Tuesday, January 05, 2010

The Death of Tito

The Death of Tito
Tito's Body Is Borne To Mourning Capital

St. Louis Post-Dispatch

May 5, 1980

The death of Yugoslavian leader Josip Broz Tito, and the reactions of various Western leaders, are described in this article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Belgrade, Yugoslavia—A special train carried the body of President Tito from Ljubljana to Belgrade and more than 200,000 people jammed the square in front of the railway station at the final stop today. His death brought his estranged wife back into public view after 2 y years.
Tito's wife, Jovanka Budisavljevic, joined his two sons as his body was carried up the steps into the Parliament building where it will lie in state until a funeral Thursday. Burial will follow near the Museum of the Revolution in a Belgrade suburb.

The announcement of Tito's death Sunday, after a four-month struggle against a crippling series of ailments, plunged Yugoslavia into mourning for the peasant-born statesman who fought a guerrilla war against the Nazis, defied Soviet dictator Josef Stalin in 1948 and led the nation for more than three decades on an independent communist path.

The State Presidium, the collective state and party leadership that Tito designed, announced that Lazar Kolisevski, acting head of state since Tito fell ill in January, would become president of the eight-man body, which functions as a collective government.

Kolisevski, 66, president of the Macedonian Republic, was serving a one-year term as vice president, and his term of office—now as president—is to expire later this month. The title of president will rotate among the nine-member collective made up of representatives of Yugoslavia's six republics, two autonomous provinces and Communist Party.

Steven Doronjski, 61, a Serb from the province of Vojvodina, was expected to become party president. He will share his power with 23 other members of the party presidium representing the republics and the autonomous provinces.

Condolences poured in from the world's capitals. U.S. President Jimmy Carter called Tito “a towering figure on the world stage” and vowed to support Yugoslavia's independence and territorial integrity. Carter also selected Vice President Walter F. Mondale to lead the U.S. delegation to the funeral.

Tens of thousands packed the rainy streets of Ljubljana, where Tito died at a medical center and where top officials spoke in a brief service before Tito's coffin was put aboard the train on which he had often traveled around the country.

At its first and only stop, in Zagreb, more thousands gathered at the rail station for a 45-minute ceremony. In a speech read over the coffin, Dragutin Plasc, a Communist Party official, vowed, “Nothing and nobody will stop us on the path of socialist self-management and non-alignment, freedom and independence. Comrade Tito, from your way, we swear never to stray.”

And millions hearing the ceremonies on national television and radio immediately recognized the words in the eulogy that every Yugoslav school child learns. “We belong to Tito, Tito belongs to us.”

Tito's marriage to Jovanka was disclosed in 1952. After being his constant companion in public for years, she dropped from sight in 1977 amid reports—never denied—that she had manipulated to arrange a position for herself in the Yugoslav hierarchy after Tito's death. Yugoslav officials never discussed the reason for her disappearance.
Today she joined his sons, Zarko and Misa, among the mourners.

Doctors at Ljubljana Medical Center, where Tito fought stubbornly for four months, listed a heart ailment and “post-operative” complications as the cause of death.

The docters disclosed that Tito, who was renowned for his robust health, had suffered diabetes for many years, which led to nerve and circulation problems in his legs and kidney trouble. He underwent emergency bypass surgery for blocked arteries in his left leg Jan. 12, but this proved unsuccessful, and the leg was amputated eight days later.

Tito began to recover, but after three weeks developed an increasing number of serious complications that eventually killed him.

At least three times during his ordeal, Tito appeared on the brink of death only to rally. But on Sunday the doctors issued two medical bulletins, indicating Tito's vital functions were expiring. Finally came this announcement:
“To the working class, to the working people and citizens, to the peoples and nationalities of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Comrade Tito is dead.”

The collective state and party leadership, which took power when Tito fell ill in January, announced a seven-day period of mourning and a state funeral Thursday. The body will lie in state in the Federal Parliament building.

Newspapers rushed out special editions whose front pages displayed huge, black-bordered pictures of the dead leader. The Zagreb newspaper Vjesnik didn't even use any words on its front page—just the black bordered portrait.

In Moscow, a photograph of its old adversary was flashed on TV screens, and he was praised as “an active participant in the war for peace against imperialism and colonialism.” No mention of Tito's defiance of Stalin was made.

The Soviet Union today expressed its desire for friendly relations with Yugoslavia, including noninterference in each other's internal affairs and “strict respect of sovereign rights.” A message to Belgrade from the Soviet Communist Party, government and Parliament spoke of friendly relations serving “the vital interests” of both countries and being their “common property.”

French President Valery Giscard d'Estaing said that Tito “was an international leader who, having preserved the liberty and independence of his country, gave the world the authentic voice of non-alignment.”

China, a one-time enemy of Tito's maverick style of independent communism, dipped its flags to half-staff, and announced that Premier Hua Guofeng would attend the funeral.

India recalled that its former leader, Prime Minister Jawarharlal Nehru, had joined Tito in founding the non-aligned movement and praised Tito as a true world leader of vision. New Delhi announced a three day period of mourning and announced that Prime Minster Indira Gandhi, Nehru's daughter, would fly to Belgrade for the funeral.

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who will lead Britain's delegation to the funeral, said Tito “was Britain's staunch ally in war, and our countries became firm friends in peace.” Queen Elizabeth II called him “a great patriot and a man of outstanding courage and tenacity.”
Spanish Prime Minister Adolfo Suarez hailed Tito as the “last of the great postwar figures.” U.N. Secretary-General Kurt Waldheim called Tito “a true hero” and said his passing meant “the last of the great figures of our times has disappeared.”

West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt said few men have been able to “serve their people and the world community of nations as President Tito did with great willpower until the end.”
Italian Prime Minister Francesco Cossiga said Italy would remember him as “an intrepid fighter for the principles of independence.” President Anwar Sadat of Egypt praised Tito's “long history of struggle as a bright page in the history of humanity.”

But in the East Bloc, Polish television in Warsaw reported the death in a one-line news item from Belgrade, read at the end of the nationwide evening news program. The official East German news agency ADN moved a long obituary on the peasant-turned-statesman that skirted the sharp differences between Belgrade and Moscow.

Japanese Prime Minister Masayoshi Ohira said Tito's death was “an irrevocable loss to the world as well as to his country.” He praised Tito for making “a significant contribution as the leader of Yugoslavia and the movement of non-aligned countries for decades.”

Tito was born into a peasant family in the Croatian village of Kumrovec on May 7, 1892. He joined the illegal Communist Party, and, during World War II, led his Communist partisans in the guerrilla campaign against the Nazis.

After the war, Tito broke with Moscow and led Yugoslavia on an independent communist path, incorporating a decentralized, economic system of workers' self-management, mixing market economy with socialism. He then helped father the non-aligned movement and walked a tightrope between East and West at home—keeping his nation out of both superpower camps.
Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 5, 1980.

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