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‘Listen, Listen! This is Radio Azatlyk.’

Germany -- Radio Liberty Master Control; Head of Radio Liberty's Engineering Department Richard Jewel Tanksley (L) , Munich, 1964.

“Listen, listen! This is Radio Azatlyk,” said Myrat Tachmyrat, announcing Radio Liberty’s first Turkmen language broadcast on March 1, 1953. Reflecting years later on this message declared to the Turkmen people in their own language, Tachmyrat wrote, “It was a historic achievement.”

Tachmyrat, together with Aman Berdimyrat and Allamyrat Halmyrat ogly, all fervent anti-Communists who fought for the Soviet Army and survived German prisons during World War II, formed the first Turkmen editorial team within what was then Radio Liberty’s regional Turkestan Service for Central Asia.

In Tachmyrat’s words, as recorded in his memoirs, Radio Azatlyk’s essential goal was to provide its audiences with the news and information they were deprived of by Soviet authorities, and to free them of the lies they were fed for years by Soviet propaganda. He describes how Azatlyk’s reports helped listeners envision “civil, political, national, and religious freedoms, the freedom of expression and the press, and the right to the free exchange of information as enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Soviet constitution.” Broadcasts covered atrocities and violence, arrests and executions, lawlessness, and the repression of Turkmen culture and society during the “Cult of Personality” under Soviet leader Josef Stalin. “This information was unavailable to us at home, but it was imperative that the people know,” he wrote.

The Service’s bold reports in those early years quickly became popular among its audiences while eliciting a hatred among Communist authorities that did not wane after Stalin’s death. Indeed for decades, Azatlyk journalists were condemned in official meetings and the press as “traitors” working against their homeland. The state-run Turkmenfilm studio was even commissioned to produce a propaganda film to vilify them.

Looking back in the late 1990s, Takhmyrat wrote that Radio Azatlyk’s work was not finished, adding that the challenges of building pluralism and free markets remained unfulfilled across the new nations that earlier formed the Soviet Union.

In over 32 years of service, Tachmyrat produced almost 2,000 articles and commentaries about Turkmenistan and the greater Turkestan region together with reports on international affairs. He presented most of these reports on air himself.