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Josip Broz Tito Josip Broz Tito uniform portrait.jpg
Josip Broz Tito

Titoism is a political philosophy most closely associated with Josip Broz Tito during the Cold War. It is characterized by a broad Yugoslav identity, a political separation from the Soviet Union, and leadership in the Non-Aligned Movement.


Tito led the Yugoslav Partisans during World War II. After the war, tensions arose between Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union. Although these issues diminished over time, Yugoslavia still remained relatively independent in thought and policy. Tito led Yugoslavia until his death in 1980.

Today, the term "Titoism" is sometimes used to refer to Yugo-nostalgia, a longing for reestablishment or revival of Yugoslavism or Yugoslavia by the citizens of Yugoslavia's successor states.

Tito-Stalin Split

When the rest of Eastern Europe became satellite states of the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia refused to accept the 1948 Resolution of the Cominform and the period from 1948 to 1955, known as the Informbiro, was marked by severe repression of opponents and many others accused of pro-Stalin attitudes to the penal camp on Goli Otok.


Elements of Titoism are characterized by policies and practices based on the principle that in each country the means of attaining ultimate communist goals must be dictated by the conditions of that particular country, rather than by a pattern set in another country. It is distinct from Joseph Stalin's socialism in one country theory as Tito advocated cooperation between nations through the Non-Aligned Movement while at the same time pursuing socialism in whatever ways best suited particular nations. On the other hand, socialism in one country focused on fast industrialisation and modernisation in order to compete with what Stalin perceived as the more advanced nations of the West. During Tito's era, his ideas specifically meant that the communist goal should be pursued independently of (and often in opposition to) what he referred to as the Stalinist and imperialist policies of the Soviet Union.

Throughout his time in office, Tito prided himself on Yugoslavia's independence from the Soviet Union, with Yugoslavia never accepting full membership in Comecon and Tito's open rejection of many aspects of Stalinism as the most obvious manifestations of this. The Soviets and their satellite states often accused Yugoslavia of Trotskyism and social democracy, charges loosely based on Tito's samoupravljanje (self-management) and the theory of associated labor (profit sharing policies and worker-owned industries initiated by him, Milovan Đilas and Edvard Kardelj in 1950). It was in these things that the Soviet leadership accused of harboring the seeds of council communism or even corporatism.

The propaganda attacks centered on the caricature of "Tito the Butcher" of the working class, aimed to pinpoint him as a covert agent of Western imperialism. Tito was in fact welcomed by Western powers as an ally, but he never lost his communist credentials.


Initially a personal favourite of Stalin, Tito led the national liberation war to the Nazi occupation during the war, then met with the Soviet leadership several times immediately after the war to negotiate the future of Yugoslavia. Over time, these negotiations became less cordial because Tito had the intention neither of handing over executive power nor of accepting foreign intervention or influence (a position Tito later continued within the Non-Aligned Movement).

Tito angered Stalin by agreeing with the projects of Bulgarian leader Georgi Dimitrov, which meant to merge the two Balkan countries into a Balkan Federative Republic according to the projects of Balkan Communist Federation. This led to the 1947 cooperation agreement signed in Bled (Dimitrov also pressured Romania to join such a federation, expressing his beliefs during a visit to Bucharest in early 1948). The Bled agreement, also referred to as the "Tito-Dimitrov treaty", was signed 1 August 1947 in Bled, Slovenia. It foresaw also unification between Vardar Macedonia and Pirin Macedonia and return of Western Outlands to Bulgaria. The policies resulting from the agreement were reversed after the Tito-Stalin split in June 1948, when Bulgaria was being subordinated to the interests of the Soviet Union and took a stance against Yugoslavia.

The policy of regional blocs had been the norm in Comintern policies, displaying Soviet resentment of the nation-state in Eastern Europe and of the consequences of Paris Peace Conference. With the 1943 dissolution of Comintern and the subsequent advent of the Cominform came Stalin's dismissal of the previous ideology, and adaptation to the conditions created for Soviet hegemony during the Cold War.

Outcome and influence

The League of Communists of Yugoslavia retained solid power; as in all Communist regimes, the legislature did little more than rubber stamp decisions already made by the LCY's Politburo. The secret police, the State Security Administration (UDBA), while operating with considerably more restraint than its counterparts in the rest of Eastern Europe, was nonetheless a feared tool of government control. UDBA was particularly notorious for assassinating suspected "enemies of the state" who lived in exile overseas. [1] The media remained under restrictions that were onerous by Western standards, but still had more latitude than their counterparts in other Communist countries. Nationalist groups were a particular target of the authorities, with numerous arrests and prison sentences handed down over the years for separatist activities. Although the Soviets revised their attitudes under Nikita Khrushchev during the process of de-Stalinization and sought to normalize relations with the Yugoslavs while obtaining influence in the Non-Aligned Movement, the answer they got was never enthusiastic and the Soviet Union never gained a proper outlet to the Mediterranean Sea. At the same time, the Non-Aligned states failed to form a third Bloc, especially after the split at the outcome of the 1973 oil crisis.

Leonid Brezhnev's conservative attitudes yet again chilled relations between the two countries (although they never degenerated to the level of the conflict with Stalin). Yugoslavia backed Czechoslovakia's leader Alexander Dubček during the 1968 Prague Spring and then cultivated a special (albeit incidental) relation with the maverick Romanian President Nicolae Ceaușescu. Titoism was similar to Dubček's socialism with a human face while Ceaușescu attracted sympathies for his refusal to condone (and take part in) the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, which briefly seemed to constitute a casus belli between Romania and the Soviets. However, Ceaușescu was an unlikely member of the alliance since he profited from the events in order to push his authoritarian agenda inside Romania.

After Brezhnev brought Czechoslovakia to heel in 1968, Romania and Yugoslavia maintained privileged connections up to the mid-1980s. Ceaușescu adapted the part of Titoism that made reference to the "conditions of a particular country", but merged them with Romanian nationalism and contrasting North Korean Juche beliefs while embarking on a particular form of Cultural Revolution. The synthesis can be roughly compared with the parallel developments of Hoxhaism and found Ceaușescu strong, perhaps unsought, supporters in National Bolshevism theorists such as the Belgian Jean-François Thiriart.

Tito's own ideology became less clear with the pressures of various nationalisms within Yugoslavia and the problems posed by the 1970s Croatian Spring. In terms of economics, Yugoslavia became somewhat closer to a free-market, neatly separated from other Socialist regimes in Eastern Europe (and marked by a permissive attitude towards seasonal labor of Yugoslav citizens in Western Europe). At the same time, the leadership did put a stop to overt capitalist attempts (such as Stjepan Mesić's experiment with privatization in Orahovica) and crushed the dissidence of liberal thinkers such as former leader Milovan Đilas while it also clamped down on centrifugal attempts, promoting a Yugoslav patriotism.

Although still claimed as official policies, virtually all aspects of Titoism went into rapid decline after Tito's death in 1980, being replaced by the rival policies of constituent republics. During the late 1980s, with nationalism on the rise, revised Titoism was arguably kept as a point of reference by political movements caught disadvantaged by the main trends, such as civic forums in Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republic of Macedonia.

See also

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  1. Schindler, John (4 February 2010), Doctor of Espionage: The Victims of UDBA, Sarajevo: Slobodna Bosna, pp. 35–38