For whom the buzzer tolls

Among the hundreds of radio stations in Russia, there is one that is seemingly out-of-this-world. Instead of music or news, these broadcasts are of mysterious voices and noises which have radio enthusiasts baffled.

­The monotonous sound, more reminiscent of the endless signal of a ferry lost in the fog, has been gripping the imagination of radio spotters worldwide for over three decades.

The mysterious UVB-76 also known as The Buzzer.

“It first aroused my interest because it is so strange. Personally, I think it is a legacy device that has been left over from the late ’70s or ’80s from the military operations of the time. Its original purpose has been forgotten,” radio spotter Stefan Meyers says.

And the “strange” sound has been going all the same since the start, whenever that was. 

The Buzzer features a short, monotonous buzz tone, repeating at a rate of approximately 25 tones per minute, 24 hours a day. The station has been observed since around 1982.

Sometimes the buzzer stops and a male robot-like voice lists some names and numbers in Russian.

“Mikhail, Dmitry, Zhenya…” is heard from the radio receiver.

It is so mysterious; some believe it is the Soviet Union's, and now Russia's, contact with spies.

Or even civilizations from other worlds…

Despite much speculation, the actual purpose of this station remains unknown to the public.

Yaroslav Raguzin, a radio spotter from the Moscow Region, has been a radio fan since his childhood.

He has also had his share of The Buzzer. But his explanation of its purpose is much more down-to-earth.

“This sort of connection is extremely reliable. It will shut down in case of a large nuclear explosion, but only for a few hours. It's not dependent on anything that's why it's still widely used today by the army,” Yaroslav says.

The idea is pretty simple. A military radio station sends out the Buzzer, which is received non-stop by other army bases.

By stopping the buzzer, the operator signals that a command code of letters and numbers is about to be broadcast. When the transmission is complete, the Buzzer turns on again.

Yaroslav said Moscow's radio-spotting community knows where the signal used to come from – a base outside the capital.

RT’s team decided to check what the so-called base looked like. And in reality they saw only an old ruined building.

Mikhail Solovyov was the only living soul they could find on the spot. He used to work at the base and still lives in a village nearby.

“This used to be one of the best units in the country, but two years ago we received an order to shut it down. We were told it was too energy-consuming. There is also another similar unit. It still operates,” Mikhail Solovyov says.

Could it be that The Legendary Buzzer used to beam out of this building? And where is the signal coming from now?

RT’s Egor Piskunov did not find any signs of the mysterious transmitter there because the equipment was literally ripped out of the walls of the building when the base was shut down. But some remnants were actually still there, like the journal that he found, with the last entry dating back to May 2009.

The sound is definitely still there, wherever it is coming from, buzzing through the radio ether almost as if it always has…and always will.

A simple, but very reliable, piece of technology that has conquered the minds of thousands.