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2014, iss. 43-1, pp. 123-156
A 'quiet African episode' for the Serbian army in the Great War: The Band of the Cavalry Division and Dragutin F. Pokorni in North Africa (1916-1918)
University of Belgrade, Faculty of Philosophy, Department of History
Keywords: The Great War; military music; Serbian army; Bizerte; Africa; Franco-Serbian friendship; cultural diplomacy
In the context of this year's centenary of World War I, the focus of this text is the music activities of the Serbian army in North Africa (1916-1918), where they recuperated from their retreat across the mountains of Albania. This paper is a result of an extensive archival research of the National Library of Serbia's collections and periodicals published during the Great War in North Africa. The daily news bulletin Napred/En avant published during the war in Africa deserves special attention, along with the personal archives of conductor and Serbian army captain Dragutin F. Pokorni (1868-1956). The paper sheds light on the work of a Serbian military orchestra, officially called the Band of the Cavalry Division (BCD, in Serbian: Muzika Konjičke divizije) and their leader Pokorni, hitherto little known in Serbian musicology. More importantly, the paper critiques official Serbian historiography and its primary concern with glorifying the 'heroism' and sacrifice of Serbian soldiers, whilst keeping silent on the 'quiet African episodes' in the activities of the Serbian army from January 1916 to December 1918. This paper also highlights key points in the fruitful encounter between Serbian military musicians and the multi-layered cultures of the Maghreb and examines the importance of the BCD's promotion of Serbian culture overseas as a type of cultural diplomacy. By placing the activities of this Serbian military orchestra in the broader context of Serbian cultural diplomacy in the Great War, this paper offers an answer to the current debates in the humanities regarding new approaches to, and interpretations of, this year's global anniversary, mentioned above.
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article language: English
document type: unclassified
DOI: 10.5937/newso1443123V
received: 14/06/2014
accepted: 30/06/2014
published in SCIndeks: 23/07/2021