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Blizzard. The only radio station in Russia’s farthest region

Blizzard takes frequencies 102.8 MHz in Anadyr and 1.1.6 MHz in Chukotka’s other settlements

MOSCOW, May 27. /TASS/. People working at Chukotka’s first and only FM radio station say with a smile that they present news at the speed of 30 meters per second — the wind speed in Russia’s easternmost region. Anyway, they broadcast news without delays, and the peninsula’s all 42 settlements, many of which may have no mobile or Internet connections, are listening to them. The audience appreciates their work, and from time to time, on the table in the studio may appear fresh cloudberry or fish, salted by a special recipe. Gratitude from listeners is beyond boundaries and distances.

2:0 in favor of restart

"On the mainland, they refer to bad weather with severe snow and wind as a snowstorm, a snow wind, and we, here, in the middle of nowhere, call it a blizzard," Chukotka’s leading presenter, Anastasiya Lavrentyeva said in a professionally trained voice. "What other could be the name of a radio station in the farthest region? We are the first to report whether kids go to school today or they are blizzard-locked at home. Blizzard is the only possible name and nothing else."

The Blizzard radio, like many other positive things in the world, appeared on Chukotka "because of" enthusiasts: in 2001, Roman Abramovich, the then governor, brought from Nizhny Novgorod to the peninsula a team of professionals and asked them to organize in the far-away place its local FM radio station, which will present local news and, on the other hand, which will become Chukotka’s brand, the region’s voice. Blizzard in the early 2000s can hardly be compared with what Blizzard has become nowadays. Anyway, the team has fulfilled the task brilliantly.

"Roman Arkadyevich (Abramovich) used to come to visit us, just for no special reason. We had a piano here, he would play something, enjoyed listening to Zemphira (a rock musician) and Bi-2 (an alternative rock band) — the then governor liked good Russian rock. In fact, in the early 2000s, the radio station resembled Rock-FM (Moscow-based rock radio station), while nowadays we mostly offer popular music," Anastasiya Lavrentyeva said. — Roman Valentinovich (Kopin, Chukotka’s governor from 2008 — TASS) also, by the way, sometimes stops by. I cannot say the radio station has experienced any tough years over these two decades. Radio is a living thing, everything in it develops and changes. We have been on air in different years."

Being on air in the region, which does not have reliable mobile Internet access even for a voice call in a messenger, is an advanced-level task. Hence top valuable are the greetings flying across hundreds of kilometers on 102.8 FM and 101.6 FM.

News for those cut off the world

"Twice a day, we read news in languages of the low-numbered indigenous peoples of Chukotka’s north, and this is what we can be truly proud of," — chief editor Dmitry Kuvshinchikov said. "I came to Chukotka from Moscow only six months ago, and the very fact that the audience of our news in languages of the North’s low-numbered indigenous peoples — the deer herders — gives me creeps. How it works: someone in the district center holds a walkie-talkie close to the radio, and the news ‘runs’ across dozens of kilometers to the listeners in the tundra, where people may speak only little Russian, where they are cut off the surrounding world. This only, believe me, was a good enough reason to cross half the continent and work here."

According to the chief editor, he has been invited to join the station in its jubilee year, as Blizzard undergoes a "certain restart."

"As we say, here is a restart 2.0. We have changed the music flow, have introduced new programs, many of which are educational. Where else can you expect an explanation of the difference between yaranga and, for example, chum (both are names of national tents), if not on the Blizzard radio station? Chukotka is an Arctic region and a treasury of educational content," he added.

The radio station has begun two new projects — Arctic Library and Endless North. At first, stories about the Arctic were available only here, but later on, the Radio Rossii (Radio of Russia, a federal radio station) also launched programs devoted to the Arctic, and nowadays, some programs by Blizzard are presented on Radio Rossii.

The audience has hailed a new one-minute program, "Say it in Chukchi." National presenters pronounce some Russian word in languages of the North’s low-numbered indigenous peoples, and a Russian presenter has to repeat it most accurately. It is both funny and useful.

"Some people learn a few English words a day, and our audience learns a few words in Chukchi," the chief editor said. "It’s very unusual and has certain Arctic coloring."

The radio station must remain universal, he stressed.

Radio for all

"How it normally happens in most regions: when you want some popular foreign music, you tune to Europa Plus, when you want the latest news about crypto-currency — you tune to Business FM," the chief editor continued. "Here, on Chukotka, the audience does not have much choice, and we must satisfy every interest. As yet, we manage to remain a "public" radio station."

He speaks with a sense of humor about the shortage of professionals in the region, where you cannot find a journalism department or at least training courses for radio presenters.

"We value those who we have (he smiled). We care for our people and also try to attract new professionals from the mainland. Honestly — it’s not easy. The North reveals human natures — showing good, bad, any feelings. It’s a human test, in a way. Not everyone will come, nor every newcomer will stay. Thus, we care for our own people and, if possible, educate new ones also by ourselves. Recently, we have educated one presenter — before coming to work at radio, he was employed with the post office. But the guy has a natural velvet baritone, and here we are, taking him," the chief editor said, sharing Arctic headhunter secrets with us.

How to "drain" fog

Blizzard’s former program director and chief editor, Ruslan Vakulik, told us how a listener had used the radio station to "change" the weather.

"Imagine: its early summer, early in the morning, the grey fog is thick as felt. We take a call from a listener - a child’s voice. An 8-year-old girl directly addresses her granny, pleading her to drain the fog. We ask her — what do you mean to drain the fog? And the child tells us: the granny knows how to do it. Ten minutes later, we are amazed — the clear blue sky and the bright sun, even the so-called ‘Abramovich" wind generators can be seen on the other side of our creek."

"For all the years, Blizzard has been a liaison between those who have communication and those who do not have any," Anastasiya Lavrentyeva said. "I take calls from the tundra — the people use satellite phones to say hello or send greetings. They cannot hear themselves at that time, as our programs cannot be received in the tundra. This, and many other aspects, for me, is what the magic of radio is about. To connect people through snowstorms and blizzards, against the wind."

Blizzard has welcomed celebrities, Anastasiya continued.

"Every actor or artist touring Anadyr is a guest at our radio station. I can’t name everyone who has been here over the recent 20 years, but anyway for me a meeting with Valery Meladze (a pop singer) was a big event. It’s needless to say, all our ladies remained under the impression for a long time."

The radio personnel told us about embarrassing situations, which happen at times. One of them is a "presenter’s nightmare" — when callers use dirty language.

"Clearly, we work to live, and our emotions meet the deep response from the audience. They text us, reacting to what has been discussed, or express their opinions, or disagree. Imagine — even nowadays, we receive hand-written letters. One day, a caller, a girl, was saying greetings so emotionally that couldn’t help using a strong word. Then, embarrassed, she uttered: "Oh, have I said it out loud? What will my folks say? They are listening!" and hang up," Anastasiya said. "My personal opinion is — we all work here to keep people warm in the region, where winter continues for nine months a year. The warmth from words, from advice or greetings. You know, since from time to time we receive treats from the listeners, we believe we do manage to warm up people over the radio."

Blizzard takes frequencies 102.8 MHz in Anadyr and 1.1.6 MHz in Chukotka’s other settlements. In August 2021, the radio station will celebrate the 20th birthday. Blizzard has won six times the Radiomania national award. It has won the international festival of social advertising. In 2009, it received the Popov international prize in the Program Style nomination, and in 2014 - the Radio Station Awards as the best radio station in the Far Eastern Federal District. The Blizzard Radio Station has won many other professional competitions.