Dan Mladosti was one of the biggest holidays in SFRY and it continues to be commemorated today.
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Youth Day (or Day of Youth) was celebrated on May 25 on Tito’s unofficial birthday. His real birthday was on May 7, but he changed it to the 25th to commemorate the day he escaped the 1944 attack by Nazi Germany at Drvar.
The holiday was first celebrated as Tito’s birthday, but in 1957, when he “recognized, in his own way that the cult of personality in Yugoslavia…was outdated” [Pirjevec, Tito and His Comrades, p. 270] he changed it to the holiday of youth. Youth Day was celebrated until 1987, when it was the first all-Yugoslav holiday to be discarded.
NB: Information in this section is primarily from Videkanic, Bojana. “First and Last Emperor: Representations of the President, Bodies of the Youth.” In: Remembering Utopia: The Culture of Everyday Life in Socialist Yugoslavia, Washington, DC: New Academia Publishing, 2010, pp. 37-63 [Book notes].
Two Months Before Dan Mladosti
Preparations started up to two months prior to the holiday:
- contests were held for the official poster and for the design of the relay baton [štafeta], which had to showcase, in symbolic form, the country’s accomplishments and bear the youth’s birthday message to Tito;
- new postal stamps bearing the day’s imagery, Tito’s likeness, and that year’s baton were released;
- radio and TV shows previewed the festivities.
Week Before Dan Mladosti
The week before the day, schools, factories, athletic clubs and other institutions sent young people to carry the baton in the Youth Baton Relay [Štafeta mladosti] throughout the country, symbolically connecting people of all nationalities in every republic/province. Each city had a welcome committee for the baton. Concerts and other cultural events were held in honor of the relay, primary and secondary schools held the Day of the Youth Baton with events celebrating the passage of the relay baton and featuring students in their best clothes and Pioneer scarf and blue Tito cap, singing, dancing, reciting poems, and recreating historical events.
Streets were lined with people cheering the baton and carrying flowers signs. Children wore Pioneer uniforms; farmers, miners, and workers wore their best uniforms as symbols of the trade and solidarity with youth. In all, some 20,000 relay batons (primary batons, carried through the whole country all the way to Tito, and local batons, presented to local officials) were carried across Yugoslavia in the holiday’s 40-year history.
Day of Dan Mladosti
On the day itself, Tito received the baton from a youth at the official ceremony which took place at the Yugoslav National Army Stadium in Belgrade. As part of the slet, the stadium was filled with up to 10,000 children and youth, performing gymnastics in synchronized formations and creating shapes (flowers, acronyms, words, machines, flags) with their bodies; dancing; parading with guns; cheering; singing songs; shouting slogans like “We are all Tito!” There were parades with floats, parachute landings, speeches.
Day of Youth manifestations were broadcast in the media and publicized in hospitals, factories, and schools with posters and announcements. Tito was emblazoned on flags, portraits, paintings, and banners, typically large in scale and placed in central public locations.
All of it was broadcast on TV to more viewers than the Olympic Games and documented in TV shows, news reports, photographs, and books. In later years, the celebrations mixed events like dances, rock concerts, multimedia presentations and with Westernized media events. It was more like entertainment than propaganda.
In addition to the central celebration, with Tito in Belgrade, there were festivities in each republic, with local politicians.
“The whole idea was to show how the socialist youth of Yugoslavia would devotedly follow Tito’s revolutionary path. But this was also the way to tie the president’s aging image to the metaphor of eternal youth. Combining the Olympic disciplines of relay race and marathon was intentional. Every new custom had to fulfill two functions: draw on tradition, and point to the future. This newly created procession would unite the ancient humanistic ideals with the values of the new system, giving false depth and tradition to a system that, in terms of history, was born yesterday. It was like growing a beard on a baby.” [Dragan Todorović, The Book of Revenge]
Dan mladosti, 1977
Tito’s Last Youth Day, 1979
An abridged version of the live broadcast from the Day of Youth spectacle in Belgrade. rebroadcast on the Serbian TV channel RTS in the program Trezor [Safe]:
TS 2:25 – Young Pioneers sing a birthday song to Tito in “all the languages of Yugoslavia’s nations and nationalities.”
TS 8:05 – “Tito je naše sunce” [Tito Is Our Sun] song with a mass choreography portraying a sun and a heart with the letter T.
TS 31:45 – Song by Djordje Balašević.
TS 35:50 – Sanije Hiseni carries the Youth Relay baton into the stadium, hands it over to Tito with a speech and birtday wish in Albanian and in Serbo-Croatian.
TS 39:45 – Tito’s speech.
Dan mladosti 1980
After Tito dies, the relay baton went straight to the burial place.
Dan mladosti 1982
Dan mladosti 1985
In Belgrade, a performance by Lepa Brena of “Živela Jugoslavija” (Long Live Yugoslavia).
Dan mladosti, 1986
The Very Last Youth Day, 1987
In 1987, Neue Slowenische Kunst submitted a proposal for the Day of the Youth poster, which was ultimately chosen and published in the national press. But it soon emerged that the design mimicked The Third Reich, a 1936 painting by Richard Klein. The design was pulled, but not before highlighting issues with the holiday and the regime/ideology itself and launching a debate of the holiday’s validity.
A long TV report:
Performance of one song:
Dan Mladosti After Yugoslavia
Remembering Dan Mladosti in Montenegro
“Ponovo štafeta u Tivtu,” Radio Tivat
Following a two-year hiatus, the General Consulate of SFRJ organized another “traditional” commemoration of Youth Day, with music, dancing, and delivery of a relay baton.
“Danas se obijležava 25. maj, nekada najveselji praznik u Jugoslaviji: Štafeta mladosti spajala sve narode” Dan, 5/25/2016 [pdf]
“One can say today everything is the opposite of what the holiday used to symbolize.
Head of the General Consulate of SFRY, Marko Perković said:
- Dan mladosti was the best day of the year in the former country.
- “People used to say, “it’s a beautiful day, like the Day of Youth”. We used to live for for that day. It was a day dedicated to song, love, play, and all the merriest things that comprise life. Happily spent times.
- The Relay symbolized it all, the happiness (luck? good fortune?) of those who lived in Yugoslavia.
- “There was a song that went, “May my heart and yours connect in the Relay, and when a million hearts connect, how great it is, my people.” A million hearts and a million wishes connected through the Relay, which went to Tito from village to village, city to city, and “the most beautiful wishes for him bore the young hearts.”
- The day was special in that young people were at the center of attention. Youth received well-earned stipends, diplomas, and decorations. This was the day when the results of youth socialist consciousness were summarized.
- “We did not forget that day, we simply cannot do that. Through our work, we are trying to educate younger generations by sharing the memories from our youth and how we celebrated the holiday. We try to share our happiness and youth with younger generations, which today do not have ideals or a socially-accepted purpose of life. All their parents and grandparents remember the Youth Day.”
- “It was a sincere reflection of the wishes of Yugoslav people and nationalities to celebrate that holiday together.”
Head of the Podgorica chapter of the People’s Party (DNP), Jovo Pejović, said it would be good today to have a day young people could mark with play and fun, but it would end up being ideologically colored, which is not good. He added that whatever is tied to individual personalities cannot withstand a test of time and that sometimes misleading people is good if the aim is something positive.
The “MAC-MC Lojd” from Sutomore organized a Youth Day celebration, including fireworks. The outfit’s leader Ivan Zanković said in a statement, “We are organizing due to the respectable character of SFRY, to the true respect for the idea of ”Yugoslavism,” and to a credible community based on the foundations of “socialist organization” and “brotherhood and unity”, which were the basic values and sights of the former SFRY.”
“22 projektila u čast Titovog rođendana,” Tivat Radio, 5/25/2014
A ceremony was held on Magnolia Square, drawing a large number of Yugonostalgics. Songs were sung, including the one below, a band and DJs played music, and at the end 122 fireworks were shot in honor of Tito’s 122nd birthday. A 21-year-old local construction worker delivered the relay baton to the stage; the relay had been carried through Montenegro in stealth so as not to violate the pre-election campaigning moratorium.
Štafeta, by Mišo Marić
Kada se moje srce probudi,
U maju ruža procvjeta,
Nek’ ga ponese milion ljudi,
Nek’ moje srce bude štafeta.
Milion srca zemljom kad krene,
Neka k’o toplo jato hita,
U tome jatu i dio mene
Neka sad krene do druga Tita.
Srce moje i srce tvoje
U toj štafeti nek’ se spoje.
Milion srca kad se spoji,
Stoje to veliko, ljudi moji.
I neka srce Njemu kaže
Da rastu djeca k’o mlada žita,
K’o mlade šume, k’o moćne straže
U zemlji Sunca i druga Tita.
Remembering Dan Mladosti in Bosnia and Herzegovina
“Dan mladosti – nekad ushićenje, danas nostalgija,” N1, 5/25/2018 [pdf]
Man-on-the-street interviews with citizens.
In addition to all aforementioned: