Home | Back to Wavescan Index

"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, November 13, 2011

Radio Afghanistan Returns to the Air on Shortwave - 3: The Russian Era

It was on Christmas Eve, December 24, 1979, that Russian forces swarmed into Afghanistan for an occupation stint that lasted close on ten years. During their time of occupation, Russian personnel supervised all radio broadcasting activity in Afghanistan; and in addition, program relays from Afghanistan were carried by shortwave transmitters located in several of the Russian republics. This is what happened.

According to the astute Victor Goonetilleke in Colombo, Sri Lanka, shortwave stations in the USSR began to carry a relay of programming from Radio Afghanistan some time soon after mid year 1979. Victor states that two channels were in use, 15255 kHz and 17720 kHz, and at this stage, they were carrying an off air relay of the Domestic Service from Kabul.

The equally knowledgable Bob Padula in Australia states that these initial shortwave broadcasts were on the air from Syzran with 120 kW and Tula with 100 kW. The World Radio TV Handbook for the year 1980 lists two channels in use, Tula on 15305 kHz and Zhugulevsk on 11715 kHz, together with their map co-ordinates.

The BBC Monitoring Service states at this time, that two feeder transmitters located at Kabul were in use for the relay of programming from Kabul to Russia, and these were noted in USB, upper side band, on 10457.25 kHz and 19367.25 kHz. We would conclude that these two feeder transmitters, rated at probably 20 kW each, were located in the communication transmitter building, adjacent to the mediumwave transmitter building, on the eastern edge of Kabul and north of the highway running towards the Khyber Pass.

From this assembled information, we would conclude then, that for the first couple of years, the relay of Home Service programming from Kabul was broadcast live on two channels by shortwave stations in the Russian Federation, and these transmitters were located at Tula, south of Moscow, with 100 kW and at Syzran-Zhugelevsk near Samara with 120 kW. The programming was fed from Kabul to Russia via the two feeder transmitters at Yakatut, near Kabul.

A few months after the Russian shortwave stations began to relay the programming from Kabul, Russian forces streamed into the country, and soon took over the control of all of the radio stations. At this stage, the radio stations were still on the air, largely unaffected by the nearby warfare.

At this time the original downtown studio building was in use for staff training, the modern new studio building was located at Ansari Watt on the highway out to the airport, and the transmitter building was located at Yakatut. At this stage, just three shortwave transmitters were in active broadcast usage, 10 kW, 50 kW and 100 kW.

However, two years later, news reports tell us, much of the radio broadcasting infrastructure was damaged and or destroyed in bitter fighting.

Beginning in May 1981, there was a change and an increase in the Russian relay of programming from Afghanistan. A satellite link now carried the streaming relay of two program channels from Kabul, one from the Home Service and the other from the External Service. It would appear that the Russian transmitters in use for these Afghani services were mainly 50 kW units located at Orzu, some distance from Dushanbe in Tajikistan. The number of Russian transmitters in use at any one time for this relay service appears to be two, or at times three and even four.

Beginning on May 21, 1982, Victor Goonetilleke in Colombo first noted that the Russian relays were now radiated on the same channels that were previously in use by Radio Afghanistan itself; 3965, 4450 and 4740 kHz. Additional relays were also noted at different time schedules on the higher frequency channels.

During the year 1983, two Russian made shortwave transmitters at 100 kW were installed in the more recently constructed German building located at Pole-i-Charke, though these were in service for only a few years.

Modern history tells us that the final withdrawal of the last Russian troops took place on February 15, 1989. However, we are also told that the Russian relay of Afghan programming continued for another two years, finally ending on December 31, 1991. Is there anyone out there who holds QSLs issued in Russia for their relay of the Afghan programming? Or is there anyone out there who holds QSLs from Radio Afghanistan during the Russian era?

On the next occasion when we look at the radio scene in Afghanistan, we will present the story of the large isolated radio building at Pole-i-Charke near their capital city Kabul. That will be sometime next month.