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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, September 18, 2011

Radio Afghanistan Returns to the Air on Shortwave - 1: Early Mediumwave

Recent reports from international radio monitors living in Asia, Europe, North America and the South Pacific indicate that Radio Afghanistan has returned to the air on shortwave. This is an interesting new development, and so today we take a look once again at the radio scene in this western Asian country of Afghanistan. Since we last wrote about the radio scene in Afghanistan, lots of information about which we were previously unaware has become available, and so here in Part 1, we take a look at the very early mediumwave scene in that part of the world.

The encyclopedia tells us that Afghanistan, the "Land of the Afghan" as the name means, is a landlocked country of great mountains, scorching deserts, fertile valleys and rolling plains in western Asia. It is an ancient country 1,000 miles long and 500 miles wide, bordered by six other countries, with a total population around 30 million made up of 20 ethnic groups and tribes.

Old Afghanistan was an important trading point on the ancient Silk Road leading from China to the Middle East and Europe. During that era, the city of Balkh in northern Afghanistan was the capital of the territory, Bactria and the city was so large that a traveler from China stated that its habitations extended for 20 miles. The massive, impressive ruins of Balkh show a huge, grand almost circular mud wall many miles in length. This city was destroyed a thousand years ago in an orgy of death and destruction perpetrated by 100,000 horsemen under the leadership of Genghis Khan from Mongolia.

Among the places of tourist interest in times past were the huge Buddhist statues carved into the mountain side at Bamiyan, the timeless ruins of once inhabited cities, and museum displays of relics from old societies. The 1-1/2 mile long Salang Tunnel running between the capital city Kabul and the northern border is so high and the air so rarified at more than 12,000 ft. altitude, that motor car engines do not run properly.

Many of the semi-precious jewels that embroider the Taj Mahal at Agra in India were mined in the eastern mountains of Afghanistan. The Buzkashi games in Kabul are a form of polo played on horse back using the head of a calf, instead of a sports ball.

Religion has always played an important part in the life cycle of the Afghan people, and many and varied have been the forms of their religions. Historians tell us that Zoroaster, the founder of the Persian religion, Zoroastrianism, was actually born in Balkh in Afghanistan, and he was killed there at the end of an illustrious life during a nomadic invasion. Zoroaster was approximately contemporary with the Biblical prophet Daniel who served in neighboring Persia during the 600s BC. Subsequently, Buddhism flourished in Bactria, and Islam entered almost a thousand years later.

Although neither Afghanistan nor Bactria are mentioned by name in the Bible, yet that territory played a significant part in ancient Biblical events. Bactria was one of the 127 provinces listed in the ancient Persian Empire, Alexander the Great from Greece marched through the territory and married a beautiful princess from a nearby country, and the doubting disciple Thomas traversed from Palestine through Bactria on his way to South India.

It was back in the year 1925 that the first tentative plans were laid for the introduction of radio broadcasting in Afghanistan. Two mediumwave transmitters from Telefunken in Germany were imported with the intent of establishing one in Kabul and the other in Kandahar. These transmitters lay unused for three years, due to the lack of technical expertise in the country, and also to the fact that there were very few receivers in Afghanistan anyway.

In 1928, one transmitter was installed in the King's Palace in Kabul, and spasmodic program broadcasting began on the standard mediumwave channel 360 m., 833 kHz. Initially, 30 crystal set receivers were distributed around the capital city area, and soon afterwards, another 1,000 were distributed in the surrounding country areas. However, due to a local uprising during the following year, this new radio station together with the primitive studio were destroyed. The other transmitter was never installed at Kandahar due to local disturbances down there.

However, two years later, a new king made arrangements for the purchase of a 100 kW Telefunken-Siemens mediumwave transmitter from Germany. This unit actually rated at 25 kW, was installed in cages on the 2nd floor of a new transmitter building on the eastern edge of Kabul at Yakatut, on the north side of the highway running towards the famed Khyber Pass. In the latter part of its life, it was on the air on 660 kHz for 5 hours each Thursday evening only, with a power output of just 15 kW.

An additional 20 kW mediumwave transmitter was ordered from Telefunken in Germany during the year 1938. This equipment was transported via British India, arriving in Kabul by camel caravan in December 1939, four months after the outbreak of World War II.

This new unit was installed on the ground floor of the same transmitter building at Yukatut. Initially, three different low end mediumwave channels were tried, and eventually it was considered that 675 kHz gave the best reception. The new Radio Kabul was officially inaugurated from their new downtown studios by the king at 7:30 am on August 28, 1940, their national day.

On this occasion, 500 crystal set receivers were sold to listeners in Kabul, with subsequent distribution in country areas. In addition, community receivers with loud speakers were installed in local bazaars and in country villages.

In 1964, a new set of studios and offices in a new two story building were inaugurated at Ansari Watt, on the short highway running out to the airport, and the downtown studio building was turned into a training center for Radio Afghanistan. A 3rd mediumwave transmitter, a 25 kW unit from BBC Switzerland, was installed on the ground floor in the transmitter building at Yakatut, replacing the 30 year old German unit.

During the Russian invasion, beginning in 1979, it appears that each of the units in the radio broadcasting system in Afghanistan was either damaged or destroyed.

However, comes the month of March in the year 1994, and it appears that all three radio buildings, the original downtown studios, the new studio building at Ansari Watt, and the transmitter building at Yakatut, were destroyed in fighting during the early part of the Russian invasion.

When we take up the Afghanistan story again, we will present the information regarding early shortwave broadcasting in that troubled country.

The World's Newest Country: The Radio Story in the new South Sudan - Part 2

The world's newest independent country is just 10 weeks old. It is a landlocked country in Africa surrounded by six other countries, and it has no coastal seaport of its own. This new country, currently known as South Sudan, was formed from the southern part of what was previously the combined country of Sudan.

The northern and central areas of South Sudan are described as wide sweeping plains, merging into tropical jungle regions in the south, with also a very large area of marshy swamplands. This new nation is divided into ten states within three major historic regions.

The total population of the new South Sudan is estimated at around 8 million, with somewhere around 200 different ethnic groups, with just about as many different languages. Their capital city is Juba, which is also their largest city, and it was previously the capital for the state of Equatoria under the combined Sudan.

It is stated that African tribes were already established in south Sudan a thousand years ago. European intervention began in 1896 when a colonial expedition from Belgium claimed regency in a major part of the area. However, three years later, England and Egypt claimed control of the total Sudan, and six years later again, Belgium transferred control of her claimed area to the British. Then it was just 10 weeks ago, on Saturday, July 9, that the southern areas of Sudan were split off from the parent country, and this area became its own independent entity as South Sudan.

The earliest wireless stations in south Sudan were established a little before, and after, the international events of World War I. At least four spark wireless stations were installed during that era: station WWR at Wau, AKR at Adobo, MLR at Malakal, and MGR at Mongalla.

The first radio broadcasting service for south Sudan began in 1961 as a series of radio programs that were on the air from the head office of the national broadcasting service in the northern twin cities, Khartoum/Omdurman. This daily series of radio programming was on the air for an hour each afternoon under the title in English, Program Service for South Sudan. At the time, no broadcasting stations were on the air in the territory now known as South Sudan, and in order to give coverage in the south, existing mediumwave and shortwave stations in the north carried this program relay.

The first known radio broadcasting station in the south was inaugurated as a regional station in January 1964, in the Equatoria state capital, Juba. According to the noted Arthur Cushen in New Zealand, this was a shortwave station with a rated output of just 1 kW, and it was assigned the 49 metre band channel 6075 kHz.

Radio Juba shortwave was on the air for just one hour daily in Arabic and English, with extra programming on Fridays and Sundays. Apparently this station survived for only a very short life span, as there are no known logging reports on the part of international radio monitors, and the station was never listed in the World Radio TV Handbook.

Beginning in the year 1990, the first of a total of at least nine irregular and clandestine radio broadcasting stations took to the air. Some of these stations were located in the area of south Sudan or nearby, whereas others were on the air as a relay service from some of the large and well known international shortwave stations. Several of these clandestine stations are known to have changed their names on more than one occasion.

The first irregular station for south Sudan was inaugurated in the year 1990 and it was on the air under the identification announcement, the Voice of Sudan. This station pretended to be located at Kassala in south Sudan, whereas in reality it was actually located at Asmara in nearby Eritrea. This was a 10 kW transmitter heard on several channels over a period of time, usually in the 6 and 7 MHz region of the shortwave spectrum. This station has been off the air now for half a dozen years.

Interestingly, two different shortwave stations were located near Narus, in the Nuba Mountains of south Sudan. These two stations were located at less than one mile apart.

Station Radio Peace was inaugurated in January 2003 with two shortwave transmitters; a 1 kW unit, and another running at 4 kW. This station was closed six years later for transfer into the new national capital, Juba.

The other shortwave station near Narus in the Nubia Mountains was a political station known as the Voice of the New Sudan. A 50 kW Elcor transmitter from Costa Rica was installed and a three day series of test broadcasts was radiated with just 7 kW on 9310 kHz, beginning on July 19, 2004. However, a strike of lightning permanently disabled the station, though local personnel subsequently maintained the transmitter for possible future usage.

Beginning in November of the year 2000, a total of half a dozen international shortwave broadcasters have been on the air with programming beamed into what are now the two Sudans. The head office location of these stations has been in the United States, London, Holland and Kenya. The transmitter sites for these relay broadcasts have been Rimavska Sobota in Slovakia, on the island of Madagascar, and also from BBC shortwave transmitters in England and elsewhere.

Two of these program sources have been provided by USAID in the United States, two from the BBC in London, one from the United Nations, and another from a Christian organization in Holland. During the past eleven years, these program relays have been on the air shortwave for a few hours each day under station identifications, such as Radio Nile, Sudan Radio Service, and Radio Darfur and Radio Dabanga. Another radio service which is very popular in Sudan on FM, and which has also been on the air shortwave, is Radio Miraya; and the name Miraya means mirror in the local Arabic language.

Current Radio Scene in South Sudan

Now that South Sudan is independent, the question remains: What radio stations are actually on the air in this newly independent country in Africa? Various sources have made various statements in this matter, and some statements contain what appears to be incorrect information. In analyzing and checking various references, this is what appears to be the current radio situation in South Sudan.

On Shortwave: Currently, it appears that there are no shortwave stations on the air in South Sudan. It is probable that the South Sudan government is giving serious consideration to the installation of a shortwave service from their capital city, Juba. That being said, we should remember that Peace Radio was previously on the air shortwave at Narus in South Sudan, and they have moved their equipment to the capital city, Juba. Perhaps they will re-inaugurate a shortwave service at this new location.

On Mediumwave: Currently, it is understood, there are four mediumwave stations on the air in South Sudan, and these are:

City State kHz kW Began Information
Juba Central Equatoria 829 10 1977 Now at 100 kW
Malakal Upper Nile 909 5 2005
Wau Western Bahr 1071 5 2005
Bentiu Unity Details not known

On FM: The World Radio TV Handbook states that there are FM stations on the air in most of the ten state capitals.

QSLs: Not too much is known about the situation regarding QSLs from the radio stations that are actually on the air within the territory of South Sudan, and there appears to be no known QSLs up until the present time.