The Tito-Stalin Split was a conflict between the leaders of Federal People's Republic of Yugoslavia and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, which resulted in Yugoslavia's expulsion from the Communist Information Bureau (Cominform) in 1948. It was first said to be caused by Yugoslavia's disloyalty to the USSR and socialism in general, but most evidence suggests it had more to do with Josip Broz Tito's national pride and refusal to submit fully to Joseph Stalin's will.
Unlike the other new communist states in east-central Europe, Yugoslavia liberated itself from Axis domination, without any direct support from the Red Army
as the others. Tito's leading role in liberating Yugoslavia not only greatly strengthened his position in his party and among the Yugoslav people, but also caused him to be more insistent that Yugoslavia gets more room to follow its own interests than other Bloc leaders who had more reasons (and pressures) to recognise Soviet efforts in helping them liberate their own countries from Axis control. This had already led to some friction between the two countries before World War II
was even over. Although Tito was formally an ally of Stalin after World War II, the Soviets had set up a spy ring in the Yugoslav party as early as 1945
, giving way to an uneasy alliance.
In the immediate aftermath of World War II, there occurred several armed incidents between Yugoslavia and the Western Allies. Following the war, Yugoslavia recovered the territory of Istria, as well as the cities of Zadar and Rijeka that had been taken by Italy in the 1920s. Yugoslav leadership was looking to incorporate Trieste into the country as well, which was opposed by the Western Allies. This led to several armed incidents, notably air attacks of Yugoslav fighter planes on U.S. transport aircraft, causing bitter criticism from the west. From 1945 to 1948, at least four US aircraft were shot down. Stalin was opposed to these provocations, as he felt the USSR unready to face the West in open war so soon after the losses of World War II.
In addition, Tito was openly supportive of the Communist side in the Greek Civil War, while Stalin kept his distance, having agreed with Churchill not to stir up trouble there.
However, the world still saw the two countries as the closest of allies. This was evident at the first meeting of the Cominform
in 1947, where the Yugoslav representatives were the most strident critics of the national Communist parties viewed to be insufficiently devoted to the cause, specifically the Italian
parties for engaging in coalition politics. They were thereby essentially arguing Soviet positions. The headquarters for Cominform were even set up in Belgrade
. However, all was not well between the two countries, due to a number of disputes.
Trip to Moscow
The friction that led to the ultimate split had many causes, many of which can be eventually linked to Tito's regional focus and his refusal to accept Moscow as the supreme Communist authority. Yugoslavs were of the opinion that the joint-stock companies favored in the Soviet Union
were not effective in Yugoslavia. In addition, Tito's deployment of troops in Albania
to prevent the civil conflict in Greece from spreading into neighbouring countries (including Yugoslavia), carried out without consulting the Soviets, had greatly angered Stalin. Stalin was also enraged by Tito's aspirations to merge Yugoslavia with Bulgaria
(and therefore create a true "Land of the South Slavs"), an idea with which he agreed in theory, but which had also taken place without prior Soviet consultation. He summoned two of Tito's officials, Milovan Đilas
and Edvard Kardelj
, to Moscow
to discuss these matters. As a result of these talks, Đilas and Kardelj became convinced that Yugoslav-Soviet relations had already reached an impasse.
Between the trip to Moscow and the second meeting of the Cominform, the CPSU
and the Communist Party of Yugoslavia
(CPY) exchanged a series of letters detailing their grievances. The first CPSU letter, on March 27
, accused the Yugoslavs of denigrating Soviet socialism via statements such as "socialism in the Soviet Union has ceased to be revolutionary". It also claimed that the CPY was not democratic enough, and that it was not acting as a vanguard that would lead the country to socialism. The Soviets said that they "could not consider such a Communist party organization to be Marxist-Leninist
". The CPY response on April 13
was a strong denial of the Soviet accusations, both defending the revolutionary nature of the party, and re-asserting its high opinion of the Soviet Union. However, the CPY noted also that "no matter how much each of us loves the land of socialism
, the USSR
, he can in no case love his own country less." The Soviet answer on May 4
admonished the CPY for failing to admit and correct its mistakes, and went on to accuse the CPY of being too proud of their successes against the Germans, maintaining that the Red Army had saved them from destruction. They CPY's response on May 17
suggested that the matter be settled at the meeting of the Cominform to be held that June.
Tito did not even attend the second meeting of the Cominform, fearing that Yugoslavia was to be openly attacked. On June 28
, the other member countries expelled Yugoslavia, citing "nationalist elements" that had "managed in the course of the past five or six months to reach a dominant position in the leadership" of the CPY. The resolution warned Yugoslavia that it was on the path back to bourgeoise capitalism due to its nationalist, independence-minded positions.
The expulsion effectively banished Yugoslavia from the international association of socialist states. After the expulsion, Tito suppressed those who supported the resolution, calling them "Cominformists". Many were sent to a gulag
-like prison camp at Goli otok
. Between 1948 and 1952, the Soviet Union encouraged its allies to rebuild their military forces especially Hungary
, which was to be the leading force in an eventual war against Yugoslavia. Stalin's successor, Nikita Khrushchev
, later commented that "Tito was next on Stalin's list, after Korea
The other socialist states of Eastern Europe subsequently underwent purges of alleged "Titoists". Titoism was associated with the position that countries should take a nationalist road to socialism different from that of the Soviet Union. While this had been allowed in the years directly after World War II, the rift caused the Soviets to encourage Eastern European leaders to use harsh measures to prevent Tito's mutiny from spreading. After Stalin's death and the repudiation of his policies by Nikita Khrushchev, peace was made with Tito and Yugoslavia re-admitted into the international brotherhood of socialist states. However, relations between the two countries were never completely rebuilt; Yugoslavia would continue to take an independent course in world politics, shunning the influence of both west and east. The Yugoslav Army maintained two defence plans, one against a NATO invasion and one against a Warsaw Pact invasion.
Tito used the estrangement from the USSR to attain US aid via the Marshall Plan, as well as to involve Yugoslavia in the Non-Aligned Movement, in which Yugoslavia was a leading force. The event was significant not only for Yugoslavia and Tito, but also for the global development of socialism, since it was the first major split between Communist states, casting doubt on Comintern's claims for socialism to be a unified force that would eventually control the whole world.
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- Perovic, Jeronim. The Tito-Stalin Split: A Reassessment in Light of New Evidence. Journal of Cold War Studies 9, No. 2 (Spring 2007): 32-63, http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/abs/10.1162/jcws.2007.9.2.32