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Tito's Relay of Youth

Tito's Relay of Youth

During the rule of the Yugoslav dictator, Marshal Josip Broz Tito, the annual Relay of Youth (Dan Mladosti) was organized on the 25th of May, on his birthday. The relays were significant for establishing and preserving Tito's cult of personality, and the authority of the Communist regime.

Youth Day was one of the largest and most significant holidays of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. The first Relay of Youth was organized in 1945, after the liberation of Yugoslavia. The Relay was initially called Tito’s Relay Race (Titova Štafeta), but the name was changed to the Relay of Youth in 1957 when Tito’s birthday was declared a national Youth Day. The relay was organized until 1987, seven years after Tito’s death, under the name ’And after Tito - Tito ’.

The starting point of the Relay of Youth race was Tito’s birthplace Kumrovec ( in modern Croatia). Throughout Yugoslavia, many meetings, sport, and social events were organized in Tito’s honor. The route of the relay race was made to connect important historical places, where major events from the Second World War and the Yugoslav Revolution occurred. The relay race was around 3000 kilometers long and tens of thousands of participants passed special batons one to another until the final baton was delivered to Tito. Batons were made in various shapes and sizes and from different materials, often decorated with communist iconography; various symbols of socialism, factories, workers, farmers, tools, and machines. The batons were hollow, and they contained birthday messages and wishes to comrade Tito. Many batons were in the shape of a torch, that symbolize the brotherhood and unity of the six major nations of Yugoslavia. The relay race usually ended in Belgrade, where Tito would receive the baton at the ceremony organized in front of a large crowd, on the Yugoslav People’s Army Stadium.  The performance would include sport and folklore shows, performed by thousands of participants.

Relay of Youth race lost its significance in the latter half of the 1980s. The celebrations of Youth Day stopped after 1987, after the beginning of the crisis in Yugoslav society.