Voices of America

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo

Voices of America

66 years ago – February 17, 1947 – radio station; Voice of America began broadcasting in Russian

MOSCOW – SAINT PETERSBURG – WASHINGTON –
People who at different times listened to the programs of the Russian service “Voice of America” ​​or worked in it share their memories and impressions..

Boris Pustyntsev, Lev Markin, Pavel Balditsyn, Vyacheslav Dolinin, Sergei Korkonosenko, Valery Semenenko and father Victor Potapov reflect on how the Voice of America influenced their lives.

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First broadcast; Voices of America in Russian

by VOICE OF AMERICA

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Boris Pustyntsev

Boris Pustyntsev, chairman of the public human rights organization Civil Control, began listening to Voice of America even before the broadcast in Russian appeared:

“I was born in Vladivostok, we lived on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. And in 1946, I found an old radio set with my parents. Nobody used it, I took it to my four-meter room and started turning the knobs. And he attacked a radio station that was broadcasting some strange music that I had never heard before. But I began to like her more and more. It was jazz – swing, early be-bop and so on. And I got into the habit of listening to this radio, and I could not even fall asleep without listening to another music program “.

At the same time, he became more and more annoyed that he did not understand what was said in these programs before and after the musical numbers..

I was interested not only in musical information, but also in social and political information. And gradually I became convinced that the Soviet mass media were lying to me. While what I heard from the Voice coincided with what I saw in my country. And this was the beginning of my political enlightenment, and by the age of fifteen I became a complete anti-communist

Boris Pustyntsev, Chairman of the public human rights organization “Civil Control”

“I decided to start learning English on my own using the Voice of America transmission. I was then a very receptive age, and the Voice of America method turned out to be quite effective. And after a year and a half, I understood well everything that was said in the programs that I listened to..

I was interested not only in musical information, but also in social and political information. And gradually I became convinced that the Soviet mass media were lying to me. While what I heard from the Voice coincided with what I saw in my country. And this was the beginning of my political enlightenment, and by the age of fifteen I became a complete anti-communist, “says Boris Pustyntsev.

He adds that thanks to his knowledge of English, he could freely listen to the broadcasts of the Voice of America world service, which, unlike the programs of the Russian edition, were not jammed in the USSR..

Lev Markin

Professor, head of the Department of Microeconomic Analysis, Department of Theoretical Economics, Higher School of Economics, recalls that he began listening to Voice of America as a teenager.

There were two radio stations – Voice of America and Liberty, they just played an outstanding role in our education. Everything was good there: jazz, politics, commentaries, literary programs … And in general, the very idea that there was a huge life out there was good. For me and for the people around me, these radio stations played a fundamental role – they were the source of correct information. I don’t know what it means to be correct, but correct information about what is happening in the world

Lev Markin, Professor, Head of the Department of Microeconomic Analysis, Department of Theoretical Economics, Higher School of Economics

He says: “I had a very good tube receiver at home. At the same time, it was clear that there was no need to talk about this at school, then there was a period of Khrushchev’s thaw. But listening to this radio was the norm. There were two radio stations – Voice of America and Liberty, they just played an outstanding role in our education. Everything was good there: jazz, politics, commentaries, literary programs … And in general, the very idea that there was a huge life out there was good. For me and for the people around me, these radio stations played a fundamental role – they were the source of correct information. I don’t know what it means to be correct, but correct information about what is happening in the world ”.

Lev Markin says that the story of the return of American astronauts from the flight to the moon “a significant part of Moscow perceived with the eyes and ears of the Voice of America”.

He recalls that in those days listening to the broadcasts of the “voices” became a kind of hobby: “In Moscow, Western radio stations were constantly jammed, and one had to get used to living with constant noise. It was normal Soviet life. Listening to the broadcasts was a regular activity in the circle of people in which I lived. It turned into a kind of sport: can you buy a receiver on which you can listen to it? Will it be possible to listen to it at night or in the morning? With whom and how can you exchange impressions later? “.

Lev Markin tells an anecdotal story: “New Japanese radios have arrived at the radio store in Moscow. They immediately began to buy them, and then they began to bring back. Because it turned out that since these receivers were digital and tuned very precisely to the desired wavelength, they were completely unsuitable for listening to the Voice of America. After all, the main broadcasting frequency was tightly jammed “.

Pavel Balditsyn

For the professor of the Department of Foreign Journalism and Literature of the Faculty of Journalism of Moscow State University, all the “Western voices” merged together, but thanks to them he learned the news about his own country:

“We had a Baltika receiver at home, and it tuned in very accurately to various foreign radio stations. I loved listening to them and understood something, including in foreign languages. I listened to Voice of America, BBC, and then Radio Liberty. I did not particularly distinguish them, they merged with me, these enemy voices, as they were called.

I can remember that the Voice of America made excellent programs about jazz. They always started programs like this: Voice of America from Washington. There is one strong memory. I served in Czechoslovakia, and when I was near the radio station, she took it there well, at night, while on duty, I listened to how books were read on the radio, including the Gulag Archipelago ”.

We all understood perfectly well that you would not find any news in the Soviet newspaper, because we were simply not informed about many events. For example, I first heard about the uprising in Novocherkassk as a student from a classmate who served in the army and went there in a tank. But there was nothing about this in the newspapers – the information was extremely limited and one-sided, everything was subordinated to propaganda tasks. We did not trust the Soviet media, Soviet newspapers were uninteresting and unnecessary to read.

Pavel Balditsyn, Professor of the Department of Foreign Journalism and Literature, Faculty of Journalism, Moscow State University

Balditsyn explains his interest in the Voice of America simply: “We all understood perfectly well that you would not find any news in the Soviet newspaper, because we were simply not informed about many events..

For example, I first heard about the uprising in Novocherkassk as a student from a classmate who served in the army and went there in a tank. But there was nothing about this in the newspapers – the information was extremely limited and one-sided, everything was subordinated to propaganda tasks. We did not trust the Soviet media, Soviet newspapers were uninteresting and unnecessary to read..

Everyone read only the last page, where the sport is. They listened to the radio a little – there they could arrange the reading of Leonid Ilyich’s report for a whole hour. Of course, it was interesting to hear voices from the outside, although they were also perceived as propaganda. It was difficult to find objective information, but what the Voice of America was broadcasting was perceived as more or less reliable information “.

Pavel Balditsyn recalls that the Voice of America broadcasts were not only listened to, but actively discussed: “I remember that at the Institute of World Literature, in the smoking room, and in general, on the sidelines of any meeting, they could discuss what the Voice of America said. His transmissions were, of course, questioned. But it was interesting, it was a voice from the other side. “.

Viacheslav Dolinin

Vyacheslav Dolinin, member of the board of the St. Petersburg Society “Memorial”, recalls that the Voice of America was heard on the beaches and in the zones.

“I started listening to Voice of America back in the 1960s,” he says. – In 1968, the broadcasts of all Western voices began to be very cruelly jammed, and then my friends and I began to travel out of town – to the beach in Solnechnoye. And here in the summer, it happened, you walk along the coast of the Gulf of Finland, and there are a lot of people and everyone has transistors. Who is listening to Voice of America, who is BBC, who is Freedom, who is Deutsche Welle.

So, while you go through the entire beach, you will hear in different versions everything that the Soviet media were silent about. And the best thing, by the way, was just the Voice of America. People understood that outside the city limits of Leningrad these programs were heard much better than inside the city. Because the jammers did not work at a distance of several tens of kilometers from the city, ”recalls Vyacheslav Dolinin.

It was in 1975 at the Perm political zone No. 35. Georgy Ivanovich Ermakov, a radio engineer by training, assembled a radio receiver there. How did he do it? He sealed off the transistor from one of the machines, and the battery from the motorcycle of one of the overseers. And he assembled a receiver through which the prisoners began to secretly listen to the Voice of America. They did it for a long time, but then someone snitched, and searches began all over the area – they were looking for this transistor. I had to bury it in the ground. Until now, probably, he is hidden somewhere in the territory of that zone.

Vyacheslav Dolinin, Member of the Board of the St. Petersburg Society “Memorial”

In 1982, Dolinin was sentenced to four years in high security camps and two years in exile on charges of anti-Soviet agitation and propaganda. And while serving his sentence, I heard one very remarkable story: “It was in 1975 at the Perm political zone No. 35. Georgy Ivanovich Ermakov, a radio engineer by training, assembled a radio receiver there.

Voices of America
Voices of America

How did he do it? He sealed off the transistor from one of the machines, and the battery from the motorcycle of one of the overseers. And he assembled a receiver through which the prisoners began to secretly listen to the Voice of America. They did it for a long time, but then someone snitched, and searches began all over the area – they were looking for this transistor. I had to bury it in the ground. Until now, probably, he is hidden somewhere on the territory of that zone “…

Vyacheslav Dolinin says that when he himself got to the Perm zone number 35, this story was passed from mouth to mouth there. Georgy Ermakov was serving his second term there at that time.

“Ermakov was a very remarkable person,” says Vyacheslav Dolinin. – Unfortunately, he died last year at the age of 82. He said that in 1956, being a cadet at the Makarov School, he heard from the Voice of America about Khrushchev’s secret report at the XX Congress of the CPSU.

And after that he and his friends threw a bust of Stalin out of the window. And in the fall of the same year, he criticized the actions of the Soviet troops in the rebellious Hungary, and he was expelled from the daytime department. Well, then he came to dissidence, and the programs of the Voice of America played an important role in the formation of his worldview ”.

Sergey Korkonosenko

Professor, head of the Department of Sociology of Journalism, Faculty of Journalism at St. Petersburg State University, says that many of his acquaintances listened to “Western voices”.

“The difference between us was only in the fact that someone preferred to listen in the company of friends, and someone – alone with the receiver. I belonged to the latter, – says Korkonosenko and continues – I had a decent transistor receiver of the brand – Sirius at that time. And he made it possible to understand what was coming through the waves, although the antenna in this regard was not very helpful. For this there was a battery that increased the capabilities of the antenna. “.

I also learned about such events as letters from human rights defenders, arrests of dissidents. That is, about which very little was told in the Soviet media

Sergey Korkonosenko, Head of the Department of Sociology of Journalism, Faculty of Journalism, St. Petersburg State University

Sergey Korkonosenko explains that in order to improve audibility at short waves, the receiver had to be placed on a battery, and thus it turned out that the entire pipeline system of the apartment building served as the antenna transistor..

According to Sergei Korkonosenko, the main thing that distinguished the Voice of America programs from those broadcast on the All-Union Radio was the interpretation of the events: “I also learned about such events as letters from human rights defenders, arrests of dissidents. That is, very little was told about in the Soviet mass media “.

Professionally, Korkonosenko notes such peculiarities of the Voice of America broadcasting as “promptness in coverage of events, involvement of various experts, and an entertaining manner in the presentation of material.” “This is what today’s students of the Faculty of Journalism can learn from,” says Sergei Korkonosenko.

Valery Semenenko

The former co-chair of Ukrainians of Russia says that Voice of America had a major impact on his beliefs: “I listened to Voice of America in the 1960s. This, of course, was not easy – this radio station was jammed. But sometimes I managed to tune in. I listened to programs in both Russian and Ukrainian. I remember very well hearing about the introduction of Soviet troops into Czechoslovakia.

To be honest, sometimes the Voice of America was like a revelation from God to me. Because in the entire Soviet press there was absolutely nothing but propaganda

Valeriy Semenenko, former co-chairman of the organization “Ukrainians of Russia”

In fact, just in the 1960s, including because of the Voice of America, my political views completely changed. My father died at the front, and my mother was an ardent communist. And I used to adhere to communist views. And then everything changed, and I became interested in obtaining additional information. Then it was almost impossible, everything was closed “.

“To be honest, sometimes the Voice of America was like a revelation to me. Because in the entire Soviet press there was absolutely nothing but propaganda, ”says Valery Semenenko.

Father Victor Potapov

The priest, rector of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Washington DC, has broadcast for a long time on Voice of America, believes that for many people this radio station has become the Voice of Freedom: “I came to Voice of America in October 1977 and worked for 30 years. For 20 years, I was unofficially considered a religious commentator and hosted the program Review of the religious and social life of the United States (later – Religion in our lives), which lasted 45 minutes and was aired, including reruns, five times a week.

I was brought up in an anti-communist spirit, and this program for me – a priest of the Russian Orthodox Church abroad – was a great success. Thanks to the microphone, I could tell millions about how believers live in a free society. “.

Father Victor continues: “That period was a period of terrible persecution of religion on the territory of the first Soviet Union, and then the post-Soviet space. The BBC and Svoboda had similar broadcasts then. These programs played a huge role in, if you will, the victory of freedom over non-freedom in the USSR..

If it wasn’t for the Voice of America, people would still find access to this kind of information. However, the role of the Voice should be noted – the phrases of the Western voices, I heard it on the Voice of America, became winged. We, in a sense, have become a part of the life of many Soviet people. Because the Voice of America was the Voice of America, the voice of the world that many dreamed of

about. Victor Potapov, priest, rector of the Church of St. John the Baptist in Washington

Sometimes it seemed to us that no one was listening to us, but after Gorbachev began to pursue a policy of publicity, a huge number of letters began to come to our editorial office. These letters – the living destinies of people – I still keep at home, and I think that in the future it will be interesting for historians to find out first-hand how people lived in that unfree country. “.

“Political bias was not the main criterion for recruiting for Voice of America,” says Father Victor. – Objectivity was the most important thing for us. But in the 1970s and 1980s, objective information was not in favor of the USSR. Therefore, I disagree with those who often accused and accuse Voice of America of propaganda “.

“If it wasn’t for the Voice of America, people would still find access to this kind of information. However, the role of the Voice cannot be ignored – the phrases of the Western voices, I heard it on Voice of America, became winged. We, in a sense, have become a part of the life of many Soviet people. Because the Voice of America was the Voice of America, the voice of the world that many dreamed of, ”sums up Father Victor.

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