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1961 Radio Liberty – Radio Svoboda QSL Card

Cold War Radio Museum

A QSL card sent out by Radio Liberty (Radio Svoboda) in the early 1960s showed an outline of a transmitting station building, a radio transmitting antenna tower, a map of Europe with the European part of the Soviet Union in red, a barbed wire, and sound waves emanating from a point on the map corresponding to the location of Munich in West Germany. The free and democratic part of Europe was colored yellow on the map. The Warsaw Pact countries other than the Soviet Union were colored pink. Albania, which was no longer in the Soviet Block but was ruled by a repressive communist regime, was also colored pink. Interestingly, Yugoslavia, which was also a one-party communist state but had a more lenient regime independent of Moscow, was placed on the QSL card in the yellow zone.

The wording on the front of the QSL card was: “RADIO LIBERTY RADIO SVOBODA Speaks to the people of the USSR.”

Radio Free Europe (RFE) was founded in 1950 and initially broadcast to Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. Three years later, Radio Liberation, which was later renamed Radio Liberty (RL), began broadcasting to the Soviet Union in Russian and 15 other national languages. Radio Liberty began broadcasts to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania in 1975.

Both Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty sent out QSL cards to radio listeners who could confirm the reception of RL broadcasts on shortwave frequencies. Radio Liberty shortwave broadcasts were jammed by the Soviet authorities to make make radio reception difficult, but Soviet citizens were still able to listen to these broadcasts, particularly outside of the big cities. However, writing to Radio Liberty from the Soviet Union was still risky in the 1960s. During the Stalinist period, Soviet citizens caught listening to Radio Liberty or other Western radio stations were imprisoned and sent to the Gulag forced labor camps.

This particular Radio Liberty QSL card in the Cold War radio Museum collection was sent from Munich, West Germany, where RL and RFE had its headquarters, to a radio listener in Falkenberg, Sweden. The card mailed from Munich on June 21, 1961 acknowledges a reception report, dated June 17, 1961, which the listener in Sweden mailed to the station. The listener reported that she had listened to Radio Liberty on a shortwave frequency in the 75 m band. The QSL card sent out from Munich listed 14 other shortwave frequencies on which Radio Liberty broadcasts could be received at that time.

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