Soviet Central Television

Last updated
Soviet Central Television
Type Broadcast television
First air date
9 March 1938;83 years ago (9 March 1938)(based in Moscow)
Availability Free-to-air
Founded9 March 1938;83 years ago (9 March 1938)
Licence area
Moscow, Soviet Union
Broadcast area
Soviet Union
Owner Government of the Soviet Union
Key people
Soviet Union
Launch date
9 March 1938;83 years ago (9 March 1938)
Dissolved27 December 1991;29 years ago (27 December 1991)
Picture format
SECAM (576i 4:3 SDTV)
Replaced by Programme One : Ostankino TV Channel 1, Public Russian Television, and now Channel One Russia
Programme Two : All Union First Programme
All Union First Programme : Main state TV channels of the Soviet Union republics
Moscow Programme : MTK-Moscow Television Channel, now TV Center
Programme Four: Ostankino TV Channel 4, Russian Universities, now NTV (NTV already existed as Russian Universities evening news, sports, music, movies, series and entertainment block until it took over Russian Universities entire airtime in 1994)
Leningrad Television: Petersburg State Television Company till 1997, Saint Petersburg Television and Radio until 2004, presently Petersburg - Channel 5

The Central Television of the USSR (Russian : Центральное телевидение СССР, romanized: Tsentral'noye televideniye SSSR; abbr. CT USSR[ Russian : ЦТ СССР, romanized: TsT SSSR]) was the state television broadcaster of the Soviet Union.


Soviet TV programming was highly diverse and somewhat similar to that of the British BBC or Japanese NHK. Like much of the Soviet media, CT USSR regularly promoted the agendas of the Communist Party. Initially, the service was operated, together with the national radio service, by the Ministry of Culture. Later it was operated by the Gosteleradio committee, under the Communications Ministry and the Information and Press Ministry, and later a Council of Ministers-controlled network of television and radio broadcasting.

First decades

Early Soviet test card (TIT-0249BIS, TIT-0249bis). Tv.resolution.chart.0249.svg
Early Soviet test card (TIT-0249BIS, ТИТ-0249бис).

Radio was the dominant medium in the former Soviet Union, however, in the 1930s preparations for television were in full swing.

On 1 October 1934, the first television sets were made available to the public. The next year, the first television broadcasts began.

The Soviet Union television service began full-time experimental test broadcasts on 1 March 1938.

Regular public programming began on 9 March 1938 – with an evening of programmes, which included news, documentary films and entertainment on Channel 1 in Moscow. At the same time, Channel 5 Leningrad , the national television service from Leningrad and the northern Soviet Union, was launched on 7 July the same year.

Programmes were stopped in 1941 at the start of Operation Barbarossa, for fear that the Shabolovka transmitter would be used as an enemy beacon. The same thing happened in Leningrad due to the almost four years siege of the city.

The USSR television service began experimental test broadcasts on 7 May 1945 (two days before the German surrender), in preparation for its full reopening.

Regular public programming resumed on 7 March 1948.

The USSR television service temporarily stopped broadcasts in December 1948 for a major upgrade of the broadcast equipment, but by 1 May the next year, Leningrad and the northern/northwestern USSR resumed television broadcasts for the Palace Square May Day Parade.

Regular programming resumed on 16 June 1949, but was now broadcasting in 625 lines – a first in the world.

On 22 March 1951, Moscow TV was renamed, to avoid confusion by viewers about the forthcoming local channels, becoming the Central Television Station, later known as Programme 1. Leningrad's television service was also renamed into Leningrad Television. It continued its national broadcasts.

On 26 August 1952, the Leningrad Television Centre was inaugurated, the USSR's first state-of-the-art television studios.

On New Year's Day 1955 the Central Television Station began transmitting daily programming.

On 14 February 1956, the new Moscow Programme commenced broadcasting for viewers in Moscow and in the surrounding Moscow Oblast.

The USSR television service (both Programme 1 and Moscow Programme 2) began experimental colour broadcast tests on 14 January 1960.

The next year, Leningrad Television moved its studios and officers to larger premises.

The USSR authorities began construction of a television center in Ostankino in 1963 for the television networks. It was opened in 1967 as part of the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution. Leningrad would soon follow suit the next year as the newly renovated and expanded Leningrad Television Broadcasting Center reopened its doors.

On 29 March 1965, Programme Three commenced broadcasting. It was originally an educational channel. This channel was shown only in the major cities in the European USSR (e.g. Moscow and Leningrad), and its programming was co-produced with the USSR Ministry of Education, oriented towards the nation's student population at all levels from pre-school till college.


In 1965, CT USSR established a satellite network to expand the television service nationwide.

In 1967, the all-new, youth, sport and entertainment network Programme 4 was launched. Programme 3, which was from the beginning available to Moscow only, began broadcasting to the entire USSR via satellite in 1982. Thus, it was renamed All-Union Programme for this purpose and moved to channel 2 in 1977, while Moscow Programme switched to channel 3. Science and technology programming formerly on Programme 4 moved to Programme 6 when that channel was launched on 25 December 1971.

Television programmes

News and current affairs

Entertainment, children's and youth programming

  • Little Blue Light : Popular entertainment show. Shown on International Women's Day, May Day, and New Year's Eve (1962–1988).
  • What? Where? When? : Intellectual game show (1975–).
  • Fitil : Satirical/comedy short film serial (1962–1991).
  • Budil'nik : Children's programme (1965–1998).
  • Do 16 i starshe : Youth programme (1983–2001).
  • Youth and the World : youth programme (1988–).
  • Musical Ring : musical programme (1984–1990).
  • Explorers Club (Russian : Клуб путешественников): Programme dedicated to promotion of tourism and travel (1960–2003).
  • Kinopanorama: Programme about cinema (1962–1995).
  • Before and after midnight : Infotainment program (1987–1991).
  • ABVGDeyka : Children's educational program for preschool and primary school children. Transmission format – lessons in the form of game play, students act as clowns (1975– ).
  • Come On, Girls! : Popular game program competition, was a television competition among girls, selected on a professional basis. Contestants competed for the title of best in the profession (1970–1987).
  • Come On, Guys! : Popular game program competition (1970–1987).
  • Kabachok (Thirteen Chairs): Comedy shows, the scene of which the plot is a Polish cafe (Zucchini). The program featured well-known Soviet actors and actresses (1966–1980). Shooting was terminated in November 1980 after an aggravation of the political situation in Poland – see Solidarity (Polish trade union).
  • KVN (Club Cheerful and Resourceful): Popular television humorous game in which teams of different groups (schools, universities, businesses, etc.) compete in humorous responses to questions, improvisations on given themes, acting out scenes prepared in advance, etc. (1961–1972, 1986–)
  • Melodies and Rhythms of Foreign Music : Musical entertainment television program devoted to foreign music, defined as "pop" (1977–1984).
  • Poetry Almanac : program dedicated to poetry and to poets.

Educational, health, science and technology

  • Ochevidnoye-neveroyatnoye : Popular science program (1973–1992).
  • This You Can : Popular science program dedicated to scientific and technical creativity (1970s–1980s).
  • Zdorovye : weekly popular science program on health (1960–1991).
  • In the Animal World: Programme dedicated to zoology and wildlife research (1968–).


  • Football Review : Weekly sports programme on the latest football events within the country and abroad

Notable annual traditions of the Soviet Central Television network included the telecasts of the Red Square demonstrations on May Day, Victory Day and the October Revolution anniversary parades, and the broadcast of the film The Irony of Fate (Or Enjoy Your Bath!) on New Year's Eve night, right before the CPSU General Secretary's New Year message, followed by the Kremlin chimes and the playing of Soviet national anthem, and ending with Little Blue Light New Year's Edition. Concerts and musical programs also commemorated these and other national holidays. Since 1971 it was also the official network for the USSR's Pesnya goda All-Union National Soviet Music Festival aired on New Year's Day, also soon becoming a holiday practice for viewers across the nation.


Soviet test card used in TV broadcasts in the USSR after the introduction of colour (Ueit, UEIT). UEIT.svg
Soviet test card used in TV broadcasts in the USSR after the introduction of colour (Ueit, УЭИТ).

Test colour broadcasting started in Moscow as early as January 1960 using OSKM system (625 lines version of NTSC), but lasted only a few months. This system was rejected. Only circa 4,000 TV sets were built for this system (Raduga, Temp 22, Izumrud 201/203). Colour television was introduced on 1 October 1967, making the Soviet Union the fourth country in Europe to switch to colour broadcast, after the United Kingdom's BBC2, West Germany's ARD and ZDF, and France's ORTF.(see Timeline of the introduction of color television in countries), again ready for the celebrations for the 50th anniversary of the October Revolution on 7 November 1967. Moscow Programme and Leningrad Television were the first colour broadcasters, even through the 7 November 1967 parade was broadcast in monochrome in the main national channels and Programme 4. CT USSR chose the French SÉCAM colour standard, which would later be adopted across the Eastern Bloc (Romania and Yugoslavia, however, settled for the PAL standard).

By 1976, full colour broadcasts began throughout the entire Soviet Union using the SECAM format on all television programs broadcast on all the national channels: Programme One , Programme Two , Moscow Programme , Programme Four and Programme Five – Leningrad Television, and in all the republican networks.

Olympic Games

The hosting of the 1980 Summer Olympics by Moscow was a source of pride for the Eastern Bloc. However, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 had caused outrage in the west, leading to a boycott of the games by 64 western-aligned nations. CT USSR, as the host nation broadcaster, presented a colour broadcast of the Games to the world, and in Soviet territory the Games were broadcast on the two main channels with additional coverage on Program 3, Program 4 and Leningrad Television as well as the republican channels in Belarus, Ukraine (football) and Estonia (sailing). The other republican stations also simulcast and highlighted the entire event.


In 1988, the USSR-built Gorizont satellite was launched, providing television programming to much of Europe and northern Africa, and even eastern parts of the Americas. The programmes of all the Eastern European socialist republics, including the CT USSR channels, were broadcast on the satellite.

The reforms

Significant changes to CT USSR were made in the 1980s as the USSR underwent economic and popular political changes brought about by the reforms in Moscow under Mikhail Gorbachev.

At first, CT USSR stuck to the party line and barely reported the opposition to the communist regime. However, after the rule of the CPSU began to break down in 1990, CT USSR reformed their programmes to remove propaganda and to report news freely.

By the time the Glasnost came into effect, the main news programme on the then Programme 1 (Vremya) was being produced without censorship or interference, and so it covered the events in full. In recognition of its reliable coverage, the programme was re-broadcast on several TV channels around the world (such as Australia's SBS and the United Kingdom's Sky News).

CT USSR, at the same time, started a number of new programme strands and formats, including talk shows.

On 4 March 1988, emphasizing the Glasnost campaign, Programme 3 and Programme 4, plus Leningrad Television began to be carried across the Soviet territory via satellite.

Private TV channels such as ATV and 2×2 were also introduced ending the state monopoly on television broadcasting. By 1990, CTV-USSR debuted its first joint international partnership program with the American Broadcasting Company, entitled Capital to Capital.

Dissolution of the USSR

Upon the total dissolution of the country on 26 December 1991, Soviet Central Television (by now part of the All-Union State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company due to a 8 February 1991 reform) ceased to be the state broadcaster of the former USSR.

On 27 December 1991, Ostankino Television 1 and Ostankino Television 4 (presently Channel One (Russia) and NTV (Russia) ) took over the frequencies of Programme 1 and Programme 4. Leningrad Television 5 soon became St. Petersburg State Television Network, broadcasting to all of Russia until 1997.

Employees of CT USSR were worried about job prospects in the new broadcaster and also had a loyalty to Soviet Central Television. Viewers accustomed to the Russian programming, were concerned at the loss of favourite shows. (Some of the Soviet Central Television shows are now consigned to Channel One Russia and Russia 1 ) Additionally the three big Russian channels – Channel One, Russia 1 and Petersburg – Channel 5 – have a good amount of presence in the former Soviet territory, and most of the republican stations are now fully independent.

Former television stations

Soviet Central Television had three and later six national television channels over its history. The six channels were joined by a number of regional television stations operated by the republican governments of each of the 14 other republics, city television stations operated by the city governments in several key cities and television stations of the governments of the autonomous republics of the Union. Today, these stations, now independent, maintain separate national identities and programming.

National stations

Regional stations



There were three idents which were broadcast each day on CT USSR.

Logo history

There was only one CT USSR logo, which had five rings from a red star-designed antenna in it.

Opening and closing times

Sign On


Soviet Central Television ( Programme One , Programme Two and Moscow Programme ) sign on at 16:00 with the test card along with music, clock ident, then the national anthem accompanied by a panoramic view of Moscow, the capital of the Soviet Union and station ident.

Sign Off


Soviet Central Television ( Programme One , Programme Two and Moscow Programme ) sign off at 07:00 with the station ident, Clock ident, caption Do not forget to turn off the TV.



There was only one clock broadcast.

Test card

The UEIT test card was used.

Colour TV standard

When colour television was introduced in 1967, the SÉCAM system was chosen. Following the collapse of the USSR, some of its former republics switched to the PAL colour system.


Broadcasting in the USSR was heavily subsidized by the state.


Advertising – in the form of "commercial" magazine programmes – appeared on Soviet television from the 1980s. However, the command economy had little or no competition between brands, so advertising was limited to informing viewers of the prices and availability of products.

With perestroika, spot advertising was introduced to CT USSR in order to better cover the system's cost.

The satirical TV series Second City Television did a 1980 episode consisting of skits centered around a Russian satellite signal overriding the SCTV satellite and causing Russian TV to be broadcast on SCTV's signal, with Soviet Central Television satirized as 'CCCP1' (Three CP One) and 'CCCP2' ('Three CP Two') and containing further satires of Russian programing with shows like Tibor's Tractor (a farmer has a tractor that is the reincarnation of Nikita Khrushchev, spoofing My Mother The Car ), Hey Georgy (a man wanders around Russia helping everybody), and a daytime show, Today is Moscow. The episode is featured on SCTV DVD Volume 2.

See also

Related Research Articles

A television network or broadcaster is a telecommunications network for distribution of television program content, where a central operation provides programming to many television stations or pay television providers. Until the mid-1980s, television programming in most countries of the world was dominated by a small number of terrestrial networks. Many early television networks evolved from earlier radio networks.

BBC Two Television channel operated by the BBC

BBC Two is a British free-to-air television network owned and operated by the BBC. It covers a wide range of subject matter, with a remit "to broadcast programmes of depth and substance" in contrast to the more mainstream and popular BBC One.

ITV Yorkshire British television service

ITV Yorkshire, previously known as Yorkshire Television. and commonly referred to as just YTV, is the British television service provided by ITV Broadcasting Limited for the Yorkshire franchise area on the ITV network. Until 1974, this was primarily the historic county of Yorkshire and parts of neighbouring counties served by the Emley Moor and Bilsdale transmitting station transmitters. Following a re-organisation in 1974 the transmission area was extended to include Lincolnshire, northwestern Norfolk and parts of Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, served by the Belmont transmitter, but lost much of North Yorkshire served by the Bilsdale transmitter which covered Tyne Tees Television, with transmissions available as far south as Harrogate.

ITV Border

ITV Border, previously Border Television and commonly referred to as simply Border, is the Channel 3 service provided by ITV Broadcasting Limited for the England/Scotland border region, covering most of Cumbria, Dumfries and Galloway, the Scottish Borders and parts of Northumberland. The TV service previously covered the Isle of Man from 26 March 1965 until 15 July 2009.

UTV (TV channel) Television channel in Northern Ireland

UTV is the ITV region covering Northern Ireland and the former on-air name of the free-to-air television channel serving the area. It is run by ITV plc and is responsible for the regional news service and other programmes made principally for the area.

ITV Anglia East of England branch for ITV

ITV Anglia, previously known as Anglia Television or (informally) Anglia, is the ITV franchise holder for the East of England. The station is based at Anglia House in Norwich, with regional news bureaux in Cambridge and Northampton. ITV Anglia is owned and operated by ITV plc under the licence name of ITV Broadcasting Limited.

Television in the Soviet Union Overview of television in the Soviet Union

Television in the Soviet Union was owned, controlled and censored by the state. The body governing television in the era of the Soviet Union was the Gosteleradio committee, which was responsible for both the Soviet Central Television and the All-Union Radio.

Television has a long history in Ukraine, with regular television broadcasting started during the former USSR years in 1951. However the first ever TV broadcast took place on 1 February 1939 in Kyiv. Since then TV broadcasting has expanded, particularly after the fall of Communism in 1989, and now there are many different channels and groups in the Ukrainian TV market.

Radio in the Soviet Union Soviet state radio broadcasting network

All-Union Radio was the radio broadcasting organisation for the USSR under Gosteleradio, operated from 1924 until the dissolution of the USSR. The organization was based in Moscow.

Broadcasting in the Soviet Union was owned by the Soviet state, and was under its tight control and Soviet censorship. Through the development of satellites and SECAM, controlled broadcasting was initialized as the main frequency for distributing information and entertainment. Under the control of the Soviet Union, censorship and limitation on information was filtered for the citizens to ensure the common culture and socialist ideals were maintained.

<i>Vremya</i> Main evening TV newscast in Russia and the USSR

Vremya is the main evening newscast in Russia, airing on Channel One Russia and previously on Programme One of the Central Television of the USSR. The programme has been on the air since 1 January 1968 and has broadcast in color since 1974.

ABC TV, formerly known as The ABC National Television Service or ABC Television from 1956 until 2008, and as ABC1 from 2008 until 2014, is a national public television network in Australia. Launched on 5 November 1956 it is the responsibility of the ABC's television division, and is available nationally. The ABC's headquarters is in Ultimo, an inner-city suburb of Sydney, New South Wales.

All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company Russian public radio and TV broadcaster

The All-Russia State Television and Radio Broadcasting Company, in short VGTRK (a.k.a Russian Television and Radio is a state-owned broadcaster which operates many television and radio channels in 53 of Russia's languages. The company was founded in 1990 and is based in Moscow.


Russia-1 is a state-owned Russian television channel first aired on 14 February 1956 as Programme Two in the Soviet Union. It was relaunched as RTR on the 13 May 1991, and is known today as Russia 1. It is the flagship channel of the All-Russia State Television and Radio Company (VGTRK). Russia-1 has the second largest audience in Russian television. In a typical week, it is viewed by 75% of urban Russians, compared to 83% for the leading channel, Channel One. The two channels are similar in their politics, and they compete directly in entertainment. Russia-1 has many regional variations and broadcasts in many languages.

Public Television Company of Armenia Armenias public television station

Public Television of Armenia, Hayastani Hanrayin Herrustaynkerut’yun; also known as Armenia 1 or ARMTV, is Armenia's public television station that began transmissions in 1956.

ORF 2 is an Austrian public television channel owned by ORF. It was launched on 11 September 1961 as a technical test programme. Today it is one of the four public TV channels in Austria.

Deutscher Fernsehfunk State television broadcaster in the German Democratic Republic

Deutscher Fernsehfunk was the state television broadcaster in the German Democratic Republic from 1952 to 1991.

Television is the most popular medium in Russia, with 74% of the population watching national television channels routinely and 59% routinely watching regional channels. There are 3300 television channels in total. 3 channels have a nationwide outreach : Channel One, Russia-1 and NTV.

Programme One was a television channel produced and transmitted by Soviet Central Television, the television broadcasting organization of the USSR. It had a mixed schedule of news and entertainment, with the emphasis on events in the USSR, and also included regional programming.

The Moscow Programme was a television channel in the Soviet Union. It had a political focus and discussed events in Moscow. Now it is a television station broadcast by the Moscow City Government named TV Center.