Voices of Hope: The Story of Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty

RFE/RL's Munich Headquarters February 21, 1981
Courtesy of RFE/RL Inc.

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The Communist Response

Jamming of radio broadcasts is an insult, and a reduction of man to the level of a robot.
—Alexander Solzhenitsyn

The communist response was to jam the radios, producing audio or electronic sounds on the same frequencies, so that it was difficult or impossible to hear the program being broadcast. Jamming was done by the Soviet Union continually, from three hours after the initial broadcast to December 1988, and by all countries in Eastern Europe sporadically.

In addition to jamming, the communist governments used other methods to silence the radios. Viewing the émigré employees as traitors to their homelands, the regimes threatened employees and their families still living behind the Iron Curtain. Spies infiltrated the radios, occupying some key positions. Bombings and assassinations took place.

The most notorious assassination was that of Georgi Markov, a Bulgarian writer and former associate of Bulgarian president Todor Zhivkov. He was stabbed with an umbrella containing a pellet of deadly ricin poison.

On February 21, 1981, a tremendous explosion rocked the RFE/RL headquarters in Munich, causing $2 million in damage and some injuries but no deaths. Stasi files opened after 1989 indicated that the bombing was carried out by a group of international terrorists under the direction of Ilich Ramirez Sanchez, better known as Carlos the Jackal, and paid for by Nicolae Ceausescu, president of Romania.

In the end, the impact of the threats, violence, spies, and bombing was negligible. RFE and RL continued their broadcasts without interruption throughout the communist period and up to the present day.

The registers contain only records fully processed and available to researchers. Other sections of the collection are also accessible though preliminary guides are not posted. >>details

The RFE/RL paper records are being made available as they are processed. Sound recordings require digitization before a program is considered available for audition or purchase. Researchers interested in recordings that have not yet been digitized may place special orders for these items. Researchers are advised to contact RFE/RL project archivist Anatol Shmelev before visiting the Archives to determine current availability. >>details