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86 years of speaking your language

The fascinating story of the first overseas broadcasts of the BNR - part 1

In 1936 BNR, then under the name of Radio Sofia, started broadcasting on short waves via the ELZA transmitter (the abbreviation coming from the radio station's international code - L-Z-A). The same year the radio started broadcasts to abroad.

In 1936, information about Bulgaria could only be heard in Bulgarian and in the artificially created language Esperanto. It was after 1 May 1937, when programs began to be broadcast in French, German, English and Italian.

In the spring of 1938, broadcasts for foreign audiences were further developed to include "Special Broadcasts for Some European Countries".

What was special about these was the advance publicity which the radio made in the countries for which the broadcast is intended. Such publicity was carried out through the legations, business representatives, foreign radio stations and newspapers so as to attract the attention of listeners abroad in advance.

Authors and hosts of the first broadcasts abroad were free-lance collaborators, among whom were legendary Bulgarian journalists and intellectuals like Petar Ouvaliev, Georges Milchev, Bory Ganchev, Mikhail Hadzhimishev and others.

After 9 September 1944, when the communist regime seized power in Bulgaria, Radio Sofia's foreign language broadcasts continued to air news bulletins and commentaries on events in Bulgaria and around the world. From 1945 to 1950, Bulgarian Radio Sofia broadcast 10-minute news bulletins in Romanian, Serbo-Croatian, Macedonian, Greek and Turkish.

The Bulgarian Radio began broadcasting in Turkish language in July 1945. The programme targets the Turkish population in this country as well as listeners from neighbouring Turkey. It was run by Chudomir Petrov, BNR Deputy Director and head of the Foreign Information Department.

There were two 10-minute broadcasts each day. Editor was Boris Pilosoff, who then also led the French-language broadcasts. The first hosts of the program in Turkish were Ulfet Sadıkova, Rıza Mollov, Mustafa Bekirov, Sali Baklaciev among others.

The Greek-language emissions started in the first half of 1948. By then, democratic power had already been installed in Greece under US and Western European pressure. The Greek Communist Party's resistance movement was destroyed and many Greek functionaries found refuge in Bulgaria. Curiously, it was with their help that the Greek editorial board was set up.

Similarly, after the political events in Yugoslavia and Albania in 1948, political immigrants seeking protection from the Bulgarian communist government created broadcasts in Serbo-Croatian and Albanian.

The first editors and speakers of Serbo-Croatian language had their quarters at 10 Danube Street in Sofia. There they prepared and translated the material for the Bulgarian radio broadcasts. 

Based on historical accounts collected by Bozhidar Metodiev - founder and curator of the BNR Museum.

To be continued.

Compiled by: Krasimir Martinov

Editor: Darina Grigorova

English version: Elizabeth Radkova

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