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Watch: Montenegro unveils statue of controversial ex-Yugoslav Communist Tito

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By Alice Tidey & Reuters
Podgorica's statue of Josip Broz Tito unveiled on Dec 19, 2018.
Podgorica's statue of Josip Broz Tito unveiled on Dec 19, 2018.   -   Copyright  REUTERS/Stevo Vasiljevic

A statue of controversial former Yugoslav leader Tito was unveiled in Montenegro's capital on Wednesday.

The monument in Podgorica was inaugurated to mark the city's World War II liberation, celebrated annually on December 19.

Josip Broz, commonly known as Tito, was a resistance leader born in what is now Croatia, who led former Communist Yugoslavia from the end of WWII until his death in 1980.

Although his rule was condemned by many as a dictatorship, he remains a benevolent figure at home for managing to keep the country's six republics together and largely peaceful.

Ten years after his death, Yugoslavia erupted into a violent civil war, which led to its breakup and the creation of independent Balkan states such as Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia.

Ivan Vukovic, mayor of Podgorica — named Titograd until 1992 — said that the statue is "not an expression of "Yugo-nostalgia," but proof that Montenegro "remains faithful to its anti-fascist traditions".

"Those today who do not look favourably on his character and work — and in part justifiably criticise his attitude towards his political opponents — can hardly challenge the fact that Josip Broz is the most important historical personality to emerge from that era," he added.

The monument is one of three identical life-size statues made in 1948 by sculptor Antun Augustincic. It shows the former leader in uniform looking solemn.

The initiative to put one of the statues in a park was championed by city hall and a group of WWII communist veterans.

Dozens of Tito admirers and veterans attended the event singing revolutionary songs from WWII and waving the former Yugoslavia tricolour flag emblazoned with a red star.

According to a 2016 Gallup poll, 65% of Montenegrins believe the dissolution of Yugoslavia was wrong.