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RFE/RL Russian Service Audio Archives -- Now Online

Radio Liberty Journalist Valerian Obolensky in the 1950s.

WASHINGTON -- RFE/RL welcomed the publication this week of an online, fully searchable database of audio programs produced over decades by its Russian Service, known as Radio Svoboda.

RFE/RL Editor in Chief Nenad Pejic called the initiative a “shining example of cooperation and commitment” among RFE/RL and its partners, the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives (OSA) and the Hoover Institution Library & Archives.

Citing the extensive efforts of OSA to organize, preserve and afford public access to these historical materials, Pejic said, “Today, when Russians are again relying on RFE/RL and Radio Svoboda for credible news, these archived programs take on a new meaning.”

The archive includes more than 26,000 audio clips broadcast into the Soviet Union and Russian Federation by Radio Svoboda from 1953, the year the service was established in Munich, West Germany, to 1995, when RFE/RL moved from Munich to Prague, Czech Republic.

Highlights of the collection include news and political programs about the U.S.S.R. and the world as reported by distinguished émigré journalists, writers and historians, on-air readings of banned literary works and poetry recitals; and unique radio plays authored by such luminaries of Russian letters as Alexander Solzhenitsyn, Viktor Nekrasov, Joseph Brodsky, Vladimir Voinovich, Alexander Ginzburg, and Eugenia Ginzburg.

The archive also includes Radio Svoboda’s collection of samizdat, or clandestinely published materials that provided news about trials, imprisonments, and forbidden expressions of life behind the Iron Curtain; and talk shows that connected Soviet audiences with Russian exile culture.

Cooperation on the project started in 2014 with the intent, expressed by OSA, that providing free and unlimited on-line access to this collection of more than 10,000 hours of broadcasts would facilitate free and critical thinking, and encourage expanded research into Soviet era culture and politics. The Hoover Institution Archives provided support to Radio Svoboda journalists who digitized and described the contents of the Russian audio archive. The Hoover Archives then authorized OSA to complete the creation of metadata for the digitized audio and prepare the archive for publication online.

Public access to RFE/RL’s broadcast and corporate archives at the Hoover Institution has expanded significantly in recent years, with updated finding aids for both the broadcast and corporate archives now available in the Online Archive of California. Several parts of RFE/RL’s vast research archives, which are deposited at OSA, are now available for online research, including collections of RFE Information Items, RFE/RL Situation Reports, RFE/RL Background Reports, RFE/RL Polish Underground Press, and Soviet and Russian Television Monitoring. OSA has also made available online parts of the pre-1971 corporate records of the Free Europe Committee (FEC), the legal predecessor of RFE/RL), including digital copies of encrypted Telex messages between FEC’s office in New York and RFE headquarters in Munich from 1960 to 1964.

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About RFE/RL
RFE/RL is a private, independent international news organization whose programs -- radio, Internet, television, and mobile -- reach influential audiences in 23 countries, including Russia, Ukraine, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, the republics of Central Asia and the Caucasus. It is funded by the U.S. Congress through the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG).

About the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives
Established in 1995, the Vera and Donald Blinken Open Society Archives (OSA) at Central European University (CEU) is both a repository of important collections, primarily related to the history of the Cold War and grave international human rights violations, and a laboratory of archival experiments on new ways of assessing, contextualizing, presenting, and making use of archival documents.

About the Hoover Institution Library & Archives
Founded by Herbert Hoover in 1919, the Hoover Institution Library & Archives are dedicated to documenting war, revolution, and peace in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. With nearly one million volumes and more than six thousand archival collections from 171 countries, the Hoover Institution supports a vibrant community of scholars and a broad public interested in the meaning and role of history.