From Mon May 29 15:16:20 2000
Date: Wed, 3 May 2000 22:51:30 -0500 (CDT)
From: IGC News Desk <>
Subject: POLITICS-YUGOSLAVIA: Two Decades Later Tito's Heritage In Ruins
Article: 95237
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Two Decades Later Tito's Heritage In Ruins

By Vesna Peric Zimonjic, InterPress Service, 2 May 2000

BELGRADE, May 02 (IPS)—Twenty years after the death of Josip Broz Tito, symbol of post-World War II Yugoslavia and liberal communism with a human face, his heritage is literally in pieces.

Tito (88) died in Ljubljana, capital of the Yugoslav republic of Slovenia, on May 4, 1980.

His body was taken to Belgrade by the special “Blue Train” and dozens of thousands of people, tears in their eyes, lined some 500 kilometres of track, in Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Serbia to pay their last respects to the dead president.

His funeral in Belgrade was attended by more than 120 Heads of State.

Flower House, where Tito's body was laid to rest, in the big complex of his residence, was a pilgrimage point for dozens of thousands of people from all over Yugoslavia for years on.

Twenty years later it is hard to imagine any train travelling along the same tracks following the disintegration of the six member Yugoslav federation in bloody wars in the 90s. This resulted in the severing of all ties among former brethren and the eventual closing down of the railway service.

Serbia, the country where Tito lived for 35 years and is buried, is now among the most isolated countries due to the politics of the regime of President Slobodan Milosevic.

In 1997 after he became president of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), consisting of Serbia and Montenegro only, Milosevic moved to Tito's residence.

The residence was destroyed by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO, rockets in April 1999.

“Everything is completely different from the times when Tito was alive,” Belgrade engineer Milan Stajic (63) told IPS. “His concept of ‘brotherhood and unity’ (of Slovenes, Croats, Muslims, Serbs, Macedonians and ethnic Albanians) turned into directly the opposite—bloody war among next of kin.

But everything was better in Tito's time—we were a respected country, we lived good, we were the best in this part of the world”.

Yugoslavia, during Tito's reign, was a country of relaxed communist rule due to the middle course between the East and the West adopted by him in 1948 after he left the orbit of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republic, USSR.

That led to generous Western credits—more than 30 billion US dollars since the early 50's and solid development of industry in most of the regions. Free travel abroad was the privilege of Yugoslavs since early 60's.

Tito enjoyed a lavish life-style. His visits abroad were pompous and his meetings with foreign statesmen at home luxurious. Yet he was enormously popular among the ordinary people, except among harsh nationalists on all sides.

He was thanked by many for the liberation of the country during WW II from German and Italian occupation.

“Yes, Tito did have a rich life” Mirjana Zivkovic (50), a teacher from central Serbian town of Kragujevac told IPS. “But, he stole nothing, contrary to what we see now. He kept the privileges to himself and died not a rich man”.

Tito's widow Jovanka (75) lives on a pension in Belgrade, while the family of one of his late sons who live in the capital have modest private apartments and keep ordinary jobs.

Like Zivkovic, many people in Serbia are disgusted by the fact that the family of Slobodan Milosevic, together with some 200 other families, have became enormously rich during the past decade, while the former Yugoslav federation was falling apart in bloody wars.

The country faces international economic sanctions, introduced twice since 1992.

At the same time, living standards of ordinary Serbs precipitated to the lowest since WW II. It is hard to find a man in the street who would say bad words about Tito, as all their comparisons are with the current, unprecedented situation.

A Croat by birth, Tito was often dubbed “the most loved Croat among Serbs”. Yet Serb nationalists never forgave him for what they call “suppression of Serbs in former Yugoslavia”. The same goes for Croat nationalists who said he oppressed Croats.

Among them was Franjo Tudjman, who led Croatia into independence in 1991. Tudjman, a former general during Tito's reign, ruled with an iron grip. He died last December.

Nationalists on both sides criticised Tito for what they referred to as a lack of democracy. However Milosevic rules Serbia with an iron grip.

“It was thanks to the caricature of Tito—Franjo Tudjman - that the memory of Tito lived with certain respect among ordinary people,” said political commentator, Zarko Modric from Zagreb.

“Tudjman tried to imitate Tito in all ways, but he never had his charm and charisma. So, Tudjman imitated the worst from Tito's era, introducing a dictatorship with methods Tito himself never used”.

“Ten years of Tudjman's terror convinced even the last Croat that, in comparison to Tudjman, Tito was a gentleman, benevolent and successful leader”.

However the young generation of Serbs hardly knows who Tito was, as his role in post WW II history is barely tackled in the history books re-styled after 1991.

Yet, Miljana K (16), a high school student, says that “It is enough what your parents tell you about him. That he was OK. That Milosevic tried to be another Tito, but became Enver Hohxa (former leader of isolated Albania)”.

But not everyone loved Tito. Anti Tito graffiti is visible all over in downtown Belgrade. One of the writings states that Tito should have remained a locksmith as he probably would have done a better job.

Tito was a locksmith before he joined communist party in his early 20s and started down the road of statesmanship.