The man who kept Yugoslavia together

marshal tito's grave, belgrade, Josip Broz Tito, serbia, yugoslavia

The man who kept Yugoslavia together

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This is the website of travel writer, Michael Turtle. After working in broadcast journalism for a decade in Australia, Michael left Sydney to travel the world indefinitely and write about his discoveries.

Marshal Josip Broz Tito

To understand Serbia and the relationship with its neighbours today, you need to look back many decades. You need to look back to the time when Yugoslavia brought together most of the Balkans under the one country. And, most importantly, you need to know more about Marshal Josip Broz Tito – a man referred to simply as Tito.

He was the ruler of Yugoslavia for almost 40 years – as Prime Minister from 1943–63 and then President from 1953–80. And, despite his fair share of controversy, he kept the country intact and above much of the conflict that happened around it.

While the Cold War was being fought from either side of Yugoslavia, Tito intentionally stayed non-aligned and, in the process, oversaw a burgeoning economy in the 1960s and 1970s. While he was criticised by some for being authoritarian, generally Tito was considered to be a benevolent dictator.

marshal tito's grave, belgrade, Josip Broz Tito, serbia, yugoslavia

Marshal Tito’s Grave, Belgrade

Today his grave is still given the reverence you might expect from someone who had such an impact on this country. In a suburb of Serbia’s capital Belgrade, about an hour’s walk from the centre of the city, a mausoleum has been built for his remains. It’s not of the scale of similar communist memorials in Beijing, Moscow, Ho Chi Minh City or Pyongyang. In fact, in comparison, it is very restrained. The building is called the House of Flowers and it is amongst an enclosed flower garden that his grave lies. A large protruding slab of marble with his name in gold marks the spot.

marshal tito's grave, belgrade, Josip Broz Tito, serbia, yugoslavia

marshal tito's grave, belgrade, Josip Broz Tito, serbia, yugoslavia

For many years there was a permanent guard of honour stationed at the entrance but these days there’s just an elderly cigarette-smoking man reading a newspaper keeping an eye on things.

marshal tito's grave, belgrade, Josip Broz Tito, serbia, yugoslavia

The grave is within a larger compound – called the Museum of Yugoslave History (with nominal entrance fee) – and the other main building is a long exhibition hall showing the presents given to Tito during his leadership. Sadly it has nothing quite as tacky as the stuffed upright alligator holding a tray of drinks that I once saw at a similar gift room in North Korea. Like the grave, this is tastefully done and uses the presents to showcase foreign cultures.

marshal tito's grave, belgrade, Josip Broz Tito, serbia, yugoslavia

marshal tito's grave, belgrade, Josip Broz Tito, serbia, yugoslavia

marshal tito's grave, belgrade, Josip Broz Tito, serbia, yugoslavia

The number of gifts is telling, though. It demonstrates how Marshal Josip Broz Tito kept Yugoslavia strong externally and internally. He promoted the unity of the six main Yugoslav nations and they lived relatively peacefully together. By keeping his own house in order, he was able to deal internationally from a position of respect.

marshal tito's grave, belgrade, Josip Broz Tito, serbia, yugoslavia

Nothing would have happened to threaten the peaceful coexistence of the nations of Yugoslavia during his leadership and life – both of which ended on the same day. It was not until his Presidency was over that tensions began to appear and the current makeup of the Balkans began to take shape.

marshal tito's grave, belgrade, Josip Broz Tito, serbia, yugoslavia

marshal tito's grave, belgrade, Josip Broz Tito, serbia, yugoslavia

For that reason Tito is still divisive. He is seen by some as the man who oversaw one of the most peaceful and prosperous periods this region has ever had. Other see him as the man who stopped the rightful realignment of the six nations. Although what he did, he did well, there is considerable debate about whether it was the right thing.

He is a man who is still an important part of recent history. The respect given to his grave – despite neither prominence nor pomp – shows that. It’s worth a visit in Belgrade for this alone.

You can find out more information here about the Museum of Yugoslav History

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4 Comments
  • T.W. Anderson @ Marginal Boundaries | Jul 16, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    I think the important thing to remember is that, as you say, he was able to keep the peace together between the nations for the time he was in place. Having lived near the area (Bulgaria) and traveled to the region over a period of 6 years prior to my 2 years living in BG…tensions are still high even now, years later, over what should or shouldn’t have been done when things eventually came apart.

    Great piece.
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  • Jennifer | Jul 17, 2013 at 2:46 am

    We missed this memorial on our visit to Belgrade. Looks very interesting.
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  • Ali | Jul 18, 2013 at 11:47 pm

    I’ve been interested in the former Yugoslavia for awhile now, so it’s nice to read a little bit about its history here. I never realized Tito was seen as someone who kept the peace between the separate groups, but then I probably didn’t know much about him at all.
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  • Deb | Jul 28, 2013 at 12:05 pm

    I was the only one visiting here the day I went. I found it interesting and loved the museum pieces and relay battons.

    Most people in Serbia want the Tito days back.
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