russian by radio during the cold war, shortwave listening, a great hobby

Back during the late 60's/early 70's, when I was a young 'un, Radio Moscow offered a Russian course on the shortwave radio. I was an avid shortwave listener back then, and it was a great hobby, fetching in signals from all over the world.

During this time the Cold War was still going "full blast", and there was always talk of getting a "full blast" as a result of this situation. These were the years of Johnson/Nixon in the USA. Especially during the Nixon years, one never knew what was going to happen next. It was really psycho, not that things have improved any since then. 😦

Getting back to Radio Moscow. They had probably the strongest signal on the shortwave bands. It was no problem to hear them in the USA at any hour of the night or day. They were one of the BIG ONES on shortwave, along with the BBC, VOA, and several others. I've always had a curiosity about forbidden fruit. Just tell me "don't go there", and I immediately want to know more. The former USSR was definitely forbidden fruit here in the USA. For the average person, I think there was little information here about the USSR or its people. I'm sure this was a key part of the Cold War. The less you know about people, the easier it is to be enemies with them. By listening to Radio Moscow or the VOA, one is not going to learn very much truth about things anyway because propaganda is the business of these radio stations; nevertheless, it was fun to listen because sometimes real gems would come through about "our side" or the "forbidden fruit" side.

Radio Moscow was a master at many things, especially relations with the listeners. I was hearing about the Russian By Radio course. You could write the station to get free course materials and a lesson/program schedule. I wrote and my workbook came back in an amazing 1 1/2 weeks. The included schedule would tell you where to tune your radio to listen to the Russian lessons. You would follow along in your workbook, and this was crazy, there was homework in there! You could complete the language homework and mail it back to the station and they would grade it! I started doing this, and just like in school, your homework would come back marked with a red pen and a grade written on it. It you completed the course (I didn't), you would receive a certificate. This generated a lot of postal traffic between my mailbox and the USSR which drew the attention of my parents. I suppose it drew the attention of some government agencies, too, but at least they've been polite enough to never let me know about it. All my parents said was "Why are you getting so much mail from Moscow?" They knew I was a nut anyway. :happy:

Along with the Russian By Radio mailings, Radio Moscow would put you on their mailing list, always sending new schedules, little gifts like lapel pins, postcards, and pictures of Moscow. They were stuffing my mailbox with more shit than the Publishers Clearing House. It was amazing.

I did about 6 lessons of the Russian with a steadily declining grade on each one. It was fun, but I just wasn't THAT interested in it. Spanish was getting my attention more. At least Radio Moscow didn't suspend me from the course or write anything nasty on my homework. It was an amazing program actually.

What a strange world.

2 responses to “russian by radio during the cold war, shortwave listening, a great hobby

  1. Was this the start of you slacker behaviour? :lol:JCL.

  2. I never thought of it in that way before, but you may be right. Maybe it was also a desire just to be a little odd.Most of my friends, though I never had that many, listened to AM/FM radio, so I went to shortwave. Most people here who were into shortwave didn't listen to Radio Moscow that often, so I poked and prodded Radio Moscow to send more mail. I thought it was just plain weird to get mail from the USSR during the Cold War, so I went for it. I think due to my persistence they sent maps, extra nice large photos, tassels, things like that. Very kind.To the one thing I wanted most they would never reply. I wanted a penpal in Russia, preferably Moscow. I wrote them over and over asking their help in finding one. When I was so young, I somehow thought I could single-handedly end the Cold War by having a friend over there. Kids get these strange ideas sometimes, lol. I didn't want to move there, or worship Lenin or anything, I just wanted one friend behind the iron curtain. It's a bit strange to me now that today I can send an e-mail anywhere with a click of a mouse. Back in those old days, ANY communication overseas had a price to it, and sometimes a big one, and it's almost like you had to have a reason to be communicating with some areas. E-mail and net stuff seems to have overcome a lot of that. You can e-mail and IM almost anywhere just for the hell of it. Even some very restrictive governments let some of these things go right through.At this point it must look like I was a Radio Moscow addict. I did listen a lot, mostly due to the large volume of mail they sent, and the cool little gifts. There were certainly many others that were regulars on my dial. Radio South Africa (RSA) was a big one. I listened because South Africa seemed so exotic and far away. Radio Netherlands was another because the music was good, and they had some funny shows. After I got interested in Spanish, I listened to Radio Taipei ("This is the Voice of the Free China" they would announce) in Spanish. Strange thing, to practice Spanish by listening to the Latin-American service of Radio Taipei, Taiwan.It was also fun to chase the clandestine stations, and try to track the very strange numbers stations.Amateur Radio (Ham Radio), was fun due to the morse code, which I later learned. Their phone patches were cool because you got to listen in on phone calls they were putting through. I liked all this so much that I later got my Ham license. :)I can't say that I owe this life-long hobby to Radio Moscow, but they did have a part in it. It amazed me that I could hear something on the radio from so far away, and from a country that was a "designated" enemy, and they would respond so often and with so much stuff. I was proud of my country for allowing free participation in shortwave and postal correspondence, and I enjoyed the radio station for rewarding my letter writing so copiously. Aside from the required propaganda mission, there were some very decent folks at the station. I hear some of them still work in broadcasting, radio and TV.I must say that I almost never listened to the VOA or the BBC. Aside from writing them both once to get a postcard back, I just never found them to be very interesting. :p They weren't "forbidden fruit"! lolI can sure ramble on and beat a topic to death. I'll stop now.:cool:

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