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Fortieth Anniversary Of Tito's Death Marked With Small Tributes

Supporters of Josip Broz Tito lay flowers on his tomb during a ceremony marking the 40th anniversary of his death in Belgrade on May 4.

Supporters of late Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito held small gatherings on May 4 to mark the 40th anniversary of his death.

The former strongman has a mixed legacy in the former Yugoslavia, where many see him as a brutal dictator who stifled dissent and jailed political opponents, while others see his rule as a period of peace and prosperity.

The coronavirus pandemic prevented mass gatherings, but small groups paid tribute at sites in countries that emerged from Yugoslavia's bloody collapse.

Dozens of people donning face masks visited Tito's marble grave in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, far fewer than the hundreds who usually mark his death annually at the site.

In the Croatian village of Kumrovec, where Tito was born, a siren wailed at the exact time of his passing.

Several dozen people joined a ceremony to lay flowers in front of a statue that stands outside his former family home in the village.

In the Bosnian capital, Sarajevo, a group gathered at the same hour to sound a siren and hold a moment of silence before a statue of Tito.

Tito, who died at the age of 87, was both revered and feared as the leader of Yugoslavia, a country that unraveled without his unifying presence.

Born to Croatian and Slovene parents, he was admired for driving out Nazi German forces during World War II with his partisan fighters.

He later brought relative prosperity to Yugoslavia and successfully balanced it between the Soviet Union and the West during the Cold War.

But he also jailed political dissidents, enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, and was criticized for encouraging a personality cult.

In the years after his death, the centralized control Tito exercised devolved along ethnic lines, culminating with the violent conflicts that saw first Slovenia, then Croatia, and subsequently Bosnia-Herzegovina, Macedonia, Montenegro, and Kosovo break away to become their own states.

With reporting by Reuters and AFP
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