Under the Radar

Tracking Western Radio Listeners in the Soviet Union
$95.00 / €80.00 / £68.00
PDF version will be freely available thanks to the libraries supporting CEU Press’s Opening the Future initiative.
Publication date: 
July 2022, 390 pages

Western democracy is currently under attack by a resurgent Russia, weaponizing new technologies and social media. How to respond? During the Cold War, the West fought off similar Soviet propaganda assaults with shortwave radio broadcasts. Founded in 1949, the US-funded Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty broadcast uncensored information to the Soviet republics in their own languages. About one-third of Soviet urban adults listened to Western radio. The broadcasts played a key role in ending the Cold War and eroding the communist empire.

R. Eugene Parta was for many years the director of Soviet Area Audience Research at RFE/RL, charged among others with gathering listener feedback. In this book he relates a remarkable Cold War operation to assess the impact of Western radio broadcasts on Soviet listeners by using a novel survey research approach. Given the impossibility of interviewing Soviet citizens in their own country, it pioneered audacious interview methods in order to fly under the radar and talk to Soviets traveling abroad, ultimately creating a database of 51,000 interviews which offered unparalleled insights into the media habits and mindset of the Soviet public. By recounting how the “impossible” mission was carried out, Under the Radar also shows how the lessons of the past can help counter the threat from a once and current adversary.      


Introduction: Why a History of Audience Research at Radio Liberty?

Prelude: My Road to Radio Liberty (amabile)

First Movement (1965–1970): Early Years of Audience Research at Radio Liberty (andante)

Second Movement (1970–1980): First Steps in Audience Interviewing (accelerato)

Third Movement (1981–1985): Audience Research Breaks New Ground (sforzando)

Fourth Movement (1986–1990): Perestroika Changes the Game (fuocoso)

Fifth Movement (1991–1994): The Post-Soviet Transition (vittorioso, capriccioso, lamentoso)

Postlude: The Road Ahead (coda)

Appendix 1: Charts and Graphs referenced in text

Appendix 2: Vignettes: Max Ralis, Ross Johnson, James Critchlow, Morrill Cody, James Buckley, Ralph Walter, Helmut Aigner, Christopher Geleklidis, Steen Sauerberg, Copenhagen interviewer, Viktor Nekrasov, Andrei Sinyavsky, Victor Grayevsky, Irina Alberti

Appendix 3: Methodologies. MIT Simulation. Contribution of Ithiel de Sola Pool

Appendix 4: Excerpts from BALEs (Broadcast Area Listener Reports), Agorametrie conflict themes, an example of a mark-sense questionaire

Appendix 5: Thumbnail sketches of SAAOR/MOR Staffers