Post-War Yugoslavia; smack in the middle of the East European Iron Curtain and ruled over by Josip Broz Tito, leader of the partisan resistance movement during World War 2, when Yugoslavia was overrun by Nazis.
He was General Secretary (later Chairman of the Presidium) of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia (1939–1980) and went on to lead the World War II Yugoslav guerrilla movement, the Partisans (1941–1945). After the war, he was the Prime Minister (1944–1963), President (later President for Life) (1953–1980) of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRY). From 1943 to his death in 1980, he held the rank of Marshal of Yugoslavia, serving as the supreme commander of the Yugoslav military, the Yugoslav People’s Army (JNA). With a highly favorable reputation abroad in both Cold War blocs, he received some 98 foreign decorations, including the Legion of Honour and the Order of the Bath.
Tito was the chief architect of the second Yugoslavia, a socialist federation that lasted from November 1942 until April 1992. Despite being one of the founders of Cominform, he became the first Cominform member to defy Soviet hegemony in 1948 and the only one in Joseph Stalin‘s time to manage to leave Cominform and begin with its own socialist program with elements of market socialism. Economists active in the former Yugoslavia, including Czech-born Jaroslav Vanek and Croat-born Branko Horvat, promoted a model of market socialism dubbed the Illyrian model, where firms were socially owned by their employees and structured on workers’ self-management and competed with each other in open and free markets.
And this confused the hell out of people, particularly those in the West who felt Tito was under the thumb of Stalin. But in truth, he skillfully manipulated the conversation in such a way that he succeeded in maintaining a close relationship with the Soviet Union, while reaching out to the West. Tito’s relationships with Western Europe made for uneasy relationships – with Stalin feeling Tito had too much independence, yet was reluctant to exercise authoritarian control over the country by means of invasion, much the same way as Czechoslovakia and Hungary. Tito maintained this complex relationship as well as being the glue which held a contentious region together (Croats/Serbs/Montenegrans/Christians/Muslims) until his death in 1980 – after which the glue started to come apart and in the 1990s went haywire.
This interview/discussion with Yugoslavian diplomat Sava Kosanovic comes from November of 1949 – right as the Cold War was taking off and the cloak of distrust descended between East and West. It’s an interesting sideline to know, that Kosanovic was the nephew of Nikola Tesla.
This is typical of the Cold War era interviews that went on between Eastern political figures and Western press. Contentious and baffling, but always entertaining.