Tag Archives: Cold War

Space Flight: Colin’s collection of Radio Moscow recordings on the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive

One of the joys of running the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive (SRAA) is that, over time, more and more people have become aware of it and submit recordings they’ve had in their private collections for decades.

Quite often, SRAA off-air recordings were originally made on reel-to-reel or cassette tapes which degrade with time. When SRAA contributors take the time to digitize these recordings, and share them via the SRAA, they put these collections in the hands of hundreds of archivists. We’re grateful each time we receive one of these shortwave or mediumwave/AM recordings.

You can imagine my excitement when I received the following message from one of our newest contributors, Colin Anderton:

“As a space flight nut, I have many recordings from the 1970s from Radio Moscow. They used to broadcast on the medium wave, and I used to record the news bulletins during some of the space flights. In particular, there was a period between December 1977 and March 1978 when Soviet cosmonauts first lived aboard the Salyut 6 space station.  I recorded each days’ news reports on the flights, and also some additional items about them.”

Colin’s recordings are amazing. Here’s a sample from December 10, 1977:

We’ve started publishing Colin’s recordings on the archive at regular intervals.

Click here to listen to Colin’s recordings on the SRAA.

Interestingly, I discovered that Colin also has a website dedicated to NASA highlight recordings from the space age.  Several months ago, he spent a considerable amount of time making the public domain series more listenable–removing voice-actuated recorder noises, tape clicks, etc.

Colin has made his collection of re-engineered NASA recordings free to download on his website. If you download and enjoy his recordings, consider dropping him a donation. If you’re into spaceflight like I am, you’ll certainly enjoy this collection:

apolloaudiohighlights.com

Colin, once again, thanks so much for adding your off-air recordings to the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive!

Indeed, thanks to the many contributors who make the archive such a treasure trove of broadcast recordings! Click here to browse the Shortwave Radio Audio Archive.

East German schoolboy who was jailed for writing the BBC

(Source: BBC News via Namal Dolakumbura, 4S6NDO)

The East German secret police went to extraordinary lengths to track down people who wrote letters to the BBC during the Cold War. One of those arrested and jailed was a teenager who longed to express himself freely – and paid a high price.

It was the last day of the summer holidays. For 18-year-old Karl-Heinz Borchardt that should have meant an afternoon on a windswept Baltic beach with his girlfriend, or a few hours spent trying to catch the latest pop songs on his portable radio.
Instead his childhood came to a sudden end.

His mother hurried into his room unusually early and told him to get dressed. Five uniformed agents were waiting downstairs.

Borchardt bought himself time. “I needed time to think,” he says. “It could have been for any number of reasons.”

Insisting he needed a wash, he started to fling sheets of incriminating texts out of the window. He couldn’t know that the secret police already had all the evidence they needed.
It was two years earlier, in September 1968, that Borchardt had written his first letter.

It wasn’t easy to keep anything hidden in the cramped two-room flat Borchardt shared with his family in Greifswald, a small town on Germany’s northern coastline.

So as he sat down to write at the living room table he covered the sheet of paper with his homework whenever someone poked their head round the door.

The radio sat to his left and Borchardt was glued to the crackly foreign broadcasts coming out of Prague, where Soviet guns and tanks had rolled in to crush an attempt to introduce liberal reforms.

“To the staff of Radio London’s German service!” he wrote.

I have only just started listening to your programme, ‘Letters without signatures’, but I like it a lot, since it airs opinions you don’t find in our media. I am 16 years old. I will write to you regularly, mainly about young people and their views on world affairs. In my view, the west did not intervene strongly enough in Czechoslovakia. Does a country which fought so hard for its freedom have to carry on marching to the tune of the Soviets?

Warm regards from a schoolboy

Continue reading on the BBC News website…

Prague Spring: Radio Prague seeks listener memories

During the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, Czechoslovaks carry their national flag past a burning tank in Prague. (Photo source: CIA via Wikimedia)

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, David Iurescia (LW4DAF), who notes that Radio Prague is asking listeners to share memories of the 1968 Soviet invasion:

(Source: Radio Prague)

August 1968 – share your memories

August 21, 1968 – a turning point in this country’s history. The invasion of Czechoslovakia by Warsaw Pact soldiers crushed hopes of life in a freer society.

Please share your memories of that time with us. When and how did you first learn about the invasion? How did the media in your country report on it? Did you by any chance directly experience those events in Czechoslovakia or by the country’s borders?

Send us your recollections, photographs and other materials. Next year Radio Prague will be commemorating the 50th anniversary of the events of August 1968 with a special project. Become part of it.

Czech Radio 7 – Radio Prague
Vinohradská 12
120 99 Prague 2
Czech Republic
english@radio.cz

Click here to read on Radio Prague’s website.

Cold War Broadcasting: Two articles feature RFE & Radio Liberty

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Andrea Borgnino, who shares the following article from the website Journalism Is Not A Crime:

From Propaganda to Journalism: How Radio Free Europe Pierced the Iron Curtain

The end of the Second World War signaled the beginning of an information war in Europe. As the military alliance between the Soviet Union and its main western allies — the United States and Britain — came to an end, the USSR backed small communist parties that asserted ever-tighter control over much of Eastern Europe.

Speaking in Fulton, Missouri in March 1946, former British Prime Minister Winston Churchill warned of an “Iron Curtain” of totalitarian control sealing off half the continent. His speech heralded the beginning of an ideological “cold war” that would last for more than 40 years, a struggle in which citizens of the eastern camp were only meant to hear one side of the argument.

“We talk about the Iron Curtain as a physical barrier, but it was also an information curtain,” says A. Ross Johnson, a former director of Radio Free Europe and author of a history of RFE and its companion station, Radio Liberty, which broadcast into the Soviet Union. “All the communist regimes saw control of information as a key to their rule.”

Continue reading…

An SWLing Post contributor also recently shared the following PDF article by A. Ross Johnson for the Wilson Center. Here’s the summary:

To Monitor and be Monitored– Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty during the Cold War

Monitoring of Soviet bloc radios was an important input to Radio Free and Radio Liberty broadcasts during the Cold War. RFE and RL also monitored the official print media and interviewed refugees and travelers. Soviet bloc officials in turn monitored RFE, RL, and other Western broadcasts (while jamming their transmissions) to inform themselves and to counter what they viewed as “ideological subversion.” On both sides, monitoring informed media policy.

RFE and RL monitored their radio audiences through listener letters and extensive travel
surveys, while the Communist authorities monitored those audiences through secret police
informants and secret internal polling. Both approaches were second-best efforts at survey
research but in retrospect provided reasonably accurate indicators of the audience for RFE, RL, and other Western broadcasters.

Click here to download the full Wilson Center article as a PDF.

If you’re interested in Cold War broadcasting, I would also encourage you to check out Richard Cummings’ blog, Cold War Radio Vignettes.

Soviet Era Radio: Dennis reviews the Shoroh R-326 receiver

Many thanks to SWLing Post contributor, Dennis Kalinichenko, who shares the following review:

The Shoroh R-326 military radio

by Dennis Kalinichenko

I believe the piece of Soviet military equipment I recently bought to my collection would be interesting to all readers and contributors.

This is the R-326 “Shoroh” (“Rustle”) general coverage military tube shortwave radio receiver. These were produced decades ago, back in 1963. These portable receivers were in active military use in the Soviet Army until the early 2000s, when the R-326 was finally discontinued . Today, this set is no more a spy secret, but a great collector’s item and also a good receiver for home use.

My set cost me about $150 US, which is rather expensive for this radio. The R-326 was plentiful in the local market in 90-s, right after the fall of the Soviet Union, very cheap and popular between radio amateurs, but nowadays this radio has become more and more rare, so the price rises up.

My R-326 arrived from Khabarovsk city, the Russian Far East, where, I believe, for many years it was on duty in some of the Soviet radio intelligence and defense forces division.
The set includes the radio itself, original military 100 ohm headphones, original rectifier box for 2,5 V output, 12 meter long wire antenna on a reel, the 1,5 meter famous “Kulikov” mini-whip antenna, the isolator for placing it on top of the radio and some minor accessories.

Originally, the R-326 radio came with two batteries–1,25 V each–for field use, but mine are totally drained and need to be serviced, so I haven’t used them so far.

The radio is a light-weight, only 33 lbs, which is a real minimum for Soviet military equipment–the famous R-250 radio’s weight is up to 220 lbs–so, in comparison, this unit is really portable. You can easily put it in your car using the attached leather handle and take it with you on a weekend trip. No other military radio can be so “travel-friendly”; this is one of the reasons it was so popular in the ham radio and SWL communities.

The case is made out of steel and looks so solid you may want to use it as a nutcracker. And you can! In no way could you harm the box constructed to resist nuclear attacks. It is waterproof and sealed–so I can be confident that no previous owner has ever tried to solder something in the guts.

The radio is a super heterodyne containing 19 (!) special mini tubes and covering 6 SW bands, from 1 to 20 MHz. It works in both AM and SSB (CW) modes, having an on-board adjustable bandwidth control from 300 Hz to 6 kHz.

On the front panel, there are two scales: one is rough/coarse, and above is the precise one, a so-called photoscale, which may be adjusted to match real radio-frequency using the four screws near the sun protection visor. With this scale, you don’t actually need a digital readout. It also has a BFO control with a zero setting, adjustable AGC levels for AM and CW, and adjusting screw for matching the antenna input, as marked for 12 m long wire, 1,5 m and 4 m whip.

The radio has no built-in speaker. Instead, there are two output sockets on the front panel, for 100 ohm headphones and 600 ohm line-out.

The power consumption is very low for s tube radio, the rig needs only 1,4 A at 2.5 volts DC (including the lightscale). I use the original power transformer (transistor rectifier) and therefore switch the unit into the 220 AC outlet.

The sensitivity of the radio is extremely high and equals some modern transceivers. The selectivity is also impressive. No doubt it was really great for 1960s. But there’s negative side as well: the radio easily overloads even from the outdoor long wire antennas. The best fit is the “Kulikov” mini-whip that you can see in the photos.

When you switch on the radio, you hear noise, the level of which seems high, so you lower the volume down. Yes, the radio is sensitive and a bit noisy. But thanks to the tubes it sounds really amazing in the headphones. The SSB ham operator’s voice is warm and very clear.
The tuning is very smooth, being actually 2-speed: outer wheel is for fast tuning, inner wheel for precise tune.

It’s absolutely obvious that nowadays a simple Degen or Tecsun may be more useful than this old and heavy unit with big and tough knobs and switches. But what a pleasure sitting in front of this perfect tube radio at night, with the headphones on, turning the huge tuning wheels, looking into the moving dim scale, listening into distant voices and rustles, feeling yourself a Cold War times operator near the rig.

Isn’t this experience priceless?

Indeed the experience is priceless, Dennis! Better yet, your R-326 now has an owner that will keep it in working order and enjoy it on a regular basis. I personally believe keeping these vintage rigs on the air is one way to preserve, and experience first hand, a little of our collective radio history.

Thank you so much for sharing your review and excellent photos of the R-326!

Post readers: If, like Dennis, you have a vintage radio you would like to showcase/review here on the SWLing Post, please consider submitting your story and photos. Being a huge fan of vintage radio, I truly enjoy reading through and publishing your reviews.  I know many other readers feel the same!