THOUSANDS of people gathered in a Croatian village yesterday to mark the birthday of Josip Broz Tito, the Communist leader whose death marked the beginning of the end of the Yugoslavia federation more than 20 years ago.
Croatia, which broke away to become an independent state in 1991, is set to become a member of the European Union on 1 July, only the second former Yugoslav republic to join after Slovenia.
Even so Tito is still fondly remembered by some, including those who flocked to Kumrovec, where he was born in 1892, wearing Tito T-shirts and waving Yugoslav flags with Communist red stars.
“Tito, the one and only,” said Slobodan Janusevic, 52. “I think all the worse of both the EU and today’s Croatia.”
Crowds of followers also flocked to Tito’s grave in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, coming in by bus, car or on foot. Some wept, others danced and sang old revolutionary songs, while others dressed like Tito, who died in 1980 after ruling unchallenged for 35 years.
While vilified during the nationalist euphoria that followed the bloody break-up in the early 1990s, Yugoslavia has since regained popularity, commanding a steady influx of followers, even among the younger generations born after it disintegrated. The phenomenon is called “Yugonostalgia” and is often explained as a means of escape from the disappointments of the transition from Communism. “The citizens feel they live much worse than they did 30 years ago,” explained Serb historian Dubravka Stojanovic. “They feel defeated.”
Tito’s Yugoslavia was formed after the end of the Second World War from six, ethnically diverse republics, which he held together with a softer style of Communism, considered less oppressive than Stalin’s Soviet Union.