Josip Tito

Josip Tito
Birth Place
Kumrovec, near Zagreb, Croatia
Date of Birth
7 May 1892
Date of Death
4 May 1980


Josip Broz Tito was born into a large peasant family.Although he entered primary school in Kumrovec he left full time education in 1905. In 1907 he was apprenticed to a locksmith completed his training in 1910. In the same year he joined the Social Democratic Party of Croatia-Slavonia and the Union of Metallurgy Workers. For several years he worked as an itinerant metalworker in various Austro-Hungarian and German centres before he was drafted into the Austro-Hungarian army in 1913.

When war broke out against Serbia in 1914 he was a sergeant. By 1915 he had been transferred to the Russian front where he was seriously wounded and captured by the Russians in April of that year. After he recovered from his wounds he was sent to various prisoner-of-war camps. While there he became acquainted with Bolshevik propaganda. In 1917 he took part in the July Days demonstrations in Petrograd (St. Petersburg). After the October Revolution he joined a Red Guard unit in Omsk, Siberia.

In October 1920 he returned to his native Croatia where he joined the banned Communist Party of Yugoslavia.

Tito was involved in communist party and trade union work throughout the 1920s. It was during this period that he came to the attention of Moscow. In August 1928 he was arrested following the discovery of bombs in his apartment. He was sentenced to five years.

He was released in March 1934 and again became involved in communist party work. From February 1935 to October 1936 he was in Moscow. Following purges in the leadership during the late 1930s he emerged as Secretary-General of the Yugoslav Communist Party in 1939.

He was secretary-general (later president) of the Communist Party (League of Communists) of Yugoslavia (1939-80), supreme commander of the Yugoslav Partisans (1941-45) and the Yugoslav People's Army (1945-80), and marshal (1943-80), premier (1945-53), and president (1953-80) of Yugoslavia. Tito was the chief architect of the "second Yugoslavia," a socialist federation that lasted from World War II until 1991. He was the first Communist leader in power to defy Soviet hegemony, a backer of independent roads to socialism (sometimes referred to as "national communism"), and a promoter of the policy of nonalignment between the two hostile blocs in the Cold War.

After the Axis powers, led by Germany and Italy, occupied and partitioned Yugoslavia in April 1941 the communists led by Tito were among the first to organize a resistance movement. The communist-dominated partisan groups were not simply auxiliaries of the Allied war effort but an offensive force in their own right. They were however also a threat to the other partisan groups such as the Chetniks. Their agenda was not only to expel the Axis occupying forces but to seize power. Eventually the Western Allies recognized him as leader of the Yugoslav resistance and obliged the London government-in-exile to come to terms with him.

In October 1944 the Soviet army, aided by Tito's Partisans, began the liberation of Yugoslavia. By May 1945 communists controlled the whole of Yugoslavia. Tito became Prime Minister in post war Yugoslavia; an office he held until 1953 when he became President. The post war elections were fraudulent and using dictatorial methods he held on to power by the widespread use of the secret police and show trials.

His excessive internal repression plus his semi-independent foreign policy stance began to irritate, and then alarm, Moscow. Stalin eventually opted to publicly condemn Tito and expel the CPY from the Cominform. This backfired and Tito became recognized internationally as the first Communist leader to defy Stalin. This caused a rift between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. Some form of reconciliation took place in 1955 but its limitations were clearly exposed during the Soviet invasions of Hungary in 1956 and Czechoslovakia in 1968.

Under Tito's leadership, Yugoslavia also became a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement although by the end of his life his leadership role had been eclipsed by that of Cuba’s Fidel Castro.

During a period in the 1960s and '70s, some Western intellectuals saw Tito's model of market socialism as representing a point to which the Soviet and western economic models would over time converge. Yugoslavia had a somewhat higher standard of living than Eastern European states, particularly because of the fact that Yugoslavs were permitted to travel easily to Western Europe or other countries, bringing in money to support the economy.

It is probably fair to say that Tito's greatest strength in the eyes of both the East and the West was in suppressing nationalist insurrections and maintaining unity throughout the country. Unfortunately these nationalist sentiments did not go away and re-emerged after his death plunging the Yugoslavia into a series of civil wars between republics which ultimately destroyed the Federal State


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