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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, July 28, 2013

100 Years of Wireless & Radio in Bulgaria - Part 7: Unusual Relay Services

On this occasion here in Wavescan, we pick up the story of shortwave broadcasting in Bulgaria once again and this is part 7, with a focus on the interesting relay services via Radio Bulgaria, beginning way back during the era of World War 2. That is when programming from Radio Moscow in Russia was first noted on the air via transmitters in Bulgaria.

It was on October 7, 1941, at the time when Bulgaria was politically aligned with Germany, that Radio Moscow began a radio program service in the Bulgarian language that was beamed to Bulgaria on mediumwave. This programming was transmitted on Russian radio stations, though they were tuned to the same frequency as radio stations located within Bulgaria. Subsequently, when Russian forces moved into Bulgaria, this same programming from Radio Moscow was broadcast via radio stations located inside Bulgaria itself.

The American radio magazine, Radio News, informs us that the Radio Moscow shortwave service in English to North America was noted on relay via Bulgaria, beginning in July 1951. This news item states that this new Radio Moscow relay service was on the air via a new high powered shortwave transmitter in Bulgaria. However, a comparison with known radio events in Bulgaria would suggest that the specific transmitter was actually a lower powered unit rated at 15 kW and located on the edge of Sofia that had been recently renovated by the Hungarian Standard company.

Two years later, a new service from Radio Moscow was taken on relay via Radio Sofia mediumwave, and this half hour programming for local listeners was heard every Friday evening beginning at 9:30 pm.

The WRTVHB lists a regular Radio Moscow service on shortwave to the Americas via Bulgaria with anywhere up to 10 different transmitters on the air at the Sofia & Plovdiv transmitter sites. The first listing for this relay service is given in the WRTVHB for the year 1977.

Then, for example, Transmission Period D in the year 1986 as printed in the Australian DX News, lists the following five daily services beamed to the Americas from Radio Moscow via the 100/500 kW shortwave transmitters located in Bulgaria:

World Svc. English North America 2200-2300 UTC 7115 kHz
North American Svc. English North America 2300-0400 UTC 7115 kHz
Latin American Svc. Spanish South America 2300-0500 UTC 6115 kHz
North American Svc. English North America 1030-0400 UTC 6070 kHz
World Svc. English North America 1000-1500 UTC 15225 kHz

These relay services, Radio Moscow via Bulgaria, came to an end in 1993, and at that time, just two or three transmitters were on the air for this purpose.

We return to the year 1941. On July 22, just two weeks after Radio Moscow began its special broadcasts beamed to Bulgaria on mediumwave, a series of clandestine broadcasts was launched from Radio Moscow and beamed towards Spain. Soon after Germany attacked Russia in mid 1942, production of the programming for Radio Espana Independente was transferred from Moscow to the city of Ufa in the southern Russian state of Bashkiria.

On January 5, 1955, program production was transferred again, this time to Bucharest in Romania and it was broadcast from an 18 kW shortwave transmitter. During its final era, it is known that this long standing clandestine station was on the air from a 50 kW shortwave transmitter identified as K5 that was located at Kostinbrod in Bulgaria. The 36 year history of the infamous clandestine Radio Espana Independente ended without ceremony on July 14, 1977.

Interestingly, there were two additional relay services from Radio Moscow that were transmitted on relay via Bulgaria. Back in the 1960s, Andy Sennitt at the BBC Monitoring Service in England noted that Radio Moscow was on the air with a special service in Spanish beamed to Chile in South America under the program title, Radio Magallanes.

At the time, this programming was produced in Chile at Radio Magallanes and re-broadcast by Radio Moscow via Radio Sofia in Bulgaria. However, when the political scene in Chile changed in 1973, some of the Radio Magallanes staff in Chile transferred to Russia and they continued the production of this program at Radio Moscow. This special programming in Spanish via Radio Paz y Progresso came to an end in 1978 when again, the political climate in Chile took another change.

Another notorious clandestine that was on the air from eastern Europe was inaugurated at the end of the year 1957 and it was identified on air as Radio Peyk-e-Iran, Radio Courier of Iran. Program production took place in East Germany with shortwave transmission also from this same east European country. However, the broadcasts of Radio Peyk-e-Iran were transferred to Bulgaria in September 1965 and they were noted on two channels, 9555 & 11697 kHz. This clandestine station closed its 19 year history at the end of the year 1976, again without due ceremony.

Interestingly, as Jerome Berg in suburban Boston tells us in his authoritative volume "Broadcasting on the Shortwaves", a jammer was launched against Radio Courier of Iran and it played the song "Kiss Me Honey" endlessly. Perhaps these jamming transmitters were located at Baghdad in Iraq.

For a period of 8 years, beginning in the latter part of the year 1953, the programming of Radio Tirana, Albania also was noted on relay from Radio Sofia in Bulgaria. As stated in the American radio magazine, Radio News, this half hour program was on the air on Sundays only, at 0030 UTC on 9700 kHz. According to the 1956 edition of the WRTVHB, the frequency 9700 kHz was emitted by a 100 kW transmitter located at Stolnik in Bulgaria.

Interestingly, the relevant issues of the WRTVHB during this era do not list the Bulgarian relay from Radio Tirana, though the actual time slot in the service to North America on 9700 kHz is simply shown as vacant. In November, 1961, two new transmitters at 50 kW were inaugurated for Radio Tirana at Sijak in Albania, and the weekly relay via Radio Sofia Bulgaria came to a quiet end.

Another significant relay service carried by Radio Sofia on both shortwave and mediumwave was presented on behalf of the Voice of America, beginning in the Fall of 1993. Initially this daily VOA relay service was beamed to Africa in English via two high powered transmitters located at the Plovdiv shortwave station. The afternoon service was an hour in duration, and the evening service half an hour.

However in 1997, a half hour VOA program in the Serbian language was introduced using a 500 kW mediumwave transmitter on 1224 kHz located at Vidin. The VOA usage of Bulgarian transmitters came to an end during the year 1999.