Tito: a Study

Courtesy Reuters

DURING the heavy fighting which took place on the Eastern Front in 1915 a regiment of Russian cavalry overran some Austrian trenches, killing or capturing their occupants. Amongst those taken prisoner was a non-commissioned officer named Brož, the son of a peasant from Kumrovac in Croatia, then aged twenty-three. It was thus that on the outbreak of the Bolshevik revolution two years later Josip Brož, later to become famous as Marshal Tito of Jugoslavia, found himself a prisoner of war in Russia. Having escaped from prison, Brož joined the Bolsheviks and spent the next two or three years fighting on their side in the civil war in Siberia and Central Asia.

The experiences of these years not unnaturally made a profound impression on the young Croat. In Russia he found something that he had hitherto lacked: a cause which commanded his devotion and loyalty. To him, a member of an underprivileged Slav minority, the Hapsburgs and their crumbling Empire meant nothing; nor had his early experiences as an industrial worker in Zagreb and elsewhere left him with any great liking for the capitalist system as he knew it. In the Russians he now found fellow Slavs, talking a language so closely akin to his own that he could soon speak it fluently, while the historic events in which, by chance as much as anything, he had become involved, seemed to provide the answer to many of his early doubts and questionings. He married a Russian woman, and when he returned home in 1920 it was as an enthusiastic supporter of the new ideas and a loyal servant of the recently formed Communist International. His wife and his infant son Zharko stayed behind in Russia.

Much had happened in southeastern Europe in the five or six years which Josip Brož had spent abroad. The Hapsburg Empire had ceased to exist, and he now found himself a citizen of the new Kingdom of the Serbs, Croats and Slovenes, shortly to be

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