There is Only One Radio Station

1997 > Russia

Play that funky music, white boy!

Under the Soviets, Russian television and radio were tightly controlled mediums
of course. What is amazing to me is the length the Soviets went to in their
quest for control. Nothing less than absolute control over the mediums was
enough. I cannot agree with the method, or the message, but the result is

If you go into a Russian home, the first thing you will notice is the huge
TV or stereo they own. After 70 years of denial, they are going to get the
biggest and loudest system they can buy. If you look closely, you will see
that everyone had a radio in their homes already, usually in the kitchen.

Radio Russia was everywhere under the Soviets and remains today in almost
all un-remonted apartments. The radio has one plug and no antenna. You plug
it into a special socket, where electricity and the radio signal are sent
from a central station in the city. Essentially, the entire country was hard
wired with one radio. In fact, it was illegal (and punishable by a trip to
the gulag) if you owned a standard western radio that could pick up broadcasted
radio waves.

There were three stations, Two broadcasted from Moscow, and one from the
regional oblast administration. I actually like Radio Russia. The music is
excellent, and varied. I never knew what I would get when I turned it on.
Everything from traditional music from one of Russia’s hundreds of minorities,
to bluegrass from Kentucky, or random European music. There were never any
commercials (which I abhor), but they would have long interviews and
conversations that I only half understood. One radio, three stations, that
was it. Not much choice, and you could never turn the radio off, just down,
unless you unplugged it from the wall.

Once the Soviet system collapsed, there was an explosion of commercial radio
stations and everyone bought western stereos as fast as they could. Now Russians
no longer listen to Radio Russia, unless they are in the far provinces, and
they usually toss the radio after they remont an apartment. When I asked
my landlords if I could have Radio Russia installed in the apartment, they
looked at me in shock. I think I might have actually offended them! Crazy

Of course I have a huge stereo too, gotta keep up with the Jones’s, but I
have it set on one station, all the time. The station (106.8FM) plays dance
music weekday evenings, and all weekend. Exactly what I need to keep up my
action packed lifestyle. Nicely enough, the station warns you when they are
going to play commercials, and there are no car salesmen yelling at you about
the four floors of Fords they want to sell. I give ’em two years before the
ads are obnoxious as the ones in America.