Oh, Yugoslavia! How They Long for Your Firm Embrace

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This spring, Bostjan Troha and 50 of his friends from across the former Yugoslavia plan to celebrate the official 116th birthday of the former dictator Josip Broz Tito with a pilgrimage in boxy Yugoslav-era Fico cars to Tito’s Croatian birthplace and his marble tomb in Belgrade.

To mark the occasion, Mr. Troha has hired a Tito impersonator and dozens of child actors, who will wear Yugoslav partisan berets, wave Yugoslav flags and applaud enthusiastically after the impersonator’s address. The revelers will down shots of Slivovitz, the Serbian national drink, and dance to the lurching melodies of Yugoslav folk music along the 360-mile route.

His group of pilgrims will be modest compared with the 20,000 from the former Yugoslavia’s six republics — Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia and the Republic of Macedonia — who traveled daily to the tomb during Communist times after Tito’s death in 1980.

But sociologists here say it reflects a trend across the Balkans they call Yugonostalgia, in which young and old yearn for the past — even an authoritarian one — as they struggle with a legacy of wars, economic hardship and the grim reality of living in small countries the world often seems to have forgotten.

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