In 1956 and 1968, the Soviets invaded Eastern European countries because they had deviated from Moscow's model.

Why didn't they do this to Tito? His independent inclinations are usually explained by the fact that he defeated the Germans without much Soviet help. This doesn't explain why the Soviets didn't use force to bring him into line.

Possible explanations include Stalin did not want to provoke a war with the Western allies, or that he believed it would be unwise to put his forces through another conflict before they had recovered from the Second World War. I'm ready to upvote all referenced answers, whatever explanation they propose.

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    Note that Ceacescu was also, for a time, another "independent" leader. Absent with any reference, I would say that the risk was that liberalization of Hungary and Czechoslovaquia may had lead to them becoming "Western" democracies, leaving the Warsaw Pact and maybe even joining the NATO. That would mean a lot less of buffer space for the URSS (which had an history of winning wars due to the logistical problems of their enemies). Yugoslavia was not part of the buffer, Romania never had intention of leaving WP, and, even if not pro-Russian, they were communist and not pro-Western.
    – SJuan76
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 16:23
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    How? Yugoslavia had no common border with Soviet Union.
    – Alex
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 20:34
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    Or Hungary. Or Czechoslovakia. And they didn't invade them either. Oh wait...
    – Ne Mo
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 21:36
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    possible duplicate of What was the reason for Soviet troops to withdraw from Yugoslavia in World War II?
    – Tom Au
    Commented Jul 22, 2015 at 21:42
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    Geographically, Yugoslavia was not in a direct line between western Europe and the Soviet Union. It didn't need to act as a land buffer.
    – Fred
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 3:32

4 Answers 4


Unlike other East European states, the Russians did not free Yugoslavia from the Axis, so they never had forces deployed in the country. An attack would be an invasion. Also, Yugoslavia was easy for the West to send support to, from the Adriatic, Greece and Italy. They had their own army, and it was a fairly good one.

So you have a good army to fight, bad terrain to fight in, and the fact that you might not win the battle and have to lose face versus the West. And Tito never made his "independent line" into something that would hurt the USSR image, or threaten its hold over the Eastern Bloc.

So little to gain by crushing a state that wasn't a real problem - and a good chance of losing, or having the situation spiral out of control. The USSR only bet safe bets.

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    A very good answer, and also, Tito was a brilliant general well used to guerrilla warfare against an imperial power, and an excellent statesman with a knack of bridging seemingly insurmountable national and ethnic divides to unite against a common enemy. Pretty much the last thing Stalin wanted to deal with as an enemy. Commented Jul 26, 2015 at 3:26
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    The Soviets did have forces in Yugoslavia.
    – Ne Mo
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 10:23
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    Not really. They swept through the plains around Belgrade and moved on north towards Hungary and Austria. The other East Block nations were fully occupied and garrisoned.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Jul 29, 2015 at 17:09
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    @RI Swamp Yankee - Tito would never installed himself in Belgrade without Stalin's help. His guerilla army was not match even for retreating Germans and their allies in 1944 on Syrmian Front, it took partisan army 6 months for break through German lines en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Syrmian_Front.
    – user3450
    Commented Dec 4, 2016 at 6:08
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    @user3450 The point of Guerrilla warfare is to weaken the opposition over a period of time. By definition its unlikely to sweep aside a more powerful force in the short term, but in the long term...
    – user31561
    Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 11:56

Stalin lacked adequate forces while maintaining other commitments during his life time to do so. While organisation for an offensive was desultory during the 1947-1950 period, from 1950 the Soviet Union decided to reorganise the surrounding states' militaries on a new basis. In the opinion of Tismaneanu, had the Soviet Union bordered Yugoslavia, intervention would have occurred without reference to the disorganisation of the fraternal state's militaries. Therefore, we can conclude that Stalin's death before the fraternal militaries were sufficiently organised is the chief cause of Stalin's lack of use of military force against Titoist Yugoslavia.


  1. Vladimir Tismaneanu 2009 Stalinism Revisited: The Establishment of Communist Regimes in East-Central Europe Central European University Press, 87-96.
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    That feel a bit odd. Surely Stalin had enough Soviet troops and would not have needed to rely on his satellites for that? I've a feeling that Tismaneanu might be missing something. Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 6:03
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    The planning was to use the fraternal states militaries in echelonment to protect Soviet forces. Hungary 1956 was fairly costly for the Soviet Union, and that was without the Honved being centrally controlled to resist or in general resisting. Yugoslavia would have made Korea look nice, thus the plan to bleed the fraternal states first. Korea, of course, being the other point: that Stalin authorised Korea instead of Yugoslavia. Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 9:07
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    But even with a border, the Yugoslavs already had their Communist state created. There would be no opportunity for the USSR to set up the state to their liking. In the other states the armies were run by Soviet Generals. Not so in Yugoslavia, adjacency to the USSR or no.
    – Oldcat
    Commented Jul 23, 2015 at 22:05

Sorry, it was indeed the Soviet armoured thrusts which LIBERATED Yugoslavia- the Germans didn't move an inch from Belgrade-and the Vojvodina plains until the Soviet armored thrust came- that and that alone pushed the Germans out, as well as the Allies breaches on the Adriatic coast which finally initiated the German evacuation from Coastal Yugoslavia. Stalin let Tito and the Partisans make their "liberation" narrative AFTER the war. As for why Stalin did not invade Yugo, pretty simple, Stalin's aim was not to supress Tito- Stalin's aim was a warm water port for the Soviet navy- and Yugoslavia was a good choice- at this time- it took a phone call from Churchill to Stalin who warned Stalin the allies WOULD go to war to block any Soviet attempt at a warm water port in Yugoslavia- that is the MAIN reason why Stalin deferred.

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    Sources would improve this answer. Esp for "it took a phone call from Churchill to Stalin". Commented Jun 7, 2018 at 0:32
  1. The USSR was destroyed by the war (WW2). They didn't have the energy to fight anymore.

  2. Yugoslavia was next to Italy (which was a NATO member). Stalin was to attack Tito, he would be in serious trouble by NATO.

  3. Tito freed Yugoslavia single highhandedly from the Axis

  4. The West was backing Yugoslavia during the war and after.

  • 3
    This would be improved with some source references.
    – Steve Bird
    Commented May 18, 2020 at 20:58
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    I second @SteveBird's statement. Sources, policy statements, could all be good supporting evidence to make this into a very strong answer.
    – gktscrk
    Commented May 18, 2020 at 21:05

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