Sputnik was launched 1957 Oct 4. At that time, what kind of radios were common in the Soviet Union?

I'm interested in what kind of radios were privately owned and kept in people's apartments. What frequency ranges did they have? Were they AM or FM or both, or something different?

Or perhaps was there a radio shortage instead? Could the people afford them?

2 Answers 2


I suppose you are asking about real radios (wireless). They were quite bulky decorated wooden boxes. They had vacuum tubes instead of transistors. They were considered (somewhat) luxury items and not every family owned them. They had long, medium and short waves ranges. Later ultra-short (AM and FM were added). First transistor radios appeared in 1960s. They were small and portable and gradually displaced the old big boxes. Here is a typical picture:

Russian radio

Here is an old Soviet advertisement (probably mid 1960s) showing two stationary receivers and an early portable (transistor) one:

1960 Transmitters

The big item on the left is a "radiola", a radio combined with vinyl disk players. And the one in the middle is a "magnetola", a radio combined with a tape player. They were more common than just radios. The item on the right is one of the two very first Soviet portable transistor receivers.

Let me add that the word "radio" also had another meaning in Soviet Union. All Soviet homes were equipped with cable "radios", which were just small loudspeakers connected to wiring. Most of them had no amplifier, only a loudspeaker. Wiring for them was provided in ALL residential buildings. In most cases only one program was available, so the "radio" had only one button which controlled volume, and nothing else. The broadcast started early in the morning with the anthem of Soviet Union, and ended at midnight with the same. They broadcasted news, political speeches, musics, radio plays, all sorts of useful information etc. This thing was in every home and almost all people listened to it. The program was the same everywhere (broadcasted from Moscow), with short inserts of local news.

Абонентская радиоточка - Russian Radios (Wikipedia)

On the other hand, many people who owned a real (wireless) radio listened foreign stations (BBC, Voice of America, Free Europe, and many others which broadcasted in Russian). As I understand this was one of the main reasons to buy a true radio receiver. As a child (in 1960s) I even wondered why they make receivers with short waves. It seemed to me that the only use for short waves was to listen foreign stations:-) In the late 60s Soviets started to jam these broadcasts, but they were not very successful.

Let me also add that "amateur radio" was a very common hobby: people made receivers and even transmitters themselves. (One had to register with the authorities every transmitter). All sorts of parts and literature were widely available in hobby stores in the 1960s.

EDIT. It is certainly not true in 1960s that "every house had a real radio receiver with an antenna". Cable "radios" in houses were connected by cables to a place called "radio-node" (радиоузел in Russian), one or several in a city, depending on the size of the city. How were the radio-nodes connected with Moscow, I do not know. And in 1960s there were no channels and switches on these "radios", They were introduced later.

Here is a nice collection, complete with authentic sound, both wireless and wire.

  • 3
    Actually the wired radio was indeed a radio because the wiring was connected to an antenna on the rooftop.
    – Anixx
    Sep 9, 2016 at 20:32
  • 3
    @DrZ214 each apartment typically had one speaker, why one would need more? Each apartment usually had one outlet like this one: pp.vk.me/c620529/v620529552/1e95/7hVHpxzTx40.jpg interestingly those radio outlets were fully mechanically compatible with mains electricity outlets so one could break a speaker by inserting its connector into electric network. Even now the majority of apartments have these. I wrote a request that I do not need it recently to pay less, and they required me to sign that I am warned that I will not receive announcements about disasters if I switch the outlet off
    – Anixx
    Sep 9, 2016 at 22:24
  • 2
    @DrZ214 there were 3 channels. One was plainly in sound frequence and could be reproduced directly by a speaker. Two others were modulated in higher frequencies and needed special 3-channel speaker who also needed a power supply. upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/thumb/3/3e/…
    – Anixx
    Sep 9, 2016 at 22:40
  • 1
    @DrZ214 what is Radio Moscow, sorry? Do you mean Soviet foreign broadcaster? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Radio_Moscow
    – Anixx
    Sep 10, 2016 at 0:22
  • 1
    @DrZ214 The first and third channels were broadcasted by All-Union Radio. The 2nd channel was broadcasted by Radio Mayak ("Lighthouse").
    – Anixx
    Sep 10, 2016 at 0:29

Radios in the Soviet Union were the personal property of citizens and were designed for wireless reception, or for use on a wired network broadcasting.

"FM-band" had (range УКВ OIRT (65,9-74 MHz)) in the Soviet radio.

AM (amplitude modulation) was also labeled it as the СВ (средневолновый) диапазон - medium wave range.

  • 5
    Hi! Welcome to History! Could you please turn it to the general SE language i.e, English; not everyone here knows Russian and not everyone would bother to use Google Translate to conceive this.
    – user5062
    Sep 10, 2016 at 11:20
  • also, the point of this site is to provide the information asked for. Saying "go there and there and you'll find the answer" is not considered an answer here. See the explanation here: meta.stackexchange.com/questions/225370/…
    – rumtscho
    Sep 10, 2016 at 11:48
  • I took into account the remarks and slightly reformulated answer, and translated it into English. Radios in the Soviet Union were the personal property of citizens and were designed for wireless reception, or for use on a wired network broadcasting. "FM-band" had (range УКВ OIRT (65,9-74 MHz)) in the Soviet radio but there are some technical details that result in inappropriate response. AM (amplitude modulation) was also labeled it as the СВ (средневолновый) диапазон - medium wave range.
    – user21295
    Sep 10, 2016 at 12:25
  • @user21295 you should edit your answer with the new version
    – cat
    Sep 10, 2016 at 14:44

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.