In the 1950s, the United States was broadcasting to the USSR (Soviet Union) by three different means: white, gray, and black:
· White: Voice of America.
· Gray: Radio Liberation (later Radio Liberty) in Munich.
· Black (Clandestine): “Our Russia” (Nasha Rossiya) from Greece, and also broadcasts over Radio Nacional de Espana in Madrid, Rome Radio, and Nationalist Radio on Formosa (Broadcasting Corporation of China - BCC).
Below we will look at the CIA’s clandestine radio station in Greece that broadcast in Russian over radio Nasha Rossiya (Our Russia). Russian language broadcasting from Madrid, Rome, and Formosa (Taiwan) will be examined in future blog postings.
In the 1950s, the CIAs Soviet Russia Division’ project for clandestine radio broadcasting in Russian had the cryptonym AECROAK; the name of the radio station was Nasha Rossiya (Our Russia).
Nasha Rossiya probably began shortwave broadcasting in 1954 – the exact date is not known. The 1955 book Broadcasting Stations of the World listed Nasha Rossiya as a clandestine station using the Russian language; the 1953 edition did not list it.
The programs were mostly tape recordings prepared by the CIA in the USA and pouched to Athens, Greece, for processing, before being sent to the PYREX transmitting site, or, in some cases, programs were prepared locally in Greece. Programs ran about 30 minutes.
In September 1957, shortwave broadcasts to the USSR aired 07:00 to 07:30 AM and to Berlin 9:30 to 10:00 PM. The total number of broadcast hours for the month was 784 with a total number of tape runs 1, 918. Interestingly, the jamming of the Nasha Rossiya broadcasts that had begun in 1954 was reduced so that Nasha Rossiya was free of jamming for almost one hour. In some cases, jamming began between 5 and 20 minutes after the broadcasts began or went off the air before the broadcasts ended. Nasha Rossiya began broadcasting “latest news and comments” programs that were locally prepared in Athens, and the tapes were then sent to the transmitting site for broadcasting Monday through Thursday. Locally prepared tapes were then sent on Friday for weekend broadcasts.
In December 1957, the broadcasts times and lengths were changed from one 30-minute broadcast at 9.30 PM on one transmitter and one frequency, to one 15-minute broadcast on two transmitters and two frequencies at 9:45 PM. The 15-minute format was considered ideal:
Because of the fact that most members of the potential audience cannot listen to foreign broadcasts frequently and openly, because of the fact that it will probably not be possible to avoid having substantial portions Of the program completely jammed, and because of the propaganda value which lies in the repetition of profitable and well developed themes, it is suggested that the program be no more than.15 minutes in length each day, and that it be repeated immediately after the first broadcast and as frequently as possible thereafter.
The total number of tapes runs was 1, 112 with the total number of broadcast hours at 761. News items prepared locally in Athens ran for 4 minutes. Some of the programs included:
· Khrushchev’s “refined” taste in clothing.
· Budapest, trial of General Maleter.
· Soviet distorted information and actual facts regarding the life of Negroes in the U.S.
· NATO Conference in Paris.
· Birth of Christ, and His influence on humanity in the course of nearly 2,000 years.
· Highlights of anti-Communist struggle during 1957.
Soviet Jamming had been reduced so that 113 broadcast hours of Nasha Rossiya were heard free of jamming.
According to the December 1957 status report, “The fact that AECROAK has been given so much transmitter time (760 hours: average per/month) must be attributed to the effect of Headquarters post-Hungarian Revolution policy calling for greater emphasis on Russian language propaganda directed to Great-Russian elements in the USSR.”
In February 1958, a CIA staffer wrote to the Chief of the Soviet Russia Division bemoaning the lack of information about clandestine radio broadcasts as well as lack of enthusiasm at CIA headquarters for black radio operations:
The weakest point of our radio activities has been almost complete lack of information regarding the degree of audibility and intelligibility of our broadcasts in the target areas, This uncertainty regarding the degree of penetration of Soviet jamming by our broadcasts has been responsible to a large degree for lack of enthusiasm toward our radio propaganda activities among Headquarters personnel. Consequently, radio propaganda has been demoted to the level of "marginal activities", with only a half-hearted effort being made to keep it going.
This situation undoubtedly pleases the Soviets to no end, as the determination and the fury with which they have been jamming our broadcasts in order to prevent them from being heard by the Soviet people proves quite conclusively that they have great fear for the effect these broadcasts may have on their people and their own fate if heard regularly.
In February 1958, the broadcast scripts prepared in Athens included:
· U.S Sputnik “Alpha 58.”
· Appeal to Soviet troops stationed in Romania in connection with peasants’ uprisings.
· Opposition to Ulbricht in East Germany’s Communist Party.
· Khrushchev’s speech in Minsk.
· Khrushchev’s grandiose plans covering the next 15 years.
· Soviet Army Day.
According to a KGB May 1959 report, for the month of April, “Programs of the radio station 'Nasha Rossiya' (Our Russia) were listened to primarily at night time from 22:35 - 04:45 … in the suburbs of Kiev, Tbilisi and such cities as Kamensk-Uralsk, Serpukhov, Minsk, Borisov, Smolensk, Mozhaysk, Klin and others.”
Jamming was a major issue for those involved in clandestine radio broadcasting, e.g., in July 1959, one CIA staffer wrote.
The big question has always been, however: are our broadcasts heard by a large enough number of people in the target areas to make the effort worthwhile? Or has the Soviet jamming system succeeded in preventing most of what we say in these broadcasts from reaching the ears of our potential listeners?
This question for a long time has been burning the minds of those of us who have been directly connected with our bleak radio activities and who have always believed in radio propaganda as one of the most powerful weapons against communism, while others simply wanted to know, is the whole thing worth the money it costs?
Nasha Rossiya programs were stopped for four weeks in October 1959 for analysis of its broadcasts. That month the responsible CIA unit for psychological operations proposed to phase out “black broadcasts to denied areas,” including “regular news programs to the USSR by October 31, 1959. Broadcasts of “fractional effort targeted at the USSR” were to continue, with “special broadcasts employing techniques, which only a clandestine station can use: the dubbing of recordings of regular Soviet programs with subtle anti-Soviet propaganda.
It is presumed that all broadcasts of Nasha Rossiya ceased in October 1959, or shortly thereafter, because Broadcast Stations of the World listed Nasha Rossiya as a clandestine station in Russian in the 1959 edition, but not in the 1960 edition.