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Tito & Yugoslavia

Form of Authority
photoFor the republics of Yugoslavia (1944-1992), Marshall Tito cultivated socialist fraternity and a unity that took precedence over ethnic differences. Tito was a considered a benevolent Father about whom rousing songs were composed and whose portrait still occupies a prominent place some homes and public buildings. Children honored him en masse every year on his birthday, May 25. A child was proud to make a small speech, hand him flowers, or present the ceremonial stafeta at the end of a relay race. This semblance of unity was maintained by sending dissidents to work camps or demoting them from positions of power.

Death & Transition
photophotoTito's death from cancer in May 1980 was a profound shock and provoked mourning throughout Yugoslavia. Many feared that without his presence unity could not be maintained. His coffin was placed on a train, which wound through the country, headed for an official state funeral in Belgrade. Huge crowds lined the tracks, carrying placards and singing songs that vowed to follow his path. Tito's burial was accompanied by a gun salute and the wailing of air-raid sirens.

photophotoYugoslav brotherhood and unity dissolved quickly following Tito's death, as his "sons" vied for the position of the Father. An escalation of gruesome and violent acts by citizens against one another led to demands for the autonomy of republics and to a fracturing along ethnic lines. Bosnia became the central site of a multicultural dissolution, engineered by Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic. One of the most poignant symbols of this painful disintegration was the Croatian army's bombing of Bosnia's Mostar bridge, which brutally separated the city's Muslim and Croat populations.

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Prepared by John Borneman, Linda Fisher & Elvir Gamdzic, May 1998