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In Bosnia, Late Communist Leader Is Still Beloved

September 5, 1992

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) _ Mustafa Pamuk remembers a day in autumn 1952 when his father, a member of an anti-government Islamic group, came home badly bloodied by the thugs of Yugoslavia’s Communist government. He died a few weeks later.

Strangely, a picture of the man ultimately responsible for his father’s fate still hangs in Pamuk’s office - Josip Broz Tito, the man who made Yugoslavia.

″The man was different from the system,″ he said. ″That’s why we love him here.″

A Croat, a Communist and an atheist, Tito remains widely popular in this mostly Muslim and decidedly free-market city 12 years after his death.

His picture graces the wall of the presidency although President Alija Izetbegovic was imprisoned under Tito’s regime; the military headquarters; schools; hospitals, and homes.

Alone among the former republics of Yugoslavia, the people of this battle- ravaged country still hold the famed Communist leader dear. Tito is credited with saving the Muslims. He granted them status as a nationality in constitutional reforms of 1971.

But the feelings toward Tito in Bosnia, and especially in its capital, are more complex than just gratitude. Tito symbolized Yugoslavia, and the people of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the most ethnically diverse area in the former country, are in a sense the last of the Yugoslavs.

Muslims make up just under half of the republic; Croats 31 percent and Serbs at least 17 percent. In Sarajevo, mixed marriages were common.

In ethnically homogenous Serbia, Tito is now officially accused of being a Croatian ultranationalist, an agent of the Vatican and of plotting to destroy the Serbian Orthodox Church. Montenegro’s capital, Titograd, has changed its name.

In Croatia, mention of the man has all but disappeared. His hometown, Kumrovec, once a pilgrimage site for Yugoslavian Communists, has been transformed into an art and crafts center.

In the first eight months of 1991, 10,000 visitors went there, less than half of the previous year and a fraction of the 200,000 that made the journey each year in the 1980s and before.

Pamuk, the 55-year-old head of Sarajevo’s city assembly, was himself booted from the Communist Party in 1976 for disagreeing with Tito’s centralized market policies. Still he admires the late leader.

″Tito saved us. He created us,″ Pamuk said, looking up at a reprint of a charcoal sketch of Tito. ″He understood and controlled the passions that have ripped us apart.″

During World War II, Tito and his guerrilla band of anti-Nazi partisans had their base in Bosnia. The new Yugoslavia was established in the western Bosnian town of Jajce in 1943.

″Like all the Communists, he was a bastard,″ said Una Knezevic, a 26- year-old salesperson from Sarajevo and the product of a mixed marriage, ″but a bastard with style. Even his outfits had style.″

Knezevic remembers crying for three days when Tito died on May 4, 1980, at the age of 88. She was 14.

″He was able to hypnotize kings and queens. I don’t know whether he was a hero or a villain, but he was a leader,″ she said. ″If the guys we have around now had more style we would have a better time of it. Just look at the way they shoot - at night and at civilians. At least Tito wasn’t a coward.″

Ivan Ceresnjes, president of Sarajevo’s Jewish community, said his people appreciated Tito because he allowed them the freedom to believe, even if Jews were all but banned from governmental positions.

″He allowed us into the army but not the state,″ Ceresnjes said. ″But we owe him for peace after the war and we cannot forget it.″

Many here in this town once famed for its cafes and easy lifestyle also express wistfulness for Tito’s state-run economic system where - to borrow the old Soviet joke - Yugoslavs pretended to work and the state pretended to pay them.

″You had only to work two hours a day under Tito,″ said Jakub Finci, another Jewish leader. ″We took a lot of siestas. He understood.″

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