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Late Yugoslav leader Tito gets monument in Montenegro

People wave Montengro's flags during the ceremony to unveil the monument to late Yugoslav communist leader Josip Broz Tito in Montenegro's capital Podgorica, Wednesday, Dec. 19, 2018. Tito's monuments were removed throughout the former Yugoslavia after the country broke up in the 1990s' and Montenegro's capital has become a rare city in the former Yugoslavia to put one. (AP Photo/Risto Bozovic)

PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — Hundreds of people gathered in Montenegro Wednesday as authorities unveiled a monument to the late Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito — a rare honor for communist dictator who was widely denounced after the breakup of Yugoslavia during the 1990s.

The ceremony in Montenegro’s capital of Podgorica marked the anniversary of Tito’s anti-fascists liberating the city from Nazi German occupiers at the end of World War II.

The crowd waved Montenegrin and old Yugoslav flags and sang songs about Tito’s partisan movement, reflecting nostalgic sentiments many have for the former Yugoslavia nearly three decades after the country dissolved in bloodshed.

“Josip Broz Tito is the most important figure from this region,” Podgorica Mayor Ivan Vukovic said. “Even those who don’t support Tito…can hardly deny that.”

While Tito ran Yugoslavia as a dictatorship, Yugoslavs enjoyed free travel and relative openness compared to contemporaries in other communist countries in Eastern Europe.

“We had the best living standard during his era,” Podgorica resident Stevan Banovic, 83, said, referring to the relative financial security of Yugoslavia under communism. “He was no dictator.”

From 1946 until 1992, Podgorica was called Titograd – Tito’s city. The Montenegrin capital now has a street named after Tito and privately owned Radio Titograd.

Historian Milos Vukanovic said Montenegro has preserved most of the 600 monuments and memorials that were inaugurated before Yugoslavia’s collapse.

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