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Tito’s Home Page
Martin Srebotnjak and Matija Marolt
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Reviewed by:
Mills Kelly
George Mason University
November 2002

This site, a playful but substantive archive of primary sources in various media from the life and career of Yugoslav leader Josip Broz (Tito), offers students a glimpse into the creation of personality cults in the Communist states that appeared after World War II. Created in 1997 by Slovene independent filmmaker Martin Srebotnjak and Matija Marolt, a faculty member in the Laboratory of Computer Graphics and Multimedia at the University of Ljubljana, the site spoofs Tito’s life and career—”Yes, I joined the WWW community!” Tito proclaims from the front page. At the same time, it offers more than 400 images, 40 audio files, and extensive bibliographic resources, including a timeline of Tito’s life and accomplishments, reviews of the site, and links to related sites.

For most undergraduate students, the inner workings of Communist society are a complete mystery. The degree to which the party penetrated every aspect of human endeavor is all but impossible for them to imagine, and most are profoundly skeptical that Communism was ever popular among broad segments of the population. This site offers students the opportunity to explore a central aspect of the relationship between the party and the people—the creation of personality cults around the great leader. While the site is focused solely on Tito, students can be challenged to consider other personality cults (Stalin, Kim Il Sung, Mao, Castro) that have been just as pervasive, if not quite as successful.

The emphasis of the site is on the two faces of Tito—the great leader and hero, and the man of the people. Students can be invited to explore this bifurcated presentation by examining visual and audio sources that support both presentations of Tito. He is presented to his public as an important world leader and hero through images of him shaking hands with more than 25 world leaders and celebrities, including Winston Churchill, Ida Amin, Jawaharlal Nehru and Sophia Loren. Other iconography includes a list of 101 awards to Tito from countries around the world—everywhere from Austria to Zambia.

At the same time, Tito is presented as a man of the people in dozens of images that display his common touch—strolling with peasant girls in his home village or chatting with ironworkers. For the average Yugoslav, both Titos were inescapable. He was the subject of songwriters, painters, sculptors, and the designers of postage stamps and currency, and all of these depictions are displayed on the site. No matter where Yugoslavs turned, they saw his smiling, fatherly face.

In the context of a world history survey, instructors might consider asking their students to investigate the contrasting visions of Tito in greater detail, using evidence from his “world” life—speaking to a Non-Aligned Movement conference in Havana, for example—with his “common” life—having a picnic with his people in Kosovo. Because the website presents these materials tongue-firmly-in-cheek, students will need to be reminded that the images and songs presented here were part of a carefully orchestrated campaign by the Yugoslav Communist Party to maintain or even increase the party’s popularity among the Yugoslav people.

Although the image collection is the largest resource in this site, students should also be encouraged to investigate how other media—especially radio—were used as part of the Party’s penetration of daily life. Students will be able to listen to any of 25 “Songs to Tito“ from such groups as the Handicapped Partisans Choir and the Police Brass Band of Ljubljana. Other sound files include a selection of clips averaging 35 seconds each from speeches by Tito.

Although this site offers a rich set of primary sources from Tito’s public and private life, these sources are not contextualized for students. As a result, instructors need to provide appropriate background material before sending students to the site. Instructors might also consider showing Emir Kusturica’s When Father Was Away on Business, a film that offers a compelling portrayal of life in 1950s Yugoslavia. (This film is probably not appropriate for a high school audience.)

Because the site is meant to be read as though it is Tito’s personal home page, it is not surprising that under the link to “Sins“ one finds only one sin to set against all the awards and adulation. As a follow up project, students might be assigned to investigate the “other Tito”—the leader of a state whose secret police harassed and even killed citizens for their political views.

This site is updated regularly by its authors and includes contributions from visitors, many of which (images, audio files) are as interesting as the material in the main part of the site.

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