Balkans hero with a bloodthirsty streak
JOSIP Broz Tito, the hard man who managed to unite Yugoslavia after World War II, has long been regarded as somehow less awful than his fellow communist leaders.
This French documentary makes it clear that even now, after Yugoslavia has disintegrated ( mostly chaotically), Tito is still adored by some in the Balkans, with festivals commemorating his birthday and enthusiasts kissing his statue and declaring their love for him.
It’s true that Tito successfully fought the Nazis, bravely leading a guerilla force of partisans.
He later managed to bring together a notoriously warring region and eventually co- founded the nonaligned movement. He famously stood up to Joseph Stalin ( and sent him a message saying Stalin might as well stop sending people to kill him because otherwise he would send someone to kill Stalin and he would have to send only one man).
Yet much of the Tito myth has been slowly dissolving for years. Tito had a dark side, imposing his will by force and bloodying his hands with vengeful reprisals. This documentary is a bit split about him, noting the horror stories of the slaughter of Tito’s enemies and competitors yet saying that only Tito’s charisma kept Yugoslavia whole and peaceful for decades until his death in 1980, when it began to fracture.
During World War II, Tito was essentially the most successful of the Balkan warlords, emerging dominant from a tangle of battling groups ( including a monarchist, anti- fascist force). His bloodthirstiness was legendary. This documentary estimates that as many as 200,000 people were killed in the closing weeks of the war and the vicious months that
Defiant: Tito during his campaign against the Nazis in 1944
Tito wrought violence on many fronts. His purges were merciless
followed, mostly at the hands of Tito’s partisans. An operation now is under way in Slovenia to mark and uncover as many as 550 mass graves, filled with the corpses of those fleeing the partisans’ vengeance.
It’s thought that many of the dead were soldiers from the Croatian Ustashi regime, which collaborated with Nazi Germany. Turned back from Austria by the Allies and handed over to Tito’s forces, they were executed in the woods without trial. Investigations in Slovenia have found evidence to suggest the dead were naked, or partly naked, and tied with wire when they were killed.
The graves’ existence was an open secret for decades, yet they were not documented and not commonly discussed. Some in the Balkans said it was important to remember that many thousands of innocents, including women and children, were killed by the Nazis and their collaborators.
Yet Tito, internationally feted unifier of Yugoslavia, wrought violence on many fronts. His purges were merciless, and his forces rounded up thousands of suspected opponents and sent them to a prison on Goli Otok ( Barren Island) where they were beaten, tortured and killed.