Kazakhstan Celebrates 100 Years of Radio History

At the present time, the central Asian nation of Kazakhstan is celebrating the 100th anniversary of radio broadcasting in their country. It was in October 1921 that the first radio broadcasting station was inaugurated in the city of Orenburg, exactly one hundred years ago.

Map of Kazakhstan. Image: Martin Schöch’s QSL Information Pages – Kazakhstan (KAZ)

The independent nation of Kazakhstan is the world’s largest landlocked country with no direct access to the ocean, and it is the 9th largest country in the world, with a population approaching twenty million. Interestingly, a small section of Kazakhstan, about a hundred miles wide on the western side of the Ural River, is actually located in Europe, though the Asian section of their country extends across the territory of the Great Steppes for perhaps nearly 2,000 miles.

Ancient Kazakhstan was populated by Asian peoples, and sections of the historic trade route known as the Silk Road traversed through their countryside. The Kazakh tourist industry is beginning to flourish and in normal times seven million tourists flock into the country, mainly from Russia itself.

TV-Tower in Almaty, Kazakhstan
By Michael Grau – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

It was during the mid 1800s that the Kazakh territory was absorbed into the Russian Empire, and the city of Orenburg became their first, though temporary, capital city. Interestingly, these days Orenburg is located in Russia, not in Kazakhstan, though it has a large population of Kazakh people. It takes a full day to travel by bus from Orenburg to the border with Kazakhstan itself.

In 1929, Alma Ata (Almaty) became their capital city, and in 1997, a modern and quite remarkable new capital city was designated, Astana, which is located in the center of their country. We might also add that the government announced six years ago (2015) the progressive implementation of a change over in their written Cyrillic Script to the English Latin Script.

It was on September 29, 1921, that the Russian government in Moscow announced their plan to establish a radio broadcasting station for Kazakhstan, and it would be located in Orenburg, in southern Russia, and at least 50 miles north of the border with Kazakhstan. This new radio station was identified under the Russian callsign RA25, and programming was in the Russian language. In 1929, this station was listed with 1 kW on longwave 468 kHz. 640 m

The Russian government installed a second radio station for Kazakhstan in 1926 and the chosen location was Petropavlovsk, this time within Kazakhstan itself, just 30 miles south of the border with Russia. This station was identified under the Russian callsign system as RA64. The first broadcasts in the Kazakh language went on the air during the following year on March 23, 1927. In 1929, this station was listed with 45 kW on mediumwave 857 kHz.

Vintage Soviet Radio Speaker.
Image: eBay

In the middle of last century, a massive number of wired radio stations were installed throughout the Soviet Union, a system that we would identify these days as cable radio. At the height of their usage, there were at least 800 cable radio centers in Kazakhstan feeding a total of anywhere up to a million radio speakers in public places and in the homes of the people.

At the same time, a nationwide network of over-the-air-radio broadcasting stations was also developed; longwave, mediumwave, shortwave, and ultimately FM (European) Band 1 and (International) Band 2. It is known that home service shortwave stations were established in at least nine different centers.

The first listing in the WR(TV)HB for shortwave transmitters in Kazakhstan is presented in the sixth annual edition, for the year 1952. A total of five shortwave channels is shown, each rated at 10 kW.

It is known that there were two major shortwave stations in Kazakhstan, both near the city of Alma Ata-Almaty in the southeast of the country, almost on the border with Kyrgyzstan, another former Soviet republic. These shortwave transmitters were in use for Home Service programming, regional and international coverage, and also for the jamming of incoming shortwave signals from other countries.

The usage of shortwave radio broadcasting for coverage within Kazakstan began in the middle of the last century soon after the end of World War 2. The known listings would suggest that shortwave broadcasting transmitters were installed in about a dozen different regional locations, and that the power levels varied from quite low up to around 20 kW.

QSL from Radio Nederland via Alma Ata – 1993 – 12025 kHz
From Friedbert Bruender’s “QSL cards” website

The two major international shortwave transmitter stations were constructed near Alma Ata, and both sites can still be seen on Google Earth. Their first major shortwave station was constructed at Dmitriyevka north east from Alma Ata around three quarters of a century ago during the 1950s and it contained more than 30 transmitters. The shortwave transmitters ranged in power from very low up to 200 kW, though fourteen of them were rated at 100 kW. At least nine of these transmitters were in use for program broadcasting, on longwave, mediumwave and FM.

A second large transmitter station was constructed at Karaturk, and this station contained four shortwave transmitters at 500 kW, and two at 1,000 kW. The Karaturk station was also located north east of Alma Ata, just a few miles distant from the older station at Dmitriyevka. These two very large shortwave broadcasting stations near Alma Ata in Kazakhstan were closed, effective on March 1, 2012.

There were several occasions when the radio programming from Kazakhstan was carried on other shortwave stations associated with the Russian Federation. For example in 2000, two shortwave transmitters in the Ukraine, 100 kW each, relayed programming from Kazakhstan for the benefit of listeners in Europe. The Radio Moscow shortwave network also carried regional Kazakh programming on many occasions.

For a period of about ten years, towards the end of the last century and into this new century, several international shortwave stations took out a relay from Alma Ata. Among these stations were Radio Netherlands, the Voice of America, BBC London, Vatican Radio, Deutsche Welle, Radio Free Asia and Trans World Radio. Interestingly, during the year 2001, Alma Ata also carried a relay of programming on behalf of the independent shortwave station WRNO in the United States.

We congratulate Radio Kazakhstan on the significant occasion of their 100th anniversary.

This feature was written by Adrian Peterson and originally aired on Adventist World Radio’s “Wavescan” DX program of October 17, 2021

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