|First air date||1973|
|Format||Repeated buzzing, occasional voice messages and generator failures|
|Former callsigns||UVB-76, UZB-76, MDZhB, ZhUOZ|
|Affiliations||Russian Armed Forces (unconfirmed)|
|Sister stations||The Pip, The Squeaky Wheel|
UVB-76, also known as "the Buzzer", is the nickname given by radio listeners to a shortwave radio station that broadcasts on the frequency 4625 kHz. It broadcasts a short, monotonous buzz tone (help·info), repeating at a rate of approximately 25 tones per minute, 24 hours per day. Sometimes, the buzzer signal is interrupted and a voice transmission in Russian takes place. The first reports were made of a station on this frequency in 1973. Its origins have been traced to Russia, and although several theories with varying degrees of plausibility exist, its actual purpose has never been officially confirmed and remains a source of speculation.
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The station is commonly known as the Buzzer in both English and Russian (жужжалка žužžalka). Its official name is actually вулкан (Vulkan, Volcano in English), but some of the voice transmissions have revealed names which may be callsigns or another form of identification. Up until 2010, the station identified itself as UVB-76 (Cyrillic: УВБ-76), and it is still often referred to by that name. In September 2010, the station moved to another location, and used the identification MDZhB (Cyrillic: МДЖБ, Russian phonetic spelling "Mikhail Dmitri Zhenya Boris") from then onwards. On December 28, 2015, the station began using the callsign "ЖУОЗ" (ZhUOS) – pronounced "Zhenya, Ulyana, Olga, Zinaida". It is possible that the correct identification until September 2010 was actually UZB-76 (Cyrillic: УЗБ-76), and that the Cyrillic letter Ze (З) had been misheard as the letter Ve (В). However, it is still referred to as "UVB-76" by most people. Although the station, by and large, has used these two codes at the beginning of most voice transmissions, a few voice messages have used other identification codes. This makes it uncertain whether the names are actually the callsign of the station, or some other identifying code.
A short clip of UVB-76's transmission as heard in Southern Finland, 860 km (530 mi) away from the station in 2002.
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The station transmits using AM with a suppressed lower sideband (R3E), but it has also used full double-sideband AM (A3E). The signal consists of a buzzing sound that lasts 1.2 seconds, pausing for 1–1.3 seconds, and repeating 21–34 times per minute. Until November 2010, the buzz tones lasted approximately 0.8 seconds each. One minute before the hour, the repeating tone was previously replaced by a continuous, uninterrupted alternating tone, which continued for one minute until the short repeating buzz resumed, although this stopped occurring in June 2010.
The Buzzer has apparently been broadcasting since at least 1973 as a repeating two-second pip, changing to a buzzer in early 1990. It briefly changed to a higher tone of longer duration (approximately 20 tones per minute) on January 16, 2003, but it has since reverted to the previous tone pattern.
Sometimes the buzzing sound is interrupted and a voice message is broadcast. These messages are usually given in Russian by a live voice, and follow a fixed format. An example of such message:
- At 21:00 UTC on December 24, 1997: "Ya UVB-76, Ya UVB-76. 180 08 BROMAL 74 27 99 14. Boris, Roman, Olga, Mikhail, Anna, Larisa. 7 4 2 7 9 9 1 4."
Voice messages were thought to be very rare, until 2010 when listeners reported increased activity of the station, spurring on further monitoring and allowing listeners to "catch" more of the messages which would have otherwise gone unnoticed. On June 5, 2010, UVB-76 went silent for approximately 24 hours, resuming the normal buzzing pattern on the morning of June 6. At 13:35 UTC on August 23, 2010, a voice message was broadcast:
- "UVB-76, UVB-76. 93 882 NAIMINA 74 14 35 74. 9 3 8 8 2 Nikolai, Anna, Ivan, Mikhail, Ivan, Nikolai, Anna. 7 4 1 4 3 5 7 4" (Recording of August 23rd transmission)
On October 17, 2016, The Buzzer broadcast at least 18 different messages in less than 24 hours.
Frequently, distant conversations and other background noises have been heard behind the buzzer, suggesting that the buzzing tones are not generated internally, but are transmitted from a device placed behind a live and constantly open microphone. Because of the occasional fluctuating pitch of the buzzing tones it is supposed that the buzzing tones are generated by a tonewheel as used in a Hammond organ. It is also possible that a microphone may have been turned on accidentally. One such occasion was on November 3, 2001, when a conversation in Russian was heard:
- "Я – 143. Не получаю генератор." "Идёт такая работа от аппаратной." ("I am 143. Not receiving the generator (oscillator)." "That stuff comes from hardware room.").
On November 11, 2010, intermittent phone conversations were transmitted and were recorded by a listener (at 1400 UTC) for a period of approximately 30 minutes. These conversations are available online, and seem to be in Russian. The phone calls mentioned the "brigade operative officer on duty", the communication codes "Debut", "Nadezhda" (Russian for "hope", both a noun and a female name), "Sudak" (a kind of river fish and also a town in Crimea) and "Vulkan" (volcano). The female voice says "officer on duty of communication node Debut senior ensign Uspenskaya, got the control call from Nadezhda OK".
Location and function
The purpose of the station has not been confirmed by government or broadcast officials. However, the former Minister of Communications and Informatics of the Republic of Lithuania Rimantas Pleikys has written that the purpose of the voice messages is to confirm that operators at receiving stations are alert. Other explanations are that the broadcast is constantly being listened to by military commissariats.
There is speculation published in the Russian Journal of Earth Sciences which describes an observatory measuring changes in the ionosphere by broadcasting a signal at 4625 kHz, the same as the Buzzer.
It is also speculated that the voice messages are some sort of Russian military communications, and that the buzzing sound is merely a "channel marker" used to keep the frequency occupied, thereby making it unattractive for other potential users. The signature sound could be used for tuning to the signal on an old analogue receiver.
There are two other Russian stations that follow a similar format, nicknamed "The Pip" and "The Squeaky Wheel". Like the Buzzer, these stations transmit a signature sound that is repeated constantly, but is occasionally interrupted to relay coded voice messages.
The former transmitter was located near Povarovo, Russia, at which is about halfway between Zelenograd and Solnechnogorsk and 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) northwest of Moscow, near the village of Lozhki. The location and callsign were unknown until the first known voice broadcast of 1997. In September 2010, the station's transmitter was moved to the nearby city of Saint Petersburg, near the village of Kerro Massiv. This may have been due to a reorganization of the Russian military. Prior to August 9, 2015, the station is not transmitted from the Kerro Massiv transmitter site ("Irtysh") anymore, possibly due to a reorganization of the Russian military for the particular area which may cause the frequency to be used only in the Moscow Military District. At present, The Buzzer appears to be broadcast only from the 69th Communication Hub in Naro Fominsk, Moscow. In 2011 a group of urban explorers explored the abandoned buildings at Povarovo. They claim that it is an abandoned military base. A radio log record was found, confirming the operation of a transmitter at 4625 kHz.
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