This edited article about President Tito originally appeared in Look and Learn issue number 444 published on 18 July 1970.
When the Nazi terror swept down on Yugoslavia in 1941 the Partisans went into action. They began with small detachments which blew up railways and bridges and attacked convoys of vehicles. They graduated from using axes and hunting rifles to captured enemy arms and ammunition.
The detachments turned into larger forces as more and more freedom fighters joined them. Until 1943, when the Allies started to give them help and encouragement, the poorly armed, underfed, exhausted Partisans had somehow survived the onslaughts of the greatest army in Europe and its Italian and Hungarian allies. But, apart from their desperate courage, they had one supreme asset, a guerrilla leader named Josip Broz, better known by the assumed name he has made world famous – Tito!
Now a youthful 78-year-old, Marshal Tito is the one revolutionary Communist leader who is universally admired, not only by his fellow-countrymen, but also by millions whose politics are worlds away from his own. His story is the story of modern Yugoslavia.
Tito was born in 1892 before there was a Yugoslavia! His homeland was then Crotia, part of the vast, ramshackle, inefficient Austro-Hungarian Empire. Yugoslavia was created in 1918 from Serbia, Croatia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia-Herzegovina and part of Macedonia! Tito did not “make” it, but it owes its existence as an independent country today to him.
Tito’s parents were peasants. The future guerrilla leader was renowned as a boy for reading widely and for leading successful raids on orchards! He loved horses and learnt to ride soon after he walked.
At 14, he started work in a machine shop in a nearby town where everyone seemed to be talking politics, unity of all the Slav peoples being the dream of his new friends. Josip Broz rapidly became a skilled worker and a keen Trade Unionist.
In the 1914-18 War, Josip rose to be a sergeant-major at 23, though, like most young socialists, he regarded the war as a struggle between rival capitalist groups. He was wounded and captured by the Russians and soon found himself mixed up with the Russian Revolution of 1917, so much so that he had to flee to Finland. On his return he was arrested and sent to Siberia. He escaped from a prison train and joined a revolutionary unit, but it was defeated and he found himself on the run again.
He lived with Mongol nomads, riding with them across the Steppes, arguing with them about politics and being hidden by them when soldiers came looking for him. Then at last the war was over and he returned home.
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