vienna in Austria, from which they were directing activities. Over the next six months, Broz travelled several times between Zagreb, Ljubljana and Vienna, using false passports.
In July , he was blackmailed by a smuggler, but pressed on across the border, and was detained by the local Heimwehr , a paramilitary Home Guard.
He used the Austrian accent he had developed during his war service to convince them that he was a wayward Austrian mountaineer, and they allowed him to proceed to Vienna. The conference was held at the summer palace of the Roman Catholic bishop of Ljubljana , whose brother was a communist sympathiser. It was at this conference that Broz first met Edvard Kardelj , a young Slovene communist who had recently been released from prison. Broz and Kardelj subsequently became good friends, with Tito later regarding him as his most reliable deputy.
As he was wanted by the police for failing to report to them in Kumrovec, Broz adopted various pseudonyms, including "Rudi" and "Tito".
He used the latter as a pen name when he wrote articles for party journals in , and it stuck. He gave no reason for choosing the name "Tito" except that it was a common nickname for men from the district where he grew up. Within the Comintern network, his nickname was "Walter".
During this time Tito wrote articles on the duties of imprisoned communists and on trade unions. In the crackdown on dissidents that followed his death, it was decided that Tito should leave Yugoslavia.
Josip Broz Tito
Tito's life remains an enigma as anniversary draws near