Many thanks to Richard for the following guest post and archived audio:
Radio Vilnius 1990-1991
On 11 March 1990, Lithuania was the first Soviet republic to declare its independence. The Soviet Union issued an ultimatum to the Lithuanian authorities to renounce independence or suffer the consequences.
On 17 March 1990, Lithuania rejected the demand and the Soviet Union responded by applying economic sanctions and occupied parts of Vilnius, the capital city. In January 1991, the Soviets launched a larger scale operation against Lithuania. On 11 January, Soviet military units seized several building in Vilnius and elsewhere. On 12 January, civilians congregated outside some strategically important buildings such as those of the Supreme Council (the Seimas Palace), the Radio and Television Committee, the Vilnius TV Tower, and the main telephone exchange in an attempt to prevent them from falling into the hands of the Soviet military. In the early hours of 13 January, tanks and soldiers attacked the TV tower. Fourteen Lithuanians and one Russian soldier died.
Subsequently, Soviet forces surrounded and entered the Radio and Television Committee building and forced the TV station off the air. Shortly thereafter, a small TV studio in Kaunas was used to resume TV transmissions and put out a call for help. Radio transmissions were also affected. Although Soviet forces were in the vicinity of the Supreme Council building, they retreated instead of attacking. The occupation and military raids continued for several months following the attacks.
Subsequent Lithuanian-Russian negotiations resulted in the signing of a treaty on 31 January. A referendum on independence held on 9 February overwhelmingly supported the full and total independence of Lithuania. Other republics of the Soviet Union declared their independence and following the resignation speech by Mikhail Gorbachev on 25 December, the Soviet Union was dissolved the next day. The last Russian troops left Lithuania on 31 August 1993.
Radio Vilnius, the external service of Lithuanian Radio, transmitted news about events in Lithuania and the other Baltic republics even at the height of the Soviet attacks. The broadcasts were made, in part, using transmitters elsewhere in the Soviet Union. However, there was a temporary interruption in these broadcasts after the occupation of the Radio and TV Centre by Soviet troops early in the morning of 13 January. They resumed on 25 January.
Radio Nederland’s “Media Network” programs of 20 January 1991 and 14 January 1992 featured reports on Radio Vilnius and the Soviet occupation. The sound files of these programs are available on the Web (“Media Network Vintage Vault“).
I have six recordings of Radio Vilnius English Service shortwave broadcasts between March 1990 and January 1991. These were received in Hanwell, New Brunswick, Canada, using a Sony ICF-7600D receiver and supplied wire antenna draped around the listening room.
28 March 1990, 22:00 UTC, 11770 kHz (00m:00s – 00m:55s)
Strong signal. Interval signal (IS) and station identification (ID) but the transmission was cut off in mid-sentence: “This is Radio Vilnius. Hello and welcome to our daily broad” All that could be heard faintly on this frequency then was Radio Liberty in Russian (“Govorit Radio Svoboda”). Initially could hear nothing on Radio Vilnius parallel frequencies until about four minutes into the broadcast when a very faint signal on 12060 kHz could be heard (not recorded).
29 March 1990, 22:00 UTC, 12060 kHz (00m:55s – 02m:04s)
Weak signal. IS, station identification, and first part of “News About Lithuania.” Radio teletype interference. Checked other frequencies.
3 April 1990, 22:00 UTC, 17665 kHz (02m:06s – 30m:02s)
Improved signal. Receiver briefly switched to other frequencies to check quality during the recording. IS, ID, “News About Lithuania,” report on the occupation of the Lithuanian Prosecutor’s Office on Friday night (30 March), music, sports news, “Lithuanian by Radio.”
9 April 1990, 22:00 UTC, 11770 kHz
Strong signal. Some co-channel interference from Radio Liberty. Receiver briefly switched initially to other frequencies to check signal quality during the recording. IS, ID, “News About Lithuania,” report about the Lithuanian Mission in Moscow, “Around Lithuania,” program in Esperanto (begins around 23m:08s) — a regular feature at the end of Monday broadcasts from Radio Vilnius in English. Interesting sign-off statement: “It’s goodbye and good luck.” On the recording, the Radio Vilnius transmission is followed at 29m:29s (on the same frequency), by the first approximately 15 minutes of a transmission from pro-Moscow Radio Minsk in Belorussian (now usually referred to as Belarusian). The transmission begins with the IS and ID (“Havorits Minsk … Radyjostancyja Saviecki Bielaru?”), followed by a news program.
11 January 1991, 23:00 UTC, 7400 kHz
Strong signal. Recording actually starts at about 22:58 UTC with music, the tail-end of a transmission on this frequency, likely from Radio Kiev. Some transmitter hum. Then, Radio Vilnius IS and ID. “We’re still hold up and we hope you can still hear us.” “News About Lithuania” including occupation news, commentary, and reports from the neighbouring Baltic states. Receiver briefly switched to other usual frequencies to check on signal quality (9750, 15180, 17690, and 17720 kHz; 6100 kHz not heard). Transmission ends with “And that’s all we have for our today’s broadcast, we hope not the last one, from Radio Vilnius in the Republic of Lithuania.” This is followed by the transmission schedule and contact information. After about 45 seconds, the Radio Minsk transmission begins with IS and ID.
12 January 1991, 23:00 UTC, 9750 kHz
Strong signal. Initial mix-up of interval signals. The first IS is believed to be that of Moskovskaya Radio, the Russian Service of Radio Moscow, followed by a bit of the Radio Moscow World Service IS, and then finally the Radio Vilnius IS. The transmission begins with the statement “We’re still broadcasting from Vilnius.” This is followed by the Lithuanian news reporting on the acts of aggression of the Soviet occupying forces and “Correspondents’ Reports.” The latter includes a report that the exam session at Vilnius University has been postponed to allow students to help protect buildings from the occupation forces, including the Radio and Television Building, and a report on the restrictions on travel. The reports were interrupted with “some news just come in” about a group trying to break into the building of the Council of Ministers. The announcer subsequently reported that the attackers had been put off and so the conflict has been neutralized. The broadcast ends with the statement “We hope to be with you tomorrow again” followed by the transmission schedule and contact information. The Radio Vilnius transmission is followed by the one from Radio Minsk. News organizations reported that Soviet troops entered the Radio and Television Building about 15 minutes after this Radio Vilnius transmission.
13 January 1991, 23:00 UTC, 9750 kHz
Strong signal on this and other frequencies usually received except 17690 kHz; only background noise on that frequency. However, there was no Radio Vilnius transmission on any frequency. It had been replaced by light classical and contemporary orchestral music. No IS or announcement of any kind. Music was faded out at 29m:03s before ending. During the recording, the receiver was briefly tuned to other Radio Vilnius frequencies to check on signal quality.
30 January 1991, 23:00 UTC, 7400 kHz
Strong signal. The recording begins with a few seconds of music from the previous transmission on this frequency. Then, after about one minute (there was no IS), the Radio Vilnius transmission starts with the beginning of the patriotic song “Lietuvninkai Mes Esam Gim?” (Lithuanians We Are Born) and an introduction stating that the broadcast is coming “from the capital of the independent Republic of Lithuania.” This is followed by “News About Lithuania” including items on further acts of violence by Soviet troops and severe winter weather. Then, there are reports on Lithuanian-Polish relations and the work of the commission on Soviet aggression. Next is an eye-witness report on the attack on the TV tower on the night of 13 January, a report on the current feelings of Lithuanians under occupation, and how music and the arts keep the people going. During the recording, the receiver was briefly tuned to other Radio Vilnius frequencies to check on signal quality. In addition to 7400 kHz, only 9750 and 17690 kHz could be heard.
Richard: Thank you so kindly for sharing these amazing off-air recordings.