While peace is an easy word to utter, it can have a rather complex meaning behind it. One would have a hard time understanding a person who spent a great deal of his life warring, can be considered as someone who contributed greatly to peace in the world. Better yet, how does a locksmith’s assistant earn his place in history as one of the greatest statesman of the 20th century?
These two questions refer to one specific man. A man who turned the wheels of history and who, to this day, still remains a debatable subject. This man goes by the name Josip Broz, or more known by his partisan nickname TITO. A working class hero, A leader of Yugoslav Communist party, A commander of the partisan Yugoslav Liberation Front, A Marshal of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia, and indeed, a person who contributed a lot to the peace building process, both nationally and internationally.
Throughout the war, TITO led a Yugoslav wide resistance against the Nazi-fascist occupation of Kingdom of Yugoslavia. He inspired thousands of people to join the ranks of the Liberation front, which also carried a social and revolutionary agenda behind it. Flanked by both invaders armies, as well as domestic traitors. TITO managed to lead the resistance through all the hardship and pain. He unified different South Slavic nations under the slogan of “Brotherhood and Unity” which would later become the core elements of his peace building process.
Firmly convinced into the idea, that these nations will coexist and prosper together in a new, socialist federation of Yugoslavia, he created the “so called” Workers brigades right after the war to build New Yugoslavia from the ruins of the old. Workers brigades inspired many from all the Republics to voluntarily participate in the rebuilding of the homeland, raising new infrastructure from the ground. These brigades helped foster values in people such as solidarity, comradeship and mutual help. Even though these brigades were voluntarily, many joined in because they all wanted to partake in shaping the pillars of the not only new homeland, but alas, the whole society. By motivating people to work together, Tito tried to consolidate the idea of brotherhood and unity between the nations of Yugoslavia with Relay of Youth.
Relay of Youth is nowadays perceived as one of the tools used to solidity Tito’s cult of personality, but its fundaments hold a much bigger meaning. The Relay of Youth or Štafeta Mladosti was organised to celebrate the Day of Youth, a holiday dedicated to Yugoslav youth and also celebration of Tito’s birthday. It was celebrated on the 25th of May each year, with the first Relay to be held in the 1945. Through the principle of rotation, each year the relay baton started its journey in a different place of SFRY and was carried through numerous places and
altitudes by young people, who either achieved great feats in sports, were remarkable students or were prominent activists on the socio-political field. The relay went through all the major cities in all of the Socialist Federative Republics, ending its journey at the Stadium of the Yugoslav People’s Army in Belgrade on the 25th of May. The ceremony saw thousands of Yugoslav youths participating in sports and cultural activities. Prior to the main event, many of sports activities and cultural events of Yugoslav youth had already been underway in the spirit of brotherhood and unity slogan. At the stadium, the relay was presented to Tito himself as birthday congratulation. At that day, members of Tito’s youth or commonly referred as Pioneers, were admitted to League of Communist Youth of Yugoslavia and were accompanied by different festivities taking place. Even today, the generations who lived through Yugoslav era, remember Relay of Youth with great enthusiasm and speak of it highly, being proud to have participated in it.
While domestically, Tito pursued prosperity between all the Yugoslav nations and strived to suffocate the nationalist tendencies that had long haunted the Balkans region. He also decorated himself as international leader, being one of the founders of Non-aligned movement, navigating between both blocks of the ‘Iron curtain’. The initiative was aimed to promote an independent path in world politics during the power struggle between two blocks.
The movement consisted of former colonial countries and Yugoslavia. It promoted values such as; the right of people’s to self-determinations, sovereignty and territorial integrity. It condemned and opposed imperialism, racism, occupation and interventions, as it believed in the peaceful coexistence between all the peoples and nations. It gained its momentum when it was steered by the trio Tito, Nasser and Nehru, thus consolidating itself as an important actor in the then tense bi-polar international community.
Today there are many controversies related with TITO. Was he a dictator who was banning freedom of speech or was he a pacifist who gave his best at the moment to achieve better a society, fair for everyone?
There is no consensus about this question, and we cannot expect it anytime soon. It seems that Tito’s name is being equally frowned upon as it is being cheered in former Yugoslavia territory. Although Tito’s times if you will; is remembered by many as some kind of a golden age. Not from purely materialistic perspective, but how people treated each other no matter the nationality. How there was a very stable middle class and how directors & business owners
could not afford that much more than their workers but almost no one was deprived, yet the whole country was making progress in all fields.
After TITO’s death it took just one decade until Yugoslavia fell apart. The war started and the entire area took far too many steps backwards in every field imaginable. Some countries managed to recover faster than their other counterparts, yet most of them are still struggling.
In whose interest was the war and why the war happened is a subject for future articles. The undeniable fact however, is that TITO was first and last person in known history to have achieved an era of peace and thriving through one country consisting of seven very different nations with several different religions, numerous different cultures and customs. They lived, loved, created, built, grew food, cried, laughed and worked together for community. ‘’Brotherhood and unity’’ was one of the mottos and it seems Yugoslavs really believed in it. Will we ever again be able to have that kind of trust in mutual compassion and solidarity, even altruism if you will; remains to be seen.
“I am the leader of one country which has two alphabets, three languages, four religions, five nationalities, six republics, surrounded by seven neighbours, a country in which live eight ethnic minorities.”
“We have spilt an ocean of blood for the brotherhood and unity of our peoples and we shall not allow anyone to touch or destroy it from within.”
“None of our republics would be anything if we weren’t all together; but we have to create our own history – history of United Yugoslavia, also in the future.”
“Wars of conquest are negative, the subjugation and oppression of other nations is negative, economic exploitation is negative, colonial enslavement is negative, and so on. All these things are accounted negative by Marxism and condemned. All these phenomena of the past can, it is true, be explained, but from our point of view they can never be justified.”
Patrik Bole is a second year student of International relations in the University of Ljubljana, Slovenija. His primary fields of interests are history, political ideology and foreign policy.
Eva Amalija is studying entrepreneurship and is very involved with economical inequality and injustice. Although she lives in very small city in Croatia her voice is being heard all across the region and even further since she was elected Vice president for internal coordination of GoD