Radio enthusiasm is extremely popular amongst Soviet youth being one of the most favourite hobbies of pioneers and schoolchildren. Soviet young radio amateur community amounts to nearly half a million enthusiasts. High engineering standard of their hand-made devices were appreciated during numerous radio exhibitions.
Editorial “To Give the Utmost Encouragement of Radio Enthusiasm Development in Schools”. “Radio Front” Magazine, No.20, 1940
Radio enthusiasts decorated with badges represent the most valuable community indispensable for effective defense and development of broadcast network of our country. These cadres are to be painstakingly brought up and are not allowed to lose their qualification.
V.Burland. “Support Genuine Radio Amateur Activists”. “Radio Front” Magazine, No.15-16, 1940
“Young Radio Amateur” breast badge was instituted at the very end of 1939 by the joint resolution of the All-Union Committee for Radiofication and Radio Broadcasting under the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR (a.k.a. All-Union Radio Committee, founded on January 31, 1933) and People’s Commissariat for Education of the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic (RSFSR). The badge in question became not only the first but the only departmental award of such a high level issued to Soviet young radio enthusiasts. Before its introduction schoolchildren were only able to be decorated with the “To Activist Radio Amateur” badge, 1st degree provided they had passed all the tests successfully.
The exact date the badge was instituted remains unknown to the author, but the end of December 1939 seems to be the most probable one. At least, the very first record of the badge can be found in the “Radio Front” magazine (issue 1, 1940) sent to the printer’s on January 02, 1940. At the same time, the last 1939 issue of the magazine (23-24) that was sent to the printer’s on December 10 and 22, 1939, still kept on informing its readers of decorations of schoolchildren with “To Activist Radio Amateur” badge, 1st degree.
Nearly all online articles erroneously allege that the badge was introduced “in 1933”. The author managed to find origins of such an annoying mistake that pierces through numerous publications. It seems that initial error was made by a renowned Soviet radio amateur Georgy Chliyanz from Odessa (now Ukraine). Thus, his brief perfunctory article “Badges for Radio Amateurs” published in the “Radio” magazine (p.71, issue 5-6, 1981) contains that allegation without citing any primary source.
Active steps for youth inclusion into immense world of wireless radio were undertaken in 1933 by resolution of the Central Committee of the All-Union Communist Party of Bolsheviks, the highest body of the Communist Party. It was in April 1933 that Radiofication and Radio Enthusiasm Development Assistance Committee under the Central Committee of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League was created and de-facto replaced disbanded “Society of Friends of Radio” (“Общество друзей радио”), voluntary public association that operated in 1923-1933.
Those events were highlighted in editorial published in “Radio Front” Magazine (issue 5-6, 1933): “Regional, territorial and republican councils as well as Central council of “Society of Friends of Radio” are disbanded. From now on Komsomol is in charge of radio enthusiasm development. Separate Radiofication and Radio Enthusiasm Development Assistance Committee has been created under the Central Committee of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League. (…)
Creation of a separate Radiofication and Radio Enthusiasm Development Assistance Committee is a clear evidence of a particular importance attached by the Party to radio amateur movement, its development and guidance. Former executive system impeded progress of radio enthusiasm, and was in fact an obstacle in the way of nurturing voluntary radio amateur activist, progressive-minded radio amateur on field of radiofication. It failed to embrace new mass cadres of radio fans, and first of all, youth.
Governing body of “Society of Friends of Radio” was in fact estranged from radio amateurs, failed to help them, to satisfy their requirements, and never discerned real radio amateurs with their needs and requests among Society members. Moreover, certain “theorists” propagated “extinction” of radio amateur movement, its “degradation” and “crisis”. Instead of reorganization of radio amateur movement those “theorists” raved like possessed about total bureaucracy of “Society of Friends of Radio” local cells, therefore of radio amateurs themselves”.
Institution of the “Young Radio Amateur” breast badge was aimed at enhancement the prestige of radio modelling among Soviet youth, mass involvement of rising generation into radio engineering hobby groups that were set up in schools and Palaces of the Pioneers, as well as at encouragement of young constructors who exhibited their achievements on a regular basis during various radio shows. Come 1939, People’s Commissariats for Education of the RSFSR and other Soviet Republics issued orders that enacted radio modeling in schools in conjunction with the 15th anniversary of the Soviet radio enthusiasts’ movement. The latter was created on July 28, 1924, the day the Decree on Private Receiving Radio Stations was signed by the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR.
Inaugural 1st All-Union Extramural Exhibition of Young Amateurs’ Works was held successfully, but German invasion on June 22, 1941 ruined plans of Soviet radio enthusiasts to hold the next one, as August 1, 1941 was determined as the last day of sending of exhibits to Moscow according to postmarks.
Order “On work of young technicians”, signed on February 26, 1941 by Vladimir Potyomkin, people’s commissar for education of the RSFSR, particularly stipulated: “Extraschool engineering activities favour to a certain extent training of schoolchildren for practical activity and military service in the ranks of the Red Army, broaden knowledge of bases of sciences, promote voluntary discipline, cultivates habit of useful collective labour”. The order required school headmasters “to allocate separate rooms for engineering hobby groups in every school, provide them with essential tools and materials”.
However, despite particular importance attached to training of young radio amateurs within an inch of becoming highly skilled Red Army radio operators, only two youth-oriented books were published in USSR prior to the Great Patriotic War. Those were “First Steps of a Radio Amateur” by Alexander Shevtsov (1933) and two editions of his practical handbook “Young Radio Amateur” (published twice, in 1935 and 1937).
As mentioned above, detailed information on the decoration in question is found in the article “Pass the tests to get the “Young Radio Amateur” badge” published in the “Radio Front” magazine (p.12, issue 1, 1940). The whole article is cited below.
“Young radio enthusiasts are the potential workforce of the Soviet amateur radio community. Children who take great interest in radio engineering while studying in schools later on become outstanding constructors and excellent soldiers of the Red Army signal units.
Works by young radio enthusiasts are displayed annually during extramural radio exhibitions organized by the All-Union Radio Committee. Multiple devices created by young radio enthusiasts were awarded prizes on repeated occasions.
Considering particular importance of radio enthusiasm development among pioneers and schoolchildren, All-Union Radio Committee under the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR and People’s Commissariat for Education of the RSFSR decided to introduce “Young Radio Amateur” breast badge as a token of encouragement for young radio technicians.
“Young Radio Amateur” badge is awarded to pioneers and schoolchildren who pass specified proficiency tests. Those qualifying for the badge have to assemble a crystal receiver individually or in a team using any diagram at their own discretion. In addition, they have to assemble a tube radio with high or low frequency amplifier. The whole assembly should be done correctly in engineering terms and with satisfactory assemblage soldering.
Young radio amateur has to read and draw diagrams of simple radio receivers, show skills in installing an antenna and a ground connection, mounting a crystal receiver or a tube radio as well as to handle modern factory-made radio receivers.
Young radio amateurs are to be proficient in Morse alphabet and be able to transmit texts using Morse code, lamp signaling and signal flags.
Tests for decoration with the “Young Radio Amateur” badge will be given by special boards set up under hobby clubs, Palaces and Houses of the Pioneers. In the absence of these institutions special boards are to be set up by radio committees or their representatives.
Special board will consist of the Radio Committee representative or authorized representative of a local broadcasting station, radio instructor from a hobby club or a House of the Pioneers, instructor in physics or competent radio amateur. Special boards in districts lacking hobby clubs or Houses of the Pioneers are allowed to include hobby group instructor instead of a radio instructor.
Meetings of special boards are to be held at radio laboratories and physics study rooms as the latter will be venues of knowledge tests on radio equipment and radio components.
Test results and decisions on decoration with the badge are to be filled into records of proceedings, with separate record cards being drawn up for each awardee. Records of proceedings as well as record cards must be kept in radio laboratories of hobby clubs or Houses of the Pioneers. These organizations are obliged to report number of awardees to republican, regional and territorial clubs or Palaces of the Pioneers on a monthly basis.
Badges will be solemnly presented during festive occasions and rallies of young technicians, as well as in conjunction with the Young Radio Amateurs Day during school parties and Pioneers’ rallies around a bonfire.
All-Union Radio Committee under the Council of People’s Commissars of the USSR and People’s Commissariat for Education of the RSFSR have recently instituted “Young Radio Amateur” breast badge as well as qualifying standards for decoration”.
The badge had a round shape and was bordered with a fragment of a cogwheel on the left and an ear of wheat on the right. Elongated folded red enameled banner with a gilt outline of the five-point star topped the badge. Dark blue enameled ribbon bearing an inscription “Young Radio Amateur” (“Юный радиолюбитель”) in gilt capital letters was situated at the bottom. Interesting to know that illustration of the badge published in the “Radio Front” magazine (p.12, issue 1, 1940) showed that inscription being executed in three words, i.e. “Юный радио любитель”, while the mass production badge had it executed in two words, i.e. “Юный радиолюбитель”, according to the correct Russian orthography.
The Spasskaya Tower, the main tower of the Moscow Kremlin overlooking the Red Square, as well as fragment of the Moscow Kremlin wall are situated in the background against light blue enameled sky. Outline of the red star on top of the Spasskaya Tower is visible through the red banner. Shoulder-length figure of a young pioneer wearing red scarf with tie clip and assembling radio receiver while consulting with a diagram is placed in the foreground.
The badge had a counter-relief reverse with a 6 mm screw soldered to its centre. The latter was used as a method of attachment together with a round nut. “Young Radio Amateur” breast badge was manufactured either of bronze or brass with application of red, dark blue and light blue enamel.
Approximate number of schoolchildren who passed proficiency tests and were decorated with the “Young Radio Amateur” badge could be estimated by the use of statistical data published in the “Radio Front” magazine (issue 15-16, 1940). The information cited below was based on reports of local radio committees sent to headquarters by August 31, 1940. “Radio committee of Omsk – 198 persons, Ordzhonikidze – 133, Azerbaijan – 93, Gorky – 83, Poltava – 76, Voronezh – 71, Kharkov – 60, Tatar – 52, Krasnodar – 52, Leningrad – 43, Altai – 31, Kiev (regional radio committee) – 22, Penza – 16, Kirghizia – 16, Vologda – 10, Kirov – 8, Mordovia – 7, Ferghana – 5, Dnepropetrovsk – 5, Stalino – 3, Crimea – 2. Other radio committees failed to provide particulars”. Thus, at least 986 schoolchildren were decorated with the badge in eight months after its institution. Figures listed above are by no means accurate, as record keeping of young radio amateurs in various regions was unstructured and sometimes even negligent. Certain local radio committees provided unverified data, and number of radio amateurs was sometimes underreported.
According to information published in the “Radio Front” magazine (issue 7, 1940), “Twenty young technicians studying in the radio hobby group at the Palace of the Pioneers passed qualifying tests for the “Young Radio Amateur” badge” in March 1940 in the city of Dnepropetrovsk. “An external group of radio operators studying at the municipal radio office [in Dnepropetrovsk] has undertaken a task of accepting at least 50 new badge holders by April 01”. However, only five badge holders from Dnepropetrovsk as of August 31, 1940 were mentioned in statistical data listed above. The same issue of the magazine reported that “radio laboratory at the Leningrad Palace of the Pioneers provides all the necessary facilities for study and practical work of young radio amateurs. More than 400 schoolchildren are studying in numerous hobby groups of the Palace”. Did they manage to get their cherished badges before the war broke out?
Ironically enough, but Moscow schools housed only few radio hobby groups, and 1940 statistical data haven’t even contained information on distribution of the badges to young metropolitans. Thus said, radio enthusiasm in the pre-war USSR was much more popular in remote provincial towns than in its capital.
The second and the last pre-war statistics on the number of “Young Radio Amateur” badge holders were published in the “Radio Front” magazine (issue 11, 1941). That issue was the final one, being sent to the printer’s on June 09, 1941. Judging from reports of local radio committees sent to headquarters by June 01, 1941, the situation was as follows. “Radio committee of Krasnodar – 190 persons, Azerbaijan – 131, Gorky – 110, Moscow – 107, Gomel – 80, Altai – 72, Voronezh – 71, Chkalovsk – 46, Tula – 46, Ivanovo – 44, Tambov – 41, Kuybyshev – 40, Uzbekistan – 38, Chelyabinsk – 30, Kirghizia – 30, Turkmenistan – 30, Novosibirsk – 28, Kalinin – 23, Vologda – 21, Smolensk – 21, Sverdlovsk – 20, Georgia – 19, Polesia – 19, Stalingrad – 16, Armenia – 14, Pinsk – 13, Krasnoyarsk – 11, Mari – 10, Ryazan – 9, Bashkiria – 9, Astrakhan – 9, North Ossetia – 8, Mordovia – 7”.
Thus, total of 1,363 badges were presented after the 1941 school year that ended in June. By adding that figure to 986 badges issued at the end of the 1940 school year, the confirmed total number of decorations comes to 2,349 pieces. Bearing in mind that statistical data were not accurate at all, at least in 1940, the approximate total number of “Young Radio Amateur” badges was not less than 2,500 pieces. Anyway, it is safe to say that holders of the badge in question were not as numerous as were those decorated with the “To Activist Radio Amateur” badge, 1st degree.
It’s worth mentioning here that the number of male and female awardees was in certain regions roughly equal, though even then boys held a slight lead. For instance, radio hobby club that functioned under secondary school No.1 in the township of Lyuban (Minsk region) was created in Autumn 1939. 100 pupils were divided into three groups and studied according to the 1st degree essential radio qualifications. Come July 1940, 54 pupils – 27 boys and 27 girls – passed proficiency tests successfully. In 1941 hobby groups that were created under radio laboratory at the Shvernik Central hobby club of young technicians (the very first Soviet radio hobby club established on October 12, 1926) numbered 65 schoolchildren from 6-8 grades that studied according to the special program approved by the All-Union Radio Committee. Some girls were members of the general group, while others were enlisted into a separate group headed by Мaria Kamyshnikova.
Judging from articles in period magazines conclusion may be drawn that proficiency tests for decoration with the “Young Radio Amateur” badge were additionally passed by the end of the 1940 calendar year.
“Young Radio Amateur” breast badge was awarded until the beginning of the Great Patriotic War. In the post-WWII era that decoration was mentioned in specialized periodicals only once, in the “Radio” magazine (issue 8-9, 1946). The article “For revival of radio enthusiasm among schoolchildren” particularly noted: “The scope of radio enthusiasm among schoolchildren in pre-war years was notably immense. (…) Educational programs, qualifying standards to get the “Young Radio Amateur” badge were elaborated together with the All-Union Radio Committee. The badge was issued as well”. However, neither of the subsequent issues of the “Radio” magazine contained information on decoration of young radio enthusiasts with the “Young Radio Amateur” breast badge. Thereafter a conclusion may be drawn that the badge was presented only within a year and a half – from the beginning of 1940 until June 1941.
The badge in question was replaced with its pale successor, a pin bearing the same name, i.e. “Young Radio Amateur”, instituted at the end of 1966 by the Central Committee of the Volunteer Society for Cooperation with the Army, Aviation and Fleet (ДОСААФ СССР) “as a token of encouragement for schoolchildren from junior secondary schools who spend their spare time studying radio engineering and devote themselves to radiosport”.