Revolt in Belgrade, March 27th, 1941

The Yugoslav coup of 1941 marked a turning-point in the Second World War. Although the country was quickly overrun by German arms, writes A.W. Palmer, Hitler’s timetable for the invasion of Russia was seriously thrown out.

Early on March 27th, 1941, a military revolt in Belgrade overthrew the Yugoslav Government, which two days previously had signed an agreement with Nazi Germany, and replaced it by a coalition ministry headed by General Dusan Simovic and favourable to the allied cause.

At the same time, the Regency that had exercised royal authority for six and a half years was abolished and King Peter II proclaimed in full sovereignty. This bloodless revolution, limited in time to a few hours and in place to a single city, provoked a response throughout the world equalled in South Slav history only in 1914-15.

For the first time since the fall of France a small power had defied the armed might of Germany; it was, as the New York Times wrote, “a lightning flash illuminating a dark landscape.”

Few episodes in the war were so emotionally exhilarating for the Western democracies; and when, later in that same day, Churchill publicly rejoiced that the Yugoslav nation had “found its soul,” he was expressing the inarticulate enthusiasm of many millions on both sides of the Atlantic.

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