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Death and state funeral of Josip Broz Tito

The funeral of Josip Broz Tito, President of Yugoslavia, was held on 8 May 1980, four days after his death on 4 May. His funeral drew many world statesmen, both of non-aligned and aligned countries.[1] Based on the number of attending politicians and state delegations, it is regarded as the largest state funeral in history.[2] They included four kings, 31 presidents, six princes, 22 prime ministers, and 47 ministers of foreign affairs, from both sides of the Iron Curtain. In total 128 countries out of the 154 UN members at the time were represented.[3]

Tito's Funeral
Sahrana Josipa Broza Tita.jpg
Tito's funeral procession.
Date8 May 1980
LocationDedinje, Belgrade, SFR Yugoslavia
ParticipantsYugoslav officials and dignitaries from 128 foreign countries
House of Flowers, Tito's mausoleum.
Tomb of Josip Broz Tito.
Grave of Marshal Tito.

Tito had become increasingly ill throughout the course of 1979. On 7 January and again on 11 January 1980, Tito was admitted to the University Medical Centre in Ljubljana, the capital city of SR Slovenia, with circulation problems in his legs. His left leg was amputated soon afterward due to arterial blockages and he died of gangrene at the Medical Centre Ljubljana on 4 May 1980 at 3:05 pm, just three days short of his 88th birthday. The "Plavi voz" (Blue train, official presidential train) brought his body to the Yugoslav capital Belgrade where it laid in state in the Federal Parliament building until the funeral.



By 1979 Tito's health had declined rapidly, mainly due to an arterial embolism in his left leg. In that year he participated in the Havana conference of the Non-Aligned Movement and spent New Year's Eve in his residence in Karađorđevo. Throughout the televised event Tito remained seated while exchanging greetings, causing concern to the watching audience. During this time Vila Srna was built for his use near Morović in the event of his recovery.[4]

On January 3, 1980, Tito was admitted to the Ljubljana University Medical Centre for tests on blood vessels in his left leg. Two days later, after the angiography, he was discharged to his residence in Brdo Castle near Kranj, with a recommendation for further intensive treatment. Angiography revealed that Tito's superficial femoral artery and Achilles tendon artery were clogged. The medical council consisted of eight Yugoslav doctors, Michael E. DeBakey from the United States and Marat Knyazev from the Soviet Union.[5]

Following the advice of DeBakey and Knyazev, the medical team attempted an arterial bypass. The first surgery was done in the night between January 12 and 13.[6] At first, it seemed that operation was successful, but after few hours it was clear it was not. Due to severe damage to the arteries, which led to the interruption of blood flow and accelerated tissue devitalization of the left leg, Tito's left leg was amputated on January 20,[7] to prevent the spread of gangrene. When Tito had been told what awaited him, he resisted the operation as long as possible. At the end, after meeting with his sons, Žarko and Mišo, he agreed to the amputation.[citation needed] After the second surgery, Tito's health temporarily improved and he began rehabilitation. On 28 January, he was transferred from the Department of cardiovascular surgery to the Department of cardiology. In the first days of February his health had improved sufficiently to allow him to perform some of his regular presidential duties.[citation needed]

By the beginning of January 1980 however it became clear that Tito's life was in grave danger and Yugoslav political leadership begun preparations for his funeral in the utmost secrecy.[citation needed] Tito's wish was that he should be buried in the House of Flowers on Dedinje hill, that overlooks Belgrade. Moma Marković, a director for Radio Television Belgrade, was summoned by Dragoljub Stavrev, a vice president in the federal government, to devise plans for broadcast of the funeral.[citation needed]


"Plavi voz" (Blue train), train that carried Tito's coffin from Ljubljana to Belgrade

Tito died in the department of cardiovascular surgery at the University Medical Centre in Ljubljana on May 4, 1980 at 3:05 pm, just three days before his 88th birthday. He died on the seventh floor, in the small most South East corner room which is today used by cardiovascular surgery fellows. The commemorative inscription in the main hall read "The fight for peoples liberation will be a long one, but would have been longer if Tito never lived" (Pot do osvoboditve človeka bo še dolga, a bila bi daljša da ni živel Tito). The inscription was later removed. Immediately upon learning news of the death of Tito, a full extraordinary session of both the Presidency of Yugoslavia and the Presidency of the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia was held in Belgrade starting in 6:00 pm, on which Tito's death was formally declared via a joint statement to all Yugoslavs:

To the working class, all the working people and citizens, and all the nations and nationalities of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia:

Comrade Tito has died.

On the day of May 4th, 1980 at 15:05 in Ljubljana, the great heart of the President of our Socialist Yugoslavia, the President of the Presidency of Yugoslavia, the President of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, Marshal of Yugoslavia, and the Commander-in-chief of the Yugoslav armed forces, Josip Broz Tito, has stopped beating.

Great sorrow and pain is shaking up the working class, nations and nationalities of our country, our every citizen, worker, soldier, war veteran, farmer, intellectual, every creator, pioneer and youth, and every girl and mother.

For all his entire life, Tito was a fighter for interests and goals of working class, for the most humane ideals, and desires of our nations and nationalities. Tito is our dearest friend. Seven decades he was burning up in a workers movement. For six decades, he strengthened Yugoslav Communists. For more than four decades, he was the leader of our Party. He was a heroic leader in World War II and in the Socialist revolution. For three and a half decades he led our Socialist country, and he moved our country and our fight for fairer human society into the world history, proving that way to be our most important historic world personality.

During the most fateful times of our survival and development, Tito was bold and worthy of carrying the proletarian flag of our revolution, persistently and consistently linked to the fate of nations and man. He fought all throughout his life and work, lived the revolutionary humanism and fervor with enthusiasm and love for the country.

Tito was not only a visionary, critic and translator of the world. He reviewed the objective conditions and patterns of social movements, into the great ideals and thoughts into action with the million masses of the people that were with him at the helm, and made epochal progressive social transformations.

Thus, forever shall his revolutionary work remembered for all time in the history of the people and nationalities of Yugoslavia and in the history of the independence of all of humankind.

—Signed, The Central Committee of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia and the Presidency of Yugoslavia, Belgrade, May 4, 1980.
— [8]

After the declaration was read, Stevan Doronjski said, "Eternal glory be to the memory of our great leader and father of the revolution, President of Yugoslavia and General Secretary and President of the League, our comrade Josip Broz Tito."

At the same meeting, in accordance with the 1974 Yugoslav Constitution, as amended, it was decided that Lazar Koliševski, Vice President of the Presidency of Yugoslavia, would temporarily take the office of the President of the Presidency of Yugoslavia, and that Cvijetin Mijatović, former member of the Presidency of SR Bosnia and Herzegovina, would take Koliševski's place as state vice president. In accordance with the LCY Statute as amended, former chairman of Presidency of Central Committee of League of Communists of Yugoslavia Stevan Doronjski assumed the post of President of the Presidency of the Central Committee of League of Communists of Yugoslavia. Immediately afterwards the Federal Executive Council (government of Yugoslavia) decided to formally announce a seven-day total national mourning across the country.[citation needed]


It was a Sunday afternoon, and Yugoslavs were enjoying a weekend. Their usual activities were interrupted when the TV screen went black for 30 seconds. After that, Miodrag Zdravković, newsreader of Radio Television Belgrade, read the following statement live on national television via chroma key:

Comrade Tito has died. That was announced tonight by the Central Committee of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia and the Presidency of Yugoslavia to the working class, all the working people and citizens and all the nations and nationalities of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia.[8]

The same announcement was read out in all republican TV stations in their respective languages.

On Sunday afternoon, Yugoslav Television would usually broadcast association football games of the Yugoslav First League. That day, there was a league match in Split between NK Hajduk Split and FK Crvena zvezda that aired live on national television.[8] When the match was in the 41st minute, three men entered the Poljud Stadium pitch, signaling the referee to stop the match. Ante Skataretiko, the president of Hajduk, took the microphone and announced Tito's death to everyone in attendance and to viewers at home, nationwide. What followed were sudden scenes of mass crying with even some players such as Zlatko Vujović collapsing down to the ground and weeping. Players of both teams and referees aligned to stand in a moment of silence. Once the stadium announcer said "May he rest in peace", the entire stadium of 50,000 football fans spontaneously started to sing "Comrade Tito we swear to you, from your path we will never depart".[8][9] The match wasn't resumed, and it had to be replayed much later in the month as decided upon.[citation needed] The scenes from the match shocked the Yugoslav people now mourning his demise.[citation needed]

The grief for the statesman's death was largely based on his place in the Yugoslav political scene. He was an anti-Nazi hero of the Second World War, a liberation fighter, the father of the second Yugoslavia, and a very able statesman. Nobody in the national polity was able to measure up to his skills and popularity for he proved to be sharp, skillful and ruthless leader. He even went against Joseph Stalin in 1948 and emerged victorious in that confrontation, ensuring for his country a fate different from those suffered by other Eastern European countries who were subsumed into the Soviet sphere of influence.[10]


  Nations that sent state delegations.
  Nations that did not send state delegations, but organizations from those nations did.
  Nations that did not send state delegations
State funeral of Josip Broz Tito

The "Plavi voz" (Blue train, official presidential train) brought an empty closed coffin to the capital Belgrade, due to bad condition of his corpse. Tito's real body was transferred to Belgrade by military helicopter.

Tito's funeral drew many statesmen to Belgrade. Notably absent statesmen from the funeral were Jimmy Carter and Fidel Castro. His death came in the moment when the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan ended the American-Soviet détente. Yugoslavia, although a communist state, was non-aligned during the Cold War due to the Tito-Stalin split in 1948.

After learning that Chinese Premier Hua Guofeng would lead the delegation of China, ailing Leonid Brezhnev decided to lead the Soviet delegation. In order to avoid meeting with Leonid Brezhnev whilst in the middle of an electoral campaign for the 1980 United States Presidential election, Carter opted to send his mother Lilian Carter and Vice President Walter Mondale as heads of the US delegation. After realizing that leaders of all Warsaw Pact nations would attend the funeral, Carter's decision was criticized by Presidential candidate George H. W. Bush as a sign that the United States "inferentially slams Yugoslavs at time that country has pulled away from Soviet Union".[11] Carter visited Yugoslavia later in June 1980 and made a visit to Tito's grave.[12][13]

Helmut Schmidt, Chancellor of West Germany was the most active statesman, meeting with Brezhnev, Erich Honecker, and Edward Gierek. British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher sought to rally world leaders in order to harshly condemn the Soviet invasion.[citation needed] While she was in Belgrade, she held talks with Kenneth Kaunda, Schmidt, Francesco Cossiga, and Nicolae Ceaușescu. Brezhnev met with Kim Il-sung and Honecker. James Callaghan, leader of the British Labour Party, explained his presence in Belgrade as an attempt to warm relations between his party and Yugoslav communists, which was severed more than a decade ago after dissident Milovan Đilas was welcomed by Jennie Lee, Minister for the Arts under Harold Wilson. Mondale avoided the Soviets, ignoring Brezhnev while passing close to him. Soviet and Chinese delegations also avoided each other.[citation needed]

The pomp and scale of the funeral had been widely documented and the event was a source of pride for Tito's countrymen for years to come. On the fifteenth anniversary of his death in 1995, the Croatian newspaper Arkzin noted that "turbulent times still do not allow for a truly historical assessment of his stature and achievements, but the appraisal which the world showed those days in May 1980, confirms that small nations and small states may produce world giants."[14]

Tito was interred twice on May 8. The first interment was for cameras and dignitaries. The grave was shallow with only a 200 kilograms (440 lb) replica of the sarcophagus. The second interment was held privately during the night.[citation needed] His coffin was removed, and the shallow grave was deepened. The coffin was enclosed with a copper mask and interred again into a much deeper grave which was sealed with cement and topped with a 9-ton sarcophagus.[citation needed] Communist officials were afraid that someone might steal the corpse, similarly to what happened to Charlie Chaplin. However, the 9 ton sarcophagus had to be put in place with a crane, which would make the funeral unattractive.[citation needed]

In stark contrast to the pomp and pageantry of the funeral, Tito's tomb was another case altogether. It was a modest marble tomb with a simple inscription that states JOSIP BROZ - TITO 1892-1980. Observers have also noted that it did not contain a red star or any emblem that is linked to Communism, a cause that he devoted most of his life. Historians stated that the burial location, which was the garden of the place he lived during the postwar years more popularly known as the House of Flowers, was selected according to Tito's wishes.[15] The House of Flowers, together with the Museum of Yugoslavia, has since become a tourist destination and landmark of Belgrade visited by millions of people.

State delegationsEdit

Source: Mirosavljev, Radoslav (1981). Titova poslednja bitka (Tito's Last Battle) (in Serbo-Croatian). Beograd: Narodna knjiga. pp. 262–264.

Heads of stateEdit

State delegations of those countries were headed by their heads of state:

Heads of government or vice-heads of stateEdit

State delegations of those countries were headed by their heads of government or vice-heads of state:

Foreign ministersEdit

Delegations of those countries were headed by their deputy heads of state, deputy heads of government or their foreign ministers:

Other state delegationsEdit

State delegations of those countries were headed by government ministers, ambassadors or royal house members:

Delegations of parties and organizationsEdit

International organizationsEdit

Liberation movementsEdit

Political partiesEdit


  1. ^ Jimmy Carter (4 May 1980). "Josip Broz Tito Statement on the Death of the President of Yugoslavia". Retrieved 26 April 2010.
  2. ^ Vidmar, Josip; Rajko Bobot; Miodrag Vartabedijan; Branibor Debeljaković; Živojin Janković; Ksenija Dolinar (1981). Josip Broz Tito – Ilustrirani življenjepis. Jugoslovenska revija. p. 166.
  3. ^ Ridley, Jasper (1996). Tito: A Biography. Constable. p. 19. ISBN 0-09-475610-4.
  4. ^ "Raj u koji Broz nije stigao". Blic. 2 May 2010. Retrieved 2 May 2010.
  5. ^ "Specialist consults on Tito". Lodi News. January 7, 1980.
  6. ^ "Tito surgery succesuful". Beaver County Times. January 14, 1980.
  7. ^ "8 DOCTORS SAY TITO IS IN GOOD CONDITION; First Official Response to Surgery Strengthens Hope He Will Return to Duties 'Within Limits of Normal' Control Would Likely Continue Concentration on Foreign Affairs". New York Times. January 22, 1980.
  8. ^ a b c d "Anniversary of Marshal Tito's death". 4 May 2009. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
  9. ^ Borneman, John. Death of the Father: An Anthropology of the End in Political Authority. Berghahn Books.
  10. ^ Stevanovic, Vidosav (2004). Milosevic: The People's Tyrant. London: I.B. Tauris. p. 13. ISBN 1860648428.
  11. ^ "Bush Blasts Carter For Not Attending Tito Funeral". Lakeland Ledger. May 9, 1980.
  12. ^ "Jimmy Carter Visits President Tito's Grave, 1980". Yugoslavia – Virtual Museum. 12 November 2010. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  13. ^ Jimmy Carter: "Yugoslavia: Conclusion of State Visit Joint Statement. ", June 29, 1980. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.
  14. ^ Borneman, John (2004). Death of the Father: An Anthropology of the End in Political Authority. New York: Berghahn Books. p. 168. ISBN 1571811117.
  15. ^ Crnobrnja, Mihailo (1996). The Yugoslav Drama. London: I.B. Tauris. p. 81. ISBN 1860641261.
  16. ^ Martin, Marie Alexandrine (1994). Cambodia: A Shattered Society. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press. p. 244. ISBN 0520070526.