People from across the former Yugoslavia gathered in Belgrade on Tuesday to mark what was once known as Youth Day, the birthday of the late Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito.
Mainly older people who remember the Yugoslav national holiday came to pay homage at the Tito’s tomb in what has become an annual tradition over the past few years. The memorial complex which is part of the Museum of Yugoslavia was built within the presidential residence.
The crowds coming into the memorial complex include young people, mainly accompanying their grandparents. A number of people wear JNA caps with the red star or the blue caps of the Pioniri youth organization and red scarves. Many carry Yugoslav tri-color flags with the red star edged in gold.
The tradition in Yugoslavia was to carry a specially-made baton through the country, passing from hand to hand, to arrive in Belgrade to be handed to Tito at the Yugoslav National Army (JNA) Stadium at the end of a mass spectacle. The tradition of the baton relay began in 1945 as a Tito’s relay and was later renamed Youth Day relay in what historians say was a bid to avoid similarities with the personality cult practiced in the Soviet Union. The last ceremony at the JNA stadium that was attended by Tito was in 1979. The last relay was in 1987 with the baton being presented to the head of the collective state presidency.
Tito’s Birthday was on May 7 but May 25 was chosen to mark Youth Day. According to some historians the date was chosen to coincide with the anniversary of the Nazi airborne assault on Tito’s headquarters in the town of Drvar in Bosnia in 1944 which the war-time Yugoslav partisan leader managed to escape from.