10 February 2010

Russian Radio On the Kitchen Wall

Try this today!

You can change much by subtracting a little.  Spend a weekend without radio.  Unplug the TV, music players, telephone, computer while you're at it.  How would life be in the quiet?

Radio, radio, on the wall...

Technology has had different effects in Russia.  Around half of Russian homes have a Three Program Radio (or Two or One Program) that gets just a few stations, often hanging in the kitchen above a small table.  A radio sounds better against a large wall, and also leaves space on the table.

Keeping the past partly alive...

A large majority of people over fifty miss the CCCP.  They still keep the Soviet ways, including  using a simple radio with station selection by buttons.  Our Мяак-202  radio is typical, with three white buttons and a red one for engaging electric power, which is required for the Mayack and Russeya stations.

Pushed in combinations you will here Radio Myack,
Радио МаякRadio Russeya, Радио Русское, and  RadioPeterburgh, Радио Сант Петербург... enough of a choice for the older generation. 

Ot Europe wins over Myack receivers...

Typical modern AM-FM radios are sold in many stores.  It is mainly the younger population that buy radios capable of receiving many stations.  But many people only listen to radio in their cars, preferring to keep the TV on throughout the evening.

The daughter and son-in-law, on moving into their apartment, got rid of the radio preomnik (receiver), and it's 20 ruble monthly charge, and bought a standard radio. Their generation, in its late 30's, is more interested in Ot Europe, Western apartment design, than in the world that fell apart when they were teenagers.

Alexander Stepanovich Papov, radio pioneer...

In Soviet times every good citizen knew about the contribution to radio science by  Alexander Stepanovich Papov.  In 1895 he completed distant ship to shore wireless telegraphy.  It was only in 1900 that the first speech transmission was accomplished by Reginald Fessenden, a Canadian working with Thomas Edison.

The metronome  said... We're still here !

In 1924 the Kremlin allowed manufacture of radio receivers, and Radio Peterburg came on the air.  It's sound signature during the Blockade was a metronome. This station played a heroic role in assuring the world that Leningrad had not fallen, some of its personnel dying of hunger while working at the station.

How many loafs of Russian black bread for one Myack ?

By 1972, when our Mяак-202 wall radio receiver was manufactured, Brezhnev and Nixon were leaders. Twenty rubles, the price stamped in the plastic radio case, now buys only a loaf of bread.  Bread by today's value of the ruble, was 100 times cheaper... less than 20 kopeks.  The monthly salary of an engineering graduate was around 100 rubles...  so these radios were expensive.

No power required!

What was Central Radio, our first button, is now Radio Russeya.  It doesn't require the red power button, but runs off a special wire installed in each apartment during building construction.   Some of the older population mistakenly thinks that radio electric use can be significant, and prefers to save by playing just this 'no power' station.

The radio set and the radio station have the same name...

Our wall radio set brand is Мяак-202, the same name as the second station available. This station began in 1964, as a light accompaniment to Radio Russeya.  Until a few years ago it had a mixed music format with an emphasis on high quality popular releases.  
Radio Myack  now has a talk and comedy format, with little music.  People call in, the participants shout and laugh, interrupt each other, and act similarly to those on an American morning radio show.  It can be funny, but it isn't a calm way to wake up.

Radio Russeya and Mayak have large networks.  Myack is connected using the second button.  Radio Russeya is the flagship station of the government media empire.  It is now a rather boring station, noted for its long winded nostrom commercials.

Our third button brings Radio Peterburg, previously Radio Leningrad. 
It plays pleasant music with intelligent comment, much like the old Myack, and it doesn't have commercials.

Not giving what could be dangerously-too-much information is a habit here...
The radio stations in Russia do not repeat frequencies often, so I have trouble remembering where to find Radio Chanson on our regular radio in the living room.  Less information is considered more in many walks of life.
With each year we all get older and people progressively drop off the stage.  When people remodel they often take down, or remove from the table, the old radio receiver, turning to the engaging but nervous BlackBerry, Twitter, and iPod of this generation.

The radio on the wall is a stimulator of 1970's nostalgia but, along with good and bad memories of Soviet life, it is gradually fading away.

We Love Comments!  Is life better now in Russia... or in your own country... than it was in 1972?  What's better and what's worse?

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