Croatia: Marking Tito’s Birthday – “Tito thieved, but he gave some of the plunder to the people …”!

"Dressed like Tito, adore thievery - like Tito"   Photo: Matija Topolovec/Pixsell

“Dressed like Tito, adore thievery – like Tito”
Photo: Matija Topolovec/Pixsell

Don’t think for a moment that, after reading the title of this article, you could compare Josip Broz Tito (lifelong president of former communist Yugoslavia) to Robin Hood.

Robin Hood and his men, from English folklore of 19th century, are known for “robbing the rich and giving to the poor”; keeping nothing of the loot for themselves and, therefore, held in high esteem by the ordinary people.

Josip Broz Tito and his post-WWII communists, on the other hand, are known for robbing everyone (including the nationalised properties owned by Jews who either fled or were exterminated across former Yugoslavia as the Holocaust raged; including rampant thieving and corruption that went on and perpetrated by Party loyalists who held high positions everywhere…) and dishing out some of the plunder in the forms of ridiculously cheap public housing (the best pieces of course went to the Communist Party faithful) and  unsustainable living standards, which created the illusion that one could hold his/her job, have his/her job for life, regardless of the fact that either the skills for a job were lacking to desperation and ruin, or that productivity was not an issue. Hence, holding Tito in esteem was largely guided by this principle: I don’t care if you steal and enrich yourself as long as I get some of the plunder for myself!

Events that occurred in Croatia last Saturday would strongly corroborate such motives for holding Tito and his memory in esteem by some of the people.

Utterly repugnant, if you ask me!

On Saturday 25 May, thousands (reportedly seven) from all corners of former Yugoslavia gathered in Kumrovec, Croatia, the birthplace of Josip Broz Tito, to mark his birthday and the so-called Youth Day for the celebration of which 25th May was used. People arrived from parts of Croatia, Slovenia, Serbia, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina … they were mostly elderly, but young people arrived too.

As one would expect in the current dire situation of unemployment, suspect privatisation, closures of many nonviable factories and economic crisis, memories of the old socialist slogans such as “Factories to the workers”, saw a noticeable resurrection in Kumrovac last Saturday: “Give the factories back to the workers”.

Vecernji List portal reports that a crew of 50 Tito’s partisans in war uniforms arrived from Novo Mesto in Slovenia, and Dominik Gajcer from Slovenian Bistrica came dressed up as Tito, in white Marshal’s uniform, reportedly made especially for this occasion for him.

Tito thieved, but he also gave (some of the plunder – ed.) to the people, and these of today (politicians – ed.) thieve, but they don’t give us anything,” shouted Gajcer at the gathering.

25th May gatherings in Kumrovec are nothing new, however, the Peoples’ Republic of China Ambassador to Croatia, HE Shen Zhifei, was present for the first time. He opened the “Croatian – Chinese Society of Friendship” exhibition: “Experiencing China and togetherness.”

The gathering announced the establishment of a new Communist Party of Croatia.

The event in Kumrovec attracted some worldwide media attention such as the Washington Post (Associated Press) and the Scotsman.
None though picked up on the above slogans or roars and their possible significance for the furtherance (or rather, hindrance) of democracy on the territory of former Yugoslavia.  This is regretful. They all seem to leave the impression that the so-called Yugonostalgia could have some kind of positive merit in today’s world of democratic achievements and plights.  For these media outlets one gets the idea that Yugoslav communism was “soft Communism” when compared to Stalin’s Soviet Union!

It was in 1957 when Britain’s Prime Minister Harold Macmillan said: “There is no difference between Socialism and Communism, except this: Socialism is soft, Communism is hard; Socialism is pink, Communism is red. Socialism gets you down bit by bit by a kind of anesthetic process. It might be called mercy killing. Communism just knocks you in the head.”

Although the Former Yugoslavia was in name Socialist since early 1960’s, the Communists ruled. There was nothing “Pink” about the “Red” oppression and totalitarianism of former Yugoslavia. There is nothing “Pink” about the atrocious communist crimes perpetrated by Tito’s followers, with his knowledge and orders, across the territory of former Yugoslavia and across Croatia in particular; crimes for which no one has been held responsible yet, crimes that communists justify or excuse.

The gathering at Kumrovec last weekend, marking Tito’s birthday, tells us that nostalgia that still lingers in some places for Yugoslavia in reality is a stark reminder of the overwhelming damage the socialist, come communist totalitarian system had inflicted upon ordinary people, molding them into a mass psyche of dependence on the government rather than developing individual responsibility and toil towards personal and common good.  The Croatian government, current and future, has indeed an enormous task ahead; the task of tearing up the mind-set of dependency upon the State and shaping a new State-dependency-upon-the-people mind-set. portal reports that the Croatian Koprivnica Association of Homeland War Veterans has expressed its condemnation of the Kumrovec gathering, saying that they have nothing against marking the communist past but that the gathering was “used for the popularisation of a failed totalitarian political system, against which we fought during the Croatian Homeland War”.  The Association’s president Mladen Pavkovic further said that “… most of those who arrived to mark Tito’s birthday wore the partisan red star on their caps or pinned to their coats, the same red star worn by the criminal Yugoslav Peoples’ Army when they went about destroying and murdering from Vukovar, Skabrnje, Dubrovnik, all the way to Karlovac”.  Furthermore, the Association seeks that the State Attorney’s Office provide its assessment regarding this nationalistic and chauvinistic gathering in Kumrovec, because, the Association feels, the gathering exposes to ridicule the recent history of Croatia, belittles and muddies the victims of Homeland War.

Bravo! I say! It was after all, 94% of Croatian voters that voted to secede from Yugoslav communism in 1991 and usher in a free, democratic society.

It doesn’t matter where you look in the world today, there will always be people who dwell on the past. They do so because dwelling on the past is easier than moving on; than investing some hard work in order to change. When it comes to transitioning from communism into democracy then it is the responsibility of the government and the political leadership to ensure as easy a passage to change as possible. The Croatian government and political leadership have failed abysmally at their task in this. While one can argue that this was to be expected because many from Croatian leadership had also served in high places during the times of communist rule, and therefore would be “naturally” inclined to protect that system, it is incredulous that there are so few among them, if any, that have embraced a ‘Croatia First’ mindset for which rivers of blood were spilled during the Homeland War.  It is incredulous that I cannot find any comments about the Kumrovec “Tito” gathering from Saturday from the Croatian leadership. It is incredulous that no Croatian leader has seized this opportunity to remind the people there (and the public) that while they sang “Comrade Tito, white violet …”, “violets” did NOT bloom in the former Yugoslavia – not by a long shot! (They bloomed profusely only for those who opted to join the communist party and their families, as for the rest, life was meager in every sense if you lived and worked there as an ordinary, non-politically affiliated person.) Many had to flee the country in the face of political persecution up until early 1960’s and after that due to lack of economic prosperity or professional advancement for individuals or families.  So how hard would it have been for Croatia’s leaders to acknowledge publicly the right of people to remember the past by gathering, but also remind the public at the same time, that the rotten, economically unsustainable and oppressive reality of former Yugoslavia actually  precipitated the secession into independence and democracy of today’s Croatia. The hardship is, I believe, in the utter cowardice and political point-scoring that seem to serve as fodder for the Croatian political elitists who, like the “old” communists in cushy positions, dread a life less elite and more rolling-of-the-sleeves towards eventual achievement of a widespread and strong democratic thought and responsibility for ones own life and community. These people who celebrate Tito and communist Yugoslavia seem to live in a vacuum, separated from the rest of the world, which has experienced rude economic downfalls without having “Tito” around to thieve for them. They are certainly not the majority in Croatia – Thanks be to God!  Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Zgb)


  1. Speaker says:

    “There was nothing “Pink” about the “Red” oppression and totalitarianism of former Yugoslavia”

    You are quite right in this point. It was a great lever of opression in the former Yugoslavia. That opression gave to Croatia (and other republics) the biggest levels of self government before getting the independence. Well, if you do not count the times of Independent State of Croatia, but I do not think that nobody can try to salve some of that period. Well, Croatia nationalist tried at the inception of decade of 1990.

    “The Association seeks that the State Attorney’s Office provide its assessment regarding this nationalistic and chauvinistic gathering in Kumrovec, because, the Association feels, the gathering exposes to ridicule the recent history of Croatia, belittles and muddies the victims of Homeland War.”

    So, when people celebrates the birhday of “Tito” and celebrate the legacy of Yugoslavia, the attorney Office has to do something. Even thought that celebration is not more than example of the right of the free expression.

    “These people who celebrate Tito and communist Yugoslavia seem to live in a vacuum, separated from the rest of the world, which has experienced rude economic downfalls without having “Tito” around to thieve for them”

    So, for you, people who are not nationalism and liberalism are living outside of the world. Of course, it was communism and socialism which made that the poverty increased from 9% in the 1979 to 24% in 1989 in England. Anf of course, it was socialism and communism which created the conditions for the crisis of 2008.

    (Parts of comment deleted by admin)

    • Well, Speaker, it would seem that you have completely forgotten about the existence of the Central Committees of Yugoslavia which operated from Belgrade to ensure the so-called self-government of the States only went so far…I guess you were not in Zagreb in 1971 at the time of “Croatian Spring” when the Yugoslav Army armed tanks and police littered the streets and maintained terror and fear. Self-government was OK as long as there was no real freedom from the Central Communist Yugoslavia.

      You seem to have misread the part about the Veterans association seeking assessment from State Attorney office. First of all they seek an assessment, which is a normal thing to do in a democracy, secondly they are offended by the Red stars worn at the Kumrovec gathering because the aggressors against Croatia in 1990’s wore the same red star. Nothing wrong with that complaint as far as I can see – the wounds of war are still fresh, memories of those murdered are still fresh.

      And your response regarding the economy (life) now and in Tito’s times – no one said who or what caused the economic crisis – the vacuum I referred to is meant to signify that those people in Kumrovec seem to think that if Tito was alive today (if Communism remained) there would be no such economic downturn; which is of course not true, even the best of world’s economies have created poverty, let alone the one that had little to go on, really.

    • Slaven Bijok says:

      Speaker, if the UN had to apologise in January of this year for Vuk Jeremic’s organising the “March on Drina” song at UN assembly (song Serbs sang while on the killing sprees during 1990’s), why is it abnormal for you if Croatian veterans ask that the Red star not be worn, or be assessed as to the damage it’s causing to victims of war? Get a grip. You are allowed to root for Tito and his Yugoslavia but you are not allowed to presume that it’s OK to insult victims or the memory of them

  2. Even here in the U.S., Tito was never an enemy to us. Always seemed to be fair in his decisions (at least what we were told about.)

    • Thank you gpcox – Tito was well regarded by many countries including the U.S. That regard, I guess, stems from the fact that in WWII Tito’s Partisans were on the side of the Allies. Certainly Tito was a very skilful politician, unfortunately as politicians are, he towed his Party’s line and hence, much of Croatia’s (Yugoslav) history – especially Communist Crimes, from WWII and post-WWII is yet to be illuminated more widely.

    • Wilkinson says:

      Tito knew how to play to his advantage the East-West antagonism of the time like no other politician in the world. He split with Stalin had a lot to do with the fact that Tito wasn’t going to have anyone above him dictating to him what he could do. He relaxed quite a few things including opening up the borders of Yugoslavia in 1962, a free movement so to speak, he allowed some private enterprise but limited the size of businesses, he lived like a king on borrowed money, he knew how to put on a show, but deep inside, he was rotten to the core; very similar to Stalin (who by the way was also a friend of the Allies after WWII and even his judges sat on Nuremberg trials and yet he murdered more than 30 million Russians at the same time). Go figure. Tito can have all glory people want to give him just as long as the victims of communist crimes receive justice.

    • Richard Moran says:

      I agree gpcox. Tito was a friend especially to those who saw Stalin as enemy or Russia as enemy.

  3. Spectator says:

    What’s happening here is a great deal of anguish – old and new wounds caused by certain communists and certain members of Yugoslav Army wearing the red star are still open. I can’t understand why the Croatian government doesn’t see that and attends to it. Hell, you can commemorate anything you want these days as long as you take care of the details and sensitivities. Too crude, too taunting, for my taste – that Kumrovec event.

  4. Morris Morris says:

    Why hasn’t Croatia done anything in line of lustration and then retired the communist party staff from management positions? There’s still a communist mindset in Croatia (party suitability for positions of employment, unprofessional approach, lack of employment on merit rather than who you know or are related to, corruption …). People say openly and publicly that one needs to have “connections” in order to realize some rights. Our people are hard working, clever, courageous and the problem is not in the people, 40 years of communist propaganda has left profound trails upon the conscience of people and this, as well as the economy, is a crisis point. The political elite must be forced out of power otherwise it only downward in every sense.

  5. Bravo Ina, you are The Best in your observations, truthfulness and good knowledge of Croatian History before and after Tito that was always colored in strong fake colors like all Dictatorships through The History and through The World.

  6. As you said Ina – dwelling on the past is easier than rolling up your sleeves and treading through the mud for a better tomorrow. I have said before that communism is poison for the mind and this is exactly why – it poisoned people with this notion of entitlement and dependence on the government. There are people who, to this day, think they were “better off” under Tito’s regime because they were given “free” things and no one “suffered” economically. But we all know nothing is for free and no one is entitled to gain anything for free – you earn through hard work and the rewards you gain belong to you, not anyone else for the sake of “equality” and “fairness”. If you want to give to others, it should come from your own willingness to help, not from government programs and mandates and this is something that Yugonostalgics just don’t seem to understand. Their idea of economic stability is in reality unstable and unsustainable. It didn’t work before and it won’t work again because the bottom line is that it goes against basic human nature. But in times of difficulty, people will cling onto this idea of benevolent communism/socialism because they can’t see past the propaganda they were fed for decades. They will cling onto old ideas because the unknown is scary and so unfamiliar a mentality and we know how stubborn humanity can be when clinging onto what is familiar. These people need a very, very harsh wake up call to reality.

  7. Vladimir says:

    It seems to me that some of your readers are not aware of the fact that Josip Broz stated in Paris, in 1936 that he was born in Klanjec village, which is seven kilometers apart from Kumrovec village. So it seem to me that he is the only person who can claim to be born in two different places. A reference to Klanjec village (Klanyets) is available in Michael Padev’s book, Marshal Tito, published in 1944, in New Zealand.

  8. The whole world call is the yugoslav wars. It was a war between the nationalists from all republics.
    Without Tito it would have been much worse for Yugoslavia, just think of how people in east block countries lived. And there economy developed mostly better than croatian economy, so blaming the communist past for croatians bad economy is not entirely true.
    How much people in todays croatia have no health insurance, work for money they can hardly live on and how much people arr unemployed. The numbers are all higher than in Tito Yugoslavia. The 80s you can not count as it was already slowly the uprise of nationalism.
    How much people had to live their homes in the 90s? That was not a war in which communistd fought on any side, it was a brutal war of nationalists.
    It was not all good in yugoslavia but a united yugoslavia would stand today better then it’s single republics. Btw. sooner or later all republics will be back in one federation called EU.

    • Take a look around you Christian – the world of today as far as economy is concerned has all in the same basket, but if nationalism bothers you then patriotism for ones country does too – they are one and the same.

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