Thirty Years Since
By Sonja Biserko
Josip Broz Tito died thirty years ago. As time goes by, his historical
role in the breakthrough Yugoslav peoples made is becomes more and more evident. From
today's angle, after ex-Yugoslavia's disintegration, massive ethnic cleansing and all the
destruction that took place in the meantime, Tito emerges as a global statesman who was
aware of his power and knew how to use it at home and at the international arena. He was a
master of public relations, as Nora Beloff puts it, at the time marketing was not yet
considered a discipline. What political elites in ex-Yugoslav territory - in Serbia in the
first place - did once he was gone is more than disputable. Only as of lately the entire
region has been restoring its place in European civilization and only thanks to
international factors, especially US, EU and NATO.
Tito's legacy is denied the most in Serbia. For, Serbia was the one that
went after Tito's Yugoslavia or, as its elites call it, Broz's Yugoslavia. Nowadays, his
opposition is in power. However, it has hardly proved its democratic mien but rather
anti-communist, nationalistic and retrograde one. It has not inspired new, democratic
values or encouraged tolerance and coexistence. Dobrica Cosic and his circle that
symbolize Serbia's predominant political ideology have only inspired the wars and laid
bare their face. All of them were parts of Tito's regime and were loyal to him until
Yugoslavia's begun moving towards decentralization and market economy. They were the ones
to stall the first economic reform in 1965. Some of them, like, say, Mihajlo Markovic,
boasted about it later. And it was not by mere coincidence only that they all became high
officials of the political parties promoting their national program. For thirty years now
the same circle has been trying to deny the major legacy of Tito's Yugoslavia: border
demarcation between republics established at the Second Assembly of AVNOJ in 1943 and
reaffirmed in the 1974 Constitution. Serbia still has an eye on rearrangement of the
Balkans and these aspirations are the main causes of the region's regression. To this very
day the same circles has been standing in the way of Serbia's Europeanization - after
October 2000, it was treading toes of Djindjic's cabinet and, now, of Tadic's.
Today, Josip Broz Tito can serve as an example of a politician and
statesman who managed to secure international renown to a relatively small country, the
renown that still echoes throughout the world. Hardly anyone in the Balkans would ever
again be capable of such mastery. Tito placed Yugoslavia on the list of a few countries
with authentic anti-fascist movements and then turned it into a country that said no to
Stalin. Actually, Tito was the first dissident, the first dissenter from the socialist
Todor Kuljic, professor at the Belgrade University, says the West saw
Tito as "an active virus capable of poisoning the Eastern Bloc with desire to break
up with Moscow." Tito was the first to insert the virus of dissent behind the Iron
Curtain. In 1948 this virus caused the first crack in the wall that tumbled down in 1989.
According to Kuljic, Tito denied the Eastern bloc's communism but remained a communist
himself (even communist dissenters of lower caliber were not after the rule of law and
multiparty system but after "true socialism"). "If undermining European
socialism from within rather than from without was an actual effect of dissent, then Tito,
a statesman known all over the world, was a nonpareil dissenter. In the West, they called
him a communist Martin Luther," says Kuljic.
Questioning of the "second" Yugoslavia begun offhandedly and
without a proper analysis. Today, hardly anyone recalls the Hague Conference in 1991 that
recognized the newly emerged states within the borders set by the 1974 Constitution.
Serbia turned down the confederal solution the conference offered to all ex-Yugoslav
republics. And Serbia would have benefited the most from the said solution. Now, twenty
years later, having traveled the course it once denied Serbia has found itself within its
republican borders but without Kosovo. The 1974 Constitution actually provided statehood
and borders to all the newly emerged states, including Kosovo. The "second"
Yugoslavia has found an optimum for Yugoslav peoples, the solution searched for throughout
The "second" Yugoslavia played a major role in the
international relations. Together with Nehru and Nasser, Tito created the Non-aligned
Movement to counteract the aspirations of two predominant global blocs. Tito's role was
crucial for the Movement's keeping Moscow at arm's length, while Moscow wanted to present
itself as a natural ally of non-aligned countries. He was old and already in poor health
in 1978 when he traveled all the way to Cuba to prevent Russian monopoly over the
non-aligned summit meeting. The West - and US in particular - backed his attitude.
Yugoslavia was a major mediator between the two blocs in European forums such as the UN
Economic Commission for Europe in Geneva. For 21 years have Yugoslavia's representatives
(Vlatko Velebit and Janez Stanovnik) acted as secretary generals of the Commission.
Yugoslavia's representatives were the ones to introduce the issue of minorities into CSCE
documents, and Yugoslavia was recognized as a country with the best formula for minority
communities: the formula that is still referred to and implemented. It played a major role
in all UN forums (UNCTAD, GAT, and ECOSOC) and its news agency, TANJUG, was among the
leading news agencies in the world.
Yugoslavia also had a global repute in the domain of culture. It was not
only recognized for its artistic attainments but also as a host to many prestigious
international festivals such as FEST, Dubrovnik Summer Games, BITEF and others. That's the
legacy the world still remembers - and so do all ex-Yugoslav republics.
The "second" Yugoslavia's repute still finds an echo in
non-aligned countries, the echo the incumbent foreign minister, Vuk Jeremic, skillfully
plays on. He misrepresents himself as Tito's heir and appropriates the policy of
non-alignment just to prevent further recognition of Kosovo's independence. He even went
so far to present Marshal Tito's uniform to a non-aligned statesman. Not long ago, his
speech glorifying non-aligned countries received ovation in Cuba. He was applauded in the
same place where Tito had stood up for the last time to protect non-aligned countries from
Russia. Milosevic was hiding himself behind Yugoslavia till the end. And that made the sum
and substance of his defense before the tribunal in The Hague. Serbia laid claim to
Yugoslavia only to realize its territorial claims: ultimately, it ate up the
"second" Yugoslavia's capital.
World broadcasters (in Great Britain, France, Germany, etc.) produced
special shows to mark the 30th anniversary of Tito's death. As it seems, his figure and
deeds are more respected in the world than in the territory of ex-Yugoslavia. Zagreb and
Belgrade produced documentary serials that only banalize his person and hardly speak about
his significance for the Balkans. Commenting simultaneous airing of the two shows in
Belgrade and Zagreb, Dragan Ilic says, "Overt anti-Titoism is a common denominator of
the two documentary serials. Moreover, they have in common anti-communism that is being
used to veil transitional plunder."
In the search for a new paradigm, the world explores all the concepts,
including Marxism. Every era calls for reconsideration of the one preceding it. It would
be prudent, therefore, to reconsider the Yugoslav experience: not with the aim of
"restoring" Yugoslavia (which it utterly impossible) but to take stock of the
experience that is indisputably justified by history and can serve as a compass.