Yugoslavia: Tito and Communist Rule

Tito and Communist Rule

The constitution of 1946 gave wide autonomy to the six newly created republics, but actual power remained in the hands of Tito and the Communist party. The Allied peace treaty (1947) with Italy awarded Yugoslavia the eastern part of Venezia Giulia and set up Trieste as a free territory; conflict with Italy over Trieste ended in a partition agreement (1954). Within Yugoslavia a vigorous program of socialization was inaugurated. Opposition was crushed or intimidated, and Mihajlović was executed. Close ties were maintained with the USSR and the Cominform until 1948, when a breach between the Yugoslav and Soviet Communist parties occurred and Yugoslavia was expelled from the Cominform.

The Tito government began to pursue an independent course in foreign relations. Economic and military assistance was received from the West. In 1954, Yugoslavia concluded a military defense pact (independent of NATO) with Greece and Turkey. More cordial relations with the USSR were resumed in 1955, but new rifts occurred because of Soviet intervention in Hungary (1956) and Czechoslovakia (1968). Domestically Yugoslavia's “national communism” or “Titoism” included the abandonment of agricultural collectivization (1953) and the centralization of administrative and economic controls. Important economic power was given to workers' councils, and the republics were subdivided into communes. In 1966, Aleksander Ranković, the vice president and Tito's long-time associate, was purged for having maintained a network of secret agents and for opposing reform. Friction with the Roman Catholic Church ended with an accord with the Vatican in 1966.

Yugoslavs under Tito possessed greater freedom than the inhabitants of any other Eastern European country. Intellectual freedom was still restricted, however, as the jailings and harassment of Milovan Djilas and Mihaljo Mihaljov showed. In the early 1970s, agitation among the nationalities revived, particularly among the Croats, and controls over intellectual life were stiffened. The autonomy of the six republics and two autonomous provinces of Serbia slowly increased through the 1970s as the economy began to stagnate. With the death of Tito in 1980, an unwieldy collective leadership was established. The economic problems and ethnic divisions continued to deepen in the 1980s, and the foreign debt grew significantly.

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