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How Russia learned to listen: radio and the making of Soviet culture.

In January 1916, Maurice Paleologue, the wartime French ambassador to Petrograd, opined that "the Russians are affected infinitely more by the spoken than the written word. To begin with, they are an imaginative race, and consequently always desire to hear and see those who speak to them. In the second place, nine-tenths of the population cannot read. Lastly, the long winter nights and the debates of the mir have trained the moujik for centuries to verbal improvisation." (1) For all its quaint orientalism, this observation brings to our attention the fact that Russia's rulers had to consider how they would address their subjects orally as well as through the written word. Paleologue's view, in 1916, was that they were not doing a particularly good job. The tsar was nervous and hesitant as he reopened the Duma, and the parliamentary orators were too often pompous and ineffectual. (2)

The following year, the opportunities for political communication would be vastly expanded: the year 1917, and the following Civil War, saw a vast amount of speechmaking and agitprop. Although the leading Bolsheviks had, for most of their careers, been creatures of the written word, they were acutely aware also of the need to speak effectively to their target groups (workers, soldiers, and peasants). In June 1917, for example, Bolshevik networks of oral agitation were reaching 500 regiments at the front and 30 city garrisons. (3) A year later, an estimated 50,000 activists were spreading the word of Bolshevism from the capital to the rest of the country. (4)

Face-to-face oral communication was soon amplified by technological change. Milestones in broadcasting history came thick and fast in early Soviet Russia. In February 1919, the inventor M. A. Bonch-Bruevich was picked up in Moscow as he uttered the famous phrase "Hello, this is the Nizhnii Novgorod Radio Laboratory speaking": here was the first occasion in Russian history that the human voice had been transmitted over the airwaves. In June 1921, loudspeakers were set up in Moscow to broadcast a "spoken newspaper." In September 1922 came the first radio concert, and in the fall of 1924 the start of regular programming under the auspices of a newly created broadcasting company that was soon renamed Radioperedacha. On the eighth anniversary of the revolution, in November 1925, came Russia's first ever outside broadcast--suitably enough, from Red Square. (5)

In theory, radio was a boon to the Bolsheviks on several grounds. First, it made possible the almost instantaneous dissemination of politicized information over huge distances. Second, it held out huge promise as a collective organizer: even the most charismatic and resonant orator could not hope to reach more than a few thousand people at once, but radio had every prospect of creating an audience of several million. Third, radio was the epitome of modernity: it would accelerate progress from darkness to light, from ignorance to enlightenment. The bearded muzhik in headphones was one of the iconic images of the 1920s.

That was theory, but the practice fell some way short. Although the technology of sound broadcasting was developed in the early 1920s, radio did not reach anything approaching a national audience until a decade after that. For all the Bolshevik asseverations (dating back to Lenin himself) of radio's importance, its cultural impact in the prewar era was limited by the poverty and underdevelopment of the USSR. Historians can point to innumerable occasions when party and state agencies bemoaned their inability to harness radio as a significant force for cultural construction. (6) Comparisons with Nazi Germany are unflattering to the Soviet propaganda machine. In August 1933, Goebbels declared, "what the press was to the nineteenth century, radio will be to the twentieth." Even at the start of 1933, before the Nazis came to power, 4.3 million receivers were registered in Germany. By 1934, following the launch of the cheap Volksempfanger, the figure had risen to 8.2 million. (7) At the end of the same year, the USSR could boast only 2.5 million reception points. (8) The two dictatorships can likewise be differentiated by examining the rhetorical styles of their leaders: Hitler's gift for charismatic oratory contrasts starkly with Stalin's readiness to remain in the shadows and let Iurii Levitan do his talking for him. The already overpowering sense of Soviet radio's inadequacy is further heightened by the fact that, in the postwar era, Soviet broadcasting found itself fighting a losing battle against much more effective aural propaganda from abroad. In the English-language literature, there is far more on Western broadcasting into the USSR than on broadcasting within the Soviet Union. (9)

The fact remains, however, that radio was a major technological innovation that coincided with, and underscored, social change. Living in Bolshevik Russia not only felt and looked different, it also sounded different. This point has long been understood by filmmakers, who go to great trouble to create an authentic soundscape for cinematic depictions of the 1930s or 1940s: Aleksei German's Moi drug Ivan Lapshin (My Friend Ivan Lapshin [1984]), Nikita Mikhalkov's Utomlennye solntsem (Burnt by the Sun [1994]) and Gleb Panfilov's recent serialization of Solzhenitsyn's V kruge pervom (The First Circle [2006]) would be less compelling and plausible without their aural backdrops. (10)

This article is an attempt to describe and analyze the broadcasting experience of interwar Russia. It is motivated by a sense that Soviet aurality needs a history to go alongside the incomparably better-developed histories of print culture, cinema, and the visual arts. Admittedly, there are good reasons why these other histories are more elaborate. The most obvious is that they can draw on a far more imposing documentary legacy. We have tens of thousands of book titles from the 1920s and 1930s and hundreds of periodicals, but only a few dozen sound recordings of radio broadcasts. (11) Nor did the administration of Soviet radio in the 1920s and 1930s leave a lengthy paper trail: the archives of the main organizations in charge of broadcasting between 1924 and 1941 were largely destroyed in a bonfire of documents in Moscow as the Germans drew near in October 1941. (12) Moreover, even historians of broadcasting who work on much better-documented places (such as the United States) tend to find that radio, as an inherently fleeting medium, is extraordinarily difficult to remember accurately and describe historically. (13)

How to resolve these difficulties? How, in fact, to devise any valid measure for radio's cultural significance? This article focuses on listeners and reception rather than radio's producers and political masters: here, in the encounter between the broadcast word and its addressees, was culture truly "made." I approach this topic from three main angles. In the first section, I examine the equipment that listeners had at their disposal, thereby seeking to show that radio technology is itself one of our most eloquent sources on the history of listening. In the second section, I look at the various ways that the Bolsheviks tried to turn the radio into an authentic mass medium--notably, by "organizing the mass listener" in public places. Third, I attempt to gauge listener response through the available sources. As scholars of print culture have done most to show, the history of reception is a difficult enterprise but not a hopeless one. (14) In the case of radio, the documentary record has gaps and silences aplenty, but the situation is not quite as desperate as might be thought. The radio journals of the 1920s-30s provide an essential foundation. The prewar holdings of the Radio Committee Archive are severely depleted but not by any means negligible, and radio left traces in the records of other institutions (trade unions, regional and central party committees, Komsomol) as well as in the personal archives of various Soviet luminaries (writers, composers, actors). I have further attempted to round out the archival picture by using the records of the Radio Committee in Nizhnii Novgorod/Gor'kii: this city had a proud radio tradition thanks to Bonch-Bruevich's Radio Laboratory; it established one of the earliest Russian broadcasting stations outside the capitals; and its archive was not subject to the same wartime depredations as that of the All-Union Radio Committee in Moscow.

The Technological Framework

In many areas of cultural construction--above all literacy--the Bolsheviks were attempting to overcome a time lag of decades or centuries relative to the more advanced areas of Western Europe. With radio the situation was very different, as the whole of the developed world was seeking ways to harness the power of the wirelessly transmitted human voice in the early 1920s. If Soviet Russia lagged behind, then this was only by a year or two.

Yet, while all societies were feeling their way into the new medium, they varied greatly in the speed with which they adopted broadcasting. Soviet Russia, as a poor country recovering from the devastation of civil war, was bound to fall behind. Before long, the Party was nervously commissioning reports on the progress of broadcasting technology in the bourgeois world and on the construction of new radio stations in sensitive areas such as Poland and eastern Germany. (15)

The irony was that the Bolsheviks, ideologically committed both to technological progress and to concerted action on the cultural front, had to rely on the ad hoc efforts of grassroots enthusiasts to advance the cause of "radiofication." This made Soviet Russia no different from any other part of the broadcasting world at the time: North America and Britain were also dependent on their radio hams in the early days. But in Russia this dependence had an uneasy relationship with the Kulturtrager mission of the new regime.

Such lone enthusiasts, according to the radio press, began to appear in late 1923. (16) In July 1924, a "Society of Radio-Lovers" (Obshchestvo druzei radio, or ODR) was set up, and the activities of the radio hams were put on a secure legal footing. They also acquired their own periodical, Radioliubitel, which had around 2,000 subscribers by March 1926. (17) By October 1924, the Moscow trade union organization claimed that 180 small clubs (kruzhki) existed under its auspices in factories around the city. (18) In September 1925, there were reportedly more than 500 such clubs in the capital. (19) The equivalent society in Leningrad had a greatly inflated membership figure of 38,000 in September 1924 (after only five months of existence), but by 1 April 1925 it had fallen back to a more plausible 13,000 as many passive members were weeded out. (20)

The pages of the radio ham publications bear ample witness to the high spirits and the pioneer enthusiasm of the movement. The futuristic zeal of Radioliubitel' shone forth from the modernist design of its front covers. As well as detailed technical articles on building radio sets and antennas, the journal carried regular reports on the spread of radio reception to ever more remote parts of the Soviet Union and kept readers informed about news and innovations from around the world. For lighter material, readers could turn to cartoons, ditties on radio themes (radiochastushki), cartoons, and stories (many of them translated from the Western press) such as a "sensational American radio-detective novel." (21) One regular source of humor was the figure of the mentally absent husband or father carried away by his radio enthusiasm into neglecting his family; another was the son whose radio mania was incomprehensible to the older generation.

The frenzied character of radioliubitel 'stvo was also due to the inadequacies of radio production in the 1920s-30s, a time when manufactured sets were expensive and often impossible to obtain. The simplest form of listening technology was a crystal receiver (detektornyi priemnik), which required no battery power and involved a simple tuning circuit that a resourceful amateur could make from a small quantity of copper wire. The crystal "detector" that gave the device its name concentrated the current and directed it into earphones. (22) According to a report of 1927 delivered to the Nizhnii Novgorod party committee, a crystal receiver cost 3-4 rubles to make at home and 7 rubles to buy. A more powerful tube radio (lampovyi priemnik) cost 35-40 rubles to make at home and 120 rubles to buy (Figure 1). Homemade receivers, moreover, were generally of much higher quality. (23) Nonetheless, the press regularly carried reports on the shady entrepreneurs who were taking advantage of the deficiencies in state production of radio sets by flogging poor-quality but cheap equipment to radialiubiteli who were desperate to get started. (24) The general position was that samodeiatel'nost' should be encouraged, but that it was no substitute for mass production. (25) Yet, the need to show ingenuity in the face of technical obstacles was precisely what attracted young men to radioliubitel'stvo. As a sketch from Novosti radio makes clear, a "real" radio ham did not buy parts and then assemble them according to a readymade design but built everything himself. (26)


Listeners were fundamentally differentiated by the technology they had at their disposal. Detektorniki could pick up programs only over short distances, so they were reliant on what their local station could provide. (27) In 1929, according to a report delivered to the regional party conference, the Nizhnii Novgorod radio station could be picked up within a radius of 240 km on a crystal receiver, but the range of a tube receiver was 3,000 km. Information from registration documents suggested that three-quarters or more of listeners were using crystal radios. (28) Press reports from Voronezh at the end of January 1928 presented a similar picture: 1,148 registered detektory, 207 tube radios, and 64 loudspeakers. (29)

For the time being, the poorly resourced Soviet state was obliged to welcome the efforts of these passionate enthusiasts, since they offered a cheap way of developing an important new technology and extending its reach. The radioliubiteli also had their demographic profile in their favor. They were overwhelmingly young, male, and proletarian, thus belonging to the most prestigious category of the population in early Soviet Russia. One estimate from 1925 reckoned that only 5 percent were over the age of 30, and only 0.5 percent were female. (30) On 1 May 1925, according to a report delivered to the Moscow trade union organization, 83 percent of radio hams were workers, and 45 percent were under 20. (31)


These young, working-class radio enthusiasts were also regularly portrayed as enthusiastic participants in cultural construction. It was thanks to the efforts of radioliubiteli that even the most benighted villages might discover the magic of the speakerless voice and lose their attachment to the priest or the bottle. In one characteristic story, a priest from the Chuvash Republic was fined 250 rubles for agitating against the radio and opposing the attaching of an antenna to his belltower. (32) Radio formed the auditory component of the campaign against old peasant ways (Figure 2). (33) There is no reason to doubt that many radioliubiteli themselves felt great excitement at breaking through the silence of Russia's many backwaters. As one radio technician recalled of setting up an antenna in a village 70 km from Kazan' in the autumn of 1927: "By the evening the receiver started working, and the round pancake of the loudspeaker, which had been set up in a big izba, suddenly started talking. It's impossible to describe the surprise on the faces of the listeners. They sat there until the middle of the night, without fidgeting, afraid to let slip a single word." (34)

But the radioliubiteli had vices as well as virtues. Radio hams, in the Soviet Union as elsewhere, were almost by definition self-motivated loners for whom the pursuit of new frequencies and the quest to transmit over ever greater distances stood far above the spread of popular enlightenment. Their most treasured achievement was to pick up signals from America. (35) They were natural internationalists whose community was not their local town or district but the global network of like-minded individuals. The radio press of the 1920s was full of (mostly admiring) reports on developments abroad; attention was paid even to everyday uses of radio such as the playing of lullabies. (36) Published listings from the mid-1920s usually included several West European stations: Chelmsford and London in England, as well as stations in Belgium, Germany, and France. Esperanto lessons were offered both on air and in radio periodicals.

By their very nature, radio hams were likely to show more interest in technology than in politics, and they were at times inclined to behave in distinctly antisocial ways: by evading the fee for registering their homemade equipment or by clogging up the airwaves in their efforts to send and receive signals over ever larger distances. A list of "Ten Commandments for the Radio-Lover" gave a jokey warning of the various kinds of behavior that were to be avoided: radio hams were not to make an "idol" of illegal unregistered sets, to listen to their radios in an inconsiderate manner, to steal other people's telegrams from the airwaves, or to engage in other forms of "piracy." (37) Using radio equipment without registration might have been understandable in the old days, when radio hams existed in legal limbo, but such activities were criminalized after 1924, when clear rules for registering radio sets were published. (38) The first prosecutions of radio hackers (radiozaitsy) were reported in March 1925. (39) In April 1925, a staged "trial of radio hackers" took place in an experimental theater (it opened with a poem by Dem'ian Bednyi). (40) Nevertheless, in March 1926 hackers numbered an estimated 100,000 in Moscow alone. (41)

Further problems were caused by institutional struggle over control of the radio ham movement. The Society of Radio-Lovers had a tense relationship with the other organizations (notably trade unions) that aspired to shape and control the grassroots use of radio. Party organizations were suspicious of the ORD and of radio committees (both regional and central) for the commercial activities in which they engaged; the ORD, for its part, regularly complained of the lack of support provided by trade unions and radio committees for independent activity. (42)

The Soviet regime never outlawed radioliubitel 'stvo (which was always at bottom regarded as a good thing), but it did tame it. The acquisition of radio proficiency increasingly took place within the formal structures of a state that was gearing up for war. Conversance with radio technology was considered to be an important skill for national defense (like putting on a gas mask), and the signaler (sviazist) would later appear regularly as a heroic and resourceful figure on the killing fields of the Great Patriotic War. (43)

But the main reason why the original radio hams lost their prominence was that other kinds of radio technology came along to replace their homemade sets. The defining technological characteristic of prewar Soviet broadcasting was that it mostly took place via wired networks, not wirelessly. From 1925 onward, the Soviet state at various levels began to set up thousands of radio diffusion exchanges, which received programs from Moscow or one of the other broadcasting centers and then sent them over a system of wires to dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of networked speakers. By November 1928, the Nizhnii Novgorod Agitprop Department was noting the spread of wired transmission through the city and the advantages of this method for turning radio into a mass phenomenon. By that time, 7.2 kilometers of cable had been laid, 5 loudspeakers had been set up on the streets, and about 40 in the "Red corners" of clubs and workplaces. As of 1 October 1928, the city of Nizhnii Novgorod and its surrounding worker settlements had eight relay networks with a total of 343 receiver points (tochki). By contrast, the total number of receivers for personal use was 4,667. Yet the proportion would soon be altered by the First Five-Year Plan. The number of tochki in Nizhnii Novgorod region was reported to have risen almost ten times between October 1929 and October 1931 (from just over 4,500 to nearly 44,000), and the number of wired relay networks from 32 to 115 over the same period. On average there was 1 tochka for every 35 families across the region (even if the distribution was very uneven: in the backward Chuvash Autonomous Republic, the average was 1 for every 79 families). (44)

Contemporary commentators claimed that the wired system had several advantages over aerial reception: it offered better sound quality, it was more economical, more reliable, less vulnerable in times of war; and, of course, it was more amenable to propaganda control. Its major drawback, of course, was lack of choice for listeners, who had to accept whatever was piped through to them. At the start of World War II, more than 80 percent of radios (or 5.5 million) in the USSR were wired loudspeaker points. (44)

Organizing the Mass Listener

Comparative perspectives on radio history soon reveal how unwise it is to generalize even about so international a medium. In the United States and parts of Western Europe, radio quickly moved beyond the "ham" phase to become an instrument and a symbol of domesticity. By the mid-1920s, for example, middle-class families in Weimar Germany were gathering around their wireless sets--which by now had become proper items of furniture, their technical apparatus decorously concealed by tasteful wooden cases. (46) The style of radio delivery became correspondingly more familiar and intimate as broadcasters moved toward a "fireside" mode. (47)

The Soviet case was very different. In the prewar USSR, listening was above all a collective activity. It took place in village reading rooms, in workers' clubs, in army barracks, or on city streets and squares. In its early days, radio can best be understood as a technologically extended branch of agitation. That, in large part, was how it was seen by the Bolsheviks themselves. In the words of one senior comrade, Lenin well understood the importance of loudspeakers, as he knew what it was like to "deliver hour-long speeches in our halls with incredibly bad acoustic conditions, where orators used to have to burst their vocal chords in order to be heard by even half of the audience." (48)

The first breakthrough came in June 1921, when, after a pioneering initiative in Kazan', ROSTA telegrams were read out through loudspeakers on half a dozen squares in central Moscow. It was not until four years later, however, that Soviet Russia heard its first live media event. The occasion was the eighth anniversary of the revolution. On 3 November 1925 came the first ever open-air broadcast in the USSR, which comprised the speeches at Frunze's funeral on Red Square. Listeners were presented with a medley of sounds: bells from the Kremlin, the firing of salutes, military bands, crowds, and speeches. The extensive musical program over the holiday period included broadcasts of Evgenii Onegin from the Leningrad Mariinskii and of Sadko from Moscow's Bolshoi Theater. Radio was emphatically fulfilling its mission of connecting the far-flung parts of the union to events in the "center." (49)

Nowhere did this broadcasting extravaganza mean more than in Moscow itself. The still-novel technologies of sound transmission and amplification meant above all that these events could be immediate and meaningful to the vast majority of Muscovites who were not in earshot. For those very close to events, eight large loudspeakers ensured that the speeches could be heard all over Red Square. Loudspeakers were also set up in some squares and a few large residential buildings. The other important listening places were worker clubs. (For the ambience of such venues, see Figure 3.) The Moscow trade unions claimed that more than 30,000 workers had been brought together in these venues to listen to a revolutionary program that included the operas Carmen and Rusalka, a speech by Kamenev, a trade union concert, and formal greetings from Red Square. As many as 5,000 workers might assemble in and around the larger central clubs to listen. An observer noted that listeners fulfilled Kamenev's request to respect the memory of the victims of the 1905 revolution by getting to their feet when the Internationale was played. (50)

The main Bolshevik festivals--May Day and Revolution Day--became fixed points in the radio calendar in the interwar period. From 1 May 1928, the radio team had its own special box on Red Square so that it could provide live commentary. (51) The atmosphere of such occasions is well captured by Dziga Vertov's Entuziazm (Enthusiasm [1930]), which shows the continuing close link between broadcasting and face-to-face agitation by constantly switching the camera between the two, and by the surviving sound recordings of holiday broadcasts in the 1930s, where the presenters' high-flown commentary is regularly punctuated by hurrahs, salutes, songs, and sheer background hum. (52) At less ceremonial times, listening facilities were valued by the authorities as a symbol of public order. A trade union report of June 1927 noted that the Danilov market urgently needed loudspeakers to counter its accordions, dancing, bazaar, and general squalidness. (53) Loudspeakers in public spaces warned listeners to beware of pickpockets. (54)


The new medium continued to extend its reach on the national level. In June 1927, the broadcasting company Radioperedacha reported that the USSR could now boast 18 radio stations extending from Gomel' and Minsk to Novosibirsk. Radio coverage had now extended to the whole of European Russia, the Caucasus, and western Siberia. As of 1 April 1927, there were over 150,000 radio sets (excluding the Transcaucasus and Central Asia), which was almost double the number six months earlier. The total radio audience at this time was estimated at 1.5-2 million. By 1926-27, then, it appeared that radio had come to play an important part in the agitprop network. (55)

The spread of broadcasting technology was an important issue for the Bolsheviks, but it was not the only issue. They were concerned not only that radio should theoretically be available, but that Soviet people should actually pay attention to it. Reports from agitators clearly indicated the difficulties in ensuring that radio was received in the ways that broadcasters hoped. The Moscow trade union organization observed in 1927 that radio needed to be brought from the background to the foreground: loudspeakers were often set up in intermediate spaces such as corridors and canteens, and radio was used as a filler before more important events such as meetings or lectures. (56) A worker at a Iaroslavl' factory observed that the radio in his factory club had been moved to the bar, where it served merely as a resting place for empty beer bottles. (57)

The problem of holding the attention of the target audience was writ large in the Russian village, where simple incomprehension was deepened by technological inadequacies. Reports streamed in on the phenomenon of "silent" or malfunctioning loudspeakers in rural areas. (58) Given that many peasants were in any case disinclined to believe that the radio was not a version of the gramophone, technical glitches quickly discredited the new medium in their eyes. (59) Infrastructural problems were such that radio was in no position to perform its full antireligious mission. (60) Even as late as the eve of World War II, rural Russia had only 82,000 functioning radio sets. (61)

Given all these difficulties, radio periodicals and handbooks on agitation advocated special methods of "organizing" listening. Once the novelty of broadcasting had worn off, Soviet people--especially in rural areas--needed convincing that it was worth their while to gather by the loudspeaker for the latest news. In cases where settlements were a long way from the nearest loudspeaker, it was imperative to create a "radio wall newspaper": one comrade would be entrusted with listening to the full TASS broadcasts and then writing down the main points for public display. (62) The Moscow trade union recommendation was, if necessary, to build up a mass audience gradually by assembling small groups of 5-10 listeners interested in a particular issue. (63)

The most propitious environment for organized listening, especially after the launch of high-tempo industrialization, was the factory. The First Five-Year Plan saw the rapid spread of what we would call public address systems. Early in 1933, the Leningrad party organization reported that 220 enterprises in the city had radio networks, and 80 of them had their own local broadcasting. A report for Moscow region noted that the region could boast 350 networks, with 125,000 wired receiver points and 50,000 wireless; work had also started on installing radio in suburban trains. (64) In 1937, the transmission network for the automobile factory network in Nizhnii Novgorod organized the collective listening of 20 different programs in 830 different locations, with a total audience of 30,000. More than 11,000 were reported to have heard in this way Stalin's speech at the Eighth Extraordinary Congress of Soviets. (65)

Agitprop authorities gave some attention to the best ways of using factory radio networks. Much was said and written on the need to organize listening in workers' lunch breaks. Research was conducted on the value of radio in the labor process. (66) Above all, however, workplace radio was seen as a participatory medium that would erase the distinction between listeners and speakers. From the late 1920s onward, one of its guiding missions was to bring ordinary people to the microphone.

This workforce participation took place in two main ways, neither of them at all spontaneous. The first was the individual worker statement (vystuplenie), which was normally an account of the speaker's work performance and good resolutions for the future. The second was the live link-up (pereklichka), either between different workshops in the same factory or between different factories. The first interenterprise link-up, involving factories in Moscow and Leningrad, took place on 13 April 1929. This genre of broadcasting quickly established itself as a symbolic way of organizing "socialist competition": a pledge made in public and orally was felt to be more of a commitment than one made in writing or before a small group of people. (67) To judge by the text of one such event that has survived in the archives, the pereklichka was a brutal forum where industrial managers and party-state functionaries were bombarded with questions about their activities. (68)

In theory, radio fit perfectly the kind of grassroots mobilization that was required by the "Great Break" of industrialization. On the ground, however, the situation often looked very different. In the autumn of 1931, a representative of the Department of Local Broadcasting of the all-union radio was sent to one of the great construction sites of the First Five-Year Plan, the automobile factory Avtogigant in Nizhnii Novgorod. She found that the radio network in the factory was extremely inadequate, and that it simply broadcast Moscow programs all day long. No efforts were being made to broadcast local material, and no one was greatly concerned by this failure. Five issues of a broadcast radio bulletin had been produced for the factory network, but the editor then gave up because the radio center was not paying him. As the guest from Moscow concluded, "radio was regarded as a toy and an amusement." The regional radio committee was constantly summoning workers to take part in radio link-ups, which were generally regarded as a time-wasting imposition. (69)

Plenty of further archival evidence could be supplied to indicate the difficulties that local broadcasters faced in squeezing resources out of party, trade union, and state organizations. They also had to cope with a constant shortage of technical personnel and educated cadres to organize the broadcasts. In 1932, only 47 out of 125 relay networks in Nizhnii Novgorod region had their own broadcasting, and in most cases this was sporadic or (worse still) "politically illiterate." (70)

Yet, over the course of the 1930s, some organizational progress seems to have occurred. By 1937, the radio network of the automobile factory district had five full-time employees and offered quite a varied range of genres: news bulletins, lectures, live appearances, "concerts" of gramophone recordings, broadcasts from local theaters and clubs, amateur performances, and paid advertisements. In the course of 1937, there were 290 evening broadcasts of the latest news and 284 morning broadcasts. A total of 158 different people were reported as having broadcast from the studio (62 of them Stakhanovites). By April 1938, Nizhnii Novgorod (now Gor'kii) region could boast 180 different relay networks and more than 100,000 reception points. (71)

The Listener Talks Back

For all these efforts to organize the listener's participation, the party-supervised All-Union Radio Committee, as well as its many regional agencies, remained largely ignorant of the mass response to broadcasts. The authorities were keen to find out what Soviet people were making of radio, but the audience was a mysterious phenomenon--as was bound to be the case in a society where the market had been throttled and open sociological research outlawed.

In 1928, a Soviet composer revealed his own straightforward way of gauging audience reaction. When he knew that one of his works was due to be broadcast, he went along in the guise of an "ordinary mortal" to a square with a loudspeaker so as to observe the crowd's response. (72) This mass observation method was in fact often used by the party authorities, and Agitprop reports on audience response in public places--now scattered around regional party archives--are among our most intriguing sources on radio listening in the interwar period.

For the most part, however, radio committees, like their colleagues in the print media, relied on the feedback they received in letters from members of the public. In the early days, this did not amount to much. Over the first three months of its existence, the Nizhnii Novgorod station received about 300 letters. Only six of them were identifiably from workers; most authors were of unspecified social background. Only 25 gave any assessment of program content. The station thus remained almost completely uninformed about audience response. (73) In 1927, even at the national level, listeners were reported as sending in very few letters: about 1,500 per month in the winter, but only 200 or so per month during the summer. (74)

Undoubtedly, access to broadcasts varied hugely across the USSR. Radio reception was concentrated in the major urban centers, especially those of strategic importance (that is, those located near borders with hostile states). The areas surrounding these cities benefited from a trickle-down of radio technology. One observer recalled finding a radio set in an izba-chital 'nia in 1926 in the Vladivostok region: a "massive oak case with a sloping front, four tubes on top, and next to them batteries and a loudspeaker with a bell." This Marconi set had been bought in England, and although its batteries soon expired, radioliubiteli came along to revive them. (75) In 1928, in Serpukhov uezd, the most radiofied part of the Moscow region, an engineer came across touching scenes of local enthusiasm for the radio: an izba there was likely to contain a "group of children of various ages, one of whom, mostly the owner of the radio set, was listening with a smile, while the others with eyes full of envy looked at their lucky friend and hung eagerly on his authoritative remarks." Peasants and their children turned out to be well acquainted with the radio schedule and made sure they were free of household tasks when their favorite programs were on. (76)

However, even in Serpukhov uezd, where the relatively urbanized peasants needed little convincing of the value of radio, radio sets were few and prohibitively expensive. It was not until the 1930s, when wired radiofication made headway in the major cities, that broadcasting achieved a serious breakthrough and came to take a fuller part in people's everyday lives. In Moscow at that time, the tarelka was later recalled as a constant presence in a kommunalka childhood. (77) The postbag of central broadcasting swelled accordingly. In 1934, the arts section alone was reported to have received 37,000 letters. (78)

Radio stood out from the other mass media of the 1930s (cinema and the press) for its capacity to serve up collective events that unfolded in real time. For a population that was almost permanently on a war footing, immensely sensitive to signals "from above," yet also receptive to socialist sensation making, this was an attribute of great value. In the spring of 1934, millions of Soviet citizens were glued to their tochki as they followed the rescue of the crew of the ill-fated Cheliuskin. (79) At the end of the same year came a Soviet "JFK" moment, as the Radio Committee was inundated with letters from shocked citizens who had heard on the radio about the murder of Sergei Kirov. One railway technician on the Murmansk route found out the news on a work trip when he saw people in mourning; he then eagerly followed on the radio the campaign against the "counterrevolutionary band" held responsible for the killing. (80) Letters poured in from correspondents of all ages and educational levels, from small children to the following weakly literate 61-year-old woman: "Inspite of the cold i sat 4 hours on the skwer with the radio listend to the funeral cried hard a woman came up to me and said dont cry granny but i cudnt help it." (81)

A less raw sense of radio's emotional impact as a symbolic meeting place for the Soviet nation is given by the diary of Aleksandr Afinogenov. In 1937, Afinogenov was in deep depression, having apparently lost favor as a dramatist. His diary was a tortuous attempt to write himself out of this predicament. As he wrote on 25 December: "Then I turned on the radio, for the latest news, and a strange thing happened: ordinary news about the life of our country, our people, their words and aspirations, lifted me up immediately; it was if I'd washed in cold water after a day of exhausting reflections." He had been feeling isolated but, on hearing the news, he "engaged with the life of the whole country, again felt the grandeur of this life and understood the insignificance of my own minor difficulties." (82)

These highly strung sentiments (quite understandable, given that Afinogenov must have been expecting arrest at any moment) should not obscure the many ways in which radio clearly failed to unite the Soviet nation. For one thing, Afinogenov, as a member of the metropolitan literary intelligentsia, owned a radio set that permitted him to tune in to broadcasts from London as well as reports from the hotspots of the five-year plan. (83) Less privileged members of Soviet society had to take what they were given. And they could not have been entirely happy with what was on offer. Perhaps the most uncomfortable paradox of the radio was the mismatch between its stated mission (to spread irreligious enlightenment to those who needed it most, i.e., the peasantry) and its audience (which was mainly technologically savvy people--skilled workers and intelligentsia--in the cities). (84) The content of radio schedules in the 1920s seems to have made relatively few concessions to popular rural tastes. Music critics kept up a robust defense of "serious" music, despite evidence that chastushki were overwhelmingly the most popular form of music. From the late 1920s, moreover, the schedule started with morning gymnastics, which was hardly geared to the needs of people who spent their days in the fields. (85) Analysis of more than 1,000 listeners' letters in 1929 delivered an unambiguous verdict on the class differentiation of the audience: levels of satisfaction declined from white-collar employees (85 percent) to workers (72 percent) to peasants (61 percent). (86)

Music was always the main bugbear of the plebeian listener. As cultural workers observed in 1929, antireligious radio propaganda shot itself in the foot by broadcasting a heavy classical repertoire. Peasants thought better of going to church while "cheerful" music was on, but when they heard more forbidding pieces they said "time to pay the priest a visit." (87) In August 1929, a commission on village broadcasting debated how to engage the peasant listener--perhaps, the speakers concluded, by adding suitably revolutionary texts to the catchy melodies of "street song" (ulichnaia pesnia). (88) At the same time, other cultural agencies were pondering how to accommodate the balalaika in the overall project of the "musical education of the masses." A directive of July 1929 by the Radio Council of the People's Commissariat for the Post and Telegraph (the successor organization to Radioperedacha, the company that had overseen Soviet broadcasting between 1924 and 1928) mentioned that popular entertainment (estrada) still showed signs of vulgarity, eroticism, and tsyganshchina but could not help noting that 77 percent of the audience wanted more evenings of comedy and estrada. (89) Proletarian tastes in music, even as reflected in published letters, were brusque and unreceptive to the canon. (90) Yet a repertoire analysis of 1932 found that 57 percent of Moscow music broadcasting, or 15,000-20,000 numbers per year, consisted of works from the "heritage": first came Rimskii-Korsakov with 1,300 numbers, then Chaikovskii and Schubert with 1,200 each, followed by Beethoven, Grieg, Mozart, Glinka, Musorgskii, Schumann, and so on. (91)

Although evidence on audience response is patchy, the available sources suggest that the disconnect between radio output and demotic tastes remained a feature of Soviet broadcasting throughout the 1930s. In the spring of 1935, an agitator in Gor'kii reported workers at collective listening sessions making objections to the diet of canonical Western composers. Characteristically, they wanted to know "Why should we be interested in Handel?" Chastushki, popular songs, and kolkhoz concerts were their preference. (92) The Radio Committee's analysis of programming in 1940 revealed that estrada was still neglected. (93) A meeting with "activist" listeners in September of the same year brought further evidence of the popular antipathy to opera. The audience wanted more variety, more songs, more foreign broadcasts, more interactive forms (such as radio debates), and more information on areas of everyday life (such as child rearing). (94)

How to Periodize a History of Listening?

As James von Geldern has argued, the exigencies of wartime forced the Soviet broadcasting administration to put aside much of the ambivalence it felt about popular participation on the radio and recognition of popular tastes. It was now critical for the medium to work in tandem with the message; the archive of the All-Union Radio Committee reveals what very close attention was paid to programming during the war. (95)

The conditions under which listening took place also came under close scrutiny. When war broke out, Agitprop went into overdrive. Thousands of party workers were dispatched into society to organize meetings, conduct discussions, and hold readings from the newspapers. Radio was expected to play its part. The first task was to make a rapid and honest assessment of the state of broadcasting infrastructure. In Gor'kii region it was soon discovered that, of the 174 relay networks that existed on paper, only 133 were actually working. More than 7,000 new reception points were set up around the region in the second half of 1941, while more than 18,000 privately owned radio sets were taken in by the authorities. Some overzealous local committees had reportedly confiscated radio sets that were designed for collective listening. At the same time, vigilance was heightened with regard to program content: three local networks were said to have put out "enemy programs," and those responsible were punished "severely." (96)

During the war, radio became part of daily life to a greater extent than hitherto. This was especially true in the desperately beleaguered city of Leningrad. The Nazi invasion immediately induced mobilization on the radio, as ordinary Leningraders were brought to the microphone in Leningrad to express their outrage at Hitler's aggression and their determination to help the war effort in whatever way they could. Many walks of life were represented: workers, women, students, academics, old, and young. (97) Radio played a large part in a process of cultural rapprochement that many historians and memoirists have observed as taking place during the war: profound differences of class and culture were transcended by a new patriotic culture to which both villager and intelligent could subscribe. This culture is evident in listeners' letters and requests from the immediate postwar period, where listeners might complain about the use of "foreign" instruments in Russian folk ensembles and expressed an enduring preference for Vasilii Terkin. (98)

Between the early 1940s and the mid-1950s, radio enjoyed a golden age. Its importance was recognized by the establishment of an annual Radio Day (7 May) that was first celebrated in 1945--only two days before Victory Day itself. The Party launched a radiofication drive as part of the postwar reconstruction campaign, and the results were impressive. Perhaps most important of all, broadcasters gained a crucial new technology: mobile and relatively user-friendly recording technology. This meant that radio lost most of its "live" quality and became a much safer medium for the regime. On the one hand, of course, the reliance on recorded programming meant that ideological orthodoxy could be pursued with even greater rigor. But on the other hand, it allowed broadcasters in less politicized fields to pursue program making without fearing so constantly for their careers or their lives; after all, they had never been free from the demands of ideological orthodoxy--it is just that those demands had been more arbitrary and inscrutable in the 1930s. In the late 1940s, Soviet broadcasting settled into a routine of expertly produced literary and children's programs, abundant music, opera and theater, and relentless "good news" journalism featuring the ordinary man.

The irony is that radio's secure cultural niche was under threat almost as soon as it had been attained. This was due less to political oppression in the postwar era (although that did take a heavy toll of talented radio journalists, especially if they were Jewish) than to broader trends in the development of the audiovisual media. A central part of the regime's self-image was that it would always strive to be at the forefront of technological modernity and to conquer the immense territory of the USSR. In practice, in the late 1940s and 1950s, that meant the increased production of short-wave radio sets rather than the tochki that had dominated Soviet radio listening up to that point. Progress led directly to a more autonomous and less collective culture of listening. It also brought the USSR into direct competition with hostile cultures whose broadcasting know-how and technological resources were incomparably greater. (99)

Before long, the listeners who wrote in with outrage on the overrepresentation of Western music on the radio would be regarded as remnants of a past where peasant, proletarian, and intelligentsia tastes had rubbed along together, with many strange and disturbing results. From the mid-1950s onward, there was no question that the emerging urban (and increasingly international) mass culture was exercising a powerful gravitational pull on Soviet citizens. Conversely, the practices of Stalin-era listening came to seem passe, even retrograde. Collective, organized listening around the tochka was subjected to ironic treatment in the cinema of the Thaw, as were classic Stalinera genres such as the worker vystuplenie. (100)

Yet, for all its quick slide into obsolescence, Stalin-era broadcasting has much to tell us about the ways in which orality may survive--and mutate--in an age of mass literacy. Speech and writing, in the Soviet Union as elsewhere, had a fluid relationship that was crucially shaped by technology. Properly speaking, "radio" was not a single medium but a sequence of different media with their own relationship to the printed word and their own listening practices: from the amplified agitprop and spoken newspapers of the 1920s to the wartime apotheosis of radio as collective organizer and builder of national, if virtual, community. What I would like to suggest, therefore, is that, in our accounts of Soviet culture, it is worth supplementing political determinism (which, for obvious and understandable reasons, tends to dominate our thoughts) with a little technological determinism.

Dept. of History

King's College London


London WC2R 2LS, UK

I gratefully acknowledge the support of the British Academy, whose award of a Small Research Grant funded research in Moscow and Nizhnii Novgorod.

(1) Maurice Paleologue, An Ambassador's Memoirs (London: Hutchinson, 1924), 2:163.

(2) Ibid., 188, 259.

(3) Roger Pethybridge, The Spread of the Russian Revolution (London: Macmillan, 1972), 161. For more on the extent of Bolshevik agitation in 1917 among the army and the peasantry, see ibid., 154-70.

(4) Peter Kenez, The Birth oft he Propaganda State: Soviet Methods of Mass Mobilization, 1917- 1929 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 53-54.

(5) A good survey is V. B. Dubrovin, Kistorii sovetskogo radioveshchaniia: Posobie dlia studentovzaochnikov fakul'tetov zhurnalistiki gosudarstvennykh universitetov (Leningrad: Izdatel'stvo Leningradskogo universiteta, 1972).

(6) This is largely the approach taken in Stefan Plaggenborg, Revoliutsiia i kul'tura: Kul 'turnye orientiry v period mezhdu Oktiabr 'skoi revoliutsiei i epokhoi stalinizma (St. Petersburg: Neva, 2000), chap. 4.

(7) Horst J. P. Bergmeier and Rainer E. Lotz, Hitler's Airwaves: The Inside Story of Nazi Radio Broadcasting and Propaganda Swing (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997), 6, 9.

(8) Alex Inkeles, Public Opinion in Soviet Russia: A Study in Mass Persuasion (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1950), 274-75.

(9) For example, Walter L. Hixson, Parting the Curtain: Propaganda, Culture, and the Cold War 1945-1961 (Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1997); and Arch Puddington, Broadcasting Freedom: The Cold War Triumph of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty (Lexington: University Press of Kentucky, 2000).

(10) On the capacity of sound to trigger historical memory, see also T. M. Goriaeva, ed., "Velikaia kniga dnia ...": Radio v SSSR. Dokumenty i materialy (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2007), 10.

(11) For example, the first documentary recording on Red Square took place on 7 November 1931 (according to the sleeve notes of the LP Govorit Krasnaia ploshchad' [Melodiia, 1987]). The few recordings preserved from the 1930s can be found in Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv fonodokumentov (RGAFD), Moscow.

(12) The best account of the archival travails facing radio historians is T. M. Goriaeva, Radio Rossii: Politicheskii kontrol' radioveshchaniia v 1920-kh-nachale 1930-kh godov. Dokumentirovannaia istoriia (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2000).

(13) See, for example, Susan J. Douglas, Listening In: Radio and the American Imagination, from Amos 'n' Andy and Edward R. Murrow to Wolfman Jack and Howard Stern (New York: Times Books, 1999), 9.

(14) For a robust statement of the empirical possibilities, see Jonathan Rose, "Rereading the English Common Reader: A Preface to a History of Audiences," Journal of the History of Ideas 53, 1 (1992): 43-70. A theoretical locus classicus is Hans Robert Jauss, Toward an Aesthetic of Reception, trans. Timothy Bahti (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1982).

(15) For example, Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv sotsial'no-politicheskoi istorii (RGASPI) f. 17 (Central Committee), op. 85, d. 148, II. 82-90 (a memo of 19 December 1927 on the need to build a powerful new radio station in Moscow).

(16) "Radioliubitel'skaia zhizn'," Radioliubitel, no. 1 (1924): 7.

(17) Tsentral'nyi gosudarstvennyi arkhiv Moskovskoi oblasti (TsGAMO) f. 180 (Moskovskii gubernskii sovet professional'nykh soiuzov), op. 1, d. 2456, 1. 11 (memo by editor of Radioliubitel', 13 March 1926).

(18) A. V. Vinogradov, "Lenin--kul'tura--radio," Radioliubitel', no. 5 (1924): 67.

(19) TsGAMO f. 180, op. 1, d. 1705, 1.34 (summary of meeting of radioliubiteli in the Moscow food industry, 8 September 1925).

(20) S. S. Derevianko, "Obshchestvo druzei radio v Leningrade (1924-1933 gg.)," in Dobrovol 'nye obshchestva v Petrograde-Leningrade v 1917-1937 gg.: Sbornik statei, ed. A. P. Kupaigorodskaia (Leningrad: Nauka, 1989), 115, 117.

(21) Radioliubitel', no. 5 (1924).

(22) A good layman's description is Michael Riordan and Lillian Hoddeson, Crystal Fire: The Birth of the Information Age (New York: W. W. Norton, 1997), 20.

(23) Gosudarstvennyi obshchestvenno-politicheskii arkhiv Nizhegorodskoi oblasti (GOPANO) f. 1 (Nizhegorodskii gubernskii komitet VKP[b]), op. 1, d. 5527, ll. 6-8. A quite high level of technical proficiency was required to build a tube receiver at home. Take, for example, one of the informants of the Harvard Project on the Soviet Social System, an engineer, who recalled having a homemade set with six tubes before the war (Harvard Project [hereafter HP], vol. 32, no. 385, 40). Another approach was to buy a cheap radio in the store and fit it out with additional tubes: see HP, vol. 10, no. 131, 74.

(24) See, for example, "Mobilizatsiia radio-promyshlennosti," Novosti radio, no. 3 (1925): 1.

(25) I. Veller, "Samodel'nyi radiopriemnik ili fabrichnyi," Novosti radio, no. 6 (1925): 1.

(26) S. Do., "Nastoiashchii," Novosti radio, no. 6 (1925): 6.

(27) For a disgruntled collective letter on the inadequacy of provision from the local station in Nizhnii Novgorod, see GOPANO f. 1, op. 1, d. 5527, l. 25 (23 February 1927).

(28) GOPANO f. 1, op. 1, d. 6055, ll. 90, 92 (report on work of Nizhnii Novgorod regional radio station, November 1927-August 1928).

(29) M. Smol'nyi, "Vmeste so slushateliami na bor'bu za kachestvo," Voronezhskaia kommuna, 3 March 1928, 3.

(30) Anod., "Radioliubiteli i ikh priemniki," Novosti radio, no. 4 (1925): 4. Women accounted for around 10 percent of registered radioliubiteli, but that was apparently because underage sons persuaded their mothers to register on their behalf.

(31) TsGAMO f. 180, op. 1, d. 1705, l. 42.

(32) "Radiokhronika," Radioslushatel', nos. 5-6 (1929): 5.

(33) Richard L. Hernandez, "Sacred Sound and Sacred Substance: Church Bells and the Auditory Culture of Russian Villages during the Bolshevik Velikii Perelom," American Historical Review 109, 5 (2004): 1475-1504.

(34) Quoted in M. L. Aituganova, "Stanovlenie sistemy radioveshchaniia v Tatarstane (1918- iiun' 1941 gg.)" (Candidate of Historical Sciences diss., Kazan' State University, 1996), 52.

(35) I. Kliatskin, "Mozhno li uslyshat' Ameriku?" Novosti radio, no. 4 (1926): 1.

(36) Nik. I--tin, "Radio v bytu," Radioliubitel', no. 1 (I924): 3-4.

(37) "Desiat' zapovedei radioliubitelia," Radioliubitel', no. 6 (1924): 82.

(38) I. Veller, "O radio-zaitsakh," Novosti radio, no. 7 (1925): 1-2.

(39) See "Radio-khronika," Novosti radio, no. 8 (1925): 8.

(40) "Sud had radiozaitsami," Novosti radio, no. 13 (1925): 4.

(41) "Ugolok 'radiozaitsa,'" Novosti radio, no. I2 (1926): 6.

(42) For a regional perspective, see GOPANO f. 1. op. 1, d. 5527, ll. 1, 11-12 (letter from Agitprop on commercial activities of the local branch of ODR, January 1926; letter from all-union ODR complaining of dubious activities of Nizhnii Novgorod branch, April 1927).

(43) As, for example, the hero of the celebrated film by Grigorii Chukhrai, Ballada o soldate (Ballad of a Soldier [1959]).

(44) GOPANO f. 1, op. 1, d. 5941, ll. 11-14 (material related to discussion of radio in Nizhnii Novgorod Agitprop, November 1928); f. 2 (Nizhegorodskii kraevoi komitet VKP[b]), op. I, d. 1662, ll. 25-27 (material for the regional party conference, 1932).

(45) Inkeles, Public Opinion in Soviet Russia, 243-44, 248.

(46) Karl Christian Fuhrer, "A Medium of Modernity? Broadcasting in Weimar Germany, 1923-1932," Journal of Modern History 69, 4 (1997): 722-53.

(47) Kate Lacey, Feminine Frequencies: Gender, German Radio, and the Public Sphere, 1923- 1945 (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996). On the better-known equivalent developments in the United States, see Douglas B. Craig, Fireside Politics: Radio and Political Culture in the United States, 1920-1940 (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000).

(48) V. Bonch-Bruevich, "V. I. Lenin i radio," Radioslushatel; no. 9 (1928): 1-2.

(49) See the description of the schedule in A. Mints, "Radioveshchanie v oktiabr'skuiu nedeliu 1925 g.," Radio vsem, no. 4-5 (1925): 67.

(50) TsGAMO f. 180, op. 1, d. 1709, ll. 1, 190-91.

(51) P. S. Gurevich and V. N. Ruzhnikov, Sovetskoe radioveshchanie: Stranitsy istorii (Moscow: Iskusstvo), 64.

(52) The earliest example I have found is a report on May Day 1932, "Velikii den'," directed by Viktor Geiman, RGAFD, call number PN-33 (1-3). A locus classicus is the "radio film" (i.e., nonlive broadcast) Priezd cheliuskintsev v Moskvu, RGAFD, P100 (1-5).

(53) TsGAMO f. 180, op. 1, d. 2461, l. 403.

(54) N. A. Tolstova, Vnimanie, vkliuchaiu mikrofon! (Moscow: Iskusstvo, 1972), 147.

(55) Gosudarstvennyi arkhiv Rossiiskoi Federatsii (GARF) f. R-5508 (Central Committee of Rabis [union for workers in the arts]), op. 1, d. 1028, ll. 22-23. The estimate of the radio audience can also be found in RGASPI f. 17, op. 85, d. 148, l. 11 (report to Central Committee from chairman of Radioperedacha, 14 April 1926).

(56) TsGAMO f. 180, op. 1, d. 1168, ll. 2-3.

(57) RGASPI f. 17, op. 85, d. 148, l. 74 (text of radiomiting, 1927).

(58) See, for example, RGASPI f. 17, op. 85, d. 148, l. 73; N. Lebedev, "Gromkogovoritel' molchit! Antenna dlia vorob'ev," Voronezhskaia kommuna, 3 April 1928, 3; and TsGAMO f: 180, op. 1, d. 1709, ll. 15-17 (report on radiofication in Moscow region, 1 March 1926).

(59) The conflation of radio and gramophone was a story often told in the radio press of the 1920s, and archival material shows that it was by no means apocryphal: see, for example, GARF f. R-6903 (Gosteleradio), op. 3, d. 7, 1. 44 (report of 17 April 1925); Aituganova, "Stanovlenie sistemy," 61; and Gosudarstvennyi arkhiv Nizhegorodskoi oblasti (GANO) f. 3630 (Nizhnii Novgorod Radio Committee), op. 1, d. 1, l. 54 (listener's letter, May 1928).

(60) GARF f: R-5407 (Soiuz bezbozhnikov SSSR), op. 1, d. 90 (materials on role of radio in antireligious campaign, 1931).

(61) GARF f. R-6903, op. 1, d. 55, l. 2.

(62) M. N. Kallan, "Prakticheskie zadachi iacheiki ODR v derevne," Radio vsem, no. 12 (1925): 1-2.

(63) TsGAMO f. 180, op. 1, d. 1168, ll. 2-3 (June 1927).

(64) GARF f. R-5451, op. 17, d. 488, ll. 45-48.

(65) GOPANO f. 3 (Gor'kovskii obkom VKP[b]), op. 1, d. 860, l. 8 (report on broadcasting activities in Avtozavodskii district, 1937).

(66) I. Dukor, "Opyt anketnogo obsledovaniia na zavodakh "Aviopribor," "Kr. Oktiabr'" i v institute slepykh," Gavorit SSSR, no. 23-24 (1932): 18-19.

(67) Dubrovin, K istorii sovetskogo radioveshchaniia, 33.

(68) GARF f. R-5451 (Vsesoiuznyi tsentral'nyi sovet professional'nykh soiuzov), op. 17, d. 521, ll. 18-69.

(69) GOPANO f. 2 (Nizhegorodskii kraevoi komitet VKP[b]), op. I, d. 1662, ll. 5-15.

(70) GOPANO f: 2, op. 1, d. 2759, l. 31.

(71) GOPANO f. 3, op. 1, d. 860, ll. 6-9.

(72) M. Koval', "Zametki kompozitora," Radioslushatel', no. 2 (1928): 6.

(73) "Radioslushatel' i radiostantsiia: Kto pishet? O chem pishut? Kak nuzhno pisat'," Nizhegorodskaia kommuna, 4 March 1928, 5.

(74) Al'nett, "Radioslushatel' zagovoril," Novosti radio, no. 41 (1927): 2.

(75) A. Kvach, "K radio omosilis' pochtitel'no," in Nemnogo o radio i o has s vami: K 75-letiiu Primorskogo radio (Vladivostok: Izdatel'stvo Dal'nevostochnogo universiteta, 2001), 9-10.

(76) GARF f. R-374 (Workers' and Peasants' Inspectorate), op. 28, d. 2131, l. 87 (engineer's report on radiofication in Serpukhov uezd, 14 May 1928).

(77) A. Ia. Gurevich, Istoriia istorika (Moscow: ROSSPEN, 2004), 76. Further evidence on the ubiquity of radio in the urban environment can be found in the Harvard Project, for example HP, vol. 2, no. 17, 64.

(78) V. Bekman, "Rabota s pis'mami radioslushatelei," Govorit SSSR, no. 13 (1935): 11-13. A Radio Committee decree of July 1934 had enjoined radio personnel to respond more actively to listeners' letters: see "O rabote s pis'mami i o massovoi rabote Upravleniia tsentral'nogo veshchaniia," extracted in "Velikaia kniga dnia," 87-88.

(79) On the Cheliuskin affair, see John McCannon, Red Arctic: Polar Exploration and the Myth of the North in the Soviet Union, 1932-1939 (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998), 61-68.

(80) GARF f. R-6903, op. 1, d. 8, l. 1.

(81) GARF f. R-6903, op. I, d. 12, l. 2. The Russian reads: "Nesmotria ia namoroz prosidela 4 chasa naploshchadi u radio slushala pokhorony gorko plakala kamne podkhodila igovorila neplach' babushka noia nemogu otslez."

(82) A. Afinogenov, Dnevniki i zapisnye knizhki (Moscow: Sovetskii pisatel', 1960), 481.

(83) Ibid., 408. Radio is mentioned as an attribute of a well-appointed intelligentsia household in K. I. Chukovskii, Dnevnik 1930-1969 (Moscow: Sovremennyi pisatel', 1997), 93 (apropos the Tynianovs' acquisition of a set in January 1934). Class stratification in radio ownership is abundantly evident in the materials of the Harvard Project. As one informant noted: "There are many radios in the shops. However, a kolkhoznik, even working a lifetime, would never be able to afford it. A laborer could afford, if there are at least 3-4 working members in the family, a radio for 500-1,000 rubles, or a used one" (HP, vol. 13, no. 121, 11). As another interviewee put it more bluntly, referring to wireless broadcasting, "only the big Party people and military people could listen to the radio" (HP, vol. 2, no. 17, 64).

(84) For evidence of the efforts made by Narkompros to gauge the rural audience, see T. Goriaeva, "'Velikaia kniga dnia': Radio i sotsiokul'turnaia sreda v SSSR v 1920-30-e gody," in Sovetskaia vlast 'i media, ed. Kh. Giunter and S. Khengsen [H. Gunther and S. Hangsen] (St. Petersburg: Akademicheskii proekt, 2006), 66-69.

(85) The transcript of a Moscow Agitprop meeting from 1929 shows that some Bolsheviks viewed radio gymnastics as a concession to Nepman tastes: Tsentral'nyi arkhiv obshchestvennopoliticheskoi istorii Moskvy (hereafter TsAOPIM) f. 3, op. 11, d. 808, l. 80.

(86) Ibid., l. 54.

(87) Ibid., l. 65.

(88) "Protokol no. 6 Zasedaniia komissii po derevenskomu veshchaniiu," in Goriaeva, "Velikaia kniga dnia," 68-70.

(89) GARF f. R-5508, op. 1, d. 1597, l. 48.

(90) "Nasha tribuna," Novosti radio, no. 9 (1928): 4.

(91) T. Tsytovich, "Rekonstruktsiia muzykal'nogo repertuara radioveshchaniia--neotlozhnaia zadacha," Govorit SSSR, no. 19 (1932): 10-11.

(92) GANO f. 3630, op. 5, d. 54, l. 7.

(93) GARF f. R-6903, op. 1, d. 52, l. 12.

(94) Ibid., d. 49, ll. 2, 4, 9.

(95) James yon Geldern, "Radio Moscow: The Voice from the Center," in Culture and Entertainment in Wartime Russia, ed. Richard Stites (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1995); numerous stenographers' reports of hard-hitting wartime meetings in the Radio Committee can be found in GARF f. R-6903, op. 1.

(96) GOPANO f. 3, op. 1, d. 2372, ll. 69-70.

(97) Tsentral'nyi gosudarstvennyi arkhiv literatury i iskusstva Sankt-Peterburga (TsGALI SPb) f. 293, op. 2, d. 99 (the texts of broadcasts in the first days of the war, 22-25 June 1941). The main accounts of radio during the siege are Aleksandr Rubashkin, Golos Leningrada, 2nd ed. (St. Petersburg: Neva, 2005); and T.V. Vasil'eva et al., eds., Radio. Blokada. Leningrad: Sbornik statei i vospominanii (St. Petersburg: Spetsial'naia literatura, 2005).

(98) TsGALI SPb f. 293, op. 2, d. 4198. The performer of Terkin was Dmitrii Nikolaevich Orlov, whose other well-known credits included Komu na Rusi zhit' khorosho (Who Can Be Happy in Russia?) and Tikhii Don (The Quiet Don). Orlov's archive contains abundant fan mail for all these roles (Rossiiskii gosudarstvennyi arkhiv literatury i iskusstva [RGALI] f: 2216, op. 1, dd. 243-45).

(99) A fine account of this can be found in Kristin Roth-Ey, Moscow Prime Time: How the Soviet Union Built the Media Empire 7hat Lost the Cultural Cold War (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2011 ), chap. 3.

(100) A striking example comes in the prize-winning Letiat zhuravli (The Cranes Are Flying [1957]), where a Sovinformburo announcement emanating from a loudspeaker at a railway station is presented as inadequate to the concerns of the main characters. Ironic treatments of the vystuplenie come in Bol'shaia sem'ia (The Big Family [1954]), Karnaval'naia noch' (Carnival Night [1956]), Delo bylo v Pen'kove (It Happened in Penkovo [1957]), and others.
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Author:Lovell, Stephen
Article Type:Report
Geographic Code:4EXRU
Date:Jun 22, 2011
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