Jamming for the USSR.

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Jamming for the USSR.

Postby m0lsx » Sun Aug 06, 2017 10:56 am

Fifty kilometers north of Tbilisi lies a mysterious settlement without a name or place on an official map. Locals simply refer to it as Transmitter Station Number 5.

In the early 1950s, over 100 people were reportedly moved here secretly from all over the Soviet Union with the sole purpose of preventing radio broadcasts considered anti-Soviet from reaching the Caucasus. These included the BBC, Voice of America, Radio Liberty, Voice of Israel, Deutsche Welle, Vatican Radio, as well as those socialist outlets that were critical of the USSR, such as Albania’s Radio Tirana and China’s Radio Beijing.

Transmitter Station Number 5 was one of many secret, radio-jamming facilities throughout the USSR. Today, nearly 26 years after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, its past employees, still living in their original residences, are trapped in a time warp; their role as stalwart “guardians” against enemy propaganda now a thing of the past.

Mostly communication specialists and radio engineers by training, the station’s employees essentially lived in isolation. A single mailbox (Mailbox Number 22) was their only way to communicate with the outside world. Guards controlled access to their fenced-in workplace.

Although the workers were allowed to leave their settlement, they were not encouraged to do so. The settlement provided everything from a pre-school to a movie theater to ensure that the station’s employees had everything they needed without having to leave. They also were entitled to excursions and vacations several times a year -- all strictly supervised, yet free of charge

The settlement was isolated not only physically, but also politically. The station received orders directly from Moscow. According to former employees, most officials in Georgia were not even aware of its existence.

The employees followed a specific program schedule to jam the relevant radio broadcasts. In 1953, when Radio Liberty, a US government-funded broadcasting outlet targeting the Soviet Union, began operations and opened a Georgian-language service, the Soviet Union stepped up its game. The transmitter station started to serve not only as a censor, but also broadcast regular Soviet radio programs to Tbilisi-area audiences.

Under no circumstances were the employees supposed to listen to the “anti-Soviet” radio broadcasts they intercepted. Today, however, most of those still living at Transmitter Station Number 5 confess they yielded to the temptation.

Stations like Transmitter Station Number 5, however, managed to jam about 40 to 60% of Western radio broadcasts, estimated Ilia State University Professor Oleg Panfilov, who teaches the history of censorship and propaganda. Soviet-made shortwave radios, introduced in the 1960s, assisted the interference.

Nonetheless, information from Western radio broadcasts sometimes did manage to get through, recounted Panfilov, who recalls heading into the mountains of his native Tajikistan as a schoolboy to pick up the “enemy voices.”

Full story & some lovely images of old Salena radios at

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