What exactly is this mysterious Russian radio signal?

For almost 40 years a repeating buzzing sound has been broadcasted, though every very few years it stops, and a Russian voice reads numbers and Russian names. In 2013, for the first time, UVB-76 issued an order: “Command 135 initiated”..

Let’s take a look at the facts-


Basics

  • The sound it normally broadcasts
  • UVB-76, is also known under the nickname “The Buzzer”. It has also been mentioned by some that “UVB-76” may not be the correct name.
  • It broadcasts a short and monotonous buzz-tone, repeating at a rate of approximately 25 tones per minute, for 24 hours per day.
  • The first reports were made of a station on this frequency in 1982.
  • Its origins have been traced to Russia.
  • On very rare occasions, the buzzer signal is interrupted and a voice transmission  in Russian takes place.
    • An example of a message (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.


Theories

  • Several theories with varying degrees of plausibility exist, its actual purpose has never been officially confirmed and remains a source of speculation:
    • Most believe the Buzzer is a Russian military station. Exactly what it is transmitting, though, is a bit of a mystery.
    • It may be that the station is transmitting data to spies and military groups around the world. The type of shortwave transmission used is well suited for this.
    • Others, however, believe it is instead, or also, used for scientific research. A recent paper suggested the frequency was being used to bounce signals off the ionosphere.
    • It has been speculated the station may be a ‘Dead Man’s Switch’ system. In the case of a nuclear attack against Russia, UVB-76 would launch an automated counter-strike.
    • Some have suggested the transmission may be misdirection, as while people focus their attention on decoding the mystery of UVB-76, important communications may be carried out in another manner.

Later Developments

  • During 2010, listeners reported increased activity of the station, which spurred on further monitoring and allowed listeners to “catch” more of the messages which would have otherwise gone unnoticed.
  • 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.
  • On November 3, 2001, a conversation in Russian was heard:

I am 143. Not receiving the generator (oscillator).” “That stuff comes from hardware room.”

  • Other conversations later in November:

“brigade operative officer on duty”, the communication nodes “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”.

  • The location and callsign were unknown until the first known voice broadcast of 1997. The signal was later triangulated.
  • In September 2010, the station’s transmitter was moved near the town of Pskov. This may have been due to a reorganization of the Russian military.
  • Also in 2010, bizarre broadcasts were issued on an almost monthly basis. Snippets of Swan Lake were played, a female voiced counted from one to nine, a question mark was transmitted in Morse code, and strange telephone conversations were overheard by the receiver.
  • In 2011 a group of urban explorers explored the abandoned buildings at Povarovo (the first location). They claim that it is an abandoned military base. A radio log record was found, confirming the operation of a transmitter at 4625 kHz. (link)

UVB-76

Some further information and sources:

Wikipedia page

DailyDot article

Live stream blog

UVB-76 on the Numbers-Stations.com

DailyMail: “Can you solve the mystery of UVB-76?”

Related:

“Numbers Station”

“The Conet Project”