Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Return to the Radio Scene in Albania: The Wartime Years

Ancient ruins of Albania (Gayle Van Horn QSL Collection)
Recent news reports in the international radio world inform us that the small European country of Albania finally closed its remaining medium wave and shortwave stations earlier this year.  Thus in Albania, all radio broadcasting stations throughout the country, numbering one hundred or more government and commercial stations, are now concentrated into the standard FM Band 2.  However, Radio Tirana shortwave is still on the air, via a new relay with the large American commercial shortwave station WRMI in Okeechobee Florida.
            In our program today, we present our third episode about the radio story in Albania, and on this occasion, we begin with the historic era of ancient times.
            Way back in the times of antiquity, the territory now known as Albania was traversed and settled by wandering tribal peoples coming in from the east.  Then next on the scene came the ancient Roman Empire, and they conquered and annexed Albania.
            Albanian history informs us that a colony of some 70 Christian families was established in the coastal town of Durres through the original ministry of St Paul in New Testament times; and two hundred years later, the entire territory was established in Christianity.  Islam came to Albania five hundred years later again.
            Politically speaking, the Kingdom of Albania was established in the year 1272, though two hundred years later again, the Ottoman Empire from Turkey took over the country.  In 1912, Albania declared its independence again, as a revived kingdom; in 1939 it was taken over by Italy; four years later it was taken over by Germany; and after the end of World War 2, the country was formed into a socialist republic.  In 1991, Albania officially became a republic.
            It was in April 1939 that Italy occupied Albania, and at that stage, there were just three broadcast transmitters on the air.  On mediumwave, Radio Tirana I (One) was noted with 10 watts on 1384 kHz with studios and transmitter in the Municipality Building on Rruga 28 Nentori in Tirana. 
            On shortwave, their scheduling, if listed correctly, showed two transmitters on the air in parallel,  6080 kHz and 7840 kHz, under the callsign ZAA.  These transmitters were originally installed in 1937 for the purpose of international radio communication in Morse Code, rather than for program broadcasting.  Their shortwave equipment was manufactured by Tesla in Prague Czechoslovakia; and their transmitter base was located at Laprake, in the military encampment on the edge of suburban Tirana, we would suggest.
            In July 1939, a few months after the Italian occupation, shortwave ZAA was heard in the South Pacific closing with the Italian National Anthem.  Interestingly, the callsign ZAA was retained, in spite of the fact that some had suggested earlier that maybe the callsign would be changed to an Italian call beginning with the letter I (eye). 
            Around that same time under the Italian occupation, an additional medium wave transmitter was co-installed in the Municipality Building.  This new unit was originally listed with a power of 1 kW, though apparently it was operated at only one quarter of that power level.  The new transmitter took over the programming and frequency of Tirana I on 1384 kHz, and the older 10 watt transmitter was moved to 1290 kHz as Tirana II (Two).
            After about a year of Italian occupation, or perhaps a little less, Radio Tirana was no longer reported as active on shortwave.  The final known listing was in August 1940, when Arthur Cushen in South New Zealand noted the station on 7850 kHz.  Apparently station ZAA as a program broadcaster lay silent for the remainder of the European Conflict. 
            When peace finally began to descend upon continental Europe again, Radio Tirana ZAA was noted on the air once more, and on the same shortwave channel 7850 kHz according to Arthur Cushen again.  That was early in the year 1946.  Apparently the original old Tesla equipment had been revived.
            Interestingly, all programming at this stage was in the Italian language, in spite of the fact that German forces had replaced the Italians two years earlier.
            Next time, growth and development in the radio scene in Albania.

            Reminder: Radio Tirana now on relay via WRMI