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Episode
84

Tito | The Man Who Stood Up To Stalin

First published on
August 28, 2020
History
-
21
minutes
World War I
World War II
Russia
Communism
Hitler
Revolution
The Cold War

Tito, the former president of Yugoslavia, survived 21 assassination attempts, fought in two world wars, and managed to stand up to Josef Stalin and live to tell the tale.

In this episode we tell the tale of the fascinating life of Josip Broz, 'Tito'.

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Transcript

[00:00:04] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English, the show where you can listen to fascinating stories and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English. 

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about Josep Broz, otherwise known as Tito. 

[00:00:31] He was the man who ruled Yugoslavia for almost 40 years, survived 21 assassination attempts, and was one of the few people to stand up to Stalin and live to tell the tale.

[00:00:47] It’s a fascinating story, and I hope you’ll enjoy it.

[00:00:52] This episode was actually a request from a member of Leonardo English, an awesome Spanish guy called Daniel. 

[00:01:00] And if you would like to request topics for episodes, plus get access to all the bonus content, subtitles, transcripts, and key vocabulary, as well as joining a community of curious minds from all over the world, then I’d definitely recommend checking out becoming a member of Leonardo English.

[00:01:20] The place to go for that is the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:27] So, Tito.

[00:01:29] Our story starts in 1892, in a small village called Kumrovec, in what was then Austro-Hungary, but is now part of Croatia.

[00:01:41] Josip Broz was the seventh son of a family of 15 children. His parents were peasants, although they were by no means destitute, they weren’t completely impoverished. They had a reasonably large farm, and a house of their own. 

[00:02:01] Much of Josip Broz’s early life is debated, from how many brothers and sisters he had, to where he was actually born. We’ll skip over much of this because it isn’t really that important for the purposes of our story.

[00:02:18] When he was about 15 years old, Broz left home, and wandered around a series of towns and cities in central Europe, doing odd-jobs, repairing bicycles, working in restaurants, and generally doing manual jobs.

[00:02:37] Everything changed in 1913 when he was forced to join the Austro-Hungarian army. 

[00:02:45] Austro-Hungary still had conscription, as did most European countries, and the young Broz became a soldier at the age of 21, a year before World War I broke out.

[00:02:59] During the war, he distinguished himself, and it was here that he first started displaying his organisational skills and bravery.

[00:03:10] He was sent to the Eastern front to fight against Russia, and in 1915 he was almost killed by a Russian lancer, a soldier on a horse carrying a large sharp pole.

[00:03:25] Although this incident nearly was the end of the young Broz, it proved to be a defining moment in his life. 

[00:03:35] Injured, he was captured by the Russians, and sent to a Russian prisoner of war camp.

[00:03:42] It was here that he discovered communism, or at least, became sympathetic to the communist organisations that were soon to seize power in Russia.

[00:03:54] When he returned ‘home’, he found that the country he had grown up in, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was no more, and the country he returned to was called the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes.

[00:04:11] The name of this country was changed to Yugoslavia in 1929, and it included the countries we now know as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia. 

[00:04:30] Now, we could obviously talk for hours about the difficulties that Yugoslavia had, and the difficulties of uniting seven different countries under one ruler, but let's stick to the most important things to remember when it comes to Tito.

[00:04:50] Firstly, power in this new country, the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was concentrated in the hands of the Serbs. 

[00:05:01] Secondly, different factions, different groups of people within this new kingdom favoured different approaches. Some favoured centralised control from the capital, Belgrade, while others favoured more autonomy for the different regions.

[00:05:23] So when Josep Broz returned ‘home’, he found that the country he had left was no more, and the country that had replaced it was a series of different factions, different groups, all with their own agenda and a different view of what would be in the best interests of their people.

[00:05:48] He also returned home a communist, and joined the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, the CPY, which was formed in 1919. 

[00:05:59] But despite the CPY’s increasing appeal in Yugoslavia, it was banned, it was outlawed, in 1921, and Broz and his communist comrades continued to work underground, organising gatherings, spreading the communist message, and operating below the surface.

[00:06:24] He ended up being arrested in 1928, after allegedly being found with bomb-making equipment, and was thrown into prison for 5 years.

[00:06:38] When he was released, in 1933, it was time for a new Josep Broz. 

[00:06:45] He adopted the name ‘Tito’, which he was known by for the rest of his life.

[00:06:52] He quickly rose through the ranks of the CPY, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, which was still illegal at the time.

[00:07:02] His talent was noticed by the Comintern, the Russian organisation that promoted communism abroad and supported communist parties outside Russia - they saw that Broz could be a useful asset in Yugoslavia.

[00:07:18] In August 1937, he became the acting General Secretary of the CPY, making him the most important member of the communist party in Yugoslavia, which was still illegal, remember, it didn’t become a legal party until after World War Two. 

[00:07:40] Tito was given this position after his predecessor, the person who came before him, was purged, was killed by Stalin, and it has even been alleged that Tito may have had something to do with getting rid of his predecessor

[00:07:59] Whether that’s true or not, it certainly was very convenient for Tito.

[00:08:06] But then World War Two broke out.

[00:08:09] In 1941, Yugoslavia was invaded by the Axis forces, mainly Germany and Italy, but also supported by Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. With a weak army, and a weak state, Yugoslavia quickly crumbled.

[00:08:28] When the Axis forces invaded, Tito went into full underground mode and became a partisan fighter.

[00:08:37] There was a strong, partisan movement that was continuing to fight against the invaders.

[00:08:43] And the interesting thing about this time was that the different partisan groups were using the chaos as a way to try to further their own aims and ambitions. 

[00:08:57] Tito, as leader of the CPY, and supported by the Comintern, emerged as the most successful of all of these Yugoslav partisan groups.

[00:09:09] The main rival to Tito, and to the CPY, was something called the Chetniks, who were a Serbian group that had actually collaborated with their Nazi invaders, and were supporting the Serbian government. 

[00:09:26] Their aim was for a return to the throne of the Serbian king, King Peter II.

[00:09:34] However, the Allies saw the superior organisation of Tito and the CPY, and said that it should be Tito’s troops who should attack the Axis forces. 

[00:09:47] And in 1944, Tito’s army entered Belgrade and fought off the Nazis.

[00:09:56] Long story short, after the end of World War II, the CPY was in a position of power in Yugoslavia. It was seen not only to have successfully fought off the Nazis, but also to have done it independently, without the help of Moscow.

[00:10:17] That put the CPY, and Tito, in a pretty strong bargaining position. Unlike other communist countries in Europe, they didn’t owe Russia anything.

[00:10:31] Tito was elected prime minister of Yugoslavia in 1945 with an overwhelming majority. He was viewed as the man who had saved the country, and it was quite right that he should take his place as its leader.

[00:10:49] The king was ousted, he was removed, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was declared.

[00:10:57] Back in Moscow, Stalin was a little wary of Tito, and the independence that he evidently wanted to have for Yugoslavia. 

[00:11:09] And from the end of the Second World War until his death in 1953, Stalin became more and more frustrated with Tito.

[00:11:20] Communist Russia was the ‘mothership’. It supported lots of satellite countries, and was trying to spread communism all over the world. But these countries, perhaps with the exception of China, were subservient to Russia, they followed Moscow’s orders, and when Stalin told them to do something, they generally did it.

[00:11:47] Tito, and Yugoslavia, didn’t.

[00:11:51] Moscow wanted Yugoslavia to be integrated into the East European Communist bloc. Tito refused.

[00:12:00] The Moscow way was for the central government to have complete control over people’s lives. In Yugoslavia, although it was still a communist country, Tito relaxed quite a lot of central controls, and allowed more regional control.

[00:12:19] Tito pursued independent foreign policy for Yugoslavia, courting Albania and Greece, while Moscow wanted to have complete control over all foreign relations conducted by every communist country

[00:12:35] Tito didn’t just annoy Stalin, he became a threat. 

[00:12:41] If there was this one communist power that existed largely ignoring Moscow, this would be an example to the other communist powers that they could do it as well.

[00:12:55] And Joseph Stalin, as we all know, was not the sort of man that you wanted to get on the wrong side of. He murdered hundreds of thousands of his own people, and millions died as a result of his decisions.

[00:13:12] You can probably imagine what happened next.

[00:13:16] Stalin tried to get rid of Tito in various ways. He started just by criticising him and trying to purge him, hoping that his fellow communists in Yugoslavia would turn on him. 

[00:13:32] That didn’t work. Tito still held control of the CPY, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, as well as the military police

[00:13:43] He then kicked the CPY out of Cominform, the European group of ruling communist parties. The idea was that by isolating Yugoslavia, he could push Tito out, and then replace him with someone who was more friendly, and more willing to be obedient to Moscow.

[00:14:06] That didn’t work either. 

[00:14:09] Tito was a communist, and Yugoslavia was a communist country, but Tito had cleverly walked the line between Moscow and the West. 

[00:14:21] Yugoslavia wasn’t completely cut off from the West, and so even when it was sidelined and cut off by Moscow, it still had this lifeline to the West. Unlike the other European communist countries, Moscow wasn’t its only hope, which gave it and Tito a lot more bargaining power.

[00:14:46] Throughout this time, Stalin wasn't just criticising Tito and hoping the problem was going to go away, he was actively trying to assassinate him, and there were a reported 21 assassination attempts in total on Tito’s life.

[00:15:05] This caused Tito to write in a letter to Stalin: 

[00:15:10] Stop sending people to kill me. We've already captured five of them, one of them with a bomb and another with a rifle. If you don't stop sending killers, I'll send one to Moscow, and I won't have to send a second.

[00:15:26] Stalin died in 1953, officially of a heart attack. 

[00:15:34] Interestingly enough, there is a theory that it wasn’t a heart attack that killed him, and that Tito actually made good on his threat, and Stalin was poisoned by the President of Yugoslavia, by Tito himself. 

[00:15:50] It does sound a little implausible, but having Stalin out of the way was certainly a relief for Tito.

[00:15:59] After Stalin’s death, there was hope of a reconciliation with Moscow, and for a while it did look like this was to be a possibility. 

[00:16:11] However, Khrushchev, the man who took over from Stalin, proved to be not too much different to his predecessor, and relations between Moscow and Yugoslavia never really blossomed again.

[00:16:28] Instead of leaning towards Moscow, Tito formed alliances with other semi-neutral countries, such as Egypt and India.

[00:16:39] The world was in a state of you’re either communist or you’re non-communist, and Tito, despite being the leader of a communist country, managed to navigate this situation quite successfully.

[00:16:54] Tito was repeatedly re-elected President of Yugoslavia, and in 1963 the constitution was changed, and he was elected President for life, so he had an unlimited term.

[00:17:10] Compared to other communist countries in Europe, life for normal people in Yugoslavia was actually quite good. They enjoyed more freedoms, less fear of persecution and of being packed away on a train to a labour camp, and a standard of living that was better than that of their contemporaries in other countries in the Soviet bloc.

[00:17:36] However, and there is always a however when it comes to a country’s leader who is elected President for life and rules for almost 40 years, his reign was not without its victims.

[00:17:49] Tito was most definitely an authoritarian. Yugoslavia was not a democracy, he had supreme control, there was a certain cult of personality about him, and he was ruthless in punishing those who opposed him.

[00:18:09] Tens of thousands of political prisoners were sent to forced labour camps, the most famous of which was an island called Goli Otok, or Barren Island, which is off the coast of modern-day Croatia.

[00:18:26] If you picture a Croatian island, you might think of beautiful beaches, lovely blue sea, and people generally having a good time.

[00:18:35] Goli Otok was not like this. 

[00:18:39] It had practically no vegetation, very strong winds, and contained a prison where Tito would send his rivals, hundreds of whom died working there.

[00:18:53] So Tito was no angel, but he was considered the least bad of any of the communist-era rulers in Europe, and was often courted by Western leaders, meeting everyone from Churchill to Willy Brandt, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter.

[00:19:12] Tito died in 1980, aged 88, and dignitaries from 122 countries came to his funeral.

[00:19:23] When we look back on his legacy, though, it’s an interesting one to properly evaluate, and historians are divided about what exactly he left behind.

[00:19:36] He had managed to keep the country of Yugoslavia alive, and united for the duration of his rule, for almost 40 years.

[00:19:47] Yet 11 years after he died, the country collapsed, and 12 years after he died, it was plunged into civil war.

[00:19:58] Obviously now, Yugoslavia is 7 different countries. To recap, that’s Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia.

[00:20:13] One argument is that it took a leader like Tito to keep such a fragmented nation together, and when he died, there was nobody who was capable of picking up the mantle, and of doing what he was able to do.

[00:20:29] The other side is that Tito had almost 40 years to truly unite Yugoslavia, to bring its people together and create a true sense of unity in the country. 

[00:20:42] He squandered it, he missed his chance, and he spent too long trying to do everything - trying to be communist but also friends with western countries, he knew that uniting the Serbs, the Croats, and the Slovenes was an impossible task, yet other than cracking down on dissent and enforcing his one view of a unified Yugoslavia, he didn’t really do much to fix the problem.

[00:21:13] The legacy of Tito is a complicated one, and not least because it is shared by 7 different countries. 

[00:21:21] It says a lot that in the 10 years after his death, so before the collapse of Yugoslavia, his mausoleum, where he is buried, had been visited by 14 million people. 

[00:21:36] But on the 15th anniversary of his death, in 1995, the only people coming to pay their respects at his grave were a few family members and old communists. 

[00:21:50] The name Tito means different things to different people. If you are from Serbia, you probably think differently about him than if you are from Croatia.

[00:22:03] What is undeniably true though is that he was a powerful force in post World War II Europe, and without him, the world we live in today may have looked quite different.

[00:22:18] OK then, that is it for Josep Broz, aka Tito.

[00:22:23] Whatever you think of him, he had a fascinating life, and a huge impact on that area of the world, and Europe more widely.

[00:22:33] As always, I would love to know what you thought of today's episode. 

[00:22:36] We have quite a few listeners and members from a few of the countries that formed part of Yugoslavia, so I would especially love to know what you thought of today’s episode.

[00:22:49] What do you think of Tito? How has this changed, if at all, over the years?

[00:22:56] And of course, even if you’re not from around there, I would still love to know what you think.

[00:23:00] You can email hi - hi@leonardoenglish.com

[00:23:06] And as a final reminder, if you are looking to improve your English in a more interesting way, to join a community of curious minds from all over the world, and to unlock the transcripts, subtitles, and key vocabulary, then you should definitely check out becoming a member of Leonardo English.

[00:23:24] As a member, you can also request topics, just like Daniel did for today’s episode.

[00:23:30] So if that’s of interest, and I really hope it is, then the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:23:39] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English

[00:23:45] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF PODCAST]

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[00:00:04] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English, the show where you can listen to fascinating stories and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English. 

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about Josep Broz, otherwise known as Tito. 

[00:00:31] He was the man who ruled Yugoslavia for almost 40 years, survived 21 assassination attempts, and was one of the few people to stand up to Stalin and live to tell the tale.

[00:00:47] It’s a fascinating story, and I hope you’ll enjoy it.

[00:00:52] This episode was actually a request from a member of Leonardo English, an awesome Spanish guy called Daniel. 

[00:01:00] And if you would like to request topics for episodes, plus get access to all the bonus content, subtitles, transcripts, and key vocabulary, as well as joining a community of curious minds from all over the world, then I’d definitely recommend checking out becoming a member of Leonardo English.

[00:01:20] The place to go for that is the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:27] So, Tito.

[00:01:29] Our story starts in 1892, in a small village called Kumrovec, in what was then Austro-Hungary, but is now part of Croatia.

[00:01:41] Josip Broz was the seventh son of a family of 15 children. His parents were peasants, although they were by no means destitute, they weren’t completely impoverished. They had a reasonably large farm, and a house of their own. 

[00:02:01] Much of Josip Broz’s early life is debated, from how many brothers and sisters he had, to where he was actually born. We’ll skip over much of this because it isn’t really that important for the purposes of our story.

[00:02:18] When he was about 15 years old, Broz left home, and wandered around a series of towns and cities in central Europe, doing odd-jobs, repairing bicycles, working in restaurants, and generally doing manual jobs.

[00:02:37] Everything changed in 1913 when he was forced to join the Austro-Hungarian army. 

[00:02:45] Austro-Hungary still had conscription, as did most European countries, and the young Broz became a soldier at the age of 21, a year before World War I broke out.

[00:02:59] During the war, he distinguished himself, and it was here that he first started displaying his organisational skills and bravery.

[00:03:10] He was sent to the Eastern front to fight against Russia, and in 1915 he was almost killed by a Russian lancer, a soldier on a horse carrying a large sharp pole.

[00:03:25] Although this incident nearly was the end of the young Broz, it proved to be a defining moment in his life. 

[00:03:35] Injured, he was captured by the Russians, and sent to a Russian prisoner of war camp.

[00:03:42] It was here that he discovered communism, or at least, became sympathetic to the communist organisations that were soon to seize power in Russia.

[00:03:54] When he returned ‘home’, he found that the country he had grown up in, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was no more, and the country he returned to was called the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes.

[00:04:11] The name of this country was changed to Yugoslavia in 1929, and it included the countries we now know as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia. 

[00:04:30] Now, we could obviously talk for hours about the difficulties that Yugoslavia had, and the difficulties of uniting seven different countries under one ruler, but let's stick to the most important things to remember when it comes to Tito.

[00:04:50] Firstly, power in this new country, the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was concentrated in the hands of the Serbs. 

[00:05:01] Secondly, different factions, different groups of people within this new kingdom favoured different approaches. Some favoured centralised control from the capital, Belgrade, while others favoured more autonomy for the different regions.

[00:05:23] So when Josep Broz returned ‘home’, he found that the country he had left was no more, and the country that had replaced it was a series of different factions, different groups, all with their own agenda and a different view of what would be in the best interests of their people.

[00:05:48] He also returned home a communist, and joined the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, the CPY, which was formed in 1919. 

[00:05:59] But despite the CPY’s increasing appeal in Yugoslavia, it was banned, it was outlawed, in 1921, and Broz and his communist comrades continued to work underground, organising gatherings, spreading the communist message, and operating below the surface.

[00:06:24] He ended up being arrested in 1928, after allegedly being found with bomb-making equipment, and was thrown into prison for 5 years.

[00:06:38] When he was released, in 1933, it was time for a new Josep Broz. 

[00:06:45] He adopted the name ‘Tito’, which he was known by for the rest of his life.

[00:06:52] He quickly rose through the ranks of the CPY, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, which was still illegal at the time.

[00:07:02] His talent was noticed by the Comintern, the Russian organisation that promoted communism abroad and supported communist parties outside Russia - they saw that Broz could be a useful asset in Yugoslavia.

[00:07:18] In August 1937, he became the acting General Secretary of the CPY, making him the most important member of the communist party in Yugoslavia, which was still illegal, remember, it didn’t become a legal party until after World War Two. 

[00:07:40] Tito was given this position after his predecessor, the person who came before him, was purged, was killed by Stalin, and it has even been alleged that Tito may have had something to do with getting rid of his predecessor

[00:07:59] Whether that’s true or not, it certainly was very convenient for Tito.

[00:08:06] But then World War Two broke out.

[00:08:09] In 1941, Yugoslavia was invaded by the Axis forces, mainly Germany and Italy, but also supported by Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. With a weak army, and a weak state, Yugoslavia quickly crumbled.

[00:08:28] When the Axis forces invaded, Tito went into full underground mode and became a partisan fighter.

[00:08:37] There was a strong, partisan movement that was continuing to fight against the invaders.

[00:08:43] And the interesting thing about this time was that the different partisan groups were using the chaos as a way to try to further their own aims and ambitions. 

[00:08:57] Tito, as leader of the CPY, and supported by the Comintern, emerged as the most successful of all of these Yugoslav partisan groups.

[00:09:09] The main rival to Tito, and to the CPY, was something called the Chetniks, who were a Serbian group that had actually collaborated with their Nazi invaders, and were supporting the Serbian government. 

[00:09:26] Their aim was for a return to the throne of the Serbian king, King Peter II.

[00:09:34] However, the Allies saw the superior organisation of Tito and the CPY, and said that it should be Tito’s troops who should attack the Axis forces. 

[00:09:47] And in 1944, Tito’s army entered Belgrade and fought off the Nazis.

[00:09:56] Long story short, after the end of World War II, the CPY was in a position of power in Yugoslavia. It was seen not only to have successfully fought off the Nazis, but also to have done it independently, without the help of Moscow.

[00:10:17] That put the CPY, and Tito, in a pretty strong bargaining position. Unlike other communist countries in Europe, they didn’t owe Russia anything.

[00:10:31] Tito was elected prime minister of Yugoslavia in 1945 with an overwhelming majority. He was viewed as the man who had saved the country, and it was quite right that he should take his place as its leader.

[00:10:49] The king was ousted, he was removed, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was declared.

[00:10:57] Back in Moscow, Stalin was a little wary of Tito, and the independence that he evidently wanted to have for Yugoslavia. 

[00:11:09] And from the end of the Second World War until his death in 1953, Stalin became more and more frustrated with Tito.

[00:11:20] Communist Russia was the ‘mothership’. It supported lots of satellite countries, and was trying to spread communism all over the world. But these countries, perhaps with the exception of China, were subservient to Russia, they followed Moscow’s orders, and when Stalin told them to do something, they generally did it.

[00:11:47] Tito, and Yugoslavia, didn’t.

[00:11:51] Moscow wanted Yugoslavia to be integrated into the East European Communist bloc. Tito refused.

[00:12:00] The Moscow way was for the central government to have complete control over people’s lives. In Yugoslavia, although it was still a communist country, Tito relaxed quite a lot of central controls, and allowed more regional control.

[00:12:19] Tito pursued independent foreign policy for Yugoslavia, courting Albania and Greece, while Moscow wanted to have complete control over all foreign relations conducted by every communist country

[00:12:35] Tito didn’t just annoy Stalin, he became a threat. 

[00:12:41] If there was this one communist power that existed largely ignoring Moscow, this would be an example to the other communist powers that they could do it as well.

[00:12:55] And Joseph Stalin, as we all know, was not the sort of man that you wanted to get on the wrong side of. He murdered hundreds of thousands of his own people, and millions died as a result of his decisions.

[00:13:12] You can probably imagine what happened next.

[00:13:16] Stalin tried to get rid of Tito in various ways. He started just by criticising him and trying to purge him, hoping that his fellow communists in Yugoslavia would turn on him. 

[00:13:32] That didn’t work. Tito still held control of the CPY, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, as well as the military police

[00:13:43] He then kicked the CPY out of Cominform, the European group of ruling communist parties. The idea was that by isolating Yugoslavia, he could push Tito out, and then replace him with someone who was more friendly, and more willing to be obedient to Moscow.

[00:14:06] That didn’t work either. 

[00:14:09] Tito was a communist, and Yugoslavia was a communist country, but Tito had cleverly walked the line between Moscow and the West. 

[00:14:21] Yugoslavia wasn’t completely cut off from the West, and so even when it was sidelined and cut off by Moscow, it still had this lifeline to the West. Unlike the other European communist countries, Moscow wasn’t its only hope, which gave it and Tito a lot more bargaining power.

[00:14:46] Throughout this time, Stalin wasn't just criticising Tito and hoping the problem was going to go away, he was actively trying to assassinate him, and there were a reported 21 assassination attempts in total on Tito’s life.

[00:15:05] This caused Tito to write in a letter to Stalin: 

[00:15:10] Stop sending people to kill me. We've already captured five of them, one of them with a bomb and another with a rifle. If you don't stop sending killers, I'll send one to Moscow, and I won't have to send a second.

[00:15:26] Stalin died in 1953, officially of a heart attack. 

[00:15:34] Interestingly enough, there is a theory that it wasn’t a heart attack that killed him, and that Tito actually made good on his threat, and Stalin was poisoned by the President of Yugoslavia, by Tito himself. 

[00:15:50] It does sound a little implausible, but having Stalin out of the way was certainly a relief for Tito.

[00:15:59] After Stalin’s death, there was hope of a reconciliation with Moscow, and for a while it did look like this was to be a possibility. 

[00:16:11] However, Khrushchev, the man who took over from Stalin, proved to be not too much different to his predecessor, and relations between Moscow and Yugoslavia never really blossomed again.

[00:16:28] Instead of leaning towards Moscow, Tito formed alliances with other semi-neutral countries, such as Egypt and India.

[00:16:39] The world was in a state of you’re either communist or you’re non-communist, and Tito, despite being the leader of a communist country, managed to navigate this situation quite successfully.

[00:16:54] Tito was repeatedly re-elected President of Yugoslavia, and in 1963 the constitution was changed, and he was elected President for life, so he had an unlimited term.

[00:17:10] Compared to other communist countries in Europe, life for normal people in Yugoslavia was actually quite good. They enjoyed more freedoms, less fear of persecution and of being packed away on a train to a labour camp, and a standard of living that was better than that of their contemporaries in other countries in the Soviet bloc.

[00:17:36] However, and there is always a however when it comes to a country’s leader who is elected President for life and rules for almost 40 years, his reign was not without its victims.

[00:17:49] Tito was most definitely an authoritarian. Yugoslavia was not a democracy, he had supreme control, there was a certain cult of personality about him, and he was ruthless in punishing those who opposed him.

[00:18:09] Tens of thousands of political prisoners were sent to forced labour camps, the most famous of which was an island called Goli Otok, or Barren Island, which is off the coast of modern-day Croatia.

[00:18:26] If you picture a Croatian island, you might think of beautiful beaches, lovely blue sea, and people generally having a good time.

[00:18:35] Goli Otok was not like this. 

[00:18:39] It had practically no vegetation, very strong winds, and contained a prison where Tito would send his rivals, hundreds of whom died working there.

[00:18:53] So Tito was no angel, but he was considered the least bad of any of the communist-era rulers in Europe, and was often courted by Western leaders, meeting everyone from Churchill to Willy Brandt, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter.

[00:19:12] Tito died in 1980, aged 88, and dignitaries from 122 countries came to his funeral.

[00:19:23] When we look back on his legacy, though, it’s an interesting one to properly evaluate, and historians are divided about what exactly he left behind.

[00:19:36] He had managed to keep the country of Yugoslavia alive, and united for the duration of his rule, for almost 40 years.

[00:19:47] Yet 11 years after he died, the country collapsed, and 12 years after he died, it was plunged into civil war.

[00:19:58] Obviously now, Yugoslavia is 7 different countries. To recap, that’s Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia.

[00:20:13] One argument is that it took a leader like Tito to keep such a fragmented nation together, and when he died, there was nobody who was capable of picking up the mantle, and of doing what he was able to do.

[00:20:29] The other side is that Tito had almost 40 years to truly unite Yugoslavia, to bring its people together and create a true sense of unity in the country. 

[00:20:42] He squandered it, he missed his chance, and he spent too long trying to do everything - trying to be communist but also friends with western countries, he knew that uniting the Serbs, the Croats, and the Slovenes was an impossible task, yet other than cracking down on dissent and enforcing his one view of a unified Yugoslavia, he didn’t really do much to fix the problem.

[00:21:13] The legacy of Tito is a complicated one, and not least because it is shared by 7 different countries. 

[00:21:21] It says a lot that in the 10 years after his death, so before the collapse of Yugoslavia, his mausoleum, where he is buried, had been visited by 14 million people. 

[00:21:36] But on the 15th anniversary of his death, in 1995, the only people coming to pay their respects at his grave were a few family members and old communists. 

[00:21:50] The name Tito means different things to different people. If you are from Serbia, you probably think differently about him than if you are from Croatia.

[00:22:03] What is undeniably true though is that he was a powerful force in post World War II Europe, and without him, the world we live in today may have looked quite different.

[00:22:18] OK then, that is it for Josep Broz, aka Tito.

[00:22:23] Whatever you think of him, he had a fascinating life, and a huge impact on that area of the world, and Europe more widely.

[00:22:33] As always, I would love to know what you thought of today's episode. 

[00:22:36] We have quite a few listeners and members from a few of the countries that formed part of Yugoslavia, so I would especially love to know what you thought of today’s episode.

[00:22:49] What do you think of Tito? How has this changed, if at all, over the years?

[00:22:56] And of course, even if you’re not from around there, I would still love to know what you think.

[00:23:00] You can email hi - hi@leonardoenglish.com

[00:23:06] And as a final reminder, if you are looking to improve your English in a more interesting way, to join a community of curious minds from all over the world, and to unlock the transcripts, subtitles, and key vocabulary, then you should definitely check out becoming a member of Leonardo English.

[00:23:24] As a member, you can also request topics, just like Daniel did for today’s episode.

[00:23:30] So if that’s of interest, and I really hope it is, then the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:23:39] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English

[00:23:45] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF PODCAST]

[00:00:04] Hello, hello, hello, and welcome to English Learning for Curious Minds by Leonardo English, the show where you can listen to fascinating stories and learn weird and wonderful things about the world at the same time as improving your English. 

[00:00:22] I'm Alastair Budge and today we are going to be talking about Josep Broz, otherwise known as Tito. 

[00:00:31] He was the man who ruled Yugoslavia for almost 40 years, survived 21 assassination attempts, and was one of the few people to stand up to Stalin and live to tell the tale.

[00:00:47] It’s a fascinating story, and I hope you’ll enjoy it.

[00:00:52] This episode was actually a request from a member of Leonardo English, an awesome Spanish guy called Daniel. 

[00:01:00] And if you would like to request topics for episodes, plus get access to all the bonus content, subtitles, transcripts, and key vocabulary, as well as joining a community of curious minds from all over the world, then I’d definitely recommend checking out becoming a member of Leonardo English.

[00:01:20] The place to go for that is the website, which is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:01:27] So, Tito.

[00:01:29] Our story starts in 1892, in a small village called Kumrovec, in what was then Austro-Hungary, but is now part of Croatia.

[00:01:41] Josip Broz was the seventh son of a family of 15 children. His parents were peasants, although they were by no means destitute, they weren’t completely impoverished. They had a reasonably large farm, and a house of their own. 

[00:02:01] Much of Josip Broz’s early life is debated, from how many brothers and sisters he had, to where he was actually born. We’ll skip over much of this because it isn’t really that important for the purposes of our story.

[00:02:18] When he was about 15 years old, Broz left home, and wandered around a series of towns and cities in central Europe, doing odd-jobs, repairing bicycles, working in restaurants, and generally doing manual jobs.

[00:02:37] Everything changed in 1913 when he was forced to join the Austro-Hungarian army. 

[00:02:45] Austro-Hungary still had conscription, as did most European countries, and the young Broz became a soldier at the age of 21, a year before World War I broke out.

[00:02:59] During the war, he distinguished himself, and it was here that he first started displaying his organisational skills and bravery.

[00:03:10] He was sent to the Eastern front to fight against Russia, and in 1915 he was almost killed by a Russian lancer, a soldier on a horse carrying a large sharp pole.

[00:03:25] Although this incident nearly was the end of the young Broz, it proved to be a defining moment in his life. 

[00:03:35] Injured, he was captured by the Russians, and sent to a Russian prisoner of war camp.

[00:03:42] It was here that he discovered communism, or at least, became sympathetic to the communist organisations that were soon to seize power in Russia.

[00:03:54] When he returned ‘home’, he found that the country he had grown up in, the Austro-Hungarian Empire, was no more, and the country he returned to was called the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes.

[00:04:11] The name of this country was changed to Yugoslavia in 1929, and it included the countries we now know as Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia. 

[00:04:30] Now, we could obviously talk for hours about the difficulties that Yugoslavia had, and the difficulties of uniting seven different countries under one ruler, but let's stick to the most important things to remember when it comes to Tito.

[00:04:50] Firstly, power in this new country, the Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes was concentrated in the hands of the Serbs. 

[00:05:01] Secondly, different factions, different groups of people within this new kingdom favoured different approaches. Some favoured centralised control from the capital, Belgrade, while others favoured more autonomy for the different regions.

[00:05:23] So when Josep Broz returned ‘home’, he found that the country he had left was no more, and the country that had replaced it was a series of different factions, different groups, all with their own agenda and a different view of what would be in the best interests of their people.

[00:05:48] He also returned home a communist, and joined the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, the CPY, which was formed in 1919. 

[00:05:59] But despite the CPY’s increasing appeal in Yugoslavia, it was banned, it was outlawed, in 1921, and Broz and his communist comrades continued to work underground, organising gatherings, spreading the communist message, and operating below the surface.

[00:06:24] He ended up being arrested in 1928, after allegedly being found with bomb-making equipment, and was thrown into prison for 5 years.

[00:06:38] When he was released, in 1933, it was time for a new Josep Broz. 

[00:06:45] He adopted the name ‘Tito’, which he was known by for the rest of his life.

[00:06:52] He quickly rose through the ranks of the CPY, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, which was still illegal at the time.

[00:07:02] His talent was noticed by the Comintern, the Russian organisation that promoted communism abroad and supported communist parties outside Russia - they saw that Broz could be a useful asset in Yugoslavia.

[00:07:18] In August 1937, he became the acting General Secretary of the CPY, making him the most important member of the communist party in Yugoslavia, which was still illegal, remember, it didn’t become a legal party until after World War Two. 

[00:07:40] Tito was given this position after his predecessor, the person who came before him, was purged, was killed by Stalin, and it has even been alleged that Tito may have had something to do with getting rid of his predecessor

[00:07:59] Whether that’s true or not, it certainly was very convenient for Tito.

[00:08:06] But then World War Two broke out.

[00:08:09] In 1941, Yugoslavia was invaded by the Axis forces, mainly Germany and Italy, but also supported by Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria. With a weak army, and a weak state, Yugoslavia quickly crumbled.

[00:08:28] When the Axis forces invaded, Tito went into full underground mode and became a partisan fighter.

[00:08:37] There was a strong, partisan movement that was continuing to fight against the invaders.

[00:08:43] And the interesting thing about this time was that the different partisan groups were using the chaos as a way to try to further their own aims and ambitions. 

[00:08:57] Tito, as leader of the CPY, and supported by the Comintern, emerged as the most successful of all of these Yugoslav partisan groups.

[00:09:09] The main rival to Tito, and to the CPY, was something called the Chetniks, who were a Serbian group that had actually collaborated with their Nazi invaders, and were supporting the Serbian government. 

[00:09:26] Their aim was for a return to the throne of the Serbian king, King Peter II.

[00:09:34] However, the Allies saw the superior organisation of Tito and the CPY, and said that it should be Tito’s troops who should attack the Axis forces. 

[00:09:47] And in 1944, Tito’s army entered Belgrade and fought off the Nazis.

[00:09:56] Long story short, after the end of World War II, the CPY was in a position of power in Yugoslavia. It was seen not only to have successfully fought off the Nazis, but also to have done it independently, without the help of Moscow.

[00:10:17] That put the CPY, and Tito, in a pretty strong bargaining position. Unlike other communist countries in Europe, they didn’t owe Russia anything.

[00:10:31] Tito was elected prime minister of Yugoslavia in 1945 with an overwhelming majority. He was viewed as the man who had saved the country, and it was quite right that he should take his place as its leader.

[00:10:49] The king was ousted, he was removed, and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was declared.

[00:10:57] Back in Moscow, Stalin was a little wary of Tito, and the independence that he evidently wanted to have for Yugoslavia. 

[00:11:09] And from the end of the Second World War until his death in 1953, Stalin became more and more frustrated with Tito.

[00:11:20] Communist Russia was the ‘mothership’. It supported lots of satellite countries, and was trying to spread communism all over the world. But these countries, perhaps with the exception of China, were subservient to Russia, they followed Moscow’s orders, and when Stalin told them to do something, they generally did it.

[00:11:47] Tito, and Yugoslavia, didn’t.

[00:11:51] Moscow wanted Yugoslavia to be integrated into the East European Communist bloc. Tito refused.

[00:12:00] The Moscow way was for the central government to have complete control over people’s lives. In Yugoslavia, although it was still a communist country, Tito relaxed quite a lot of central controls, and allowed more regional control.

[00:12:19] Tito pursued independent foreign policy for Yugoslavia, courting Albania and Greece, while Moscow wanted to have complete control over all foreign relations conducted by every communist country

[00:12:35] Tito didn’t just annoy Stalin, he became a threat. 

[00:12:41] If there was this one communist power that existed largely ignoring Moscow, this would be an example to the other communist powers that they could do it as well.

[00:12:55] And Joseph Stalin, as we all know, was not the sort of man that you wanted to get on the wrong side of. He murdered hundreds of thousands of his own people, and millions died as a result of his decisions.

[00:13:12] You can probably imagine what happened next.

[00:13:16] Stalin tried to get rid of Tito in various ways. He started just by criticising him and trying to purge him, hoping that his fellow communists in Yugoslavia would turn on him. 

[00:13:32] That didn’t work. Tito still held control of the CPY, the Communist Party of Yugoslavia, as well as the military police

[00:13:43] He then kicked the CPY out of Cominform, the European group of ruling communist parties. The idea was that by isolating Yugoslavia, he could push Tito out, and then replace him with someone who was more friendly, and more willing to be obedient to Moscow.

[00:14:06] That didn’t work either. 

[00:14:09] Tito was a communist, and Yugoslavia was a communist country, but Tito had cleverly walked the line between Moscow and the West. 

[00:14:21] Yugoslavia wasn’t completely cut off from the West, and so even when it was sidelined and cut off by Moscow, it still had this lifeline to the West. Unlike the other European communist countries, Moscow wasn’t its only hope, which gave it and Tito a lot more bargaining power.

[00:14:46] Throughout this time, Stalin wasn't just criticising Tito and hoping the problem was going to go away, he was actively trying to assassinate him, and there were a reported 21 assassination attempts in total on Tito’s life.

[00:15:05] This caused Tito to write in a letter to Stalin: 

[00:15:10] Stop sending people to kill me. We've already captured five of them, one of them with a bomb and another with a rifle. If you don't stop sending killers, I'll send one to Moscow, and I won't have to send a second.

[00:15:26] Stalin died in 1953, officially of a heart attack. 

[00:15:34] Interestingly enough, there is a theory that it wasn’t a heart attack that killed him, and that Tito actually made good on his threat, and Stalin was poisoned by the President of Yugoslavia, by Tito himself. 

[00:15:50] It does sound a little implausible, but having Stalin out of the way was certainly a relief for Tito.

[00:15:59] After Stalin’s death, there was hope of a reconciliation with Moscow, and for a while it did look like this was to be a possibility. 

[00:16:11] However, Khrushchev, the man who took over from Stalin, proved to be not too much different to his predecessor, and relations between Moscow and Yugoslavia never really blossomed again.

[00:16:28] Instead of leaning towards Moscow, Tito formed alliances with other semi-neutral countries, such as Egypt and India.

[00:16:39] The world was in a state of you’re either communist or you’re non-communist, and Tito, despite being the leader of a communist country, managed to navigate this situation quite successfully.

[00:16:54] Tito was repeatedly re-elected President of Yugoslavia, and in 1963 the constitution was changed, and he was elected President for life, so he had an unlimited term.

[00:17:10] Compared to other communist countries in Europe, life for normal people in Yugoslavia was actually quite good. They enjoyed more freedoms, less fear of persecution and of being packed away on a train to a labour camp, and a standard of living that was better than that of their contemporaries in other countries in the Soviet bloc.

[00:17:36] However, and there is always a however when it comes to a country’s leader who is elected President for life and rules for almost 40 years, his reign was not without its victims.

[00:17:49] Tito was most definitely an authoritarian. Yugoslavia was not a democracy, he had supreme control, there was a certain cult of personality about him, and he was ruthless in punishing those who opposed him.

[00:18:09] Tens of thousands of political prisoners were sent to forced labour camps, the most famous of which was an island called Goli Otok, or Barren Island, which is off the coast of modern-day Croatia.

[00:18:26] If you picture a Croatian island, you might think of beautiful beaches, lovely blue sea, and people generally having a good time.

[00:18:35] Goli Otok was not like this. 

[00:18:39] It had practically no vegetation, very strong winds, and contained a prison where Tito would send his rivals, hundreds of whom died working there.

[00:18:53] So Tito was no angel, but he was considered the least bad of any of the communist-era rulers in Europe, and was often courted by Western leaders, meeting everyone from Churchill to Willy Brandt, Richard Nixon, and Jimmy Carter.

[00:19:12] Tito died in 1980, aged 88, and dignitaries from 122 countries came to his funeral.

[00:19:23] When we look back on his legacy, though, it’s an interesting one to properly evaluate, and historians are divided about what exactly he left behind.

[00:19:36] He had managed to keep the country of Yugoslavia alive, and united for the duration of his rule, for almost 40 years.

[00:19:47] Yet 11 years after he died, the country collapsed, and 12 years after he died, it was plunged into civil war.

[00:19:58] Obviously now, Yugoslavia is 7 different countries. To recap, that’s Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Serbia, and Slovenia.

[00:20:13] One argument is that it took a leader like Tito to keep such a fragmented nation together, and when he died, there was nobody who was capable of picking up the mantle, and of doing what he was able to do.

[00:20:29] The other side is that Tito had almost 40 years to truly unite Yugoslavia, to bring its people together and create a true sense of unity in the country. 

[00:20:42] He squandered it, he missed his chance, and he spent too long trying to do everything - trying to be communist but also friends with western countries, he knew that uniting the Serbs, the Croats, and the Slovenes was an impossible task, yet other than cracking down on dissent and enforcing his one view of a unified Yugoslavia, he didn’t really do much to fix the problem.

[00:21:13] The legacy of Tito is a complicated one, and not least because it is shared by 7 different countries. 

[00:21:21] It says a lot that in the 10 years after his death, so before the collapse of Yugoslavia, his mausoleum, where he is buried, had been visited by 14 million people. 

[00:21:36] But on the 15th anniversary of his death, in 1995, the only people coming to pay their respects at his grave were a few family members and old communists. 

[00:21:50] The name Tito means different things to different people. If you are from Serbia, you probably think differently about him than if you are from Croatia.

[00:22:03] What is undeniably true though is that he was a powerful force in post World War II Europe, and without him, the world we live in today may have looked quite different.

[00:22:18] OK then, that is it for Josep Broz, aka Tito.

[00:22:23] Whatever you think of him, he had a fascinating life, and a huge impact on that area of the world, and Europe more widely.

[00:22:33] As always, I would love to know what you thought of today's episode. 

[00:22:36] We have quite a few listeners and members from a few of the countries that formed part of Yugoslavia, so I would especially love to know what you thought of today’s episode.

[00:22:49] What do you think of Tito? How has this changed, if at all, over the years?

[00:22:56] And of course, even if you’re not from around there, I would still love to know what you think.

[00:23:00] You can email hi - hi@leonardoenglish.com

[00:23:06] And as a final reminder, if you are looking to improve your English in a more interesting way, to join a community of curious minds from all over the world, and to unlock the transcripts, subtitles, and key vocabulary, then you should definitely check out becoming a member of Leonardo English.

[00:23:24] As a member, you can also request topics, just like Daniel did for today’s episode.

[00:23:30] So if that’s of interest, and I really hope it is, then the place to go to is leonardoenglish.com.

[00:23:39] You've been listening to English Learning for Curious Minds, by Leonardo English

[00:23:45] I'm Alastair Budge, you stay safe and I'll catch you in the next episode.

[END OF PODCAST]