Croatians strip Tito's name from Zagreb square

Zagreb (AFP) –


Zagreb on Friday stripped the name of late Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito from a prominent square in the Croatian capital, a move that has sparked controversy and split public opinion.

The vote in the city assembly to change the name of Marshal Tito Square took place on the initiative of the right-wing party Independent for Croatia, which labelled the communist leader a dictator.

It will now be named the Republic of Croatia Square.

"No street or square in Croatia should bear Josip Broz Tito's name," said party leader Zlatko Hasanbegovic ahead of the vote.

The decision, backed by 29 deputies in the 51-seat assembly, gave "small and belated satisfaction to all victims... of Yugoslav communist Titoist terror," he said.

His party offered its support to beleaguered Zagreb mayor Milan Bandic on condition that the square's name was changed.

The populist mayor was re-elected for a sixth term in June but he struggled to form a majority in the newly-elected city assembly.

For several years Bandic refused to change the square's name and said the issue would be decided at a referendum.

But as he needed the support of Hasanbegovic's party he eventually ceded to its demand.

The issue has drawn thousand-strong crowds in support of the name change in the square in recent years, prompting counter-rallies by Tito supporters.

Tito, born in 1892 to a Croat father and Slovene mother, ruled the former Yugoslavia for 35 years until his death in 1980 and made it one of the most prosperous communist countries.

After Tito's death, Yugoslavia collapsed in a series of bloody wars that claimed more than 100,000 lives.

He remains a divisive figure in the former federation.