HISTORY: This Is Tirana Calling

Radio Tirana LetterThis is a story from a time when it was possible to isolate a country from the outside world, when people wrote to pen pals for fun.

In the 1970s the UK Sunday night Pop Chart was interrupted by a chilling trumpet fanfare followed by slogans such as ”beloved comrade Enver,” and “truth is the truth.” What was happening? Albania’s Radio Tirana had hijacked the frequency. It was used by Albania’s dictator, Enver Hoxha as his mouthpiece – to shout propaganda into the world in 22 languages from a tower atop Mount Dajti. To prove that living in Albania was paradise it broadcast mind numbing bulletins on tractor, grain and potato production statistics. Next up were outrageous rants from Hoxha such as: “Yellow Imperialist dogs! Revisionist Charlatans! We will never submit to imperialist chauvinism!” Some was pure nonsense, such as this broadcast to England: “In England 66 per cent of all children are sent to work in factories to keep their parents from starving, instead of going to school, they are forced to work in hard labour and most are crippled for life.’ The Spectator (1985) even reported that Radio Tirana was broadcasting inaccurate weather forecasts to try and disrupt economic activity in the West.

Did this achieve the desired result? No. But the sheer absurdity appealed to listeners and Radio Tirana gained cult status across the globe. You could become pen-pals and receive postcards, propaganda magazines, schedules and LPs. You could tune in on 31st December to hear Comrade Hoxha wish you a Happy New Year.

Prior to 1991 all content had to be Party-approved. In contrast to Radio Tirana’s trumpeting of Albania as a Marxist paradise, Albanians were locked in an iron fortress of isolation and poverty. More absurd was that it broadcast in languages and to places the signal could never reach. Ilir Ikonomi who was responsible for responding to pen pals said that he never received a letter from China as the signal was too weak and there were no short wave listeners there anyway!

However the USSR allegedly jammed the Russian language broadcasts. Radio Tirana claimed this meant the USSR were afraid of Albania, and jealous that for Radio Tirana “the number of friends around the world grows more and the listeners in our country and the whole world increases.”

Luckily the world was not listening – at least not seriously.

Sound Clips

The title of the terrifying trumpet is ‘With Pickaxe In One Hand, Rifle In The Other.”

A clip from 1968, Hoxha’s ‘Cultural Revolution’

World Ear Project

The slightly more pleasing interval signature:


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This entry was posted on November 18, 2014 by in Art, History and tagged , , .


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