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INFO   :::  Projects > Archives > The Helsinki Charter: Promoting Serbia's Europeanization > HC No. 137-138 > Text



Thirty Years Since Tito's Death


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 bloc.

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 20th century.

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.



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