Tito killed 500,000 people

Background current

After the end of the Second World War, the second Yugoslavia was founded under the leadership of the former partisan leader Josip Broz Tito. The socialist multi-ethnic state existed until 1991.

Josip Broz Tito during his swearing-in as the first Yugoslav President in Parliament in Belgrade in January 1953. (& copy picture-alliance / dpa)

On November 29, 1945, the "Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia" was proclaimed. The state founded on the soil of the former Kingdom of Yugoslavia consisted of the six republics of Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Macedonia; the provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo, which belong to Serbia, were given autonomous status. The first Prime Minister was Josip Broz Tito, who had led the partisan resistance in World War II - against the German and Italian occupation in Yugoslavia and the local units of the nationalist Četniks and Ustaša.

The new head of state established his own socialist state model - workers 'self-government: the economy should be decentralized and directed by workers' councils, unlike, for example, in the centrally administered Soviet Union. But economic problems since the late 1960s and Tito's death in 1980 gave rise to nationalist movements and ultimately led to the disintegration of the multi-ethnic state.

The first Yugoslav state

After the end of the First World War, the fall of the Ottoman Empire and the Habsburg monarchy, the first attempt was made to unite the South Slav peoples in a common state. In 1918 the "Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes" (so-called SHS state) and thus the first Yugoslav state was founded. About 10 million people lived together in this parliamentary monarchy, including Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Bosnian Muslims, Montenegrins and Macedonians. In 1929 King Aleksandar I. Karađorđević dissolved the parliament of the SHS state after serious internal political and ethnic conflicts and proclaimed the "royal dictatorship". The state was renamed the "Kingdom of Yugoslavia".

During the Second World War in 1941 the German Wehrmacht invaded and occupied the Kingdom of Yugoslavia with the help of Italian, Hungarian and Bulgarian units. Subsequently, the area was divided between Germany, Italy, Hungary, Bulgaria and the newly created fascist vassal state of Croatia.

The "Second Yugoslavia" under Tito

It was the partisans of the Communist Party of Yugoslavia (KPJ) under their leader Josip Broz Tito who, with the support of Great Britain, were able to push back the German occupiers and their supporters and ultimately controlled large parts of the country. Until shortly before the end of the war, there had been no military aid from Moscow, despite repeated requests by Tito. In the spring of 1945 Tito was appointed head of a new Yugoslav government with the consent of the exiled royal government. The first elections on November 11, 1945, Tito's communists - who had run under the Popular Front electoral list - clearly won. A constituent assembly then proclaimed the "Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia" on November 29th. Tito was elected Prime Minister.

At the beginning of 1946, Yugoslavia received a constitution based on the Soviet model. In the following years, however, Tito distanced himself from the Soviet Union. In 1948 there was a break with Stalin, as a result of which the Yugoslav Communist Party was excluded from the Communist Information Office (Cominform).

Tito ruled authoritarian, but his leadership was considered relatively moderate. However, especially in the first years after the end of the war, tens of thousands of actual and supposed collaborators of the National Socialists were killed. Members of German, Hungarian and Italian minorities were expelled or murdered. In 1963, by means of a constitutional amendment, Tito was elected president for life. His model, known as the socialist market economy, with self-governing companies that competed economically with one another, worked well in the beginning. In addition, Tito, as a unifying figure of integration in the state, succeeded for a long time in suppressing nationalist tendencies - the state credo was: "Fraternity and unity".

Yugoslavia 1981, settlement areas of the ethnic groups. License: cc by-nc-nd / 3.0 / de / (mr-kartographie, Gotha 2017)

In 1961, at the height of the Cold War, Yugoslavia was instrumental in founding the movement of the initially 25 non-aligned states. Tito was one of their spokesmen who campaigned for self-determination and decolonization.

The Tito state in crisis

In the interior of Yugoslavia, however, the situation became increasingly tense. Economic problems and a debt crisis had already set in by the mid-1960s. The regional disparities between the republics continued to grow. The 1974 constitution, which implemented the federalization of socialist Yugoslavia, among other things, also led to controversy. This constitution gave the six republics far-reaching decision-making powers. To Serbia's displeasure, the constitutional amendment also extended the autonomy status of the autonomous provinces of Vojvodina and Kosovo, which belong to Serbian territory. They were given extensive political independence and a seat on the eight-member Yugoslav state presidency. In addition, a principle of consensus was introduced that gave the republics a de facto right of veto on important decisions, which made joint political action more difficult.

The death of Tito in 1980 as well as the deteriorating economic situation and the resistance of Croatia and Slovenia in particular to economic support for the weaker regions of Yugoslavia undermined the state in the 1980s. However, the conflicts and crimes during the Second World War that were not dealt with after 1945 also contributed to the state crisis. In order not to tear the ties between the peoples of Yugoslavia, the mutual crimes and massacres in World War II were kept silent.

Nationalism and civil war

Slobodan Milošević, head of state of the Republic of Serbia since 1987, used nationalism to consolidate his power. In the following time he expanded the weight of the Republic of Serbia in the federal government, in which, among other things, he drastically restricted the autonomy of Kosovo and Vojvodina through a Serbian constitutional amendment.

The first free elections in 1990 brought mainly nationally-minded politicians to power in the sub-republics, and subsequent referendums confirmed the national secessionist tendencies. With the declarations of independence by Slovenia and Croatia on June 25, 1991, the collapse of the state resulted in violence and several wars: Ten-Day War for Slovenia (1991), Croatian War (1991-1995), Bosnia War (1992-1995) and Kosovo War (1999).

The war has left deep wounds

The number of those who fell victim to the post-Yugoslav wars between 1991 and 1999 varies between 150,000 and 200,000 people. In addition, around 2.5 million people had to flee abroad, and another 2 million people were displaced within their countries of origin. The process of coming to terms with war crimes is ongoing and is characterized by historical-political rivalries and opposing cultures of remembrance.

Successor states of Yugoslavia today. License: cc by-nc-nd / 3.0 / de / (mr-kartographie, Gotha 2017)

Today there are seven sovereign states on the territory of the former Yugoslavia, including Kosovo, whose independence has been recognized by 115 states - including Germany - and which Serbia continues to claim as an autonomous province. Several EU states such as Spain do not recognize the country to this day in order not to create a boost for independence efforts in their own country. Two of the Yugoslav successor states - Croatia and Slovenia - are now members of the EU. Montenegro, North Macedonia and Serbia are among the EU accession candidates, while Bosnia-Herzegovina and Kosovo are potential accession candidates.

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