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Radio Bulgaria turns 80

{ include file="./partials/authors.html" } БНР Новини
The Radio Sofia building back in 1942
Photo: archive

 In 2016 Radio Bulgaria marks its 80th anniversary. Radio Sofia, as it was then called, started broadcasting internationally on shortwave at the beginning of 1936.

The first broadcasts were brief news items in Esperanto, but the programmes turned regular on 1 May, 1937 – five hours a day in Esperanto, Italian, French, German and English. The 16 February 1936, Sunday, was the first day when Radio Sofia’s national morning programme started to be broadcast on shortwave, to reach Europe, North Africa, North America and Canada. New Radio Sofia magazine published excerpts from letters coming from listeners abroad with numerous glowing comments.

The radio transmitter at Vakarel - 1937The people who authored the first international programmes were freelancers. Georges Milchev, editor at La Parole bulgare newspaper was the man behind the French-language programmes and Petar Uvaliev – better known as Pierre Rouve – at the time working for the Press Directorate, authored the programmes in Italian. The weekly overview of events in Bulgaria in German was translated by Dr. Naumann from the German embassy; there were lectures twice a week in German by engineer Bory Ganchev. The English-language broadcasts were in the hands of Mihail Hadjimishev, later to become opera stage director. Industrialist Stefan Ganchev was announcer of the programmes in Esperanto.

The years that followed World War II saw the formation of an International Service department with many more languages – to the programmes in Esperanto, Italian, English, French and German, daily broadcasts in Turkish, Greek, Romanian, Albanian, Serbo-Croatian, Polish and Czech were added. In 1962 more languages were added – Spanish, Arabic, Portuguese, as well as specialized programming targeted at Africa in English, French and Portuguese and at Latin America in Spanish and Portuguese. On 26 September 1994, Radio Bulgaria broadcast its first programmes in Russian.

In 1992 the Bulgarian National Radio’s international service was named Radio Bulgaria. Radio Bulgaria broadcast to the world on medium and short wave in 12 languages: Bulgarian, Russian, English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Serbian, Greek, Albanian, Turkish and Arabic.

In May 2004, Radio Bulgaria went online with texts, photographs and audio in 11 languages: Bulgarian, Russian, English, German, French, Spanish, Serbian, Greek, Albanian, Turkish and Arabic. On 31 January, 2012 Radio Bulgaria stopped its shortwave broadcasts. Now, Radio Bulgaria has broadcasts round-the-clock online in 11 languages, with only the programmes in Turkish still on the air on medium wave and FM.

Radio Bulgaria – a member of the big family of the Bulgarian National Radio – is celebrating its 81st birthday today. Radio broadcasting in Bulgaria goes back to November 1929, when a group of engineers built a 60-watt transmitter in Sofia. And the first words heard on the air were: “Hello, hello, this is Radio Sofia!” At the beginning of 1930 a group of prominent intellectuals, public figures and engineers – all of them amateur “hams” founded a union they called “Homeland Radio”. In 1931 “Homeland Radio” started broadcasting three-hour daily programmes. Besides classical, popular and folk music, Homeland Radio broadcast adverts, information from the stock exchange, lectures and news from the Bulgarian Telegraph Agency’s news bulletin.

On 25 January 1935 Tsar Boris III signed a decree, by force of which radio broadcasting in Bulgaria became a state-organized and run activity - the “birth date” of the Bulgarian National Radio.

Compiled by: Atanas Tsenov

English version: Milena Daynova

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