Wednesday, December 12, 2012

100 Years of Wireless in Bulgaria

Part 1- The Wireless Era

The South East European nation of Bulgaria is located in the heart of what is sometimes called the Balkan Peninsula.  As the tourist brochure states, Bulgaria is a territory of 111,000 square kilometers (43,000 square miles) and it is washed by the flowing waters of the Blue Danube in the north, and by the splashing waves of the Black Sea in the east.  High rugged mountain ranges are found to the west, and wide plains & verdant valleys to the south.     

            The tourist brochure goes on to tell us that the Black Sea was known in ancient times as “Pontus Euxinos”, the “Friendly Sea”, with an average of 280 sunny days each year.  The clean blue water is without ebb & flow, the salt content is quite low, and there is a gradual slope from the beach into deeper waters.  It is said that the Black Sea derives its name from the fact that heavy fogs in the winter time occasionally make the waters appear black.

            The main beach resort on the edge of the Black Sea in Bulgaria is Golden Sands, and if you could see across to the far coastline 700 miles distant, you would catch your first glimpse of the western edge of Asia. 

            The entire country of Bulgaria is just 300 miles across from east to west, and 170 miles from north to south, with a total population of around 8 million people.  The capital city Sofia is both ancient & modern, and it is located rather near to the western border with Serbia.

            The history of Bulgaria goes way back into antiquity, and the first settlers were the Thracians, who migrated into the area some 3,000 years ago.  The territory was conquered by Alexander the Great; it was absorbed into the old Roman Empire; and the Slavic & Bulgar peoples moved in around 1500 years ago.  History tells us that the 1st Bulgarian kingdom was established in the year 681 AD. 

            Bulgaria remained neutral, at the beginning of World War 1; and a quarter century later, it was heavily involved in World War 2.  The Russians came in on September 8, 1944, though Bulgaria has subsequently become a parliamentary democracy.

            Bulgaria is famous for its flower gardens containing the Bulgarian Rose, which is the country’s national flower.  The delightfully unique Bulgarian Rose is shown as a national emblem on one of the  QSL cards issued by Radio Sofia more than half a century ago.

            These pretty flowers may be seen everywhere in Bulgaria, and you may breath its fragrance in the commercial gardens in the Valley of the Roses, which is located in central Bulgaria.  Bulgaria produces 80% of the world’s Rose Oil.

            Bulgaria is also noted for its pretty folk music.  Perhaps you might like to listen to this appealingly delightful folk music from Bulgaria.

Wireless in Bulgaria is now 100 or more years old.  It was in the year 1896 that the first wireless equipment was imported into Bulgaria for experimental use by the national Post Office and by the Bulgarian Army.  It would appear that this equipment could have been a mixture of items, maybe from England &/or Germany &/or Russia.   
            However, it was during the year 1903 that the Bulgarian army assembled a set of wireless equipment and made the 1st known wireless transmissions in their country.  The location for this historic wireless event was at a military encampment near Sofia, their national capital.  
            It was during the year 1911 that wireless equipment was installed aboard the 13 year old torpedo gunboat, the “Nadezhda” in the Black Sea.  During the following year, 1912, the “Nadezhda” made wireless contact with the very new wireless station located in the military encampment at Franga, near Varna, close to the Black Sea coast.  That major wireless development took place exactly 100 years ago.
            The original callsign of this land based radio station was FRG, an abbreviation of its location name, Franga, and even way back then this station was available to the general public for the transmission of wireless telegrams in Morse Code.  At this time, 1912, the Franga-Varna station is listed as the only wireless station in the entire nation of Bulgaria.
            When international callsigns were allocated a few years later, the wireless station at Franga was granted the callsign LZP.  However, in more recent time, the maritime radio station at Varna has identified on air under the callsign VZW.   
            During the year 1914, a new wireless station was installed at Sofia; and soon afterwards, 3 additional wireless stations were installed in areas nearby to Sofia.
            In 1926, the government called for tenders for the erection of a modern radio station in the Sofia area and this contract was awarded to the Marconi Company at Chelmsford in England.  This new communication station was ready for on air usage in 1929, and one of the three transmitters was a longwave unit for use in Morse Code & voice transmission, on the longwave channel 105 kHz.
            And that’s as far as we go in the Bulgarian wireless & radio scene today; and next month, we plan to present the story of early radio broadcasting in Bulgaria.
(AWR Wavescan/NWS198 via Adrian Peterson)