For all these countries that the Red Army entered (Poland, Romania, part of Germany, Czechoslovakia, Hungary), the procedure was straightforward. Once the Soviets beat the Germans they become de facto occupants and could establish a government of their choice.

With Bulgaria it was a little bit different. Once it became clear that the Red Army offensive would enter their country, local communists swiftly executed a coup d'etat, which was obviously not opposed by either the Bulgarian public or the USSR. Even so, they still went under Soviet control.

In Yugoslavia, they had their own socialist government. However, since 1948 Yugoslavia was independent from USSR. As much as it is questionable if they were a part of the Eastern Bloc, they surely weren't under USSR power like the rest. (Albania had some similarities, also being independent since 1961. Albania was geographically separated from the Eastern Bloc in that it only bordered Yugoslavia.)

Somehow, it never occurred to me that the Red Army did enter Yugoslavia, and did take a major part in liberating the capital in 1944. What were the reasons for completely withdrawing their troops, and when did it happen? It is so unlike Stalin to do something like this. He could leave at least a few rear units and try to influence, if not control, the situation later. This would repeat the usual scenario that had played out previously. The West could object, but surely they wouldn't bring their own troops to Yugoslavia to escalate conflict, especially since everyone was still facing the Germans. It seems that it is somewhat exceptional that Yugoslavia was handled this way with respect to all the other countries where the Red Army "dropped by".

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    Good question. Allow me to point out that the Soviets also occupied a part of Norway: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/… and left without fuss after Germany capitulated.
    – Jørgen
    Nov 27, 2012 at 14:31
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    @Jørgen Thanks for pointing out this little gem. Curiously, Soviets stayed on Norwegian soil until they learnt about Hiroshima and Nagasaki. From Yugoslavia, it seems they withdrew much more quickly.
    – kubanczyk
    Nov 27, 2012 at 16:49
  • 4
    The Soviets withdrew from Yugoslavia because Tito's forces met them at the border and said "Make a right turn boys!". This may not be quite strictly accurate, and is exaggerated for comic effect, but none-the-less captures the essence of the answers below. Dec 1, 2013 at 20:53
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    I am reasonably certain that there were no substantial USSR troops in Czechoslovakia either post-WWII (until 1968), so you might eant to change your first sentence. Germany, Austria, Hungary and Romania had invaded the USSR in 1941, so having troops in those countries was easy to justify. This justification did not exist in Yugoslavia.
    – Jan
    Feb 10, 2020 at 19:43
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    You are completely wrong with Czechoslovakia. The Soviet army left in 1945 and Soviets only left their advisors and other spies who than helped the communists to grab the power. The government in Košice was NOT put in place by the Soviets but it was a direct continuation of the exile government in London cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/… May 21, 2020 at 17:53

6 Answers 6


Part of the story is probably the Percentages agreement between Churchill and Stalin, from the Moscow Conference in 1944.

Secret agreement between Churchill and Stalin

According to Wikipedia,

Churchill's account of the incident is the following: Churchill suggested that the Soviet Union should have 90 percent influence in Romania and 75 percent in Bulgaria; the United Kingdom should have 90 percent in Greece; in Hungary and Yugoslavia, Churchill suggested that they should have 50 percent each. Churchill wrote it on a piece of paper which he pushed across to Stalin, who ticked it off and passed it back.

It was amended later for Hungary. Wikipedia further writes:

If this agreement was true, then Stalin did keep to his promise about Greece, but did not keep his promise for Romania, Bulgaria, and Hungary, which became one-party communist states with no British influence. Yugoslavia remained a non-aligned state in line with the Percentage agreement, though it was a one-party communist state, with very limited British influence. Neither did Churchill keep his promise about Greece, which became a one-party junta with no Soviet influence. Britain supported the Greek government forces in the civil war but the Soviet Union did not assist the communist partisans.

As the article also notes, this version has been disputed. But it might be the case that Stalin was wary that he could't take everything and get away with it.

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    This makes sense, as Yugoslavia would not do as much for the "buffer zone" as Hungary, which bordered the USSR, so Stalin would not have been as anxious to hold onto it.
    – komodosp
    Apr 16, 2019 at 10:30
  • @colmde Good point. Hungary was essential even in the invasion of Czechoslovakia (in spite of being a neighbor to the USSR, for logistic reasons), and also to be a buffer just next to the Austria and also Yugoslavia. Keeping Hungary under control had high pay-off and once occupied, it was easy to keep. Occupation of Yugoslavia (due to terrain and experience partisans) would be a much worse nightmair, with potentially less payoff.
    – Greg
    May 18, 2019 at 16:51
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    @Jorgen, Stalin sponsored a revolution in Greece after WWII which fell apart when Tito blocked Soviet assistance to it's proxi army. It doesn't seem that Stalin bound by his napkin agreement with Churchill. Or really any of the agreements he made with the allies over eastern europe. Certainly not Poland.
    – user27618
    May 21, 2020 at 17:22

There were a couple reasons. The first was that Tito basically represented "a government of their [Soviet] choice". The second was that Tito showed that he could "take care of himself".

Josip Broz Tito had started with the Russian Communist Party as early as 1917. When "Russia" became the Soviet Union, he was a member of the Soviet Communist party and secret police, before he went back to Yugoslavia. He was highly regarded among Soviet and East European Party members. Essentially, Stalin couldn't find a "better" Communist.

The other reason is that Tito had led the resistance movement beginning in 1941, right from the beginning of the German occupation. He even established a short-lived "Republic" later that year. Given that he was able to keep part of Yugoslavia "independent" of the Axis, he could do the same, if necessary, vis-a-vis Stalin, who preferred to have Tito "nominally" under his control, than an open enemy.

The Soviet troops withdrew from Yugoslavia late in 1944, en route to fighting German and Hungarian enemies, and after securing some (logistical) support from Tito.

  • 7
    I think the last paragraph is the most important. The Soviet campaign in Austria was meeting with heavy resistance from German forces, and the forces in Yugoslavia were close and pretty much not needed there.
    – jwenting
    Dec 6, 2013 at 7:36
  • "Republic -> "Republic"? Mar 7, 2014 at 11:15

The Soviets only had a small presence in Yugoslavia, during the capture of Belgrade where they only had an assisting role - Tito's Partisans proved more than capable of defeating the Nazis on their own. The troops in Yugoslavia, the 2nd and 3rd Ukranian Front, were needed elsewhere, and so were redeployed to Hungary once it was clear the Yugoslavians had things well in hand.

The Wiki article on the Tito-Stalin split has some more background on how Yugoslavia avoided becoming a satellite state of the Soviet Union.

  • 1
    Excuse me, but this section in Wikipedia article, not to say it's bullshit, but is not sufficiently sourced. I'm interested exactly in the gory details of what you've summarized with "[...] so were redeployed [...]". For example take Poland: the troops were needed elsewhere, and they were redeployed, but some rear remained, and this was very much sufficient to influence country's politics.
    – kubanczyk
    Nov 27, 2012 at 14:12
  • @kubanczyk - Good points! I've modified the answer to address your concerns and reflect your input. Nov 27, 2012 at 14:20

Tito was a master of deception. After finally meeting Churchill in 1943 and getting his support changed from Draza Mihailovic's Chetniks to his communist partisans, Tito flew to Moscow in 1944 to obtain the Soviets' support for the liberation of Belgrade. Tito had one condition for the Soviet troops - not to use heavy artillery during the liberation of Belgrade.

As a consequence, the Soviets had heavy casualties during the street-to-street fighting with retreating Nazi troops. Once when Belgrade was liberated, the Soviets installed heavy artillery on the banks of Danube from which they started shelling of Zemun, the Croatian city ruled by the pro-Nazi Croatian Ustaše. The Russian statement of proclaiming Croatia an easy campaign led to the complete devastation of Zemun. In order to preserve the rest of Croatia from Soviet shelling Tito thanked Soviets for their help and asked them to leave the liberation of Croatia to his partisans troops.

  • 3
    Welcome to History.stackexchange.com. When basic (but non-trivial) facts are being presented, we encourage authors to include links to appropriate references. Do you have an references to the facts noted in your post? If so, including them in the post as links will improve it's quality. Dec 1, 2013 at 16:55

It has nothing to do with percentages, but with agreement between Yugoslavian communists and Soviet communists.

Tito was in contact with Comiterna throughout the war and when Soviets came to Yugoslavia. That was in fact the only allied territory, unlike all others who fought against them in one way or another. British absolutely didnt have a say in post war Yugoslavia. We can see evidence from Churchill's change of attitude towards Tito and Trieste crisis.

Even before the war was officially over, there was an incident where British sailors and SAS were trying to interfere with Partisan advance through Istrian peninsula. Partisans arrested them and immediately all aid was suspended. Tito didnt forget that both Soviet, GB and USA supported the official Yugoslavian government in exile (Soviets politically, GB and USA politically and materially). Soviets really didn't have to leave any troops in Yugoslavia since it was allied in true sense of the word. In any event both east and west were played by Tito who actually successfully established Yugoslavian national liberation movement without any help from outside. And because they did it by themselves they owed nothing to anyone.

  • 3
    Sources to support your assertions would greatly improve your answer. Feb 6, 2020 at 17:22
  • 4
    This answer squares with what I learned at University about 40 years ago, but support and sources would be great to fit this site's format requirements. Feb 6, 2020 at 17:27

What was the reason for Soviet troops to withdraw from Yugoslavia in World War II?

Short Answer:
Unlike most of Eastern Europe, Yugoslavia had a significant army which gave it the option of independence after the war. It's true though that because the Yugoslav Communists were close allies of the Soviet Union with their ideology branching off the Soviets; there was no reason to impose a Soviet Style Communist regime during the war because that was Marshal Tito's plan from the beginning. Stalin and Tito fell out after the war when Stalin tried to dictate to Tito in 1948. Mostly on Foreign policy.

Detailed Answer:
The Soviet Union really did not Liberate Yugoslavia during WWII. Yugoslavia was largely liberated by its own forces. Yes the Soviet's did aid Yugoslavia at the end of 44. However; The Yugoslavs had been fighting for 3 years at that point and had their own sizable military independent from Soviets. Given this there was no need for the Soviets to install a pro Soviet Communist regime in Yugoslavia. Yugoslavia was doing that themselves. So their was no reason for the Soviet's to leave troops in Yugoslavia. By the end of WWII there were no foreign troops in Yugoslavia. There was no need.

Yugoslav Partisans
SFR Yugoslavia was one of only two European countries that were largely liberated by its own forces during World War II. It received significant assistance from the Soviet Union during the liberation of Serbia, and substantial assistance from the Balkan Air Force from mid-1944, but only limited assistance, mainly from the British, prior to 1944. At the end of the war no foreign troops were stationed on its soil. Partly as a result, the country found itself halfway between the two camps at the onset of the Cold War.

When Stalin tried to dictate Yugoslavia's foreign policy after WWII, in 1948, that's when Stalin and Tito had a falling out. Yugoslavia did not join the Warsaw Pact and in 1948 Tito blocked Russia from supporting a Greek Revolution siding with the West. (the Greek red army collapsed when Tito refused to permit Stalin to resupply them through Yugoslavian territory). Tito also broke with the Soviet Union over the Marshal Plan. Yugoslavia was the only communist country which participated in it. Throughout the cold war Yugoslavia benefited from aid from both the Soviet Union and West.

During the cold war Turkey and Yugoslavia had a mutual defense pact. Yugoslavia had no such defense treaty with the Soviet Union; Which basically made Yugoslavia loosely associated with NATO rather than the Soviet Union.

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