Every radio amateur has a legitimate aspiration to pass essential radio qualifications examination with distinction. Therefore we have quite a few radio amateurs who wear “To Activist Radio Amateur” breast badges. The latter could be regarded as a kind of “radio matriculation”.
Editorial “The Vanguard”. “Radio Front” Magazine, No.13, 1936
Breast badge “To Activist Radio Amateur” was instituted by the Radiofication and Radio Enthusiasm Development Assistance Committee under the Central Committee of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League, that was created in April 1933 (hereinafter referred to as “Radio Committee”). The exact date it was instituted remains unknown to the author, but the very first record of the badge can be found in the “Radio Front” magazine (issue 21, 1934) that was passed for press on October 09, 1934 and passed for printing on November 09, 1934. At the same time, leading article “Actively Support Komsomol” by A.A.Stroev, deputy chairman of the Radio Committee, published in the October issue of the same magazine (No.20, 1934), said: “Engineering minimum for radio amateurs elaborated by the Radio Committee aims to assist in choosing self-reliant path in the world of radio engineering. In this way, specialized clubs should be the best form of studying radio engineering minimum. After six months-long training session first-time radio amateur is expected to pass successfully examinations and to be eligible for decoration with the badge of a radio amateur”. The article ends with a call: “Let badges of activist radio amateurs shine on garments of seasoned radio amateurs, and let each of them have personal mission – to prepare the highest number of badge holders”. According to the publisher’s imprint, that issue of the magazine was passed for press on September 22 and passed for printing on October 20, 1934.
Leading article “Combat Mission” published in the previous issue of the “Radio Front” magazine (No.19, October 1934) informed its readers that “Radio engineering minimum program has been elaborated and adopted for over a half a year now. This program allows every newcomer radio amateur to undergo first degree of radio engineering study. It was followed by introduction of a badge for an active radio amateur who have successfully passed radio engineering minimum examinations. This badge is instituted by the government. Having learned of it, many assistance committees started conducting examinations and promoted those tests among amateurs. However, they gravely erred having reached only those segments of population who have already studied radio engineering long ago. Thus they care little about bringing fresh blood and recruiting those who could be involved in studying radio engineering minimum program and having corresponding exams.
Our organizations must avoid this mistake in their work. It is thus our responsibility to take action to ensure that every person interested in radio engineering and wishing to study it, is involved in activities of radio clubs, courses, desks and consultations, has studied principles of radio engineering and is able to pass examinations to obtain radio amateur badge. That’s why Society of Friends of Radio (Obshchestvo Druzej Radio, ODR – Author’s note) should be focused on promoting radio engineering primary courses during autumn-winter study period, while mass examinations ending with decoration with the badge must be only a consequence of serious study”.
According to the publisher’s imprint, that issue of the magazine was passed for press on September 09 and passed for printing on October 04, 1934. Previous issue of the “Radio Front” magazine, No.18 (passed for press on August 22 and passed for printing on September 19, 1934) didn’t include any reference to the badge in question.
Given that by the beginning of September the badge “To Activist Radio Amateur” was already “instituted by the government” (see above), it can be said for certain that in fact it was instituted between end of August and the very beginning of September 1934.
To conclude, design of the badge “To Activist Radio Amateur” and its Statute were elaborated by the Radio Committee and were subsequently approved by the Commission for the Review and Institution of Breast Badges of the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR. According to the Decree of the Radio Committee, the badge was introduced “instead of the obsolete badge of the ODR” and was intended for decoration of the Society members. It is to be reminded that organizational structures of the ODR were dissolved in the spring and summer of 1933 as the Society “was dysfunctional and failed promotion of radio enthusiasm development, countrywide installation of broadcasting networks and competent direction of radio amateur movement”. At the same time, as decided by the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party (Bolsheviks), All-Union Leninist Young Communist League (Komsomol) was charged with the leadership of the Soviet radio amateur movement.
1. Breast badge “To Activist Radio Amateur” is awarded to those who passed essential radio qualifications examination elaborated by the Radio Committee under the Central Committee of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League and who took an active part in public work on promotion of radio enthusiasm development and on countrywide installation of broadcasting networks.
2. Breast badge “To Activist Radio Amateur” is issued to ODR members who passed essential radio qualifications examination and actively take part in public work on promotion of radio enthusiasm development and on countrywide installation of broadcasting networks.
3. Breast badge “To Activist Radio Amateur” is issued according to decrees of radio committees operating under regional committees (of the All-Russian Communist Party (Bolsheviks), i.e. obkoms – Author’s note), territorial committees (krajkoms) and Central Committees of Young Communist League of national republics on proposals of local cells and district councils of the ODR.
4. Radio amateurs decorated with the badge “To Activist Radio Amateur” enjoy the following privileges:
a) right to preferential supply of radio components;
b) right to free radio engineering consultations and complimentary access to exhibitions organized by Society of Friends of Radio, Radio Committee under the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR and by various bodies of the People’s Commissariat for Communications of the USSR;
c) priority in admittance to all radio engineering training courses organized by Society of Friends of Radio, Radio Committee under the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR and by various bodies of the People’s Commissariat for Communications of the USSR;
d) right to head public broadcasting receiving station;
e) No state privileges or monetary payments are granted to the person decorated with the badge.
5. Breast badge “To Activist Radio Amateur” could be revoked by decrees of radio committees operating under regional committees (obkoms), territorial committees (krajkoms) and Central Committees of Young Communist League of national republics on proposals of local cells and district councils of the ODR, provided its holder had committed illegal actions, failure of public discipline and damage to the title of radio amateur.
The badge had slightly convex round shape and was covered with light blue enamel. It showed meridians, parallels and outlines of continents thus symbolizing a terrestrial globe. Red enameled five-point star topped the badge. Dark blue enameled semicircular ribbon inscribed “To Activist Radio Amateur” (“Активисту-радиолюбителю”) in capital gilt letters bordered with the lower part of the badge. Radio tower cut horizontally from left to right with a red enameled lightning bolt was found in the centre of the badge.
It should be noted that design of the badge almost completely replicated that of the cockade supposedly introduced for Naval School of Communications cadets in 1932.
Flatback and counter relief (“mirror reverse”) badges are known to exist, the latter showing distinctive short vertical central strip placed at the upper segment of the radio tower. Badges also varied in slightly different inscription type face (at least two variations could be singled out).
The badge measuring 23x23 mm was manufactured of bronze and was attached to outerwear with screw and nut soldered to its reverse.
Statute of the badge was slightly changed in September 1935, exactly one year after its institution. According to new regulations, local examination committees were exempt from sending reports to the All-Union Radio Committee. Instead, they were to send those documents to local regional or territorial radio committees, while the latter had to provide sufficient quanitiy of badges. Those who passed essential radio qualifications examination in regional or territorial centres, i.e. towns, were issued with badges right away. Corresponding documents were dispatched to the All-Union Radio Committee on a monthly basis.
According to the data published by the All-Union Radio Committee, 2,510 Soviet citizens passed examinations and were decorated with the badge as at October 01, 1935. More than thousand qualified radio amateurs resided in Moscow. The capital in that list was followed by Leningrad (231), Azov-Black Sea Krai (Krai is a type of a geographical administrative division often translated in English as “territory” – Author’s note) (196), Kharkov (138), Odessa and Chuvashia (105 each), Azerbaijan (84), Voronezh (80), Kiev (74), Saratov (73), Gorky (59), Uzbekistan (40), Minsk (33), Western Siberia (31) and Bashkiria (28). Less than twenty badge holders resided in Komi-Zyryan Autonomous Oblast (Autonomous Oblasts were administrative units created for a number of smaller nations which were given autonomy within the USSR – Author’s note), Ivanovo, Yaroslavl, Tataria, Georgia, Mordovia, Kabardino-Balkaria and in the western Oblast. As for Kostroma, Sverdlovsk, Kursk, Kirov Krai, Tajikistan and Udmurtia, they had less than ten badge holders each.
It goes without saying that the badge was awarded to both men and women. However, “Radio Front” magazine (1936, No.5) complained that “the percentage of female holders of the badge is woeful. There are hardly hundred women throughout the Soviet Union who wear the badge “To Activist Radio Amateur”.
As of January 01, 1936, 6,250 Soviet citizens were made holders of the badge; 4,200 persons (including 1,500 Moscow residents) passed examinations in 1935 alone. Badge holders growth rates indicate genuine enthusiasm population entered the world of radio with: whilst the city of Voronezh had 80 badge holders only in October 1935, their numbers grew significantly in the following months and reached 173 persons in February 1936.
According to official data, by October 1936, ca.9,000 citizens of the USSR were decorated with the badge “To Activist Radio Amateur”; of these, 500 persons resided in Leningrad, and 170 in Kiev region.
Many badge holders became administrators of local radio clubs and organizers of radio training on their plants and factories.
However, isolated cases of violations in decoration with badges were made accessible to the public. Thus, “Radio Front” magazine (1936, No.22) lamented that “here and there badges are still distributed through personal acquaintance or cronyism, badges are issued to superiors as “it’s inappropriate to test their knowledge”, they are issued as a way of encouraging the right people”… as it took place in Leningrad and in Novosibirsk”.
Come December 1935, radio engineering minimum program (but not the badge!) was divided into two degrees, depending on technical skills of a radio amateur. At the same time, I degree program had been expanded to include concepts of cathode television and sound recording. A number of issues dealt with before, were supposed to be studied in greater depth. Program of the II degree radio engineering minimum has been sent to the field at the beginning of 1936, and practical classes started at the same time. Those who passed essential radio qualifications examination and were decorated with the badge “To Activist Radio Amateur” were allowed to sit for the II degree examination. The length of study was six months approximately.
The first group of II degree specialists graduated on May 27, 1936 in Moscow. That group comprised of fifty radio amateurs, sixteen of them got the highest marks in all disciplines. In the “Radio Front” magazine, issue No.13, 1936, we read:
Extract from the Decree of the All-Union Radio Committee under the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR
Having heard the accounts of comrade Kalugin, instructor of the radio amateur group, and comrade Chumakov, executive editor of the “Radio Front” magazine, who reported on the outcome of the work of II degree radio engineering minimum courses for radio amateur established by the “Radio Front” magazine, All-Union Committee for Radiofication and Broadcasting under the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR decides:
- To highlight valuable experience acquired by the “Radio Front” magazine editorial board in preparing the vanguard of II degree badge holders and providing fifty radio amateurs from Moscow with advanced knowledge equal to qualification of second-class radio technician.
- To include the following radio amateurs named below into the list of the first II degree badge holders who passed theoretical and special examinations: Abramov A.E., Abramson M.S., Afanasjev S.V., Anisimov E.D., Baranov N.D., Blagoveshchensky N.N., Chushkin G.A., Dykhov N.S., Fedoseenko N.E., Filin S.F., Galkin Y.M., Gerasimov K.S., Goub Y.T., Grudev N.A., Guselnikov V.S., Ivanov B.I., Kamnev V.N., Kareev V.B., Kivejsha V.L., Kogtev A.I., Koshelev B.N., Kuvakin N.N., Kuvshinov L.M., Kuzovlev V.A., Lamprecht L.F., Latrygin K.N., Levinson I.M., Maksimenko Y.N., Markin P.I., Morozov I.A., Nagubnov V.G., Nedoshivin K.P., Panin S.F., Prokofjev A.I., Rotgauser B.L., Rudko V.F., Ryabin I.V., Shchennikov V.G., Sidorov B.F., Smotrov V.F., Stefanovich Y.M., Svetitsky A.N., Timofeev A.A., Shishkov A.V., Steinbock M.D., Vakharlovsky V.V., Vasin A.G., Zverev N.I. – totally 50 persons.
- Given the positive response of the learning courses organized by the “Radio Front” magazine editorial board, to oblige Moscow, Voronezh, Gorky, Rostov-on-Don, All-Ukranian, Saratov and Leningrad radio committees to arrange radio amateur learning courses focused on preparing II degree radio engineering minimum radio amateurs since the autumn of 1936.
- To require all chairmen of radio committees to submit to the All-Union Radio Committee plans to train II degree badge holders during autumn-winter period of 1936/37 by June 15.
- To oblige Radio amateur department of the All-Union Radio Committee to elaborate plans of activities focused on the best employment of qualified radio amateurs, targeting mainly high achievers, as technical study rooms and technical consultation workers, radio clubs instructors in large enterprises, etc.
Noting critical importance of accomplished work for radiofication of the country and for reinforcement of radio amateurs executive staff, All-Union Committee for Radiofication and Broadcasting under the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR expresses its hope that proud vanguard of the II degree badge holders will set brilliant examples of public activity and will use its knowledge and experience to raise many hundreds of progressive-minded radio amateurs familiar with radio engineering.
Vice Chairman of the All-Union Committee for Radiofication and Broadcasting under the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR”.
In 1936 All-Union Radio Committee issued directive containing required numbers of badge holders: 38,500 I degree and 2,200 II degree specialists.
By way of example, a hundred or so II degree badge holders resided in Leningrad as of August 1937.
Revised program of the I degree essential radio qualifications examination was introduced on August 01, 1937 by Konstantin Maltsev (1888-28.07.1941), chairman of the All-Union Radio Committee. It was also in August 1937, eighteen months after the radio engineering minimum program was divided into two degrees, that the All-Union Radio Committee had instituted the badge “To Activist Radio Amateur”, II Degree, as well as its Statute and instructions for conducting examinations. Design of the badge and its Statute were approved by the Commission for the Review and Institution of Breast Badges of the Presidium of the Central Executive Committee of the USSR.
Generally, the badge “To Activist Radio Amateur”, II Degree was nearly similar to its lower degree decoration, but had much more simpler design. Thus, it had slightly convex round shape and was covered with white enamel. Dark blue enameled circle symbolizing a terrestrial globe was inscribed in it. Red enameled five-point star with two radiating lightning bolts, also covered with red enamel, topped the badge. Dark blue enameled semicircular ribbon inscribed “To Activist Radio Amateur” (“Активисту-радиолюбителю”) in capital gilt letters bordered with the lower part of the badge and was placed inside half-decahedron. Radio tower with large white enameled digit “2” was found in the centre of the badge. The badge had counter relief (“mirror”) reverse and was attached to outerwear with screw and nut soldered to its reverse.
After II degree badge was instituted, the one described at the beginning of this article was renamed “To Activist Radio Amateur”, I Degree.
Both badges were issued with award documents that bore their numbers, dates of issuance, surnames and initials of decorated radio amateurs.
Resolution of the First All-Union Conference of Radio Amateurs and Constructors on the report of Konstantin Maltsev “On the challenges of radio amateur movement” (March 10, 1938) particularly noted: “Fifteenth anniversary of the Soviet radio amateur movement will be marked on July 1939. The conference calls upon all radio amateurs and employees of radio industry to meet this remarkable date appropriately, (…) advise radio amateurs and help to prepare 25,000 holders of the I degree badge “To Activist Radio Amateur” and 2,500 holders of the II degree badge (Article VII). Note that required number of I degree badge holders was reduced in comparison with 1936 target (38,500 specialists).
Article VI of that document also suggested that “In order to ensure high level of trade of radio equipment and radio parts as well as to secure high-quality service of consumers, People’s Commissariat for Trade together with the State Consumer Distribution Network are advised to oblige radio parts sales clerks to pass essential radio qualifications examination for the badge “To Activist Radio Amateur”.
Here’s an excerpt from the updated Radio clubs regulations (1938) approved by the All-Union Radio Committee and endorsed by the All-Union Central Council of Trade Unions.
“Graduation of badge holders
At the end of the academic year, after training program is complete, radio club has to call an examination board that decides eligibility of decoration of graduates with the badge “To Activist Radio Amateur”. The board is composed of:
a) in rural areas – representative of the local radio centre or physics teacher, representative of trade union organization or collective farm, chairman of the radio club and radio amateur;
b) in city clubs – representative of the local radio committee, trainer of radio amateurs or head of the desk, representative of the People’s Commissariat for Communications and radio amateur who passed I degree exams with distinction.
In order to receive badges “To Activist Radio Amateur” records of meetings of the commissions are forwarded to authorized representatives of radio committees (in regions), trainers of radio amateurs who function under radio committees.
Badges “To Activist Radio Amateur” were issued not only to civilians, but to servicemen as well. For example, “Radio Front” magazine (issue No.14, 1938) contained the article “Radio Amateurs of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet. First Badge Holders” by G.A.Aptekarev. “Leningrad radio committee organized essential radio qualifications examination among sailors of the Red Banner Baltic Fleet at the initiative of Petr Rybkin, immediate assistant to the inventor of the radio Alexander Popov. Twenty-five sailors passed exams successfully during the first meeting of the commission and were decorated with the badge “To Activist Radio Amateur”. Sailors Lysogorenko M.P., Trusov B.V., Zhukov K.I., Molin N.A., Vorobjev V.V., Konovalov A.E., Kuklichev P.A., Bachin N.A., Ovchinnikov A.G., Shulenin G.G. and Rubinstein M.S. passed essential qualification examination with distinction, while others got good marks”.
According to the Order of the People’s Commissar for Communications No.707 dated August 02, 1938, all heads of republican, regional and territorial communications departments together with representatives from radio committees had to assign delegates from regional communications departments to permanent examination boards in cities and towns that were authorized to take exams and issue badges “To Activist Radio Amateur” of both degrees.
According to data from the radio amateur section of the All-Union Radio Committee, as of August 01, 1940, Rostov radio committee occupied the first place for the number of II degree badge holders – 38 persons (“Radio Front” magazine, 1940, No.17-18).
Badges “To Activist Radio Amateur” were awarded until the beginning of the Great Patriotic War (June 22, 1941).
Particularly interesting mention of “an initiative from below” concerning restoration of the badge was found by the author on the pages of the post-war specialized magazine “Radio” (1946, No.8-9). Suggestion was cited in the “Leningrad Radio Amateurs Rally” article covering the meeting of radio enthusiasts jointly organized by the editorial board of the “Radio” magazine, municipal council of the OSOAVIAKhIM and the City Committee of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League. Thus, we read that “Comrade Chikharzhin, student of the Ulyanov-Lenin Electrical Engineering Institute, proposes to organize study of radio engineering minimum of first and second degrees in radio clubs, and to restore theoretical examinations for decoration with the badge “To Activist Radio Amateur”. Such measures might not only emphasize purposefulness of radio amateur clubs, but also encourage studying and tuition in these clubs”. As it often happens, good intentions expressed by the student never translated into effective action, his initiative remained unnoticed and badges “To Activist Radio Amateur” of both degrees became property of history and turned into collectors’ items.