Death and state funeral of Josip Broz Tito

The funeral of Josip Broz Tito, President of Yugoslavia and President of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia, was held on 8 May 1980, four days after his death on 4 May. His funeral drew many statesmen from around the globe, from Western, Eastern and Non-Aligned countries.[1][2] The attendees included four kings, six princes, 22 prime ministers, 31 presidents, and 47 ministers of foreign affairs. In total, 128 countries out of the 154 UN members at the time were represented.[3] Also present were delegates from seven multilateral organizations, six movements and 40 political parties.

Funeral of Josip Broz Tito
Part of the breakup of Yugoslavia
Tito's funeral procession
Date8 May 1980; 44 years ago (1980-05-08)
LocationDedinje, Belgrade, Serbia, Yugoslavia
ParticipantsYugoslav officials and dignitaries from 128 foreign countries
House of Flowers, Tito's mausoleum.
Tito's tomb.
Tito's grave.

Tito had become increasingly ill throughout 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 afterwards due to arterial blockages, and he died of gangrene at the Medical Centre Ljubljana on 4 May 1980 at 3:05 pm, three days short of his 88th birthday. The Plavi voz, Tito's personal train, brought his body to Belgrade where it lay in state at the Federal Parliament building until the funeral.

As Tito had been viewed as the central unifying figure of culturally, religiously diverse and throughout times ethnically antagonistic nations of Yugoslavia, his death is considered to be one of key catalysts for the dissolution and destruction of the Yugoslav state a mere decade later.



By 1979, Tito's health had declined rapidly, mainly due to an arterial embolism in his left leg. This embolism was a complication of his diabetes, which he had had for many years. 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]

The first circulation problems in his left leg begun in the second half of December 1979. Tito refused to undergo any diagnostic procedure prior to the new year celebration. On January 3, 1980, Tito was admitted to the Ljubljana University Medical Centre for tests on blood vessels in his 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 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 of January 12.[6] At first, the operation appeared to have been a success, but after few hours, it became clear that the operation was not successful. 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 was told about the required amputation, he resisted it as long as possible. Finally, after meeting with his sons, Žarko and Mišo, he agreed to the amputation.[citation needed] After the amputation, Tito's health 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 enough to allow him to perform some of his regular 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 secretly began preparations for his funeral.[citation needed] Tito's wish was that he be buried in the House of Flowers on Dedinje hill, that overlooks Belgrade. Moma Martinovic, a director for Radio Television Belgrade, was summoned by Dragoljub Stavrev, a vice president in the federal government, to devise plans for broadcasting the funeral.[citation needed]

In late February, Tito's health suddenly took a turn to the worst. He suffered from kidney failure and in March, his heart and lungs began to fail and in late April, he suffered a stroke, whilst he was still in the hospital.


Tito's Blue Train (Plavi voz), the train which carried Tito's coffin from Ljubljana to Belgrade.

Josip Broz Tito died in the Department of Cardiovascular Surgery at the University Medical Centre, Ljubljana on May 4, 1980, at 3:05 pm, due to complications of gangrene, three days before his 88th birthday. He died on the seventh floor, in a small room on the southeast corner. A commemorative inscription in the main hall later read "Pot do osvoboditve človeka bo še dolga, a bila bi daljša da ni živel Tito" ("The fight for peoples liberation will be a long one, but would have been longer if Tito never lived"). That inscription was later removed. Immediately upon learning of Tito's death, 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 at 6:00 pm, at which Tito's death was formally declared via a joint statement:

The message from the CIA's FBIS Austria Bureau, regarding the Radio Bucharest announcement of Tito's death, filed on 4 May 1980.

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

Tito is our dearest friend. For his entire life, Tito was a fighter for the interests and goals of the working class, for the most humane ideals and desires of our nations and nationalities. 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 the Socialist revolution. For three and a half decades, he led our Socialist country. He moved our country and our fight for fairer human society into world history, proving that way to be our most crucial 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 throughout his life and work and lived revolutionary humanism and fervour 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 ideas and thoughts into action with the million masses of the people with him at the helm, and made epochal progressive social transformations.

Thus, forever shall his revolutionary work be remembered for all time in the history of the people and nationalities of Yugoslavia and 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 (President of the League of Communists of Yugoslavia) 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, by 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, a former member of the Presidency of SR Bosnia and Herzegovina, would take Koliševski's place as state vice president. Following 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 announce a week of national mourning across the country formally and cancelled all entertainment, cultural and sporting events.[9][10] Many countries around the world declared periods of national mourning. North Korea,[11] Egypt,[12] Algeria, Tanzania,[13] and Burma[13] announced seven days of mourning; Pakistan,[13] Cyprus, and Ghana announced four days of mourning; Jordan,[12] India, Iraq, Cuba, Guinea and Zambia announced three days of mourning; Angola announced two days of mourning; and Sri Lanka declared one day of mourning.

Grief in the nation

Memorial reading the slogan much repeated in the 1980s; column by Ironworks Zenica, 8 May 1980

Tito's death was sudden and unexpected for Yugoslavian citizens who were minding their usual weekend activities. In the evening of the key day, TV stations were broadcasting normal programming on television until it was interrupted with a black screen for 30 seconds. After that, Miodrag Zdravković, newsreader of Radio Television Belgrade, read the following statement live:

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 on the TV stations of each constituent republic in their respective languages.

On Sunday afternoons, Yugoslav Television often 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.[8] When the match was in its 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. What followed were sudden scenes of mass crying with 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 [sr] (Druže Tito mi ti se kunemo, da sa tvoga puta ne skrenemo).[8][14] The match was halted, then replayed later in the month.[citation needed]

Grief for the statesman's death was largely based on his place in the Yugoslav political scene. He had led the resistance movement against Axis occupation in the Second World War, helped create a socialist federation principled on 'brotherhood and unity' of Yugoslav nations, stood for self-determination and political independence of post-war Yugoslavia from both Western and Eastern Bloc,[15] co-initiated the Non-Aligned Movement at the time of peak tensions of possible nuclear warfare between the blocs; all of which contributed to his general popularity in the country and abroad.


  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

Tito's blue train brought an empty coffin to the capital Belgrade, due to the bad condition of his deceased body. Tito's remains were instead transferred to Belgrade by a military helicopter.

Tito's funeral drew many statesmen to Belgrade. Two notably absent statesmen were President of the United States Jimmy Carter and First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Fidel Castro. His death came just as the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan had ended the American-Soviet détente. Yugoslavia, though a communist state, was non-aligned during the Cold War due to the Tito-Stalin split in 1948.

After learning that Chinese Communist Party chairman Hua Guofeng would lead the Chinese delegation, the ailing Soviet general secretary Leonid Brezhnev decided to lead his nation's delegation. In order to avoid meeting Brezhnev whilst in the middle of his 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".[16] Carter visited Yugoslavia later in June 1980 and made a visit to Tito's grave.[17][18]

Helmut Schmidt, chancellor of West Germany, was highly active at the funeral, meeting with Brezhnev, East Germany's Erich Honecker, and Poland's 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 the country 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."[19]

During the funeral, Yasser Arafat tapped on the shoulder of Margaret Thatcher, after which she swung and shook his hand. She stated that she could never forgive herself for shaking his hand.[20]

Tito was interred twice on May 8. The first interment was for cameras and dignitaries. The grave was shallow with only a 200 kg (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, as had 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 pageantry of the funeral, Tito's tomb was constructed of marble with a simple inscription that states JOSIP BROZ - TITO 1892–1980. It did not incorporate a red star or any emblem linked to communism. Historians[who?] stated that the burial location, which was the garden of the place he lived during the post-war years more popularly known as the House of Flowers, was selected according to Tito's wishes.[21] 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.[citation needed]

Foreign delegations


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

State delegations


Heads of state


State delegations of those countries were led by their respective heads of state:

Heads of government or vice-heads of state


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

Deputies or foreign ministers


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

Other state delegations


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

Delegations of parties and organizations


International organizations


Liberation movements


Political parties and Trade unions


Media coverage


The funeral was broadcast live by many countries on their state television channels. In West Germany, it was aired on the first program. Austrian television featured the film "Memories of President Tito" for an hour, followed by a 3-hour broadcast of the funeral. In the U.S., all three major television networks covered the funeral. Both French main channels directly broadcast the burial. The same situation occurred in Belgium, and British television aired almost 4 hours of the ceremony. The Australian network covered the entire ceremony. In total, 44 countries broadcast Tito's funeral.[23]


  1. ^ Carter, Jimmy (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. 7 January 1980.
  6. ^ "Tito surgery succesuful". Beaver County Times. 14 January 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. 22 January 1980.
  8. ^ a b c d "Anniversary of Marshal Tito's death". 4 May 2009. Retrieved 4 October 2013.
  9. ^ "Anniversary of Marshal Tito's death". Retrieved 3 September 2023.
  10. ^ "Yugoslav President Tito Dies" (PDF). 9 May 1980. Retrieved 3 September 2023.
  11. ^ Kim, Yongho (16 December 2010). North Korean Foreign Policy: Security Dilemma and Succession. Lexington Books. ISBN 9780739148648.
  12. ^ a b "Yugoslav News Bulletin". 1980.
  13. ^ a b c "Titomanija". Retrieved 18 April 2022.
  14. ^ Borneman, John (2004). Death of the Father: An Anthropology of the End in Political Authority. Berghahn Books. ISBN 9781571811110.
  15. ^ Stevanovic, Vidosav (2004). Milosevic: The People's Tyrant. London: I.B. Tauris. p. 13. ISBN 1860648428.
  16. ^ "Bush Blasts Carter For Not Attending Tito Funeral". Lakeland Ledger. 9 May 1980.
  17. ^ "Jimmy Carter Visits President Tito's Grave, 1980". Yugoslavia – Virtual Museum. 12 November 2010. Retrieved 12 January 2015.
  18. ^ Jimmy Carter: "Yugoslavia: Conclusion of State Visit Joint Statement. ", June 29, 1980. Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project.
  19. ^ Borneman, John (2004). Death of the Father: An Anthropology of the End in Political Authority. New York: Berghahn Books. p. 168. ISBN 1571811117.
  20. ^ Bermant, Azriel (2016). Margaret Thatcher and the Middle East. New York, NY, USA. p. 47. ISBN 978-1-107-15194-9. OCLC 944179832.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  21. ^ Crnobrnja, Mihailo (1996). The Yugoslav Drama. London: I.B. Tauris. p. 81. ISBN 1860641261.
  22. ^ Martin, Marie Alexandrine (1994). Cambodia: A Shattered Society. Berkeley and Los Angeles, California: University of California Press. p. 244. ISBN 0520070526.
  23. ^ Jugoslavija o Titu — Svet o Titu 1980 (2nd ed.). 1981.