31. Soviet Portables

Radio description Year Sound sample
Etude 603 1972 PLAY
VEF 202 1975 PLAY
VEF 206 Vega 1975
VEF 206 1975
Sokol 403 1976
Alpinist 405 1976
Selga 405 1977
Rossia 303 1978 PLAY
Olimpik 402 1980 PLAY
Neywa 402 1979 PLAY
Sokol 308 1981 PLAY
Spidola 232 1981 PLAY
In my radio collection I have (or had) quite a few transistor portables from the Soviet Union (see table right), mostly taken during my various business trips to the Czech Republic and Slovakia. They range from very small units, like the Etude 603, to big shortwave world receivers, like the various VEF jobs. Though the radios differ significantly from one to the other, a few peculiarities about this class of portables can be made.
  1. All of the radios have a numerical type number with the middle digit a 0 (with an exception for the newest one, the Spidola 232).
  2. The radios quite often have a genuine leather pouch. To date the set, look at its inside, because one may find a date stamp there.
  3. Transistors are of USSR manufacture and have type numbers with Cyrillic letters.
  4. The radios sometimes have flat ferrite antennas (while western sets mostly have tubular antennas). See Sokol 403 and Neywa 402 for examples.
  5. None of my Soviet portables is equiped to receive FM; exceptionis the Sokol 308 from 1981. The band definition was different from the international one, with FM ranging from 66 to 73 MHz. So to receive stations here, the Soviet radios are useless. Now the standard 88-108MHz band is used throughout Eastern Europe.
  6. All radios, even the tiny Etude 603, have antenna jacks for connecting outdoor aerials. And, surprisingly, the radios often perform well with even long aerials. I have a 20m longwire running over my garden, and while the Etude 603 already starts to noise heavily when I keep it near this antenna, reception of weak stations is greatly improved when I connect it to the Neywa 402.
    Ear phone jacks are quite common, too.
  7. I found a few noteworthy power supplies. The Alpinist 405 needs 9V of battery power, and its battery case is constructed such that either two flat 4.5V batteries, or 6 C-cells can be used. The Sokol 403 needs 9V as well (supplied by a P-block), and has a connector on the back to externally supply 9V. This radio is supposed to come with a power cable to feed it from mains, but this cable has no transformer, but only a diode and resistors!
  8. The radios often have Cyrillic imprints, which I like because they look so exotic. Some (VEF206 Vega, Etude 603) were produced for export and have most of the lettering in English. But others (VEF 202, Rossia 303) have only Cyrillic text, and the VEF 202 even has many Cyrillic station names on the dial. A lot from the Baltic states: Riga, Vilnus, Tallin, but they were produced in the Baltics.
  9. The selling price of the radio is often stamped into the back panel, together with the type number.

It has surprised me that in the Soviet Union, such good shortwave receives as the VEF's were built, because the government didn't like it if people would here the broadcasts from western stations. Transmissions from stations like Voice of America, BBC, and Deutsche Welle were jammed by special broadband noise transmitters. But still, using directional antenna's (loop antenna's with their very deep null in directionality), the transmissions could be heard.

Marking of parts is a mix of Cyrillic and Latin. In the Spidola I found capacitors with values in Cyrillic, but the PCB is printed with Latin R and C around resistors and capacitors and Cyrillic D for diodes.

Before the Second World War, the VEF industry (photo right) in Riga, Latvia, was a technologically advanced factory; it was the flagship of Latvian industry, and the Germans chose this place as the production site of reel-to-reel tape recorders. VEF means Valst Elektrotehniska Fabrika (State Electrotechnical Plant) and RRR, the birth place of the Selga 405, means Rigas Radio Rupnica (Riga Radio Plant). The range of models included one with a geographic dial (left): rotating discs would arrange the station to be reproduced to lighten up on a map of Europe. When the Germans left the place and Russians replaced them, they used the site for the production of (mainly) military communication equipment.

To read more, you can visit RP or OR.

Gerard Tel, September 2014.