Josip Broz, later known as Marshal Tito, was born in 1892 and died in 1980; he lived for almost twice as long as the country that he led as president existed. His biography has been picked over many times. Early treatments of his life tended to be official hagiographies; more recent ones, written after Yugoslavia’s collapse, have often demonized him. Even the best of them, as the historian Emily Greble writes in the foreword to this book, aimed “to investigate Yugoslavia’s place in the global history of the Second World War and the Cold War rather than to understand the country’s leader.” Pirjevec fills this gap with a dispassionate and meticulously detailed account of Tito’s life from his birth into grueling peasant poverty, to his struggles as a member of the nascent Yugoslav Communist Party in Moscow during Stalin’s Great Purge, and finally to his complex relationships with key comrades across the tumultuous decades that followed. It is no small feat to capture the essence of a figure in whom courage, stalwartness, and even compassion mixed with cunning, ego, and brutality—for example, he never confessed to second thoughts about ordering the massacre of over 100,000 “collaborationists” at the end of World War II—but Pirjevec succeeds handsomely.
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