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"Wavescan" is a weekly program for long distance radio hobbyists produced by Dr. Adrian M. Peterson, Coordinator of International Relations for Adventist World Radio. AWR carries the program over many of its stations (including shortwave). Adrian Peterson is a highly regarded DXer and radio historian, and often includes features on radio history in his program. We are reproducing those features below, with Dr. Peterson's permission and assistance.

Wavescan, February 21, 2010

Listener Request: Radio Broadcasting in Tajikistan - Part 1

A while back, one of our listeners in India, Neelakandan Visvanathan in Tamilnadu, sent us an email message containing a request. He stated that it is difficult to obtain adequate information about the radio broadcasting scene in the former Russian republics in Asia, and he requested that we present an up-to-date Station Profile on each of these countries.

This is an excellent suggestion, Neelakandan, and over a period of time, we will follow your suggestion. On this occasion, we present the first Station Profile in this short series on former Russian Republics in Asia, and we choose the new country, Tajikistan.

As the encyclopedias tell us, Tajikistan is a landlocked country, surrounded by five other countries: China, Afghanistan, and three of the other former Russian republics. This country is very mountainous, 93% actually, with mountain glaciers forming the source of all of their rivers.

In 1910 there was a major earthquake in Tajikistan and as a result a huge lake was formed, Lake Sarez. Even down to this day, there is a continuing fear that another earthquake will loosen the dam holding back the waters and massive flooding will take place.

Tajikistan is an irregularly shaped country 500 miles long with a total area of 55,000 square miles. The total population is around seven million and their capital city is Dushanbe with one million. During the earlier Russian era, the city was known as Stalinabad but in 1961 it was re-named Dushanbe which means Monday in their language, a reminder that their market day in olden times always fell on a Monday.

The early history of Tajikistan goes way back some 5,000 years to the era of its original settlers. This territory was once part of the ancient Persian Empire; and in successive eras, it was conquered by Alexander the Great, and then by the Arabs from neighboring territories, followed by the oriental Mongols, and then by Afghanistan.

In the 1860s, the territory of Tajikistan was claimed by Russia. In 1929, Tajikistan was granted full republic status under the Soviet Union, and at the time of the breakup of the Russian Empire, this republic, along with several others, declared its own independence on December 21, 1991.

The people themselves are known as Tajik, and they speak the Tajik language which is akin to Persian, and very closely related to other neighboring languages, including Dari in Afghanistan and Uzbek in Uzbekistan.

According to the Russian Encyclopedia, the first radio station in Tajikistan was launched in the year 1928. This would have been an experimental facility, which, it would appear, did not remain on the scene for very long.

However, two years later, the provincial government announced plans to formulate a radio broadcasting service, and two years later again the State Committee for Broadcasting was established. Their original radio broadcasting station was established in Dushanbe in 1933 under the Russian callsign RV47, and it was on the air with 2-1/2 kW on the longwave channel, 712 metres, corresponding to 420 kHz. Programming was broadcast for a couple of hours each day and it was presented in three languages, Russian, Tajik and Uzbek.

In Tajikistan, there are now three major radio transmitter stations. The oldest of these was constructed in 1933 and it is located in downtown Dushanbe, right next to the large Oktober Hotel. Transmitter Hall No. 1 in this double facility contains six mediumwave transmitters; 5 at 7 kW and one at 40 kW, all for local coverage. Transmitter Hall No. 2 contains five shortwave transmitters; 1 at 1 kW, 2 at 5 kW, and 2 at 20 kW, all for regional coverage, with communication traffic and broadcast programming.

The massive transmitter station located near Yangiyul, fifteen miles south of Dushanbe, was constructed during the Russian era and it originally contained eight Russian made shortwave transmitters at 100 kW each. Separate Transmitter Halls are located between the towers and antenna systems which extend over a distance of two miles. In addition, there were three other transmitters; 1 at 50 kW and one at 150 kW for use on mediumwave, as well as the 150 kW longwave unit.

Currently, it is estimated that eight of these transmitters; one longwave, two mediumwave and five shortwave; are all in active on-air usage.

The newest transmitter site is located at Orzu near Kolkozabad, some 60 miles south of Dushanbe. This super powered site was constructed in 1971, and it contains a bevy of transmitters and antenna systems. On mediumwave, there were two transmitters at 1 megawatt each, as well as one at 150 kW and one at 40 kW. On shortwave, there were four transmitters at 500 kW each, and these could be operated at half power, or they could be combined in pairs to radiate one megawatt on shortwave channels.

In addition to the three massive transmitter complexes just described, there are currently three additional regional locations, each with its own mediumwave transmitter, thus ensuring nationwide coverage of their country from the one central location in Dushanbe.

All of the programming from the multitude of radio broadcast transmitters throughout Tajikistan is produced and co-ordinated at the studio complex located in Dushanbe. This is a seven story blue building that looks like a Russian theatre in its design.

Programming for nationwide coverage is presented in two networks, TR1 and TR2. Translated into English, the titles of these two networks would read, Radio Tajikistan National Network and the Voice of Dushanbe. This programming is presented in three languages, Tajik, Uzbek and Russian. In addition, nationwide relays from Radio Moscow are also heard throughout the country.

As a back up for their longwave and mediumwave coverage during the past more than half a century, shortwave has also been in use. Originally a pair of 25 kW transmitters were inaugurated on two separate channels, though these were subsequently replaced with 50 kW units. For a long period of time these two units were heard on 4635 and 4975 kHz. These days, one channel is still apparently in use, 4635 kHz.

It should also be stated that television was introduced into Tajikistan in 1959, and the first known FM stations were installed around 1993. In recent time, locally owned FM stations have been permitted to go on the air in various parts of Tajikistan.

Well, that’s as far as we can go in Part 1 with the story of Radio Broadcasting in Tajikistan, but remember, we are planning to present Part 2 of this interesting information in Wavescan next week.

In the Air with Many Locations & Many Callsigns - Part 2

On this occasion, we go back to the year 1934 as we trace the very interesting story of a set of radio broadcasting equipment that was on the air in many different circumstances and in many different locations. In our story today, we now assemble a brief outline of several feature topics presented recently here in Wavescan, and we show the connection between each of these historic radio events. We begin with what was described at the time as a light, compact radio transmitter that was designed and built specifically for installation in a high flying balloon.

During the space race between the United States and Russia back some eighty years ago, a small light weight radio transmitter was installed in a small gondola suspended beneath a high flying stratosphere balloon. The date was July 28, the year was 1934, and the location was near Rapid City, South Dakota.

Test broadcasts were made in advance from this 8 watt transmitter on 13050 kHz under the callsign W10XCX. The balloon did fly high, almost a record height at the time, but a tear in the balloon’s fabric brought about a rapid descent, with the three-man crew bailing out and landing safely with their parachutes, and the gondola crashing into the ground.

The radio transmitter that was in use high in the sky was rescued, repaired and rebuilt, and it was used in the next balloon flight at the same location one and half years later. On November 11, 1935, with the equipment and crew sealed into a newly designed gondola, the balloon did achieve a new record altitude, some fourteen miles high.

The rebuilt transmitter, with the same 8 watts output on the same channel 13050 kHz was on the air under a new callsign, this time W10XFH. It should be noted that QSL cards were issued by NBC in New York to verify reception reports on this specific occasion.

After this successful high altitude flight, the electronic equipment was taken from the gondola and incorporated into other equipment to form a 100 watt shortwave transmitter that was installed into a brand new airplane, the China Clipper, for the inaugural flight across the Pacific. The callsign for this broadcast transmitter was now WOEH. The China Clipper set out on November 22, 1935 for an eight day flight, hopping from island to island with an overnight stay at each island.

Several broadcasts were made from station WOEH during this historic event, from such exotic locations as Midway Island and Wake Island. Additional broadcasts were also made while the plane was in the air in between the islands, including a progress report that was intended for rebroadcast from the well known mediumwave station in Manila, KZRM. The National Broadcasting Company, NBC, provided two men for these broadcasts from the China Clipper, an engineer and an announcer.

Early in the following year, 1936, the 100 watt transmitter, WOEH, was installed into another airplane for another historic flight, this time with the well known Howard Hughes as pilot. The flight on this occasion was from Los Angeles, up to Nome in Alaska, over to Siberia, and return.

Later in the same year, transmitter WOEH was taken on yet another historic flight, this time across the Atlantic to Paris, with again Howard Hughes as the pilot.

In the meantime, there was another RCA shortwave transmitter that was installed in the ship Seth Parker for broadcast usage as KNRA during a world tour beginning in 1934. After several mishaps in the Pacific, the Seth Parker was sold and the 1 kW transmitter was removed.

In the next development, all of the previously mentioned electronic equipment was taken again and this time it was assembled into a much larger shortwave transmitter, now weighing five tons and rated at 1 kW. This unit was taken to Honolulu and installed onto a small naval ship that was used as an aircraft tender.

The purpose this time was to relay radio broadcasts from the Pacific back to the United States during a major eclipse of the sun in the year 1937. The ship was the Avocet, the transmitter callsign was WMEF, the location in the Pacific was Canton Island, the in-between relay station was RCA in Hawaii, and the ultimate reception station was RCA in California.

On all of these above occasions, the major purpose for the usage of the little transmitter that grew and grew on each occasion of its usage, was to feed news reports and commentaries back to the NBC in New York for relay on mediumwave across the United States. However, on each occasion, as was quite common in those days, a secondary purpose for these broadcasts was for direct reception on shortwave for any listener who might be interested.

After the solar eclipse in the Pacific, the transmitter was taken back to the continental United States, and placed in storage. However, five years later, this huge five ton transmitter was taken out of storage, renovated, and taken over to North Africa.

Then, in August 1943, it was transported to the island of Sicily in the Mediterranean where it was set up and placed on the air in the city of Syracuse. Shortly afterwards, it was re-loaded onto a ship and taken to Bari on the west coast of Italy, where it was then taken by road across the Italian peninsula to the city of Naples and placed on the air again.

In its onward journeys, this transmitter was finally taken to the city of Rome, where it was placed on the air as a temporary shortwave relay station for the Voice of America. By this time, this transportable radio broadcasting station was nicknamed as Relic, due to its age and size.

So, that is the story of a shortwave radio broadcasting station that started life as a small light weight portable unit at 8 watts for use in a high flying balloon in an isolated country area in the United States in 1934, and it grew larger and larger until it ended its life as a huge 1 kW unit in a distant country eleven years later. Here is a list of its many parts and its many travel adventures:

1934 & 1935 South Dakota 8 watts 2 high flying balloons W10XCX & W10XFH
1935 & 1936 Pacific & Atlantic 100 watts 3 different airplanes WOEH
1934 & 1935 Atlantic & Pacific 1 kW Ship Seth Parker KNRA
1937 Pacific Island 1 kW Ship Avocet WMEF
1942-1945 Sicily & Italy 1 kW Relay station VOA

So, what happened to this historic transmitter afterwards? We don't know, but we would presume, and probably correctly so, that the Relic was just simply abandoned in the city of Rome.