Tito Returns to Belgrade

Owen Jones owen_jones at SPAMcwcom.net
Wed Aug 23 09:15:49 MDT 2000


 This is an excerpt from Tim Judah's book - "The Serbs" - for your interest;
I thought it was very moving, but I wasn't sure if I should laugh or cry.

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 It was one of the strangest events to have taken place in Belgrade for
decades. Marshal Josip Broz Tito, the man who had ruled Yugoslavia until his
death in 1980, had returned saying that he was back to see "what's going
on". Resurrected for two days in 1994, the man who had reunified Yugoslavia
in 1945 strolled around the city to be greeted by adoring crowds and also by
angry individuals who accused him of being responsible for the misfortunes
that had befallen the country since his death.

 As he toured Belgrade, women crowded around the dead leader to give him
flowers. One told him that she had cried when he had died at the age of
eighty-seven. "So did I," replied Tito, who was wearing military uniform and
looked none the worse for his death. Scores engaged their former leader in
conversation. "I am a Serb and you are a Croat," said one man, "but I used
to admire you." Another said that after his death he had been part of his
honour guard. "Yes, I remember you," said Tito encouragingly. The man said,
"You were everything for us, you used to warm us like the sun." Another
disagreed, telling the former communist leader that he was "guilty", a
"bandit", and accused him of hating Serbs. "I used to be one of your
soldiers," said another, "but now there is no bread in the shops." Another
said during his time there was only one Tito: "Now there are fifty-five."

 "We thought of it as a joke," said Aleksandar Vasovic, of the independent
radio station B-92 which sponsored the film, "but as you see it turned out
rather serious."

 'Tito: For the Second Time among the Serbs' was the brainchild of
film-maker Zelimir Zilnik. He dressed up an actor as marshal Tito, let him
wander Belgrade and filmed people's reactions. Amazingly, far from seeing
the funny side of Zilnik's prank, people reacted as though the actor was the
real Tito. In front of Belgrade station, a Gypsy accordionist struck up a
Tito-era tune and the crowd grew so big that the police had to intervene.
According to Zilnik, "First they told the cameraman to move, and then me,
but I told them to tell Tito. They said, 'No, leave him out of it.'"

 One man explained to Tito that nowadays "everyone has their own flag, state
and coat of arms - for only one hill two or three hundred boys must die." An
old man stopped to accuse him of being pro-American and betraying the Soviet
Union in 1948. Another said that while he was in power, "I built a house -
now I couldn't even build an out-house."

 Reflecting on this bizarre interaction, Slobodan Stupar, the deputy
director of B-92, said he thought this was a terrible reflection of
contemporary Serbia: "It shows that the common people have lost touch with
reality. Everything you tell them through the media they absorb like a
sponge. So you have a situation where Tito is resurrected and the people
believe that." Zilnik said, "It's obvious that today, for the majority of
people, there is a strong need to compare Tito's time and today, but people
are not looking so much at Tito as a symbol as at their own past."

 In the most pathetic scene of all, Tito finds an old man sitting alone by
the tombs of the Marshal's old comrades-in-arms. Their busts have been
removed. "Who was bothered by them?" asks Tito. "Those who don't like order,
those who don't respect the past...those who are irresponsible," says the
old man. He does not look up. Tito asks him where he is from and he replies
that he is a refugee from the war in Bosnia. "When will it end?" asks Tito.
"There is no end, my friend," says the old man.






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