Josip Broz Tito (May 7, 1892 - May 4, 1980) was the ruler of communist Yugoslavia between the end of World War II and his death in 1980.
Tito was born Josip Broz in Kumrovec, northwestern Croatia, in an area called Zagorje, which was then part of Austria-Hungary. He was the seventh child in the family of Franjo and Marija Broz. His father Franjo Broz was a Croat, while his mother Marija was Slovene. After spending part of his childhood years with his mother's father in Podsreda, he entered the primary school in Kumrovec, and failed the first grade. He left it in 1905.
In 1907, moving out of the rural environment, Broz started working as a locksmith's apprentice in Sisak. There he became aware of the labor movement and celebrated May 1 - Labor Day for the first time. In 1910 he joined the union of metallurgy workers and at the same time the Social-Democratic Party of Croatia and Slavonia. Between 1911 and 1913, Broz worked for shorter periods in various places in the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
From autumn 1913, Broz served in the military; in May 1914 he won a silver medal for the second place at a fencing competition of the Austro-Hungarian Army in Budapest. At the outbreak of the First World War, he was sent to Ruma. He was arrested for anti-war propaganda and imprisoned in the Petrovaradin fortress. In 1915, he was sent to Galicia against Russia. In Bukovina he was seriously injured by a howitzer shell. In April, the whole battalion fell into Russian captivity.
After spending several months at the hospital, Broz was sent to a work camp in the Ural mountains in autumn of 1916. In April, 1917, he was arrested for organizing demonstrations of prisoners of war but later he escaped and joined the demonstrations in Saint Petersburg on July 16-17, 1917. He fled to Finland to avoid the police, but was arrested and locked in the Petropavlovsk fortress for three weeks. After being imprisoned in a camp in Kungur, he escaped from the train. In November, he enlisted in the Red Army in Omsk, Siberia. In the spring of 1918, he applied for membership in the Russian Communist Party.
In 1920, he became member of Communist Party of Yugoslavia. Their influence on the political life of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia was minor. In 1934, he became a member of the Political Bureau of the Central Committee of the Party. Since then he also used the party name "Tito".
World War II
After Yugoslavia was invaded by the Axis forces in April 1941, the Communists were among the first to organize a resistance movement. Tito's public call for armed resistance against Germany dates from July 4, 1941. He became the Chief Commander of the Yugoslav National Liberation Army (Narodnooslobodilačka vojska/armija). The NLA partisans staged a wide-spread guerrilla campaign and started liberating chunks of territory in which they organized people's committees to act as civilian government.
Tito was a prominent leader of the Anti-Fascist Council of National Liberation of Yugoslavia that convened in Bihać in 1942 and Jajce in 1943 and established the basis for post-war organisation of the country, making it a federation. On December 4, 1943 during the German occupation of Yugoslavia in World War II, then resistance leader Marshal Tito proclaimed a provisional democratic Yugoslav government in-exile.
During the Second World War, his activities were often supported directly by forces of the western Allies. The Balkan Air Force was formed in June 1944 to control operations that were mainly aimed at helping his forces. However, due to his close ties to Stalin, he often quarreled with the British and American staff officers attached to his headquarters.
On April 5, 1945 Tito signed an agreement with the USSR allowing "temporary entry of Soviet troops into Yugoslav territory". Aided by the Red Army, the partisans won the war in 1945, and all western forces were ordered off Yugoslav soil after the end of hostilities in Europe.
Tito became the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of post-war Yugoslavia. He remained in those offices until January 13, 1953 when he succeeded Ivan Ribar as the President of Yugoslavia. On April 7, 1963, the country changed its official name to Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and Josip Broz Tito was named President for life.
Tito's rule had dictatorial traits as well as elements of terror, as the Communist Party won the first post-war elections under unfair conditions and maintained its grasp on power using the secret police (notably the infamous "UDBA"), politically motivated trials and imprisonment, and assassinations. It did, however, consolidate the country that was gravely impacted by war and successfully suppressed the nationalist sentiments of the peoples of Yugoslavia in favor of the common Yugoslav goal.
Tito was also recognized internationally as the first Communist leader who defied Stalin's leadership over the Cominform in 1948, an event that caused a rift with the Soviet Union and started the period of Informbiro.
Under Tito's leadership, Yugoslavia also became a founding member of the Non-Aligned Movement. In 1961, Tito co-founded the movement with Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser and India's Jawaharlal Nehru, thus establishing strong ties with the third world countries. For a period in the 1960s and '70s, some intellectuals in the west saw Tito's model of market socialism as representing a point to which the Soviet and western economic systems would over time converge.
Tito's greatest strength in the eyes of the west had been in suppressing nationalist insurrections and maintaining unity throughout the country. It was Tito's call for unity, and related methods, that held together the people of Yugoslavia. This ability was put at a test several times during his reign, notably during the so-called Croatian Spring when the government had to suppress both public demonstrations and dissenting opinions within the Communist Party.
Tito died in a clinic centre in Ljubljana, Slovenia on May 4, 1980, and his funeral drew many world celebrities, mainly politicians.
At the time of his death, speculation began about whether his successors could continue to hold Yugoslavia together. Ethnic divisions and conflict grew, and eventually erupted into a series of Yugoslav wars a decade after his death.
Tito is buried in his mausoleum in Belgrade, called Kuća cveća (The House of Flowers) and numerous people visit the place, although it no longer holds a guard of honour.
During his life and especially in the first year after his death, several places were named after Tito.
Tito's first wife was Hertha Haas, who in May of 1941 bore his first son Mišo Broz, although his most known wife was the last one, Jovanka Broz. One biographer has found that Tito has had children with fifteen other women during his life. His notable grandchildren include Aleksandra Broz, a prominent theatre actress in Croatia, and Svetlana Broz, a cardiologist and writer in Serbia.