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BBC Russian Service

BBC Russian Service / Русская служба Би-би-си
Type Internet, IPTV, previously radio network
Country United Kingdom
Availability International
Owner BBC
Key people
Sarah Gibson (Head of Service)
Launch date
Official website

The BBC Russian Service (Russian: Ру́сская слу́жба Би-би-си́) is part of the BBC World Service's foreign language output, one of 27 languages it provides.


  • History 1
  • Broadcasting 2
  • Remaining radio programmes 3
    • BBSeva: News with a Human Face 3.1
    • Vam Slovo: Have Your Say 3.2
    • Pyatiy Etazh: 5th Floor 3.3
  • See also 4
  • References 5


The BBC Russian Service began broadcasting on 26 March 1946.

However, during World War II there were sporadic broadcasts to the USSR in Russian only. Most of these broadcasts were after 1942.

These were mainly short news bulletins or announcements relating to UK Foreign Office policy in Russian from 1943 onwards but often weeks or months apart.

In the cold war era broadcasts were severely jammed. Despite this, it tried to bring to listeners in USSR information they were deprived of, including works of writers and dissidents who could not publish their work at home, such as Alexander Solzhenitsyn. Jamming finally stopped in the late 1980s, as perestroika took hold.


The BBC Russian Service has moved all its operation to the Internet, halting radio broadcasting after 65 years on air.

Before the final decision to concentrate on online production the Russian Service radio was available only on AM.

The BBC Russian Service partnered with Bol'shoe Radio (Russian: Большое радио), an FM broadcaster in Moscow between April and August 2007. Daily broadcasts alternated between the Russian Service and Radio Moscow. On 17 August 2007 Bol'shoe Radio notified the BBC World Service that it planned to stop transmission of BBC programming in Russian as of that afternoon. BBC content was not aired as usual at 1700 (Moscow time); the station was ordered by its owner, the financial group Finam, to pull the shows or risk being taken off air altogether. The BBC planned to appeal against the decision.[1] In its 2007 Foreign and Commonwealth Office Annual Report the House of Commons' Foreign Affairs Committee concluded that "the development of a partnership with the international arm of a Russian state broadcasting network puts the BBC World Service's reputation for editorial independence at risk".[2]

Masha Karp, Martin Dewhirst, Victor Suvorov, Vladimir Bukovsky, Oleg Gordievsky criticized the BBC Russian service for giving less coverage to viewpoints outside of those approved by the Russian government.[3][4]

The criticism ignored the fact that Alexander Litvinenko’s last interview from his hospital bed was with BBC Russian and it had featured a full spectrum of views about his death.

An article in The Economist suggested that the BBC's desire to continue using local transmitters in Russia may conflict with its neutrality.[5] The BBC World Service denied it and said the problems it faced in acquiring carriage on FM in Russia emanated from the growing impact its distinctive programmes were having with audiences rather than weakening the quality of its output. They said it was the awkward journalistic questions the BBC had asked that inspired the authorities to bring persistent pressure to bear upon its FM partners to drop its programmes until the threat of losing their licences altogether became too strong. In November 2008 the BBC World Service announced a far-reaching strategy rethink, seeing most of the Russian Service's standalone news bulletins end and two blocks of current affairs programming widened. The strategy envisioned closure of longer, lighter feature programmes and aggregating some of their elements such as insights on British culture into a new weekend programme.

The news drew sharp criticism from British experts on Russia who argued that the BBC World Service had weakened its editorial line under pressure from Kremlin and that it lost crucial links with British culture and political thought.[6]

The BBC World Service responded that the changes were necessary to solidify radio output at peak audience times coupled with lack of FM frequencies throughout its target audience and restrictions imposed by the Russian Government.

BBC World Service said that far from dropping analytical and cultural programming, as claimed, the BBC Russian service was strengthening the provision of journalism about politics and culture, and giving it space within high-profile programmes seven days a week at times when most listeners were available. They also argued that their limited budget would be better spent on creating a better website – which is an area of growth in news consumption and which the Russian authorities had not yet attempted to censor or block.

They also argued that their limited budget would be better spent on creating a better website – which the Russian authorities had not yet attempted to censor or block.

On 21 April 2009 the BBC Russian Service relaunched their website in a new wider template that corresponded with other language services such as Portuguese, Spanish, Persian, Urdu and Vietnamese.[7]

On 26 March 2011 the service stopped broadcasting on medium and shortwave, and now publishes and broadcasts on the internet only.[8]

In March 2012 the service began its first TV broadcasts with regular transmissions on TV Dozhd [9] - the service was the first to broadcast live TV from the BBC's new building in central London (Broadcasting House).[10] The bulletin is also available via[11]

Remaining radio programmes

There are three radio programmes produced by the Russian Service available online and as podcasts:

BBSeva: News with a Human Face

  • Russian name: "БибиСева": Новости с человеческим лицом
  • Broadcast: 1900–1930 Monday-Friday (Moscow time)
  • Genre: IInformal presenter-led news programme, with a focus on human stories and audience interaction as well as music and culture.
  • Presented by: Seva Novgorodsev MBE.
  • Main studio: Broadcasting House, London.
  • Show website: БибиСева

This programme includes: Interviews with key cultural and other news makers, audience reaction, and regular slots such as ‘Ostorozhno, Lyudi’ (Осторожно люди!)

Vam Slovo: Have Your Say

  • Russian name: Вам слово
  • Broadcast: 1930–2000 Monday-Friday (Moscow time)
  • Genre: Interactive programme, inviting the audience to comment on the main forum of the day and contribute story ideas.
  • Presented by: Jana Litvinova, Leonid Louneev, Dmitry Poltavsky
  • Main studio: Broadcasting House, London.
  • Show website: Вам слово

Pyatiy Etazh: 5th Floor

  • Russian name: Пятый зтаж
  • Broadcast: 2000–2130 Saturday-Sunday (Moscow time)
  • Genre: Weekend programme with news and discussion of the main themes of the week, with a particular focus on culture and British themes.
  • Presented by: Mikhail Smotryaev, and featuring regular presenter’s friend Alexander Kan
  • Main studio: Broadcasting House, London.
  • Show website: Пятый зтаж

See also

  • Anatol Goldberg
  • Link to BBC Russia Service`s review of the 1985 production of Gorky` `Enemies` directed by Ann Elizabeth Pennington in association with Internationalist Theatre London


  1. ^ BBC loses last Russian FM outlet, Maria Esposito, The Guardian, 17 August 2007
  2. ^ 2007 Foreign & Commonwealth Office Annual Report, the House of Commons' Foreign Affairs Committee, November 2007
  3. ^ BBC plays by the Kremlin's Rules, Masha Karp, November 2010, Standpoint Magazine
  4. ^ Letter to the Editorial Complaints Unit of the BBC from Martin Dewhirst, Department of Slavonic Studies, University of Glasgow and Viktor Suvorov, Committee on Foreign Affairs, Minutes of Evidence, 19 November 2007.
  5. ^ The BBC's alleged kowtow, Economist, 19 July 2007.
  6. ^ World Service cuts: Reduction of the Russian service just a perverse concession to the Russian authorities, multiple authors, The Times, 7 November 2008
  7. ^ BBC Russian site relaunched, BBC World Service, 21 April 2009
  8. ^ BBC Russian radio hits the off switch after 65 years, Steven Eke, Editor, BBC Russian Service, 22 March 2011
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
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