Today’s post is written by Ashby Crowder.
A few days ago the Washington Post ran a story about the recent closing of the Voice of America’s (VOA) Croatian language radio broadcast service. If you’re interested in the history of Voice of America in the former Yugoslavia, the National Archives at College Park has some records you’ll want to examine. The VOA’s Yugoslav service started in the 1940s but was split into several separate services when the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia was dissolved in 1992. The Croatian service was among them.
Some of us on the civilian textual records processing team are working on processing the Records of the United States Information Agency (Record Group 306), which includes records related to the Voice of America. Some of the records of the pre-1953 predecessors of the USIA are allocated to the General Records of the Department of State (Record Group 59. You can use the Online Public Access (OPA) system to find records related to Voice of America broadcasting into Yugoslavia during the Cold War. Although what you’ll find in OPA isn’t a comprehensive list of everything in our holdings related to the VOA in Yugoslavia, it’s a great place to start. A lot of series containing records related to the Voice of America are described down to the File Unit (Folder) level.
This summary of a 1962 research report on Refugee Views of VOA Listening in Yugoslavia indicates that VOA was “the most widely heard foreign station.” The full text of the entire report is available through OPA.
[Source: Record Group 306: Records of the United States Information Agency; Series: Research Reports, 1960-1999; File: R-92-1963 — VOA Listening in Yugoslavia, 1962: Refugee Views, 1963]
This 1969 report on VOA Listening in Urban Yugoslavia discusses the popularity of the Serbo-Croatian and Slovenian language broadcasts, based upon a survey carried out by the Zagreb Marketing Research Institute of the Yugoslav Federal Chamber of Commerce. According to the survey, the VOA had a “substantial audience” for its Serbo-Croatian broadcasts, but not for its Slovenian ones.
[Source: Record Group 306: Records of the United States Information Agency; Series: Special Reports, 1953-1997; File: S-49-69 — VOA Listening in Urban Yugoslavia, 1969]
It is notable that the VOA officials preparing the report consider a survey carried out by an official Yugoslav state organization—the Yugoslav Federal Chamber of Commerce—to constitute “reliable data” on the VOA listening habits of the country’s population. This document illustrates the extent of the special relationship between the United States and Yugoslavia during the Cold War.