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 '12 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 '12 at 16:49
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    Thanks! Source for that last statement? While it might be cronologically correct, I've never heard it cited as a reason for their departure (you can be read as implying a causal connection, but maybe you don't mean it that way) – Jørgen Nov 27 '12 at 20:37
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    If it doesn't belong to the question, then it shouldn't be present. Especially if it distracts from the substantive historiographical issue. Particularly when it is an offensively poor causative construction of changes in national political expressions in central europe. – Samuel Russell Nov 28 '12 at 21:41
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    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. – Pieter Geerkens Dec 1 '13 at 20:53

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. – colmde Apr 16 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 at 16:51

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.

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    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 '13 at 7:36
  • "Republic -> "Republic"? – Peter Mortensen Mar 7 '14 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.

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    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 '12 at 14:12
  • @kubanczyk - Good points! I've modified the answer to address your concerns and reflect your input. – RI Swamp Yankee Nov 27 '12 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.

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    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. – Pieter Geerkens Dec 1 '13 at 16:55

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