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History in audio documents

There exist quite a few written materials, as well as photographs and film footage, about the historic events at the dawn if the 1941 April war, but, as far as we know about it at present, there are no corresponding audio documents, mainly due to the fact that the Radio Belgrade did not possess any recording equipment.

Dragoslav Simic who has been for many years perseveringly searching for audio documentation from that era could finally see his efforts rewarded: the results of his research work were presented in his radio show Speak that I may see you (Govori da bih te video). His succeeded in obtaining several recordings made by Zoran Manojlovic, son of the composer and musicologist Kosta Manojlovic, while he could also get from the German Radio archives recordings of speeches of Dragisa Cvetkovic, Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Yugoslavia, including his address after signing of the Trilateral Pact, in Berlin, on March 25, when he said, among other things, the following: "The principal and almost the sole aim of Yugoslavia's foreign policy has been, and remained, to preserve piece for the Yugoslav people and strengthen its safety. In the spirit of such policy, our efforts have always been directed primarily towards consolidation of peaceful and friendly relations with our neighbors in order to assure peace along our frontiers, freedom, independence and state integrity."

Two days later, as it is known, the Trilateral Pact was broken, Mr. Cvetkovic's Government collapsed and the power was taken by the young King Peter II whose proclamation was read at the Belgrade Radio by Captain Jakov Jovovic. The recording of that proclamation was also available, as well as the news read in 1940 by a speaker of Radio-Belgrade.

These audio recordings, which are truly genuine rarities whose very existence had been for long ignored, were presented by Dragoslav Simic in parallel with chosen excerpts of diary notes by Milan Jovanovic Stoimirovic, journalist and a high official in the Royal Government who, during the occupation period, also held the position of Editor in Chief of "Obnova" newspaper [obnova meaning renewal] and exercised the function of the National Archives General Manager, all of which had cost him seven years of imprisonment after the war.

This presentation is harmoniously tuned together as Jovanovic's interpretations correspond in spirit to Cvetkovic's basic ideas, and even more to Milan Stojadinovic's and Prince Paul's (Knez Pavle) policies. A recording from April 6, 1941, could also be heard in the show: "Somebody read on the radio (from Berlin) a text about reasons for which the war was declared to us…It turns out from this text that we are responsible for this was, in other words that the responsibility goes to the same bunch who in 1903 did not hesitate to assassinate the King and who assassinated Franc Ferdinand in 1914."

It is beyond doubt that a different view on the March 1941 upheaval in Belgrade could be established with the help of other memoire and archive sources, and maybe some additional recordings from the British Radio archives. Despite everything, Mr. Simic gives an acceptable projection of this historical turning point which has had, as it is known, fatal consequences during the war and after it.

The most important is that Mr. Simic's projection has roots in only recently discovered audio documents, which is particularly interesting. The interpretation of history can take different directions; but when it is composed with even so few audio documents, it instantly acquires a very special vivid dimension on the radio.

This is why we can only praise Dragoslav Simic's perseverance and hard work of his collaborators: Miroslav Pavicevic, actor, who read Mr. Jovanovic's diary notes with affinity, and Miodrag Batica Bogdanovic who has taken care of electronic interventions on audio archive documents that were heard on our radio program for the first time ever.

(Radio-Belgrade 2, April 5)

POLITIKA (Belgrade daily newspaper), April 18, 2005

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