Voice of America in Russian: 74 years on the air

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Voice of America in Russian: 74 years on the air

On February 17, 1947, the first American foreign broadcast radio program in Russian went on the air

“The news can be good. The news can be bad. We will tell you the truth, ”- with this phrase, the first announcer of the new international radio station -“ Voice of America ”- William Harlan Hale began his address to listeners around the world. This happened on February 25, 1942. Then the broadcast was conducted in English, German and French. And exactly five years later, on February 17, 1947, “Voices of America” ​​sounded in Russian.

The task of the Russian-language editorial office included objective and impartial coverage of information that was not available to the population behind the Iron Curtain. Charles Thayer, a professional diplomat and specialist in American-Soviet relations, became the head of the Russian service of the Voice of America. In 1937, he was the third secretary of the US Embassy in Moscow, fluent in Russian, French, German, Spanish, Italian, Persian and a number of Slavic languages. Thayer’s deputy at the Voice of America was the cousin of the writer Vladimir Nabokov, the composer Nikolai Nabokov. The first radio broadcasts in Russian were hosted by Viktor Frantsuzov, Tatiana Hacker and Elena Yakobson. Later, Viktor Frantsuzov himself headed the Russian service in the 80s. After his death in 1996, the journalist’s memoirs “Talking to the Russians” were published..

And one more interesting fact. Vladimir Nabokov gave an interview to Voice of America when the head of the Russian service of the Voice of America was Alexander Barmin, a former Soviet intelligence officer and diplomat, who had fled to the United States from Stalin’s purges. In the archives of Vladimir Nabokov at the Library of Congress of the United States, the typescript of this interview, which was broadcast to the Soviet Union on May 14, 1958, is preserved..

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In the USSR, the “jamming” of the radio station “Voice of America” ​​began a year after its broadcast – in 1948.

Political analysts agree that the jamming process has become a litmus test for US-Soviet relations. The “jamming” continued until some warming in relations between Moscow and Washington in 1963. (The exception was a short period in 1959, during Nikita Khrushchev’s official visit to the United States).

In 1968, after the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia, the jammers began to work with renewed vigor. Then the “interference on the air” eased in 1975, before the Helsinki Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe. The “jamming” resumed in full force after the introduction of Soviet troops into Afghanistan in 1979 and continued until Gorbachev’s perestroika. The basis for the termination of special interference was a special decree of the Central Committee of the CPSU in 1986.

The Soviet years also saw the peak of the popularity of the Voice of America radio programs. In the early 1980s, the daily audience of the Russian-language radio station was 14 million people. Of course, people were not only interested in politics. At that time, a third of the broadcasting grid was occupied by programs dedicated to scientific, cultural, music, sports and religious topics..

This is how one of the current veterans of American foreign broadcasting, Aleksey Kovalev, recalls his work: “Together with Zhanna Vladimirskaya we came to the Voice of America in Orwellian 1984 … This period – the last years of the USSR’s existence was distinguished by an incredibly stormy cultural life in the USA and the bright presence of prominent figures of the Russian emigration in it. M. Rostropovich directed the National Orchestra in Washington, I. Brodsky gained more and more influence in literary life, A. Solzhenitsyn lived and collaborated with the Voice of America in Vermont, M. Baryshnikov danced in the New York Ballet, Y. Lyubimov staged Dostoevsky in in the capital Arena Stage, a unique festival of Russian culture was held in Boston, where there was an opportunity to interview M. Plisetskaya and R. Shchedrin, V. Aksyonov hosted his own program on the Voice of America and read his stories “.

In 1985, broadcasting was carried out 17 hours a day and these were not only news and political programs. For example, these were two hour-long religious programs – “Religion in Our Life” and “Review of Jewish Life”, and equally voluminous programs “Theater, Stage, Concert”, “Broadway Music”, “Books and People”, “Literary Readings” , “American Cinema”, “Fine Arts”, “Sports”, “Popular Music Concert”, even a dance program. But in addition to programs directly related to art, programs such as “Agriculture in America”, “Science and Technology”, “Medicine and Healthcare”, “English Lessons” were regularly aired on the radio..

Although the main focus of the editorial board has always been on current political events, even the three daily one-hour news programs often included interviews and news from the field of culture. This is how the readings “The First Circle” by Alexander Solzhenitsyn, “The Taming of the Arts” by Yuri Elagin, the works of Nikolai Berdyaev, and the memoirs of Nadezhda Mandelstam were born..

With the collapse of the Soviet Union and the beginning of democratic reforms in many new countries – the republics of the former USSR, Russian-language radio broadcasting, as well as broadcasting in other languages ​​of Eastern Europe, was significantly reduced.

On July 27, 2008, the Voice of America stopped broadcasting in Russian and switched to Internet broadcasting. The message posted on the website of the Russian Service said: “Now you can listen, watch and read news of politics, economy, culture, health, science and art, receive information about life in the United States, ask questions of your interest on our website golosameriki .us “.

At the beginning of the 21st century, the Russian-speaking Voice of America began to master the work in the television format. In 2005-2007, along with the release of the weekly TV program “Window to the world “, on weekdays, a half-hour news program was broadcast on the satellite TV channel “Lens”.

And since October 2014, a joint project of the Russian service “Voice of America” ​​and Radio Liberty began to air. Current Time. Two years later, in October 2016, the daily hourly satellite TV broadcasting began. New TV program “Present time. America “(Current Time. America) leaves the Washington and New York studio of the Voice of America, and film crews also work in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami, Dallas, Chicago and many other cities in the United States. Many other television and Internet projects have appeared and continue to appear..

You can follow them not only on our website, on TV, but also on our pages in social networks (YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, VK, Instagram).

Media formats are changing, but the professional standards of the Voice of America remain unchanged. Back in 1976, the US Congress approved the Voice of America Charter, which defined Voice of America as a “consistently reliable and authoritative news source” whose information must be “accurate, objective and comprehensive.”.

The fundamental principles of our work are formulated in Voice of America Charter:

1. Voice of America will serve as a reliable and authoritative source of news. Voice of America news will be accurate, objective and comprehensive.

2. Voice of America will represent America, not just one segment of American society, and therefore will present a balanced and comprehensive description of significant American ideas and institutions..

3. Voice of America will represent the actions of the United States clearly and effectively, and will also represent responsible discussions and opinions about these actions..

  • Vadim Massalsky

    Journalist, blogger, specializes in the topic of US-Russian relations

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