Universität KonstanzExzellenzcluster: Kulturelle Grundlagen von Integration

A History of Soviet Radio, 1919–1970

Prof. Dr. Stephen Lovell

Abstract

My main task for the period of the fellowship is to work towards a history of Soviet radio from the first wireless transmission of the human voice in Russia (in summer 1919) to the moment when radio was supplanted by television as the premier mass medium of the USSR (approximately 1970). While doing justice to the technological and political dimensions of radio history, I will aim to make this a social and cultural history by providing a full account of radio genres, an analysis of the broadcasting profession, and a thorough discussion of radio listening. Much existing work on Soviet radio has focused on its formative decades of the 1920s and 1930s, but I will seek to take the story beyond 1941 (and, indeed, 1953). The postwar era deserves a place of prominence in the history of Soviet broadcasting, since this was in a real sense radio’s ‘Golden Age’: the medium now had far greater technological reach than before or during the war, and it did not as yet face a serious challenge from TV. It is not for nothing that several of the best-loved formats and programmes on Soviet radio were launched precisely in the late 1940s. Then, in the 1960s, came a thorough reassessment of Soviet radio in the light of cultural competition from the Cold War adversary. The result was the creation of a Soviet version of round-the-clock news and entertainment (Radio Maiak).

As well as describing the development of broadcasting culture in general terms, I will offer more specific studies of particular genres (music, satire, news, children’s broadcasting, youth programming, sport) as well as making relevant comparisons and connections between the USSR and Central and Western Europe. The result will be to make the USSR for the first time a mainstream part of the historiography of radio – and to make radio part of the historiography of the USSR.

In addition, I will seek to pursue a complementary project on what might be considered the pre-history of broadcasting. Going back to the late nineteenth century, this project will investigate sites of public speaking (the church, the law courts, and new political institutions such as the zemstva, the municipal councils, and the State Duma) that profoundly altered the possibilities and the rhetoric of political communication even before the arrival of the audiovisual media.

Publication

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Stephen Lovell: Russia in the Microphone Age. A History of Soviet Radio 1919–1970. Oxford: Oxford University Press 2015.