2008/09/25

Mandatory registration of radio receivers in USSR

In 1970s and early 1980s, when I was a schoolboy, radio receivers were ubiquitous in the USSR. The short wave band provided an excellent opportunity to listen to foreign radiostations, from the news of Voice of America to music on Radio Luxembourg. And the wonderful music programmes made by Seva Novgorodtsev on BBC, of course :). It was not a crime in itself, but could become a reason for a serious discussion at school or at work. Or even an aggravating circumstance if you made a step further and distributed banned books and magazines.

However, it was not difficult to hide your peculiar interests. But some decades before, the things were not that simple.

When I was in a museum in Kozmodemyansk this summer, I noticed a stack of old shellack gramophone records. The sleeve of one of them attracted my attention. It said nothing about what was recorded on the plate, but informed the reader on his duty to register his radio receiver. The text says:

All radio receivers and tap-offs are subject to mandatory registration.

Radio receivers and tap-offs must be registered in cities in 3 days since purchase and in 10 days since purchase in rural districts.

Radio receivers and tap-offs are registered and the rental fee is payed in all post offices.

The rental fee for radio receivers and tap-offs is payed in advance every quarter.

Later I learned that this registration was introduced by the decree of the Soviet of People's Commissars on 27 March 1934. Besides the short information of the plate, there were also some details. So, the owner of more than one receiver had to register all of them. The punishment for owning an unregistered receiver was either a fine or a penal sanction. When the owner moved to another apartment, he had to notify the authorities. When moving to another town, he had to re-register the device. If the receiver became unserviceable or was transferred to another owner, one had to write an application asking to invalidate the registration.

However, it seems that the goal was not the totalitarian control, but just money. The owners of personal receivers payed 35 rubles per year. The public receivers, located in clubs and "krasny ugolok" ("the red corner", kind of a little club at work or at home used for propaganda), costed 54 rubles per year and those located in shops, cinemas, offices, and so on, costed 75 rubles per year. The collected money was later used for mainenance of radio stations

The mandatory registration was canceled on 1 January 1962.

6 comments:

Kyle and Svet Keeton said...

That is great. That was a lot of money back then.

What is a tap-off?

Kyle

Dmitri Minaev said...

Tap-off? I tried so hard to find a right word and you tell me it was all for naught? :)

What I meant is a wire that uses the receiver as, ahem, well, a receiver, but conducts the output to a speaker located somewhere else. What would the correct term?

Kyle and Svet Keeton said...

Hey Dmitri,

To me a tap-off is: the act of starting a basketball game with a jump ball or otherwise could be known as a tip-off.

To the electronic world a tap-off is a form of transformer. I think that you have the correct word but in a different form of English.

I am thinking that you mean amplifier it categorizes the same as tap-off.

"tap-off transformer using isolating walls and a winding design to increase the rated voltage of transformer."

Where as an amplifier uses basically the same effects to increase the audio signal or any signal be it voltage or amperage.

But confusion comes in when amplifier is implied to any form of voltage or current increase which is still acceptable. People understand amplifiers as part of a rock band and loud music. :)

So you are correct enough and means the same thing. I just have never heard that particular term used and found out that it is a British terminology.

Thank you, I learned something new today.

Kyle

Dmitri Minaev said...

Call me a philologist, but I can't call the thing that doesn't amplify an amplifier :). I assume a transformer could be referred as an amplifier (unless it's a step-down transformer), but that thing I spoke about is not even a transformer. Just a cable that picks the low-frequency signal (taps, I thought, might be the right word) from the receiver's output stage and sends it to another speaker.

BTW, it was not a lot of money even then. 35 rubles once a year, while the average monthly salary of a factory worker was about 100-200 rubles, depending on his skills. Not next to nothing, but still affordable.

Alec said...

It had to have been at least a mix of money and control, as far as the motivations behind the registration law. Wasn't the Soviet government more worried about people listening to the Voice of America than a lousy 35 roubles?

Dmitri Minaev said...

I don't think so, Alec. The fee was introduced in 1934, while the VoA began its Russian programs in 1947. And the abolition of the registration in 1962 also doesn't fit your hypothesis, I'm afraid :).