Croatia: Historians Row Over Significance Of Tito

Debate on Tito role in Yugoslavia


On 4th May, 1980, Josip Broz Tito, communist leader of former Yugoslavia, passed away and it just happens that this year on the 35th anniversary of his death two prominent Croatian historians appeared for just over 6 minutes on the HRT News program.

Historians agree only in one thing and that is that Tito was a historical personality and they do not agree as to his role. For some he was an antifascist, a victor in war, founder of the Non-Aligned movement and for others he was a dictator,” said the news anchor, seeking opinion from her two guests.

Prof. dr. sc. Tvrtko Jakovina (University of Zagreb) said that “Tito was all of those things …”
Dr. sc. Ivo Lucic (Croatian history institute) said that “in talking about Tito we need to look at what has survived after his death, and nothing has survived, Yugoslavia had not survived, nor had socialism in which he invested so much effort, the economy had caved in… Only myth exists, and when you see those people that gather around the places that celebrate Tito they say they come to bow to the man because he secured a nice youth for them – of course some lived better then than now, but not all…

That’s why we must talk about the other dimensions, about human rights, political murders, liquidations of political opponents abroad, about Goli Otok (Barren Island/communist held hard labour and political prisoner camp), about the many people sent to prison … We are talking about what Tito represents today …what does the former lifelong president of Yugoslavia represent to Croatia today … what would that be which we could value today? I think – nothing… Some people often say Tito was good because he secured war plunder for us…I’m often horrified when I hear: yes he stole, but he gave some of what he stole to us …”

Regarding the question as to how much did Tito know about the communist crimes and murders Tvrtko Jakovina said : “I think Tito knew about everything, of course he knew, he was the lifelong president … we are talking about a man who has been dead for 35 years and we talk about him as if he were still here…”

Why can’t we still talk about him from a distance or calmly, asked the TV news anchor.

Ivo Lucic: “We can’t because he is not dead yet…just look at the construction they say about him…that he is the greatest son of the nation that he is not the father of the nation like others, therefore he’s some sort of sanctity…like Son of God so son of all our nations … a cult was build around his personality all his life and building of that cult had continued and is being built today …and that no longer has connection with politics or historiography, that is epics…”

Jakovina: “I’m not of epics or poetry but of history and I deal with that period of history … he is absolutely a very important historical personality, the likes of which we will not have again … we can discuss as to whether he was good or bad but he was important and that is why this debate”.

Oh, Tvrtko Jakovina – you transparent agitprop!


Croatia has its very important historical personalities and Tito is not one of them, but Franjo Tudjman certainly is!
If there were enough politicians and people in authority who made it their business during the past 20 years to keep showing Tito and communist Yugoslavia for what rotten entities they were then Croatia would be in a much better place today. Instead, the pro-Communists keep on blindly glorifying Tito to the point where it actually interfered and interferes with progress. Perhaps this TV news segment on 4 May will actually have a positive effect in that more and more people will actually see how hopeless, incompetent and self-absorbing Tito really was – and then the Croatian people can move on without the baggage that keeps falsely “whispering in their ear” that life was better under communism! It was not!

We all need to remember that the first years of Tito’s government (from 1945) saw him work aggressively and brutally to secure his position in power. He swiftly led the purging of non-communists, mass murders took place almost daily in the two to three years post-WWII. Following the declaration of the Yugoslav Republic in November 1945, many show trials took place of accused Nazi collaborators and important figures in the Catholic Church; often tailoring and fabricating evidence against the accused.
The policy of worker self-management introduced by Tito fairly swiftly triggered a series of conflicts within the Yugoslav federation. Decentralisation meant that power shifted from the federal government to the individual republics within Yugoslavia. Then, in the early 1970s, Croatians campaigning for further decentralisation were also victims of a purge, providing a reminder of the ruthlessness deployed by Tito to secure his authority.
The fact that the Yugoslav economy spent at least 20 of its last years under the conditions of external debt growth of over 17 percent per year suggests that the structure of the economy had formed in such a way that the future survival of the economy depended on the future enlargement of the debt. And some people thought Tito was great at his job! The obscenely and cruelly high debt he racked up finally came knocking on the door and economic disasters followed, one after another – throughout late 1970’s and 1980’s.

The way I mark the 35th anniversary of Tito’s death is: Never again will you or the likes of you touch my life! Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

Keeping Tito Afloat Then And Now – The detriment of Yugonostalgia To Croatia

yugonostalgia copy


A form of nostalgia for communist-led Yugoslavia (whether celebrating Tito as a great leader or starting a new organisation or political party that glorifies the so-called Tito’s antifascism) still, after 24 years of independence, interferes with the lives of Croats almost every day. One comes across a plethora of incompatible or opposite reactions in media and on the streets: horror, anger, irritation, longing, romanticising about the past…
Those who react to this nostalgia with horror, anger and irritation are, without doubt, those who remember well the awful reality Tito’s communist Yugoslavia ended up with and want to move further with democracy and as far as possible away from the communist totalitarian regime that once was. Those who long for and romanticise about Tito’s communist Yugoslavia, without doubt, promote an inaccurate economic and political reality of that past – and seemingly want to go back to it!
Why anyone would want to go back to the socialist Yugoslavia system that miserably failed so many is beyond my full comprehension. Be that as it may, I take this opportunity to remind about some facts about that rotten Yugoslavia some misguided or brainwashed people loudly still yearn for. The photos accompanying this article are screenshots of actual and distressing in many ways life in Croatia during 1980’s taken from Croatia TV news and documentary program of that time, a link to which is supplied within this article.



Way back in 1974, when seemingly Yugoslavia thrived as far as the individual was concerned (lifelong jobs regardless of whether one actually produced or worked a full day [hours-long lunch breaks were widespread practice], free healthcare at all levels, paid sick leave available easy and in obscene abundance, 12 months paid maternity leave, free university education where everyone who wanted to study found at least one university faculty to enrol in regardless of high school performance and marks, free movement/travel since 1962 border-opening, many had double incomes: Partisan war pensions dished out at age of around 40 and then holding a paid job as well, children of WWII Partisans in receipt of financial support/scholarships to go and study at a university, corruption and opportunities to steal from employing government owned company were widespread …) a friend of mine who was an Economist and worked for a bank in Zagreb, Croatia, said to me that the economy was at rock-bottom – 94% companies with accounts at the bank had to depend on loans to secure monthly wages for their workers! Month in, month out; year in, year out.
Tito’s regime permitted and facilitated a version of capitalist style consumerism in order to divert citizens’ energies away from political opposition and to create ground for political legitimacy. Tito’s regime failed miserably at teaching the people personal responsibilities that come with living and maintaining a life of such capitalist style consumerism.
The West, particularly the USA, kept Tito afloat with huge injections of funds, loans etc. In her book “Keeping Tito Afloat”, Lorraine M Lees shows, using declassified documents, how “after World War II, the United States considered Yugoslavia to be a loyal Soviet satellite, but Tito surprised the West in 1948 by breaking with Stalin. Seizing this opportunity, the Truman administration sought to ‘keep Tito afloat’ by giving him military and economic aid. President Truman hoped that American involvement would encourage other satellites to follow Tito’s example and further damage Soviet power. However, Lees demonstrates that it was President Eisenhower and Secretary of State John Foster Dulles who most actively tried to use Tito as a ‘wedge’ to liberate the Eastern Europeans.”
Sneakily to the seemingly unsuspecting world, Tito was a macabre, underhanded operator – he overtly and strategically kept both East and West at arms length, actively participated in the creation of the Non-aligned movement in his efforts to appear politically and ideologically non-aligned and thus better his chances of achieving total communist control over the people of Yugoslavia.

Photo: Screenshot Croatian TV 1980's

Photo: Screenshot
Croatian TV 1980’s

The Yugonostalgics and Titonostalgics of today would want us to believe that the Yugoslav (including Croatia) economy under Tito’s rule and vision was built on stable and solid and perfect foundations. But that idea of a robustness of the Yugoslav economy, the idea of “good life” under Tito’s rule was and is a tragic illusion because any “well being”, any “good life” under Tito’s regime existed at the expense of borrowed money that heavily indebted future generations.

Photo: Screenshot Croatian TV 1980's

Photo: Screenshot
Croatian TV 1980’s

And indeed, much of the economic downturn, much of the alarming unemployment and poverty of today are actually the bill that today’s generations are paying for the “good life” under Tito many politically agreeable individuals had enjoyed with other people’s money/loans. Today’s generations of Croatia are paying for the unsustainable economic system of socialist Yugoslavia run by totalitarian communist thugs!

Photo: Screenshot Croatian TV 1980's

Photo: Screenshot
Croatian TV 1980’s

The last ten years of Tito’s rule (he died in 1980) showed alarming and visible signs that the economy was rotten and rotting and heading towards disintegration. Despite the pumping of huge amounts of foreign funds into the country, household income declined sharply in the second half of the 1970s. The annual inflation reached 40% and continued a steep upward trend that would have debilitating effects by late 1980’s (see further in this article). Despite the departure of over 1.1 million workers (or 20 percent of the workforce) to work abroad, the unemployment rate climbed from slightly below 7% to about 12% from 1970 to 1980. These were the giant alarm bells of deep recession but, sadly, were silenced by the communists who kept rotten state of economy away from the public and continued glorifying communism and socialism. The terrible state of the economy was masked particularly by foreign loans of epic proportions. It was usual to hear sighs of relief in the streets in early 1970’s that went like this: “Tito has returned from his trip abroad and brought new loans, all will be alright!”

Photo: Screenshot of Croatian TV in 1980's

Photo: Screenshot of
Croatian TV in 1980’s

In 1980 Tito was on his deathbed and still gave instructions as to how his Yugoslavia must be run after his death! Steep declines in economy tumbled about incessantly. Between 1979 and 1985 living standard in Croatia (and the rest of Yugoslavia) fell by 25%. Unemployment was on the rise. By mid-1984 a survey showed that 25% of families interviewed lived below poverty lines. In June of 1987 inflation was at 150% and rose in 1988 to 250% – and kept going up, according to Croatia TV News documentary made in late 1980’s . Runaway currency devaluation meant that by late 1980’s the Dinar had devalued by more than 1600%.

Photo" Screenshot Croatia TV 1980's

Photo” Screenshot
Croatia TV 1980’s

By late 1970’s shop shelves were regularly empty of most essential household products and one often needed to stand in long lines to buy a loaf of bread. Citizens/families were restricted as to how much of certain essential products they could purchase, e.g. cooking oil, washing detergents, coffee… Chronic shortages of meat saw butcheries empty much of the time. Severe energy shortages meant that electricity power was switched off for days at a time in different areas by rotation. Lack of petrol to run cars and farm machinery etc. ushered in a restrictive roster system for petrol purchase that was based on numberplates ending in an odd or an even number/ some days were dedicated to even and some to odd numbers. People often ran out of petrol by the time “their petrol day” arrived and pushed cars along streets to the petrol station. Scarcity of basic living supplies saw the introduction of coupons or shopping vouchers …


Photo: Screenshot Croatian TV 1980's

Photo: Screenshot
Croatian TV 1980’s

In summary, daily life in Tito’s Croatia (Yugoslavia) turned into an existential nightmare for most. Even the inflow of foreign currency through ginormous foreign loans and remittances of emigrants (that amounted to billions of dollars) was not enough to cover the trade deficit and prevent the steep downfall of that “good life” today’s Yugonostalgics or Titonostalgics hanker for.

Photo: Screenshot Croatian TV 1980's

Photo: Screenshot
Croatian TV 1980’s

Tito’s Socialist regime had developed a culture of dependence, “exceptionalism” and elitism that ridiculed the Westerners’ (including the Croatian émigrés’) pursuits of hard work and individual responsibility for a common and personal good that still seems to linger about. It’s high time the useless old communists are stripped of their power, it’s high time former communist high operatives are lustrated from positions of power at all levels of Croatian government and decision-making. The Yugonostalgics can go and wallow as much as they like in their memory of Tito in the museum dedicated to him in Kumrovec and stop interfering with the progress of democracy and economic recovery. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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