March 1 in Russian history. Radio Liberty is 55!


On 1 March, 1953, radio station Radio Liberation, founded by the American Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia, began the first broadcasts. In May 1959, Radio Liberation was renamed to Radio Liberty.

When I was a schoolboy, I was appointed a "political informer" at school. I was supposed to prepare digests of the Soviet newspapers and TV news and once a week I read them to the class. For some years I got school prizes as the best political informer. Want to know a secret? I didn't use Soviet TV news. My sources were Radio Liberty, BBC, Voice of America and Radio Sweden. I do hope that some of my former schoolmates listened to what I was saying. I like to think that there was a part of my efforts in the job of informing the Soviet people.

Now, the presence of RL in the air significantly decreased, in my opinion, but the website SvobodaNews.ru remains one of the best sources of information for those in Russia who want to know.

Dear RL journalists, happy birthday! And thanks for what you do. We need you.

Don Jensen, RFE/RL Director of Communications, said during the 50-th anniversary celebrations:

It was originally called Radio Liberation, but that was a misnomer. The word "liberation" -- a martial term appropriate to the early Cold War -- implied the freeing of a people from enemy occupation. The Red Army was indeed an army of occupation. "Captive nations" was a term the West used for the countries of Eastern Europe oppressed by Stalinism, while "captive peoples" were imprisoned within Josef Stalin's Soviet Union. The "Crusade for Freedom," moreover, was the U.S. government's campaign to raise money for the new radio service.

But calling the new radio service Radio Liberation exaggerated the West's influence in the region. It unfairly diminished the moral sensibility of those brave enough to be our listeners and minimized the fact that the struggle against communism was ultimately their responsibility, not that of an outside power.

The service's second name, Radio Liberty, had it right. "Liberty" better reflected how change could be achieved. Radio Liberty would not only inform its audience. The service would also ask a difficult thing of that audience -- that listeners use the information they received from Radio Liberty to seek for themselves an equilibrium between freedom and order in their lives and in their societies, no matter how bleak the prospects for change seemed.

In 1976, it was merged with Radio Free Europe, finally taking the familiar shape of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (read more at Wikipedia).

This article on the history of RFE also mentions the early days of RL:

A new organization, the American Committee for the Liberation of the Peoples of Russia (Amcomlib), first met on January 12, 1951, to plan radio service to the Soviet Union. Despite formidable problems, Radio Liberation, later Radio Liberty (RL), overcame the hurdles and began broadcasting sixty-seven hours a week on March 1, 1953, from four 10-kilowatt transmitters at the RFE base at Lampertheim, purchased from NCFE. In contrast to RFE, RL maintained a low profile without the fanfare, promotion, and fund-raising with celebrities.

The timeline of the RL history is here: Radio Liberty: 50 Years of Broadcasting.

Five years ago, when RL celebrated the 50th anniversary, they ran a conference titled On Liberty and the materials from this conference are available here: On Liberty.


Anonymous said...

Free Europe today!

Vote YES at www.FreeEurope.info

Димитрий Фруктенштейн said...

As far as I understand, money is the gist of that petition. As usual ;)

Ari2525 said...

Word History Thanks for sharing. word history!!