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Oh, Yugoslavia! How They Long For Your Firm Embrace

This spring, Bostjan Troha and 50 of his friends from across the former Yugoslavia plan to celebrate the official 116th birthday of the former dictator Josip Broz Tito with a pilgrimage in boxy Yugoslav-era Fico cars to Tito’s Croatian birthplace and his marble tomb in Belgrade.

To mark the occasion, Troha has hired a Tito impersonator and dozens of child actors, who will wear Yugoslav partisan berets, wave Yugoslav flags, and applaud enthusiastically after the impersonator’s address. The revelers will down shots of Slivovitz, the Serbian national drink, and dance to the lurching melodies of Yugoslav folk music along the 360-mile route.

Troha’s group of pilgrims will be modest compared with the 20,000 from the former Yugoslavia’s six republics — Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia, and the Republic of Macedonia — who traveled daily to the tomb during communist times after Tito’s death in 1980.

But sociologists here say it reflects a trend across the Balkans they call Yugonostalgia, in which young and old yearn for the past — even the authoritarian one — as they struggle with a legacy of wars and economic hardship.

Methodists Who Oppose Bush Library Force a Vote

Methodists opposed to a George W. Bush Presidential Library, museum and policy institute at Southern Methodist University here are mounting a last-ditch effort to block a nearly completed deal by throwing the decision to a regional church conference in July.

Opponents of the project, including current and retired bishops and faculty members hostile to President Bush over the Iraq war and social issues, say church rules require that an agreement be submitted to the 290 elected delegates of the church’s South Central Jurisdiction.The Rev. Andrew Weaver, a research psychologist in New York who organized an online petition drive against the library project last year that he said had drawn more than 11,200 signatures, said about 35 percent of the delegates were “progressives” opposed to the plan.

“We need to inform and recruit 16 percent of the moderate delegates to block the project,” Weaver said.

But officials at Southern Methodist, which is owned by the jurisdiction, say they already have the church’s approval, through the jurisdiction’s Mission Council and College of Bishops, to lease land to the George W. Bush Foundation and are close to an agreement to do so.