Thursday, November 14, 2013

One Hundred Years Wireless & Radio in Bulgaria

The International Clandestine Scene

The long and interesting story of radio broadcasting in Bulgaria would hardly be complete without the inclusion of details regarding clandestine radio stations beaming their programming into Bulgaria from other locations.  Our story today goes back to the turbulent era of World War 2, and in particular, to the year 1940.
            Researcher Ellic Howe in England informs us in his fascinating book “The Black Game” that there were two hundred or more clandestine radio broadcasting stations on the air in Europe during World War 2.  Most of these mysterious and enigmatic radio stations were established by the British and the Americans, though Germany and Russia also had their small share of clandestine voices in the radio spectrum.  At one stage for example, in May 1940, the British were on the air with a total of 48 clandestine stations, all from the same set of studios at Woburn, some forty miles north from London. 
            Right towards the end of the year 1940, the British authorities began a series of clandestine radio broadcasts beamed to several countries in Europe in their own languages.  These broadcasts were on the air from the covert radio station in Palestine, Sharq al Adna, with its studios in Jerusalem and the transmitters on the Mediterranean coast near Jaffa.  
            The initial broadcasts of this surreptitious programming specifically beamed on shortwave to Bulgaria in the Bulgarian language were inaugurated in August 1941 under the title, Radio Free Bulgaria.  It is probable that the Bulgarian programming was carried by all four shortwave transmitters in parallel as was the usual procedure adopted by Sharq al Adna.  However, because the transmitter power was rated at only 7½ kW, the coverage into Bulgaria was inadequate, and a stronger signal was needed.
            At this stage, the British authorities were establishing another covert radio operation in Cairo Egypt for the purpose of broadcasting surreptitious programming across the Mediterranean to the many countries in and near southern Europe.  The broadcasts in the Bulgarian language from Sharq al Adna Radio were transferred to Radio Cairo early in the year 1942, and at least four transmitters carried the programming.  These transmitters were:-
                        Cable & Wireless        Abu Zaabal      SUV    10 kW       Shortwave
                                                                                    SUW   10             Shortwave
                                                                                                20             620 kHz mediumwave
                        BFBS                          Cairo               JCJC   7½           Shortwave 

            It is true that the 10 kW power level in use by the shortwave transmitters near Cairo was only a little more than the 7½ kW in Palestine, yet the signal reception in Bulgaria was indeed significantly improved.  Perhaps it was the location as well as the antenna beams at Abu Zaabal that provided an enhanced signal into Bulgaria.  
            These clandestine radio broadcasts from Radio Free Bulgaria, and its associated title, Radio Vasil Levski, came to an end in mid January 1944.
            On July 2, 1943, another British clandestine operation beamed towards Bulgaria was inaugurated under the name, The Voice of New Europe.  This station pretended to be a German operation, with the station in Germany itself.  However, though the exact transmitter location is these days unknown, yet it is quite clear that it was not located in Germany.  This station was on the air for exactly one year and two weeks; the final broadcast was aired on July 15, 1944.
            In March 1944, after the allied forces had fought their way into Italy from the south, clandestine programs were broadcast from the powerful prewar Italian station located at Bari on the peninsular east coast.  Freedom Radio, as this station was called, was on the air in six languages, including Bulgarian.
            The well known American shortwave station in Europe, Radio Free Europe made its inaugural broadcast from a mobile facility at Lampertheim in Germany on July 4, 1950.  Subsequent transmitter bases were established elsewhere in Germany, and also in Spain and Portugal.
            Programming in the Bulgarian language, under the title Radio Free Bulgaria, went on the air from Radio Free Europe during the following year, 1951, on August 11.  These transmissions were looked upon at the time as being clandestine.
            During the 1950s, two shortwave stations were on the air in Greece with covert programming beamed into Bulgaria.  These two stations were located in a large American military encampment at Kiphisia, a dozen miles north of Athens. 
            Radio Goryanin (The Mountain Man) was inaugurated on April 1, 1951 with half hour broadcasts in the 6 MHz band.  The exact frequency was changed every few minutes to avoid jamming transmissions.  The broadcasts from Radio Goryanin were on the air for 11½ years and the closing broadcast took place on November 30, 1962.           
            A similar clandestine station located at the same American base in Greece was noted on the air in the 7 MHz band during the year 1956.  This station identified on air as Radio Christo Botev, in honor of an early Bulgarian hero.
            It should be said also, that the German authorities established their own subversive radio broadcasting stations during the same era.  For example, Radio Danube was on the air to Bulgaria in the Bulgarian language, claiming to be located in Bulgaria itself.  However, it is known that this clandestine operation was centered in Vienna Austria.
            Another similar German station was on the air during the war years under the slogan, Radio Military Transmitter.  This station, also on the air in the Bulgarian language, claimed to be located in Bulgaria, though it is known that the actual location was in Belgrade, Yugoslavia.
            Perhaps we can close this topic today with information regarding jamming transmitters in Bulgaria.  Back in the year 1951, a whole network of small low power (mainly shortwave) transmitters was established throughout Bulgaria, usually nearby to the larger cities. 

            Then thirty years later for example, it was noted that Bulgaria was already jamming broadcasts on shortwave in the Bulgarian language from several international broadcasting stations, including Deutsche Welle, Vatican Radio, Radio Free Europe, as well as the Voice of Greece and the Voice of Turkey.  However, Bulgaria ended jamming transmissions against most of these international broadcasters in their language, on December 21,1988.
(AWR Wavescan/NWS 246)