Updated: Jan 21, 2021
When the supreme commander of the Partisan Army Marshal Josip Broz Tito came to power as the leader-for-life of the newly created Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia in 1945 in the wake of his WWII victory, he slowly, over the course of many years, began to accumulate a significant collection of properties across Yugoslavia for the purposes of coordinating his official responsibilities and duties, as well as for his personal relaxation and leisure. Some of these estates and villas were built from scratch, while many others were simply acquired through the process of nationalization, most often from the Karađorđević royal family of Yugoslavia, who were deposed in 1945 by the Yugoslav Constituent Assembly. The villas which Tito accumulated were of a huge variety, from castles, to hunting lodges, to seaside manors, to luxury palaces, and well beyond. Tito was well known for his refined tastes, love of entertaining and desire to impress, so, as such, he used these many villas not only for his stately tasks and personal enjoyment, but also as a means to showcase the splendors and modernization of Yugoslavia to the hundreds of visiting dignitaries and world leaders he would routinely host at his many estates. Also, it must be pointed out that all of these villas were not properties which Tito himself owned personally... all were under the formal ownership of the Yugoslav government. After Tito's passing, there was virtually no property that was left behind that was legally owned by Tito himself as an individual or by his family.
The natural question that many ask after hearing of this vast collection of estates which Tito accumulated is "how many were there?". While seemingly a straightforward question, the exact number is not known for certain, as even today there is much secrecy in some circles about the legacy of government-owned properties which existed during the former Yugoslavia. Surprising revelations about many of Tito's estates continue to be unearthed up to the present day, all while legal restitution battles between current governments and these property's pre-WWII owners still drag on into contemporary times. While some sources assert that there may be as well as over 100 villas which Tito called "home" in one respect or another, in my research for this article I was only able to isolate 34 properties which were either official Tito residences (some used, some unused) or villas in which Tito spent some amount of time. While more examples may exist, this list of 34 is all I was able to find any level of documentation or literature for.
This article looks at each villa in detail, with them all being organized by the former republics in which they existed. Learning about these villas gives one a unique insight into the life of Tito, his interests as a person, how he operated as a statesman, as well as his relationship with his wife Jovanka. Furthermore, detailing the individual history of each villa provides hints at how each region where these villas reside deal with and relate to the lingering legacy of Tito, which is visible still in many cases even 40 years after his death. Some stand as important local tourist attractions, some are locked up tight by private owners, while some sit in a crumbled ruins. This article will operate as a general survey of this unique and historical collection of properties, evaluating their past, present and even future in some cases.
Bosnia & Herzegovina
1.) Vila Kupres, Koprivnica Mountains, BiH
Name: Vila Kupres
Location: Koprivnica Mountains, near Kupres, BiH
Year built: 1972
Coordinates: 44°01'43.1"N, 17°18'17.0"E
Description: Yugoslav President Josip Broz Tito was an avid hunter and accumulated hunting lodges across the whole of Yugoslavia. Of particular interest to Tito was hunting bears, of which there were plentiful amounts of in the high mountains of Western Bosnia's Dinaric Alps. As such, a large villa was built for Tito in 1972 in the Koprivnica Mountains between the towns of Kupres and Bugojno. The lodge complex built for Tito, called "Vila Kupres", was characterized by its three levels of swooping horizontal lines and concrete balconies overlooking the mountains. Tito not only hunted the game that was already here in the area, but he also hunted game that was brought in from across Yugoslavia and from around the world. To get around while hunting in these mountains, Tito used a Russian-made Lada Niva SUV that was gifted to him by Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev. Tito visited Vila Kupres repeatedly over the years, roughly 17 times, more than any other of his lodges. The only other area where Tito spent more time was at his villas at Belgrade and Brijuni. Official Yugoslav state visits were also held here at the villa, with the most notable one being when Tito hosted Muammar Gaddafi in the late 1970s. In 1974, Tito found that the high altitude of mountains was poorly affecting his health, so he had a second villa in the area built for him in the valley at the nearby town of Bugojno, which he would split time between.
During the Bosnian War, Vila Kupres was used as a strategic military position and command base, suffering significant damage during the process. By the end of the war, it was completely destroyed. In the decades since the end of the war, the ruins of the villa still remain and have been largely forgotten. Articles indicate that the land and the ruins are both still owned by the government. This site is not wise to explore as landmines still exist around the landscape here.
2.) Vila Gorica, Bugojno, BiH
Name: Vila Gorica
Location: Bugojno, BiH
Architect(s): Zlatko Ugljen [profile page]
Year built: 1974
Coordinates: N44°02'25.3", E17°26'33.9"
Description: As the result of Tito often finding his extended stays at his mountain hunting lodge of Vila Kupres leaving him feeling ill, in 1974 he commissioned an additional personal villa to be constructed for himself in the lower valley within the town of Bugojno. The designer chosen for this distinguished project was famous Bosnian architect Zlatko Ugljen, who was the author of numerous WWII monuments and notable buildings across Yugoslavia. The house, when completed, was of a modified A-frame design clad with native wood siding, which all the more gave the structure a rustic "mountain lodge" aesthetic that Tito no doubt desired. When Tito would come to Western Bosnia to hunt, he would largely split his time between staying here at Vila Gorica and up at the lodge at Koprivnica. As a result, Tito was a well known fixture in the small rural town of Bugojno, where he would often walk the town's streets with world leaders which he had brought to hunt with. It is also notable to mention that constructed just a few meters north of Tito's villa was an additional villa meant for notable Yugoslav politician Branko Mikulić, who was from Bugojno and served for many years in the top party leadership of the SR of Bosnia & Herzegovina. Four years after Tito's death in 1980, Vila Gorica was transformed into a museum complex dedicated to the time which Tito spent recreating and hunting in the Bugojno and Koprivnica region. Vintage film footage showing Tito at Vila Gorica can be seen at THIS YouTube link.
As the Bosnian War took hold of this region during the early 1990s, Vila Gorica (along with the Mikulić villa) met a similar fate as the nearby Vila Kupres, with it being used as a strategic military position and later being completely destroyed through the course of the war. Today, the ownership of the ruins of the two villas (and the land they sit on) are contested by several government entities, however, many groups hope to eventually clean up and redevelop these sites. It is also interesting to note that rumors abound that there is an as-of-yet undiscovered network of secret tunnels under Vila Gorica that Tito had built for security (that American media even reported as being inspirations for Saddam Hussein's secret palace tunnel systems), but, as far as I can tell, such tales continue to remain as just myths.
3.) Vila Stojčevac, Sarajevo, BiH
Name: Vila Stojčevac
Location: Mount Igman near Sarajevo, BiH
Year built: early 1950s?
Coordinates: 43°48'30.6"N, 18°17'18.4"E
Description: Located southwest of Sarajevo at the foot of Mount Igman, just a few hundred meters east of the source of the Bosnia River, are the ruins of Tito's sprawling residence which was called "Vila Stojčevac". Built in the early 1950s, Tito used this residence here both for its hunting potential (which was always an important factor for him), as well as for its proximity to the urban/political hub of Sarajevo. The house was in the style of a "modern" rustic lodge, with its form typified by long horizontal low-pitched roof lines and wide open clusters of windows, all clad in a stylized 'log cabin' style facade. The interior of the complex was decorated with massive painted wall murals depicting the history and culture of Bosnia, all painted by the region's most significant artists. In addition, a vast network of tunnels was built under and around the compound, meant to serve as protection as well as clandestine transportation for Tito between sensitive sites.
As has been seen so far on this list with other official residences of Tito's during the Bosnian War, the fate of Vila Stojčevac was no exception, with it being used as a military fortification during the war. Today the villa sits in ruins completely destroyed and devastated, with multiple government agencies conflicted over who has responsibility over the site. Exploration of the site (especially its tunnels) is not recommended as the result of landmines, wild animals and the structure's instability. Impressive drone footage of the site can be seen at THIS Youtube link.
4.) Donje Bare Hunting Lodge, Sutjeska NP, BiH
Name: Donje Bare Hunting Lodge
Location: Sutjeska National Park, BiH
Year built: 1950s?
Coordinates: 43°19'07.1"N, 18°37'48.3"E
Description: Nestled at the edge of the remote lake of Donje Bare high in the Zelengora Mountains are the ruins of Tito's Sutjeska hunting lodge. The Sutjeska region was a pivotal location in Tito's life as a result of the huge battle him and his Partisan Army fought here in 1943 during WWII [more info here], so, not surprisingly, he came back to this region regularly for recreation and relaxation (particularly hunting). However, this hunting lodge which he established on the banks of the remote mountain lake of Donje Bare (most likely during the 1950s) has very little information available about it. However, surviving photos do indicate that Tito spent a good deal of time here. During the Yugoslav-era, the lake region was for Tito's exclusive use only, and it was not until the years following the end of the Bosnian War in the late 1990s that the lake was finally opened to public access. However, it was also during the war that the hunting lodge was completely destroyed. Circumstances surrounding the destruction of the lodge are unknown. The ruined foundation of the lodge still remains and is a popular feature for those hiking to Donje Bare Lake.
5.) Vila Lastva, Lastva, BiH
Name: Vila Lastva
Location: Lastva, BiH
Year built: 1954
Coordinates: 42°41'47.5"N, 18°29'18.6"E
Description: In the small village of Lastva, not far from the Herzegovina regional hub of Trebinje, is the only official residence of Tito in Bosnia that still exists up until the present day. Built in 1954, the house is crafted in a traditional 'villa' style out of native stone, fitting in very much with other local structures. Interestingly, despite its surviving through the Bosnian War, not much information is available about Tito's time spent here at this residence. In the post-Yugoslav-era, the house sat idle for many years. Interest in the site was renewed when it was used as a filming location for the 2009 Serbian TV series "Ranjeni orao" (Wounded Eagle). In 2015 the residence was sold by the state to a tourism investor named "Leotar" and development started on renovating the site into a bed & breakfast and winery, which was finally opened in 2019. The official website for the lodging, which kept the historic name "Vila Lastva", can be found at THIS link.
6.) Vila Kumrovec, Kumrovec, Croatia
Name: Vila Kumrovec
Location: Kumrovec, Croatia
Architect(s): Branko Bon
Year built: 1948
Coordinates: N46°04'35.7", E15°40'31.6"
Description: Just on the western outskirts of the small village of Kumrovec (just a few dozen meters away from the Kumrovec Old Village Museum) is situated the local residence which President Josip Broz Tito used during his stays here to his childhood village. Originally created in 1948 as a hotel and designed by notable Croatian architect Branko Bon (who was reputed to be Tito's favorite architect), the building is of a traditional style of local vernacular architecture, yet, also containing playful features of early modernist flair. It was renovated in 1962 in order to accommodate Tito’s living needs, at which point the interior of the home was decorated in an impressive mid-century style, standing in unique contrast to its more traditional exterior. After the dismantling of Yugoslavia, the home was left vacant for many years, with all of Tito’s possessions and personal items left relatively untouched and in place. It was not until 2015 that the Vila Kumrovec was finally opened up to the public for tours. These tours present visitors with a unique glimpse into Tito’s life, as well as a preserved snapshot of the stylistic trends of the Yugoslav-era. For info about touring Vila Kumrovec, see the official website for the Kumrovec Old Village Museum.
7. Castle Tikveš, Tikveš, Croatia
Name: Castle Tikveš