YUGOSLAVIA: Tito's Epochal Funeral

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A moving event, and then the question—who, or what, could replace him?

Hundreds of thousands of Yugoslavs lined the streets and hillsides of Belgrade for a glimpse of the long cortege bearing the body of the man who had led their country for 3½ decades. Wizened veterans of his partisan campaign during World War II, wearing rows of medals, let tears stream down their faces. Middle-aged housewives who had never known any other national leader put their arms tenderly around their children's shoulders and sobbed into handkerchiefs. Groups of schoolchildren, reared on his all-embracing national legend, waved small Yugoslav flags with awe in their eyes. At the edge of the crowd, a youth knelt on an open newspaper, clasped his hands and moved his lips in silent prayer. "He was somebody very close, like in my own family," said Nikola Margis, 68, a craftsman with a white mustache, who had waited for ten hours to pay his respects at the lying-in-state. "For 35 years we lived together, and we had only good things from him."

The state funeral for Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito last week was the most emotional that Europe had experienced in a decade, unrivaled since the memorial Mass for Charles de Gaulle at Paris' Notre Dame Cathedral in 1970. In attendance was a comparably vast assemblage of statesmen and royalty. It was a reflection of Tito's unique global role that his funeral attracted leaders from both East and West blocs, and from the Third World, in almost equal numbers. Official mourners came from 123 countries: four Kings, 32 Presidents and other heads of state, 22 Prime Ministers, more than 100 secretaries or representatives of Communist or workers parties. Tanjug, the official Yugoslav news agency, summed it up simply: "The summit of mankind."

Conspicuously absent from this summit was Jimmy Carter. In a decision that appalled many Western allies and annoyed some Yugoslavs, the President stayed home and instead sent a delegation headed by Vice President Walter Mondale. The official U.S. mourning party of 25 included Treasury Secretary G. William Miller and the President's mother Lillian, as well as low-level politicians from Mondale's home state of Minnesota. "I don't think we have anything to apologize for," said a ranking U.S. diplomat defensively, adding that "Mondale is a major figure."

The lowly and the mighty watched solemnly as eight military officers in braided dress uniforms appeared at the door of the Federal Assembly Building adjoining Marx and Engels Square carrying Tito's pale oak coffin. As distant cannons boomed out 21-salvo salutes, the casket was placed on an open gun carriage and covered with the blue, white and red Yugoslav flag. A military band struck up a funeral dirge, Yugoslav air force jets screeched overhead, and a jeep drew the carriage slowly along six-lane Kneza Milosa. Behind the casket, sobbing and dressed in black, was Tito's third wife, Jovanka, 56, who had dropped from public view three years ago amid rumors of a falling-out with the President. Next to her were Tito's two sons by two previous marriages, Zarko, 56, and Miso, 39.

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