Voice of Russia (Russian: Голос России, Golos Rossii) is the Russian government's international radio broadcasting service. Its predecessor Radio Moscow was the official international broadcasting station of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. On 9 December 2013, Russian President Vladimir Putin issued a presidential decree liquidating Voice of Russia as an agency and merging it with RIA Novosti to form the Rossia Segodnya (Russia Today) international news agency. It is unclear at this point whether the radio station itself will keep the name Voice of Russia or be renamed.
Radio Moscow began broadcasting in 1922 with a transmitter station RV-1 in the Moscow region. In 1925 a second broadcasting centre came on air at Leningrad. Radio Moscow was broadcasting (on mediumwave and shortwave) in English, French, Indonesian, German, Italian and Arabic by 1939. Radio Moscow did express concern over the rise of German dictator Adolf Hitler during the 1930s, and its Italian mediumwave service specifically was jammed by an order of Italian dictator Benito Mussolini during the late 1930s.
The Cold War years
The U.S. was first targeted by Radio Moscow during the early 1950s, with transmitters in the Moscow region. Later Western North America was targeted by the newly constructed Vladivostok and Magadan relay stations. The first broadcasts to Africa went on the air in the late 1950s in English and French.
In 1961 Radio Moscow for the first time spoke in three African languages: Amharic, Swahili and Hausa. Over time, listeners in Africa got a chance to tune into Radio Moscow in another eight African languages.
The first centralized news bulletin went on the air in August 1963 and reached out to listeners all over the world. In the years of the Cold War most news reports and commentaries focused on the relations between the United States and Soviet Union.
In the 1970s the cream of Radio Moscow's commentator teams united in a radio journal, called "News and Views". Taking part in the ambitious project were Viktor Glazunov, Leonid Rassadin, Yuri Shalygin, Alexander Kushnir, Yuri Solton and Vladislav Chernukha. Over the years the journal grew into a major information and analytical program of the Radio Moscow foreign service.
In the late 1970s its English language service was renamed Radio Moscow World Service. The project was launched and supervised by a long-time Radio Moscow journalist and manager Alexander Evstafiev. Later a North American service, African service and even a "UK & Ireland" service (all in English) operated for a few hours per day alongside the regular (24 Hour) English World Service as well as services in other languages, the "Radio Peace and Progress" service and a small number of programmes from some of the USSR republics.
Broadcasting Soviet information was Radio Moscow's primary function. All programmes (except for short newsbreaks) had to be cleared by a "Programming Directorate", a form of censorship that was only removed in 1991.
At its peak, Radio Moscow broadcast in over 70 languages using transmitters in the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe, and Cuba.
Radio Moscow's interval signal was 'My Country's Vast' (Russian: Широка страна моя родная), played on chimes. This has been changed to Pictures at an Exhibition by Mussorgsky in 1991. A move has been made in an attempt to drift away from the image of the communist propaganda media.
One of the most popular programmes on air in the 1980s, due to its informal presentation that contrasted with most other shows, was the 'Listeners’ Request Club' hosted by prominent radio presenter Vasily Strelnikov. Another popular feature which began on Radio Moscow was Moscow Mailbag, which answered listeners' questions in English about the former Soviet Union and later about Russia. For almost five decades, between 1957 and 2005, the programme was presented by Joe Adamov, who was known for his command of the English language and his good humour. Radio Moscow continued to broadcast until the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, and was renamed the World Service of the Voice of Russia.
As of 2013, the Voice of Russia continued to broadcast to most of the world on shortwave and mediumwave, satellite, via the World Radio Network and via the Internet. Interestingly, broadcasts with strong signals targeted at Europe continue. Many major international broadcasters no longer target shortwave broadcasts at Europe, including the Cold War rivals of Radio Moscow: the Voice of America and BBC World Service (China Radio International continues, and has expanded, short wave broadcasts to Europe).
Radio Moscow's and Voice of Russia's shortwave (SW) transmission network has never been equalled in its transmission power, directivity and reach. During the station's peak in the 1980s the same programmes could often be heard on anything up to forty frequencies on the (heavily overcrowded) shortwave bands although the station never published its complete time/frequency schedule as radio frequencies were regarded as state secrets by the Soviet government.
The transmission network consisted of at least 30 high-power transmission sites (West to East, with first transmission dates):
- Wachenbrunn, East Germany (1000 kW carrier power, MW)
- Bolshakovo (2500 kW carrier power, MW)
- Saint Petersburg (1961) [16 × 200 kW SW]
- Moscow (5 known high-power SW transmission sites)
- Krasnodar (1967) [8 × 100 kW SW, 8 × 500 kW SW]
- Kamo, Armenia (site ceded to Armenia, but operated by RMOC)
- Samara [6 × 250 kW SW, 3 × 200 kW SW, 7 × 100 kW SW]
- Yekaterinburg [9 × 100 kW SW]
- Tashkent (1000 kW carrier power?)
- Dushanbe (1000 kW carrier power)
- Novosibirsk (1956) [17 × 100 kW SW, but 1000 kW carrier power capable]
- Irkutsk (Angarsk, 1971) [2 × 100 kW, 4 × 250 kW SW, 8 × 500-kW)
- Vladivostok (1000 kW carrier power?)
- Petropavlovsk-Magadan (1000 kW carrier power?)
- Havana, Cuba at one time in 1980, Radio Moscow had transmissions on the Medium Wave broadcast on 600 kHz from Cuba which reached the Caribbean islands and US State of Florida
Voice of Russia broadcast in short, medium and longwave formats, in DAB+, DRM, HD-Radio, as well as through cable, satellite transmission and in mobile networks. VOR’s Internet coverage comes in as many as 38 languages.
Voice of Russia announced on 1 July 2004, the successful implementation, and planned expansion, of its DRM broadcasts on short-wave and medium-wave. In September 2009 the Russian State Commission for Radio Frequencies, the national regulator of broadcasting, has decided on the DRM has the standard for mediumwave and shortwave services.
Starting in March 2013, VOR has been broadcasting in the digital HD Radio format in Washington and Chicago, and in Switzerland using its digital DAB+ multiplex.
End of shortwave service
According to published reports, Voice of Russia is to cease its shortwave service as of January 1, 2014 due to budget cuts. As of that date, in addition to broadcasting online, only three low-power medium wave transmitters will be used to transmit to other countries. In 2013, shortwave transmissions were cut to 26 hours a day in all languages, down from more than 50 hours a day in 2012. While reported by the official RIA Novosti news agency, the cut of shortwave service has not been confirmed by Voice of Russia itself.
On 9 December 2013, Voice of Russia was merged with RIA Novosti to form the Russia Today international news agency. There has been no information to date on what this will mean for the future of Voice of Russia and whether it will have any relationship with the RT international news channel.
USSR Shortwave broadcasting milestones and innovations
The USSR pioneered the use of HRS 8/8/1 antennas (horizontal dipole curtain, eight columns, eight rows, with electrically steerable pattern) for highly targeted shortwave broadcasting long before HRS 12/6/1 technology became available in the west. HRS 8/8/1 curtain arrays create a 10-degree beam of shortwave energy, and can provide a highly audible signal to a target area some 7,000 km away.
The full extent of Russia's shortwave antenna directivity research is unknown, although it is understood that some ionospheric heating experiments were carried out at the Kamo and Dushanbe relay stations in the late 1980s to 1990.
HRS 6/4/1 and HRS 12/6/1 curtain arrays are sold by an U.S. company TCI  in California. Marconi (UK) sold two HRS 6/4/1 antennas to Voice of America-BBG before terminating all sales and service for its longwave/mediumwave and shortwave products in the late 1990s.
The full list of available shortwave relay stations is only known by the Russian Ministry of Communications. These transmission facilities can be rented by contractual agreement. The Voice of America, Deutsche Welle and other international broadcasters have leased facilities in the past and currently possess lease agreements with Russia's MOC.
All shortwave relay station facilities in Russia and the former USSR are owned and operated by the Russian Ministry of Communications, with a few exceptions where the facilities were ceded to national governments.
- Eastern Bloc information dissemination
- Radio Wolga - radio station for Soviet Soldiers in former East Germany, until 1990.
- "President Vladimir Putin issues decree to reorganize Voice of Russia, RIA Novosti to Rossia Segodnya news wire". December 9, 2013. http://voiceofrussia.com/news/2013_12_09/President-Vladimir-Putin-issues-decree-to-reorgonize-Voice-of-Russia-RIA-Novosti-to-Rossia-Segodnya-news-wire-1689/. Retrieved December 9, 2013.
- "Voice of Russia expands digital broadcasting coverage in US, Europe". Voice of Russia. http://english.ruvr.ru/2013_03_11/Voice-of-Russia-expands-digital-broadcasting-coverage-in-US-Europe/. Retrieved 11 June 2013.
- "Voice of Russia Radio Stops Shortwave Service". August 21, 2013. http://en.ria.ru/russia/20130821/182889844/Voice-of-Russia-Radio-Stops-Shortwave-Service.html. Retrieved August 21, 2013.
- "About us". The Voice of Russia. http://voiceofrussia.com/about/. Retrieved 28 November 2013.
- Voice of Russia World Service website (in Russian)
- Voice of Russia World Service website (in English)
- Russia Today TV (in English)
- Around 30 min Audio from Radio Moscow c. 20 May 1980.
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