Tuesday, December 06, 2011

Radio is the Real King of the Castle

The Koenigsberg-Kaliningrad Story

One of the great landmarks in the city of Koenigsberg for more than 700 years was its grand Castle. Construction of this monumental edifice began during the year 1257, soon after the city was founded by its early Prussian ancestors. Over the centuries, Koenigsberg Castle was enlarged and beautified, and it became the pride and honor of the city’s inhabitants.

During the year 1944, the city of Koenigsberg and its grand Castle were largely destroyed in aerial bombardment, and the last standing ruins were completely blown up 24 years later to make way for the modernization of the city. Today, all that is known about this once famous Castle is what is told about it in various forms of historical documentation.

The city itself was founded two years earlier than the Castle, in the year 1255. It became an important German city on the edge of the Baltic Sea, and it was at one stage the capital for the German state of Prussia. The city was taken over by the USSR on April 9, 1945, and during the following year, the name of the city was Russianized from the German Koenigsberg into Kaliningrad.

The surrounding territory, also known in earlier times as Koenigsberg, became the Kaliningrad Oblast, a province in the Russian Empire. However, in 1991, when several of the Russian states became independent, this left Kaliningrad separated from the mother country by more than 200 miles, with three or four independent countries in between.

Thus, Kaliningrad is described these days as a Russian exclave; that is, Kaliningrad is recognized as an integral part of Russia, though it is separated geographically from the main territory of Russia itself.

A major radio broadcasting station was established in Koenigsberg back more than half a century ago, a radio station that rivaled the Castle in importance. So, here in Wavescan today, this is the story of wireless & radio in Koenigsberg & Kaliningrad.

Back almost 100 years ago, a wireless communication station was established in old Koenigsberg, and this was identified on air in the German version of Morse Code with the two letters KO, remembering that there was an umlaut, 2 dots, over the letter O.

On June 14, 1924, the first radio broadcasting service was officially inaugurated in Koenigsberg, with 1½ kW on 462 metres, 650 kHz. This service was identified, not by callsign letters, but as Ostmarken Rundfunk. Because the city was important, so also was the radio station; and over the years, this grew in size, in programming and in equipment.

A second program channel was implemented in the early 1930s; and a 100 kW mediumwave transmitter was installed in 1937 for broadcast on 1031 kHz. At this stage, the 2nd channel was on the air with 2 kW on 1348 kHz. With the commencement of open hostilities in continental Europe in September 1939, it was stated that “a powerful broadcasting station was already on the air in Koenigsberg”.

During the following year, 1940, a new radio program was inaugurated over the main broadcasting system in Berlin; and in English, it was known as the “Radio Koenigsberg Program”, a nationwide broadcast indicating the national unity of the German territories. Soon afterwards, the production of this national program was transferred to the studios in Koenigsberg itself; and then in 1944, this program was transferred to Oslo in Norway.

In 1946, Koenigsberg Radio, or more accurately, Kaliningrad Radio now that the territory was part of the USSR, was listed with just 2½ kW on mediumwave 959 kHz. During the following year, the administration of Kaliningrad Radio was transferred from Kaliningrad itself to the major radio station located in Leningrad. Kaliningrad thus became simply an authorized relay station for Russian programming from the Russian motherland, with the mediumwave transmitter identified in Russian documents as RV129.

In 1953, a 135 kW Hungarian made mediumwave transmitter was installed at Kaliningrad and this was inaugurated on 1386 kHz as transmitter RV143. Eleven years later, a Tesla mediumwave transmitter was installed as RV 144. Interestingly, at this stage, the transmitters were physically located south of Kaliningrad city, though they were officially listed as Kaunus in Lithuania, some distance further north.

Then, in December 1974, a 2½ megawatt mediumwave transmitter was installed at what became a huge new transmitter site south of Sovetsk. This unit was described as the word’s most powerful mediumwave transmitter, made by Taifun, and it was heard on either 1116 or 1386 kHz.

At the same time, two Tesla shortwave transmitters at 20 kW were also installed at this new location. Soon afterwards, additional high powered shortwave transmitters were also installed at this location, rated at 50 100 & 250 kW. These units were in use as a relay facility for Radio Moscow programming, and also for jamming purposes.

When political circumstances in Europe changed and Russia dropped the jamming of incoming shortwave broadcasts, it is reported that a total of 30 jamming transmitters were removed from the Kaliningrad facility for installation at other locations throughout their country. It would be presumed that these transmitters were installed at their new locations for communication and broadcast usage.

During the year 1993, a tourist visited the massive Kaliningrad radio station, and he stated that the station is located a little north of the town of Bolshakovo. He described the massive mediumwave antenna system with three beams, each consisting of two parallel rows of four towers, each 850 feet tall. There was also a tall longwave tower, and a bevy of diamond shaped shortwave rhombic antennas.

In early 2006, this Kaliningrad radio station left the air on shortwave; and two years later, the mediumwave transmissions also left the air.

However, beginning in February 1995, international radio monitors noted the Kaliningrad station on air with the relay of programming from other international broadcasting stations on numerous occasions. In addition to the regular relay of programming from Radio Moscow, Radio Netherlands from Hilversum in Holland was noted first, with many others subsequently, including United Christian Broadcasters, BBC London, ABC Denmark, Voice of the Mediterranean, and lots of others as well.

These days, Kaliningrad radio at the Bolshakovo transmitter site is listed as follows:-
* European Longwave: 150 kW on 171 kHz
* Mediumwave: 50 kW on 549 kHz & 873 kHz, 150 kW on 1143 kHz, 1200 kW on 1215 kHz
* Shortwave: 9 transmitters at 80 kW

Numerous QSL cards from many organizations are known for the longwave, mediumwave and shortwave broadcasts via the Kaliningrad transmitters, including a picture card from Radio Netherlands showing the Kaliningrad facility.

Koenigsberg was noted for its grand Castle as an ancient landmark; and yes, in more recent time, another significant landmark was the massive radio station in Kaliningrad, verily one of the world’s largest.
(NWS 145 via Adrian Peterson)