Tito, the name used by Josip Broz (1892–1980), a Yugoslav Communist leader and president. He established the Communist government of Yugoslavia. He also became the first Communist ruler to break away from the Soviet bloc and act independently in domestic and foreign affairs. As a result, an independent, nationalistic form of Communism came to be called Titoism.
Broz was born in Croatia and became a metalworker. During World War I, while serving with the Austro-Hungarian army, he was captured by the Russians. He was freed by the Communists during the Russian Revolution of 1917 and joined the Red Army. Broz returned to his own country in 1920 and became a Communist party organizer among metalworkers. During the 1920's, he was jailed several times for leading strikes and demonstrations.
In 1934 Broz assumed the name Tito (a common name in his native district) to make it more difficult for the authorities to link him to his Communist activities. (At first he was known simply as Tito; later he became known as Josip Broz Tito.) He became leader of the Yugoslav Communist party in 1937. During World War II, Tito led the Partisans, Communist guerrillas who fought German and Italian occupation troops. (The Partisans also fought the Chetniks, a resistance group made up of royalists.) In 1943 Tito took the rank of marshal.
Because of the Partisans' success in the war against the Germans and Italians, the Allies gave Tito rather than the Chetniks their support. By 1944 his forces held much of Yugoslavia. In 1945 Tito became premier through Communist-controlled elections. He suppressed the opposition and established a Communist dictatorship.
Tito's nationalistic Communism caused a break with the Soviet Union in 1948. He then strengthened his contact with Western powers and received economic aid from them. Relations with the Soviet Union later improved, but he remained on good terms with the West. Tito was first elected president in 1953 and in 1974 was named president for life.