in Yugoslav history for all time to come. The aging leader introduced the idea of a collective presidency somewhat along the lines of collective leadership in the Soviet Union which followed the death of Joseph Stalin. The presidency was to be rotated among the six republican and two territorial leaders, who were also the leaders of the Communist parties in their respective regions. The octopus was intended to prevent the emergence of one single dictator and to maintain a semblance of control over the Communist party and the federal government.
But Tito had surrounded himself with sycophants during the last years of his life. They were corrupted by their closeness to power and resented the fact that they were prevented from exercising it by Tito. During much of the 1970s, Tito lived in near isolation on the island of Brioni among luxuries and fawning servants, just like an oriental despot. He tolerated the corruption that surrounded him because he, too, had become corrupt.
It must be remembered that Tito was ultimately responsible for the transformation of Yugoslavia from a backward, agricultural country into a semi-industrialized modern society. Yet the change did not alter the basic nationalistic instincts and hatreds of the people, most of which were to surface once again after the dictator was dead. It did not matter that the industrial work force increased from I to 7 million people. Neither did it count that the old cities had grown and that new ones had been built. Even the greatly expanded educational system was useless in creating better understanding among the ethnic groups and nations in the Yugoslav republic. Thus, Tito's successors were unable to solve Yugoslavia's most pressing problems.
Nationalist sentiments had been forced underground by Titoism, but they had never disappeared. Historical traditions, language, religion, all played their role in preventing the emergence of a truly integrated Yugoslav nation. Croats, Slovenes, Albanians, Bosnian-Herzegovinians, and, above all Serbs continued to think of themselves as ethnically different, and they all harbored resentments against all the others. The memories of killings during World War II were also revived. The ambitions of Serb communists were the direct opposite of Titoism. Serb intellectuals and simple people argued that Serbia, the largest, most populous republic in the federal state, was shortchanged under the formula of equal treatment for all republics. The failure of Yugoslavia was not very different in this sense from the failure of the Habsburg empire or of the Romanov empire of Russia. They all disregarded the aspirations of peoples with long historical memories. The consequences are too well known. These are the true legacies of Titoism in Yugoslavia.
Cohen Lenard J., Broken Bonds: The Disintegration of Yugoslavia ( Boulder, CO, 1993); Djordjevic Dimitrije, "The Yugoslav Experiment," in Joseph Held, ed. The Columbia History of Eastern Europe in the Twentieth Century ( New York, 1992); Johnson Ross A., In the Twilight of Tito (Beverly Hills, CA, 1974); Volgyes Ivan, Politics in Eastern Europe ( Chicago, IL, 1986).