Cold War Broadcasting

Cold War Broadcasting: Impact on the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe

A. Ross Johnson
R. Eugene Parta
Foreword by Timothy Garton Ash
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Pages: 612
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  • Book Info
    Cold War Broadcasting
    Book Description:

    The book examines the role of Western broadcasting to the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe during the Cold War, with a focus on Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty. It includes chapters by radio veterans and by scholars who have conducted research on the subject in once-secret Soviet bloc archives and in Western records. It also contains a selection of translated documents from formerly secret Soviet and East European archives, most of them published here for the first time.

    eISBN: 978-615-5211-90-4
    Subjects: Political Science

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. Foreword
    (pp. xv-xvi)
    Timothy Garton Ash

    In a tumbledown farmhouse in the poorest corner of south-eastern Poland, at the height of the solidarity revolution of 1980-81, I met a farmer who had just sold some home-weaved baskets in order to buy a radio. He had bought it to keep himself informed about the farmers’ solidarity strike by listening to radio free europe. “there it stands on the rickety table” I noted, “apart from the electric light and the wooden wall clock (permanently telling twenty minutes to eight) the only object in the room which could not have been there a hundred years ago.” another farmer said,...

  5. Introduction
    (pp. xvii-xxvi)
    A. Ross Johnson

    Part One of this book, “Goals of the Broadcasts,” reviews the origins and development of RFE and RL, and the complementary development of the Voice of America. These chapters were written by participants in the events described.

    The subsequent sections were provided by an international group of scholars, drawing on once-closed East European and soviet archives to analyze the impact of the broadcasts.

    Part Two, “Jamming and Audiences,” reviews Soviet-bloc efforts to block RFE/RL’s broadcasts with jamming. (Appendix A cites types of jamming, and Appendix B provides an example of a shortwave broadcasting station.) The Radios nevertheless had large listenerships,...


    • CHAPTER 1 RFE’s Early Years: Evolution of Broadcast Policy and Evidence of Broadcast Impact
      (pp. 3-16)
      Paul B. Henze

      Since the liberation of Eastern Europe and the collapse of the Soviet union, the effectiveness of Radio Free Europe broadcasts has never been questioned. Testimony on the impact of the broadcasts has come repeatedly from the new leaders of Eastern Europe, and from millions of citizens who began listening in the 1950s. I have talked to many former listeners who recall the details of specific broadcasts and the circumstances under which they listened. Many remember the names of broadcast personalities they listened to. Partly as a result of this, what could almost be termed a mythology has developed about RFE’s...

    • CHAPTER 2 Goals of Radio Liberty
      (pp. 17-24)
      Gene Sosin

      Aleksandr Herzen wrote from London in the 1850s: “There is no place for freedom of speech at home—it can be heard elsewhere. I remain in the west only to begin free Russian speech, to set up for Russia an organ without censorship, to be your organ: your free, uncensored speech is my goal.” He fulfilled that goal by publishing kolokol (The Bell), the first Russian émigré paper. It wielded great influence among the intelligentsia inside tsarist Russia and was a powerful irritant to the authorities.

      Herzen expressed one of the basic goals of the shortwave station that was born...

    • CHAPTER 3 The Voice of America: A Brief Cold War History
      (pp. 25-48)
      Alan L. Heil Jr

      The Voice of America, the nation’s only government-funded global broadcaster, has been on the air more than six decades. It has served listeners during World War II, the Cold War, the immediate post-Cold War period of unprecedented geopolitical and technological change, and in the era of new challenges after September 11, 2001.

      This paper summarizes highlights of VOA broadcasts in the Soviet and East European region during the longest of these periods, the Cold War—that is, from 1947 until the formal demise of the Soviet Union on December 31, 1991.¹ Throughout, VOA broadcasters were dedicated to the fundamental principle...


    • CHAPTER 4 Cold War Radio Jamming
      (pp. 51-63)
      George W. Woodard

      On the night of November 21, 1988, shortly after 9 p.m., I received a call at my home in Munich, Germany, from operators at the RFE/RL Technical Monitoring and Receiving station at Schleissheim, a northern suburb, reporting that Soviet and some Eastern European jamming of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty shortwave transmissions seemed to have abruptly ended. Jamming of RFE and RL signals (historically by far the hardest hit of all western broadcasters) as well as Voice of America, BBC, Deutsche Welle, Kol Israel, Radio Vatican and other stations had ended abruptly and without prior warning. So unbelievable was...

    • Appendix A: Types of Jamming
      (pp. 64-64)
    • Appendix B: An Example of a Shortwave Broadcasting Station during the Cold War
      (pp. 65-66)
    • CHAPTER 5 The Audience to Western Broadcasts to the USSR During the Cold War: An External Perspective
      (pp. 67-102)
      R. Eugene Parta

      Survey data on Radio Liberty’s audience during the failed coup in august 1991 was available within days of the event. It showed widespread listening to the station. (A survey carried out a few weeks after the coup by Vox Populi, a leading Moscow research institute, showed that 30% of Muscovites heard Radio Liberty during the crisis days of 19–21 August, and that most of these either listened constantly or several times a day.²) This was not the case during most of the station’s history, when the Soviet Union was off-limits to Western survey researchers. Western radio broadcasting was considered...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Foreign Radio Audience in the USSR During the Cold War: An Internal Perspective
      (pp. 103-120)
      Elena I. Bashkirova

      The attempt to influence populations through broadcasting in national languages was just one episode of the so-called Cold War between the USSR and the West, especially the united states. In 1947 the Voice of America started broadcasting to the USSR; Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty joined the pool in 1950 and 1953 respectively; BBC, Vatican Radio, Deutsche Welle and other radio stations also began broadcasting in Russian. since the Soviet authorities had placed ideological and other limitations on information, the programs of Western radio stations helped the local audience to learn about viewpoints which differed from the official Soviet...

    • CHAPTER 7 The Audience to Western Broadcasts to Poland During the Cold War
      (pp. 121-141)
      Lechoslaw Gawlikowski and Yvette Neisser Moreno

      The purpose of this paper is to examine the audience to Radio Free Europe’s Polish service from the 1960s to the early 1990s. The paper includes and compares data from three sources: external surveys with travelers conducted by RFE’s audience research department; restricted internal surveys conducted by the audience research department of Polish Radio (government-sponsored research) that have become available since the end of the Communist period; and surveys of military personnel and draftees conducted by researchers with the Military Political Academy in Warsaw.¹

      OBOP. The Center for Public Opinion Research in Warsaw (Polish abbreviation OBOP), attached to Polish Radio,...

    • APPENDIX C: Weekly Listening Rates for Major Western Broadcasters to Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania, Bulgaria and the USSR During the Cold War
      (pp. 142-144)

    • CHAPTER 8 Radio Free Europe in the Eyes of the Polish Communist Elite
      (pp. 147-168)
      Jane Leftwich Curry

      Radio Free Europe played a complex role in Polish elite politics. In the process of providing Poles with information about the realities of life and politics their media did not report, it served as an alternative source of information for the Polish elite, a goad for them to open up the media they controlled, and it even influenced their decisions about policy.¹ Clearly, in this area, Poland was different from the rest of the Soviet Bloc. The greater divisions within the Polish elite, and the weaker links between the political elite and the population, undermined the elite to the extent...

    • CHAPTER 9 Polish Regime Countermeasures against Radio Free Europe
      (pp. 169-204)
      Pawel Machcewicz

      Over more than four decades of existence, the Communist system in Poland underwent a significant evolution, but throughout the period, from the beginning of the 1950s until the end of the 1980s, one of the permanent enemies of the system was Radio Free Europe. The regime fought the Radio by a variety of methods: propaganda attacks, jamming of broadcasts, repressive measures against those in Poland who cooperated with the Radio (or, in the Stalinist period, merely listened to it), operational measures by intelligence services trying to penetrate the Munich team, recruitment of agents inside the team, triggering of internal conflicts,...

    • CHAPTER 10 Radio Free Europe’s Impact in Romania During the Cold War
      (pp. 205-228)
      Nestor Ratesh

      Emil Constantinescu, President of Romania from 1997 to 2000, spoke those words in his prepared remarks during an official visit to Prague in the spring of 1997, a few months after his inauguration as President. His metaphor may seem overreaching, but in a Romanian context it was hardly out of place. The role and the impact of Radio Free Europe in Romania during Communist rule have been described in superlative terms by a great number of Romanians. Their testimony matches data on the size and commitment of the Romanian audience. It also explains why RFE was an all-consuming obsession of...

    • CHAPTER 11 Ceauşescu’s War against Our Ears
      (pp. 229-238)
      Germina Nagat

      If censorship can be defined as “the knot that binds knowledge and power,”² then the secret services established under communist regimes provide the best illustration of censorship at its being most distorted and pathological. Although complete state control of information through censorship and state propaganda is common in any totalitarian regime, it was a major task of the secret services under communist rule. Although its main purpose was to maintain the political status quo, its scope was unprecedented and the instruments of control were extreme. The ironclad control applied to any information coming from any source, especially from abroad. The...

    • CHAPTER 12 Just Noise? Impact of Radio Free Europe in Hungary
      (pp. 239-258)
      István Rév

      E.H. Gombrich, one of the most influential art historians of the twentieth century, who was at one time director of the Warburg Institute in London, worked as a so-called monitor and later as a monitoring supervisor, between 1939 and 1945 at the “Listening Post” of the B.B.C. In his Creighton lecture in 1969, he summarized his experiences, later published under the title Myth and Reality in German War-Time Broadcasts.¹ Gombrich claimed that, “I am not sure that German home broadcasts ever got away from the basic conception of the loudspeaker as an amplifier of the political meeting. Throughout the first...

    • CHAPTER 13 Bulgarian Regime Countermeasures against Radio Free Europe
      (pp. 259-274)
      Jordan Baev

      The impact of RFE’s Bulgarian broadcasts falls historically into three distinct phases, and so, by extension, do the countermeasures taken against the station. During the first period (1950s–1960s), the broadcasts proved relatively ineffective in influencing the Bulgarian public. RFE’s Bulgarian service was established by “old” émigrés who had left Bulgaria immediately after Communist rule was established, and were little known inside the country. These émigrés had very limited information about the circumstances of Bulgarian political and cultural life. Usually the broadcasts demonstrated unimpressive and one-sided propaganda methods and rhetoric. During this period, the most effective Western broadcasts were those...


    • CHAPTER 14 Soviet Reactions to Foreign Broadcasting in the 1950s
      (pp. 277-298)
      Vladimir Tolz and Julie Corwin

      In spite of the extensive literature on the history of foreign broadcasting in the Soviet Union, the Soviet response to foreign radio transmissions has not yet emerged as a focus for scholarly analysis (except for the topic of jamming, examined in detail most notably by R. Plejkis).¹ Inaccessibility of soviet documents to researchers has been the main reason for this omission.

      This chapter introduces a new set of documents that until now has been unknown or at least unused, by researchers of Soviet history, including foreign broadcasting and press materials until now considered top secret. It reviews the OZP (Osobye...

    • CHAPTER 15 Foreign Media, the Soviet Western Frontier, and the Hungarian and Czechoslovak Crises
      (pp. 299-318)
      Amir Weiner

      Evaluating the impact of foreign broadcasts and publications is a tricky pursuit for those who seek to influence the course of events in an opponent’s country, and the impact of Cold War broadcasts to the Soviet Union is not always easy to measure. This essay discusses Soviet responses to the war of the airwaves with the West, and to lesser-known yet equally important East European media, in the context of the changes that took place during the two decades that followed Stalin’s death.

      The bulk of data referenced in this article are drawn from reports by the KGB and Communist...

    • CHAPTER 16 Water Shaping the Rock: Cold War Broadcasting Impact in Latvia
      (pp. 319-342)
      Peter Zvagulis

      Each of the Western broadcasters played a role in the battle of the airwaves that took place during the Cold War. Before RFE/RL began broadcasting in 1975 (initially as part of radio liberty, later as part of Radio Free Europe), VOA was the only major Western Latvian-language radio. Radio Vatican also broadcast in Latvian. The broadcasts were heavily jammed. Nonetheless, the jamming was only partly successful, since Western broadcasters used a variety of techniques to overcome it.¹ Since Radio Sweden started programming in Latvian only in 1989, it cannot really be regarded as a Cold War broadcaster. By then all...


    • CHAPTER 17 Cold War International Broadcasting and the Road to Democracy
      (pp. 345-350)
      A. Ross Johnson and R. Eugene Parta

      This volume assesses the impact of Western broadcasts to the USSR and Eastern Europe during the Cold War based on evidence from Western and Communist-era archives and oral history interviews. External and internal audience surveys, elite testimony, and the sheer magnitude of the Communist regime countermeasures against the broadcasts demonstrate that their impact was indisputable.

      Audience surveys among over 150,000 travelers to the West, formerly-secret internal surveys commissioned by the regime, and retrospective internal surveys commissioned after 1989 all indicate remarkably large regular audiences to Western broadcasts. It can be estimated that about one-third of the urban adult Soviet population...


    • [Part 6 Introduction]
      (pp. 353-354)

      This section contains translations of documents from East European and Soviet archives concerning Western broadcasting during the Cold War.The documents make clear that the Communist regimes perceived “enemy” broadcasts as a serious threat to the systems they ruled, and that they were prepared to take extensive countermeasures to limit the impact of the broadcasts.

      Associates of the Hoover Archives at the Hoover Institution and the Cold War International History Project of the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars located these documents in the national archives of Eastern Europe and the former USSR, the German repository for East German internal security...

    • I. Regime Perceptions of Western Broadcasters
      (pp. 355-438)

      In 1977 the hostile propaganda against the People’s Republic of Bulgaria remained almost unchanged in terms of quantity. the broadcasts in the Bulgarian language continued from 10 radio stations from the capitalist countries and 5 from the SFRY [socialist federal republic of Yugoslavia], Albania and China, with a total duration of about 20 hours per day. A certain increase of anti-Soviet propaganda can be observed in the press in England, Austria, Greece and Turkey. Similar materials, though sporadically, have appeared also in printed publications in Italy, France, the USA, Turkey, China, Albania, Mexico, Belgium and other countries. […]

      By using...

    • II. Regime Countermeasures against Western Broadcasters
      (pp. 439-562)

      The representatives of the intelligence organs of the PRB, HPR, GDR, PPR, USSR AND CSSR, who met on 12–13 February 1976 in Prague exchanged experience on active measures, both completed and in preparation, against the centers of ideological subversion, the radio stations Free Europe (RFE) and Radio Liberty (RL), and came to the conclusion that minimum objective for the short term was the necessity to expel the US centers of subversion in the form of RFE And RL From The European Continent. The optimal goal would consist of their total liquidation.

      To achieve this goal, it seems Pertinent to...

  12. Contributors
    (pp. 563-564)
  13. Glossary
    (pp. 565-568)
  14. Index
    (pp. 569-584)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 585-585)