As premier and minister of defense from 1945, Marshal Tito ruled Yugoslavia dictatorially. He suppressed internal opposition by such measures as the execution of Mihajlović and the jailing (1946) of Archbishop Stepinac of Zagreb, and he nationalized Yugoslav industry and undertook a planned economy. He did not attempt to collectivize the land of the Yugoslav small farmers, but he forced them, under threat of severe penalties, to furnish large portions of their produce to the state.
Although Yugoslavia was closely associated with the USSR and was a leading member of the Cominform, Tito often pursued independent policies and did not hesitate to curtail the activities of Soviet agents. In 1948 the Cominform accused Tito of having deviated from the correct Communist line. Tito denied the charges and refused to submit to the Cominform, from which Yugoslavia was then expelled.
Having already transformed Yugoslavia into an armed camp, built up a highly efficient secret police, and purged dissident elements in the Communist party, Tito succeeded in maintaining his position despite the hostility of the USSR and his neighbors. Although he accepted loans from the Western powers, he initially did not alter his internal program. In later years, however, he relaxed many of the regime's strict controls, particularly those affecting the small farmers. As a result, Yugoslavia became the most liberal Communist country of Europe.
On close terms with President Nasser of Egypt and Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru of India, Tito unsuccessfully tried to develop common policies among nonaligned nations. Relations with the USSR were alternately friendly and hostile. In 1968, together with the Romanian party chief, Nicolae Ceauşescu, Tito led the opposition to the Soviet intervention in Czechoslovakia.
Tito was repeatedly reelected president from his first term in 1953, and in 1963 his term was made unlimited. In an effort to provide for succession to the leadership after his death, Tito established (1971) a 22-member collective presidency composed of the presidents of the 6 republican and 2 autonomous provincial assemblies and 14 members chosen from the republican and provincial assemblies for 5-year terms. In July, 1971, Tito was elected chairman of the new presidency.
During the 1970s the economy began to weaken under the weight of foreign debt, high inflation, and inefficient industry. Also, he was under increasing pressure from nationalist forces within Yugoslavia, especially Croatian secessionists who threatened to break up the federation. Following their repression, Tito tightened control of intellectual life. After his death in 1980, the ethnic tensions resurfaced, helping to bring about the eventual violent breakup of the federation in the early 1990s.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.