February 24, 2011

RFE's "Voice of Free Albania"

It is not generally known that Radio Free Europe (RFE) broadcast to Albania, as the "Voice of Free Albania," from June 1, 1951 to September 30, 1953. If at all mentioned in the histories of RFE, Albanian broadcasts are usually mentioned in the footnotes. Below is a short look into Radio Free Europe and Albania in the early 1950s.

At the regular monthly meeting of National Committee for a Free Europe (NCFE) board of directors on July 20, 1950, it was resolved to increase the 1950-1951 budget of the National Councils Division by $60,000 for "support of the National Committee for Free Albania." 

In a November 20, 1951, U.S. Government National Intelligence Estimate (NIE-42), on the situation in Albania, it was written, "Among the Albanian emigre resistance movements the Committee for a Free Albania, an affiliate of the National Committee for a Free Europe, with operational headquarters in Rome is perhaps the most influential." 

In announcing the inaugural broadcast on June 1, 1953, FE's press release said, "It will warn Albanians of new 'security' measures planned by the Kremlin's MVD police and further advise: 'Be cautious, my friends, be patient.'"

By 1953, Radio Free Europe had 20 short-wave transmitters and one medium-wave transmitter. Three transmitters were used intermittently to broadcast to Romania, Bulgaria and Albania.

Albania was included in early Crusade for Freedom campaigns for Radio Free Europe. For example, the 1952 Crusade opened on November 11, 1952, with a national goal of $4,000,000 and signatures of millions of Americans on "Freedom-Grams" in a telegram format that would be sent over the Iron Curtain. 

On the backside of the "Freedom-Gram," this message was translated into Albanian, Czech, Slovak, Polish, Hungarian, Romanian, and Bulgarian:

Do you listen to Radio Free Europe?  I hope you do, for I am one of millions of American citizens who has voluntarily contributed to build these stations, which bring Truth to you who are deprived of it.

In America millions voluntarily pray for an understanding between our peoples. Please add your prayers to ours. Surely our common faith in God is the place where hope for freedom begins.


Note to Contributors: Replies to this Freedom-Gram may be received in a foreign language. If you should be unable to translate them, free translations may be obtained by forwarding the letters to Crusade for Freedom c/o your local Postmaster

Eventually six million Americans signed the "Freedom-Grams," which were then sent to West Germany for inclusion in the balloons provided by the Free European Press.

RFE ceased broadcasting on September 30, 1953, primarily because it was not cost-effective broadcasting to a country that, according to a UNESCO report, only had an estimated nine-thousand radios in a population of one-and-a-half million.

RFE's "Voice of Free Albania" should not be confused with "Radio Free Albania," which has been described as, "Ostensibly run on behalf of the National Committee for a Free Albania (NCFA), the station was part of the CIA's operation BGFRIEND to depose the pro-Soviet Enver Hoxha. It was broadcast from Athens with a staff of 5-to-6 Albanian exiles from three main and sometimes conflicting opposition parties..."

On March 9, 1999, RFE/RL began Albanian language short-wave broadcasting to Albanians in Kosovo, not to Albania. Today RFE/RL's Albanian language programs to Kosovo can be heard as part of its Balkan Service programs via Radio (FM, Satellite) and Internet (3 separate websites in 6 languages). For more information on the Albanian broadcasts, visit http://www.evropaelire.org 

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