More than a generation after Tito’s death, biographies of the Yugoslav statesman keep appearing apace. Why is that? What else is there to say about Tito, his life, and his legacy? And how do all these books on the same subject of historical record differ?

Three authors of biographies of Josip Broz Tito published since 2000—Ivo Goldstein, Jože Pirjevec, and Geoffrey Swain—discuss their motivations for writing, how their books are distinct, and, of course Tito himself.

Featuring 11 versions of the song “Uz Maršala Tita” (With Marshal Tito, 1943).

Josif Dzhugashvili, Vladimir Dedijer, and Phyllis Auty also make an appearance.

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Episode Transcript (and More)

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[JINGLE]

PETER KORCHNAK: This is Remembering Yugoslavia, the show exploring the memory of a country that no longer exists. I’m your host Peter Korchnak.

As an explorer of Yugoslavia’s memory I mostly deal with the fallout of Josip Broz Tito’s decisions from World War II to his death in 1980 and with how he has been remembered and perceived and represented since 1991. Along with this study I’ve formed a fair picture of Tito’s life; after all, you can’t study Yugoslavia’s history without tracing his life as well. But a couple of years ago I decided to make it official and I finally read the latest biography of Josip Broz Tito in English, Tito and His Comrades by Jože Pirjevec. Then I saw a different Tito biography on the desk of its co-author, Professor Ivo Goldstein in Zagreb, and I tumbled down the rabbit hole.

Tito Biographies: An Overview

Biographies of Tito of course emerged while he was still alive. Howard Fast, Vladimir Dedijer, Ruth Franchere, Fitzroy Maclean, Vinko Vinterhalter, and most notably Phyllis Auty wrote about Tito at different stages of his life. Milovan Djilas and Ruth Schiffman dropped their books in the 1980s; and Stevan Pavlowitch, Jasper Ridley, Boško Vukcevich, and most notably Richard West in the 1990s. That’s a dozen in the last 60 years of the 20th century, or on average one every five years.

The trend has continued into this century. I’m counting four additional biographies of Tito published since 2000 out there. One, Tito: Life and Times, by Neil Barnett in 2006.

 

Two, Tito: A Biography by Geoffrey Swain in 2010.

 

Three, the aforementioned Tito and His Comrades by Jože Pirjevec, published in 2011 in Slovenian and 2018 in English.

 

And four, Tito by Slavko and Ivo Goldstein in 2015 (this one is so far in Croatian and Slovenian only).

 

So. More than a generation after Tito’s death, biographies of the Yugoslav statesman keep appearing apace. Why is that? What else is there to say about Tito, his life, and his legacy? And how do all these books on the same subject of historical record differ?

In today’s episode of Remembering Yugoslavia: biographies and biographers of Josip Broz Tito.

I’ve talked to the authors of three of the four biographies of Josip Broz Tito published since 2000 about their motivations for writing, about how their books are distinct, and, of course about Tito himself.

Josif Dzhugashvili, Vladimir Dedijer, and Phyllis Auty also make an appearance.

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[BACKGROUND MUSIC]

And so it’s not all just words about books about the man, I’ll intersperse the interviews with songs about him. One song in many variations, to be more precise. In World War II and in socialist Yugoslavia, a number of songs were produced praising Tito. Few were as prominent and popular as “Uz Maršala Tita,” or “With Marshal Tito.” The 1943 song praises Tito, the heroic son, as the fearless leader of fearless Slavic fighters raising their fists at slanderers and then up into the sky.

I’ve found no fewer than eleven versions of the song. I’ll kick things off with KIC Pop Hor choir’s rendition I recorded at their practice in Podgorica. In addition to three instrumentals of various styles, you’ll then hear an English version of unknown provenance, a Slovak version by an unknown Vojvodina choir, a metal version by the band Chavez, a remix by Young Bosnia, a version sung during Tito’s visit to North Korea, another wild remix, and finally a popular choral version. I’ve embedded all these tunes in the episode blog post which you can find at Remembering Yugoslavia.com/Podcast.

Before we get to it: Like all the past and upcoming episodes of Remembering Yugoslavia, this episodes is brought to you by…you. Thank you to everyone who has signed up to support me and Remembering Yugoslavia on Patreon. Today I welcome new supporters Jennie, Sanjin, and Sonja.

If you like the show and wish to support its production, join these generous people at Patreon.com/RememberingYugoslavia or donate one time at PayPal.me/RememberingYU.



[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

[04:08]

“Uz Maršala Tita” [choir version] by KIC Pop Hor

Tito’s Biographers and Their Motivations

[05:46]

PETER KORCHNAK: What motivates historians, at the end of their careers no less, to write about Josip Broz Tito, who died in 1980?

Historian Ivo Goldstein at the University of Zagreb, whom you may remember from Episode 13, “Croatia’s Political Tragedy,” co-wrote the book Tito with his father Slavko who died in 2017.

[06:05]

IVO GOLDSTEIN: Why? Because as I was professor of the Croatian history of the 20th century that history particularly that of the history, history of the Second World War and the history of socialistic Croatia is, in fact, reflected in the biography of Tito. And Tito’s biography is reflected in the Croatian history of that period. So speaking or analyzing, writing about the general Croatian history you’re writing about Tito.

And then I started to analyze, to think what is behind, where’s that Tito? Who is Tito? How to approach his biography? Was he a dictator, or was it was he liberal was he Communist or a liberal communist? How to define Titoism and that was what he created in socialistic Yugoslavia etcetera etcetera. So, there is a list of questions which I tried to put on the table and try to answer them.

Tito biographers - Ivo Goldstein

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

[07:16]

“Uz Maršala Tita” [brass orchestra instrumental version] by Unknown

[07:41]

PETER KORCHNAK: For Geoffrey Swain, a retired history professor at the University of Glasgow, the roots of his project go deep into the beginnings of his career studying communism, particularly in Russia.

[07:51]

GEOFFREY SWAIN: I thought, you know, why not? I’d always been interested in Tito, and I’d done earlier work. And thought, yeah, it would be nice to write about the whole of his life rather than just his early career, which is what I’d concentrated on before (I’d written earlier about his career before becoming leader of the party and in 1920s 1930s). And so I thought, yes, follow it through, that would be a good idea. So I agreed to do it. At one level, it was as simple as that.

In a way it all goes back, goes back to the 1970s going on holiday to Yugoslavia. The summer of 1970, when, as a student, a bunch of us took a camper van to Yugoslavia and trekked around and really, a had a good holiday, but be realized that this was not like the Soviet Union, which I had previously visited, and which I went back to quite frequently, frequently during my early academic career, and there was something different about it, certainly, the economy functioned better. So the notion that Yugoslavia might offer some sort of different version of what the socialist system was supposed to be that that was always sort of there.

Throughout the 1970s, we regularly had holidays in Yugoslavia. Tito’s fate, what was going to happen, was always of interest to me.

I then worked for three years at the BBC monitoring service. It was just after Tito died that I arrived. In fact, it might have arrived just before he died, I can’t remember exactly. But the monitoring service was suddenly flooded with a huge amount of material on Yugoslavia and nobody else in the office really wanted to deal with it. So I said, Okay, I mean, I was quite happy to go through this pile of stuff that was written in a strange self-management jargon that Yugoslavia had adopted in the last years of the regime. Organizations of associated labor and all these things had acronyms, and it was all quite hard work to wade through and try and find what was important, but I quite liked doing it. It meant I worked by myself.

And so when I got back into academic life, I thought, “Well, perhaps I’ll take the Yugoslav stuff [and] take it further. Why not?” I had this strange vision that I would take my family out to Yugoslavia for the summer, they would be on the coast, I would be in an archive in Belgrade and come down at weekends and it would all be much sunnier than sitting in Russian archives and getting increasingly frustrated by Russian bureaucracy. And, of course, it didn’t quite work out like that because Yugoslavia fairly quickly began to collapse and disintegrate. But that’s what got me started on Tito’s early career. He got me started, and then things took off from there.

Tito biographers - Geoffrey Swain [MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

[11:07]

“With Great Marshal Tito” [English solo vocal version] by Unknown

[12:32]

PETER KORCHNAK: Of the three biographies we’re discussing today, I only read Jože Pirjevec’s Tito and His Comrades. A Slovene born and living in Trieste, Italy, Pirjevec, too, has been working on his book for a while.

[12:43]

JOŽE PIRJEVEC: I am actually working on Tito since 1978. I started then, when, in Great Britain, they opened the archives related to Tito-Stalin split in 1948. And that I wanted to see what the reaction of the Western powers, especially Britain and [the] United States, of course, how they reacted to this split, how they actually considered this event. And so I wrote a book on this.

And from this time, I am working only on Yugoslavia, because it seems to me so interesting, the Yugoslav experiment is for me so appealing that I cannot leave it in some way.

And, of course, Tito’s biography was a normal step in this direction. I have just published another book on Yugoslavia on the Partisans. And I am planning another book on Yugoslavia. It is a book entitled On the Search for Socialism with a Human Face. Okay, I will try to show how the Yugoslavs especially Kardelj, of course, tried to find another kind of socialism, different from the Soviet socialism. And they rediscovered, in my opinion, the European roots of Marxism. They didn’t succeed, of course, but the experiment is, in my opinion, very, very interesting. So as you see, I’m in some way in love with this history.

 

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

[14:38]

“Uz Maršala Tita” [piano solo instrumental version] by Unknown

[15:02]

PETER KORCHNAK: In a way, all three biographies took some 40 years to write.

[15:06]

IVO GOLDSTEIN: My father wrote [the] first version of [the] biography of the of Tito, till 1937, in 1981. He had an ambition to write Tito’s biography till the end, but as he was working very hard, he wrote that first version, in 1981 it was published by one of the leading magazines, weekly magazines in five or six parts. At one point I saw that text that means 25 or even thirty years and I told my father you’ll see you have [a] first version. It’s not [a] text which you can publish today any longer but it can be a basis. So my father upgraded it in many aspects and I worked on the Tito’s biography from ‘37 till his death. So we published it in Zagreb in 2015. Then we had [a] Serbian and we had [a] Slovenian edition. Unfortunately, we didn’t manage to sell it abroad. There is a Pirjevec biography of Tito. We, in a way, came two or three years after his biography and he succeeded, because there was lacking a good biography of Tito, he filled that space and in a way where the publishers were saying, “Listen, we have recently published or somebody recently published Tito’s biography. So we are not interested.”

[16:52]

GEOFFREY SWAIN: When did I start the book, about 2005, that was all done remotely. One of the things about Glasgow University Library is that it is very well funded in Central European studies. Although they hadn’t kept the library completely up to date, throughout the 1970s and 80s they had Yugoslav scholars there who had subscribed to all the basic journals and newspapers. So reading runs of journals, reading runs of newspapers, you could just do from Glasgow, it was all there, there wasn’t any need to go back to Yugoslavia to do that. It’s all based on rereading of materials and my brain. I was always interested in Yugoslavia as a communist experiment as much as just a Yugoslav experiment.

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

[17:56]

“So súdruhom Titom” [Slovak choir version] by Unknown

Differences Between New Biographies of Josip Broz Tito

[19:15]

PETER KORCHNAK: How are all these biographies different from one another? After all, they all cover established historical facts. Having read just one of them, I can’t offer my own take, so I let each author give me theirs.

[19:25]

IVO GOLDSTEIN: It is difficult to assess other biographies. First of all, many of those good biographies which were written before were not taking account [of] the last periods of Tito’s life. For example, Dedijer, Djilas biography and some others, which were published abroad or didn’t take into account the post Tito developments after Tito’s death, which are also very important for understanding the details [of] Tito’s personality and his politics.

In certain aspects Pirjevec biography is a good one. In certain aspects we saw Tito’s person and his biography in a different manner. Pirjevec was living in Italy. He didn’t fully understand the challenges and everyday life in the communist society. So, this is what he was lacking, although he was living in Trieste, that is on the border with Yugoslavia, I think that this atmosphere this whole concept of living and surviving in the communist society and living under Tito gives us let’s say advantage of how to understand data compared to what Pirjevec was saying and writing.

[20:52]

JOŽE PIRJEVEC: I would say that I have done very extensive research in the archives. I have been in Moscow, in Russian archives, in of course, in Yugoslavia in Belgrade, Zagreb, and Ljubljana, where they have a large amount of documents collected by Vladimir Dedijer who was the first biographer of Tito. And then I was, of course, for many, many years in London. I go always to Germany when I start a new book. And of course, also in Washington, where I have seen actually 1,000 of CIA papers, in general, the American diplomatic documents. So this is the main, let’s say, characteristic of my book. It is based on enormous archival research.

This is important for me, I mean, at least I can use these languages, I can read them if I don’t speak them. Some of them I speak fluently. I am able to use these languages, I will say about the six of seven languages, which is very important for a historian.

Tito biographers - Joze Pirjevec

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

[22:22]

“Uz Maršala Tita” [Spaghetti western instrumental version] by Unknown

[22:45]

GEOFFREY SWAIN: I tried to distance myself from the sort of Phillys Auty “he was a great man” and then the sort of reverse of that he was the, you know, the the worst sort of horror that ever fell on Yugoslavia. And I tried to take him seriously as a communist politician and as a politician more generally. And I certainly strove to be judicious and balanced. I’m not sure you can say that of some of the other biographies because they do tend to take a rather pro or anti line.

And I wasn’t interested in his marriages, his love of wealth, and all that sort of thing. And I mean, they come up in the biography, but I don’t go on about them, they seem less important than sort of trappings of power rather than anything else. I think that’s what I tried to do. I wouldn’t claim that I’ve necessarily achieved at all.

[23:54]

PETER KORCHNAK: A review described your book as sympathetic to Tito.

[23:57]

GEOFFREY SWAIN: It is sympathetic because I was certainly sympathetic to the project, the project of trying to build an alternative to Stalin’s communist state, one that at least tried to get closer to some of Marx’s ideas about workers being in charge or having some responsibility for their their own destiny, trying to see workers’ control as a practical way of confronting alienation. If alienation is intrinsic in a capitalist society. Well, can you overcome it? Is there some way? Certainly the Soviet system created a different way of alienating people’s labor. So at a sort of theoretical level I was interested in the project. I hope I wasn’t blinded to the failings and or the ultimate failure of the experiment.

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[COMMERCIAL INTERLUDE JINGLE]

[25:03]

PETER KORCHNAK: Hi there, it’s me, Peter Korchnak, the creator and producer of Remembering Yugoslavia, with a peek at the making of the podcast.

I interview people across the Balkans and beyond and do a great deal of research to bring you the stories of this podcast two to four times a month.

It is your support that makes this reporting possible; it is you who can help keep alive the memory of the country that no longer exists.

Ensure I can cover the next important story by supporting me on Patreon. Please go to Patreon.com/RememberingYugoslavia to become a monthly supporter or donate one time at PayPal.me/RememberingYU.

Alright, back to Tito.

[COMMERCIAL INTERLUDE JINGLE]

Tito Biographers Assess Their Subject

[25:45]

PETER KORCHNAK: Tito’s life since World War II cannot be separated from the history of socialist Yugoslavia. So reading a biography of Tito means reading the history of the country. I want to hear how Tito’s biographers perceive him, their assessments and interpretations of the man.

[25:59]

GEOFFREY SWAIN: You can’t separate the two, and as soon as he dies, there’s a question immediately, how can Yugoslavia survive this? And obviously, it wasn’t inevitable that it would degenerate into such ghastly fighting. But it was an obvious question, what’s holding this together? If it’s not Tito, when he goes, how’s it all going to hang together? So you really have you write a biography of Tito, but you’re really writing about Yugoslavia from the beginning to the end.

[26:36]

JOŽE PIRJEVEC: Yugoslavia was unable to survive. Nobody was so strong and so intelligent to keep Yugoslavia together, because it was too complicated [a] country with nationalities that had different memories, different histories, different religions, and so on. So in my opinion, the disappearance of Yugoslavia was necessary.

But, I think, that this endeavor, this struggle of Tito and his comrades to find another way of socialism, to create a society, which should be just for everybody, is still in some way important.

As I told you, they failed. They were not able, actually, to evolve into [a] democratic free society. And this is the biggest mistake of Tito. Tito, at a certain point, blocked this development. We had at the end of the 60s and the beginning of the 70s in Yugoslavia a very interesting, let’s say, political situation where young people, a very intelligent, capable leaders were trying to transform the country in[to] a democratic country. Tito has stopped this. So that he was not without faults. I would even say that he has at the very end, he has created Yugoslavia, but he has also ruined it.

[28:41]

IVO GOLDSTEIN: Tito’s Yugoslavia made possible for those different nations to cooperate or to, in a way, to balance their politics. In the war and after the war, we see that those nations simply cannot live together without, let’s say, a person who is above all this, trying to compromise among them.

So when Tito died, I assessed him much worse than I am assessing him today. I think that he was capable with his tools as a communist, as a Bolshevik, if you want, he had certain tools, he has certain capabilities to keep these nations together and to keep them in a state where no big conflicts will erupt. Without him it wasn’t possible.

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

[29:41]

“Uz Maršala Tita” [metal version] by Chavez

[31:05]

PETER KORCHNAK: Geoffrey Swain focused his angle on Tito on what he calls “the trappings of power.”

[31:11]

GEOFFREY SWAIN: I discovered that he had huge wealth and that sort of thing, that doesn’t really bother me too much. It just seems that’s what leaders do.

He liked uniforms, I mean, he liked dressing up. As a young man, he liked fencing and dancing and that’s just part of his nature. And when he became a statesman, he liked all the trappings of power, wearing uniforms, having all these— I mean it got absurd, he had so many palaces and things. Last time I was in Belgrade, must have been about 2013, I was taken around the repository of the Tito museum where they had all the sort of junk that he had been given throughout the years. I mean, the dress uniforms are on display in the museum but in the repository, there’s just all sorts of stuff that had been accumulated over the years, which they weren’t very sure what to do with so it was just in the repository.

[32:10]

PETER KORCHNAK: Coincidentally, I also visited Belgrade in 2013, and the Museum of Yugoslavia, which Swain is talking about, held an exhibition of some of the gifts Tito had received during his life, from foreign heads of state down to Yugoslav workers collectives.

[32:24]

GEOFFREY SWAIN: The thing to remember, at least, my argument is, the thing to remember about Tito is that he is brought up a Leninist. This concept of the disciplined party is what’s drummed into him, is what he experiences in Russia, is what seems to enable the party to survive in the 1920s and 1930s. And, and he is very, very loath to think that the party can have outgrown its usefulness. And that’s the sort of crunch point for him. He’s not a theorist, but he is interested in creating a socialist society that is different to the one that Stalin had created. I mean, he is in Moscow, at the height of the purges, he does know that it’s not quite a worker’s paradise.

I mean, I think Tito was always torn. He’s, in ‘48, he’s absolutely clear that Stalin’s ambitions are malevolent, and that they’ve got to resist, but he doesn’t want to cast it as an ideological dispute although it is an ideological dispute, it is very clearly that.

And he’s absolutely determined to resist. And yet, if once Stalin has gone the Soviet Union had opened up genuinely and had been prepared to really treat Yugoslavia as an equal, or even adopt some of the Yugoslav ways, I think he would have been delighted. I think he was hopeful that something would come of the Prague Spring, [that] there really might be some other way.

So yes, he is determined to be independent. But that independence was always in the context of trying to create a better socialist system.

[34:34]

JOŽE PIRJEVEC: Yugoslav history is so tragic, and so dramatic, but also, so epic, so full of events and drama, that it is appealing for me at least.

Surely, Yugoslavia, I mean, the socialist Yugoslavia has been created by Tito. Tito was the origin of a deep Partisan struggle, which was very important and exceptional in some way. Because imagine from a guerrilla this struggle developed into an organized army, which was in some way a link between the eastern form and the western front, between the Red Army in the Balkans for instance, and on the other side, the Anglo-American troops in Italy. So, I have the impression that actually this Partisan episode is in some way neglected in the frame of the Second World War. From this epic, the new Yugoslavia started to grow. The communists tried to build a perfect society. But they of course, didn’t succeed.

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

[36:08]

“Uz Maršala Tita” [techno remix version] by Unknown

Tito Biographers on Non-Alignment

[36:52]

PETER KORCHNAK: Tito’s Cold War policy of non-alignment positioned Yugoslavia as a world power in a way. It is this foreign policy achievement that continues to fascinate historians.

[37:02]

JOŽE PIRJEVEC: Tito was the first to see the the danger of the existence of two blocks, of two enemy blocks, Western and Eastern, and he said we have to overcome this situation. And therefore, he tried to create this movement of Asian, African countries, which were liberating themself from colonialism and succeeded in some way. Tito was in the end of the 50s, during the 60s and the 70s, a very important person on the international level, in my opinion, especially because he was able to go in touch to people in Africa, to peoples in Asia, and also Latin America as equal. And this was something completely new. The white man was used to go to these countries as a missionary as, especially as a colonialist. Tito had another attitude, and therefore, he was so extremely successful. I suppose that this story has still to be written.

[38:27]

GEOFFREY SWAIN: By the end of his life, the Non-Aligned Movement is an important player on the world stage. And there are those huge congresses that he likes to attend and he loved going off on jaunts around the world really. You could argue that he should have focused a bit more on what was happening in Yugoslavia, rather than jetting off. I mean, there were long periods, in the 1970s certainly, when crises were developing, and they couldn’t really discuss them because Tito was off on one of his trips, and then he might have been better not to be on those trips.

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

[39:07]

“Uz Maršala Tita” [remix version] by Young Bosnia

Tito’s Legacy According to His Biographers

[39:36]

PETER KORCHNAK: So what is Tito’s legacy? What did he leave behind? What are the long-term effects of his life and works?

[39:42]

GEOFFREY SWAIN: His funeral is supposed to have been attended by more world leaders than any other state funeral. I don’t know whether that’s true or not. But, you know, he was one of the last war leaders to die. Part of his legacy, his victory victory in the Second World War, he plays a crucial role there. But in a way, that wasn’t what he wanted his legacy to be.

What’s his legacy? His legacy should have been a thriving socialist Yugoslavia, and that doesn’t happen. And so you have to ask, “What legacy was there?” Is ultimately his legacy is a failure because the system he created could not survive him? I mean, the reforms of the 1960s are abandoned, the contortions of rotating presidencies and this and this and the other. I couldn’t see how it could work at the time, and with retrospect, it seems even more unlikely that they were going to work. And the inequalities that developed between the various states of Yugoslavia, a failure to impose some effective centralizing authority. So it’s a terribly complex legacy, I suppose, is what I’m saying.

Because he’s not going to agree to democratize, he’s not going to allow the Party to evolve, it is his personality that ends up holding the state together rather than anything else. In the end, you have to blame Tito himself because, like every other ruler who’s unwilling to retire, he didn’t retire. He should have retired in 1965, 66, something like that.

[41:43]

JOŽE PIRJEVEC: Tito was an extremely colorful person. He had a great charisma, an enormous charisma, and was actually very popular in Yugoslavia. Although I recognize that he was a dictator, I am in some way critical towards Tito, I don’t I don’t adore him. I see his faults and his mistakes.

Since Tito is such a colorful personality, it’s appealing also outside the borders of ex-Yugoslavia. Many people do remember him and want to know something about his life. When I, for instance, I’m going often to Germany or Austria, or, let’s say to other countries in Europe, and also in India, in Arab countries and so on, if I say I am from Slovenia, nobody knows in Asia or in Africa where Slovenia is. But I say I am from Yugoslavia, they say, “Tito.” They still remember Tito in some way, as a person who tried to overcome this terrible gap between [the] rich north and the poor south. And this is the message Tito has left, which is, in my opinion, still very important and very actual.

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

[43:28]

“Uz Maršala Tita” [1977 visit to the DPRK version] by Unknown North Korean choir/orchestra

[44:01]

IVO GOLDSTEIN: [The] Croatian public is divided. There are extremists who are accusing Tito of genocide against the Croats at the end of the war, which is really what I would say senseless because Tito was a Croat he couldn’t commit genocide against its [sic] own people.

I think that the Croats, many or majority at least feels that Tito was a great person of the world politics of the 20th century, on one hand. On the other hand, many youngsters mostly are losing interest for [sic] Tito, living their own lives, not understanding that Tito is still [an] important person for everyday life in Croatia. Because despite all the problems, all the mistakes which he did and socialistic Yugoslavia did, Tito created a society where ambitions of different nations were in a way limited and balanced. And he created the country in which for some time we could live, let’s say, a relatively normal life.

[MUSICAL INTERLUDE]

[45:18]

“Uz Maršala Tita” [choir version] by Unknown Choir

Tito’s Biographers on Titostalgia

[46:41]

PETER KORCHNAK: In terms of memory politics, I’m fascinated by that special kind of nostalgia, nostalgia for Tito, that Mitja Velikonja has termed and documented in Titostalgia. Given his somewhat controversial legacy, how would you explain this phenomenon?

[46:55]

GEOFFREY SWAIN: Well, I think it’s inevitable, really, I mean, you if you look at the former Soviet Union, there’s nostalgia, Brezhnev nostalgia is in a way what Putin is relying on to remain in power, the sense of order and predictability that is that apparently existed under Brezhnev is what he’s after. And looking back in the contemporary lands of former Yugoslavia to something that appeared stable and appeared to work with widget it didn’t only appear to work, it did. It provided a higher standard of living for the population. Not compared to America, of course, not compared to Western Europe, but compared to other developing countries and even Portugal to a lesser extent, Spain maybe but those countries were emerging from dictatorship. There is a real reason why people might be nostalgic, nostalgic for it.

[48:12]

JOŽE PIRJEVEC: It is necessary to recognize that the experience the different Yugoslav people’s people have done after the disappearance of Yugoslavia is not very pleasant. I speak often with my friends, for instance, in Ljubljana, and they say, “But actually, we lived better under Tito’s regime than we are living today.” And this disappointment is quite important to understand the survival of Tito’s popularity.

[BACKGROUND MUSIC]

[49:04]

PETER KORCHNAK: The persona of Josip Broz Tito, the cult of his personality, and his afterlife in the popular imagination continue to fascinate me.

Don’t get me wrong, you won’t see me wearing a t-shirt with his likeness but the 2020 calendar of the Josip Broz Tito Association of Jajce featuring a photo of his on every two-month leaf hung in my studio all last year. On Facebook and Instagram I like and follow as many Tito fan pages and profiles as I can but you won’t see me share or repost any of it. I read one biography of the man, but that’s pretty much all I can manage, for another few years anyway.

I secretly wish my disappeared homeland, Czechoslovakia, had a Tito of our own rather than the parade of apparatchiks we had to endure, and I quite openly wish that, in the absence of regime overthrow, we had gone Titoist after Stalin died. It wasn’t meant to be, of course.

My lesson, my personal take on Tito’s legacy is this: You can go your own way. Whether it’s another lonely day on the other end as you get squeezed between pressures from all sides or whether you start a new movement is up to you. But don’t let no Stalin boss you around.

In all seriousness, Tito may be long dead but what he created and what he destroyed lives on. Let’s keep exploring all of that together.

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[BACKGROUND MUSIC]

[50:48]

PETER KORCHNAK: Next time on Remembering Yugoslavia:

JAN KEMPENAERS: Before I photo’d them, I think nobody was interested in it.

PETER KORCHNAK: The explosion in the popularity of Yugoslav socialist monuments, the spomenici, can be traced to a man from Belgium. A man from France has chipped in, too. In the next episode of Remembering Yugoslavia: spomenici and the photographers who photograph them.

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[OUTRO MUSIC]

[51:28]

PETER KORCHNAK: That’s all for this episode of Remembering Yugoslavia, thank you for listening. Find additional information, songs played, and the transcript at RememberingYugoslavia.com/Podcast.

In the past couple of weeks several appreciative listeners told me they’d been telling their friends about the Remembering Yugoslavia podcast. Do you have a friend who might like the show? Tell them about it!

Outro music courtesy of Robert Petrić. Additional music by Puh and Petar Alargić licensed under Creative Commons. All versions of “Uz Maršala Tita” played strictly for educational and commentary purposes. Special thanks to Young Bosnia and Bojan Aleksić of Chavez for the song permissions. I did my best but was unable to locate authors or performers of the other tunes. Tito help me!

I am Peter Korchňak.

Ćao!