'Lords' and 'Knights' defy Soviet authority, 'pollute' the airwaves
London — This is Cucumber calling, Cucumber calling.'' ''This is Radio Millimeter.'' ''This is Green Goat.''
These are unusual radio call signs, launched into the highly restricted airwaves of the Soviet Union by unofficial pirate operators.
Defying the state monopoly on broadcasting, the operators go out on the air using strong transmitters built from bits and pieces of equipment stolen from factories or bought on the black market.
In a country where personal expression is not only difficult but also often dangerous, they regard themselves as experimenters and adventurers. They talk, they play pop music. They apparently criticize the authorities.
Alarmed, the state reacts by branding them ''radio hooligans.'' Newspapers accuse them of ''drivel,'' ''rudeness,'' ''vulgarity,'' ''uncensored expressions ,'' and ''trashy music.'' Under Section 206 of the criminal code, officials confiscate their equipment and impose fines of up to one month's salary.
Although the pirate operators are illegal and the Soviet authorities say their interference on the airwaves could even be dangerous to legitimate users, they also represent a determined streak of individualism in an authoritarian society. And, despite all official harassment, the pirates keep on broadcasting, forcing Komsomol (youth group) committees to use special ''search groups'' to track them down.
New details of the pirates come from Soviet press reports and from broadcasts picked up by the BBC monitoring service in Caversham, England. Extra details were given to this newspaper by officials at Bush House in London, headquarters of the BBC's worldwide External Services.
''It looks as though there are quite a few of these pirates in the Soviet Union,'' a BBC official said. ''They are clearly good at improvising.''
''Cucumber'' turned out to be a worker at the Samarkand chemical factory in Soviet Central Asia, according to the Tashkent party newspaper Pravda Vostoka last month. A secondary-school pupil who managed to get onto the air called himself ''Fortune.''
Both were ''severely punished,'' the paper reported. So was an electrical assembly worker at the Karl Marx collective farm in the Bolshevitsky region who called his pirate station ''Enigma.''
This man had put together not only radio equipment but also several tape recorders, a receiver, and a record player. All were seized by the Samarkand District Komsomol Communications Control Committee.
It seemed that ''many people' were unaware of the laws against pirate broadcasting, which provided for fines of up to 150 rubles, the paper said.
People also imagined that they could not be tracked down and caught. But, the paper warned sternly, all-hearing authorities could track down illegal broadcasts even using a simple transistor radio. With modern equipment they could do so even more accurately and quickly.
In case the pirates still had not got the message, the paper added that ''radio hooliganism'' was ''intolerable.''
Two years ago the youth magazine Yunost reported that powerful radio transmitters were being built from components stolen from state enterprises. They ''polluted the air with boring drivel,'' the paper claimed.
Worse, they allegedly interfered in legitimate use of the airwaves in ways that could threaten human life.
One ''hooligan'' was said to have broadcast on a frequency used by the state airline, Aeroflot, preventing a doctor in an air ambulance from transmitting information about a patient.Then there was the case of a young lathe operator, Gennadi Semerikov, who actually competed with Moscow's flagship station, Radio Mayak. Mr. Semerikov built a transmitter so powerful it could broadcast on the same frequency as Mayak.
He called himself ''Radio Millimeter,'' according to the daily youth newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda in Moscow.
The paper was not impressed with his efforts. It called them ''senseless babble.''
Two others were picked up for operating lesser stations - ''Troika'' and ''Integral.''
The same newspaper in 1978 wrote about young people with call signs including ''Forget-me-not,'' ''Lords,'' and ''Knights.'' These were on medium-wave bands, and the paper called them ''profuse thistles.''
In the mid-1970s so many pirates were operating around the city of Archangelsk, especially at night, that local people were urged to telephone reports of violators to a special number.
Other call signs at other times included a quixotic ''Green Goat'' and a frankly defiant ''Lawbreaker.''
One young operator was accused of filling the air with pop music and ''obscenities'' - apparently a reference to statements critical of the state.
In Tashkent, the recent Pravda Vostoka article (the name means ''Truth of the East'') told potential pirates that their broadcasts could make it difficult to send essential signals to civil aircraft and railway traffic controllers. Those who wanted to operate radio equipment should join official clubs.
It added that those who liked to ''show off'' on the air waves were ''pitiful.''