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Europe's largest TV centre: myths and legends

Russia's main broadcasting centre – the Ostankino television complex – has been the subject of many stories and anecdotes. This year, Europe's largest TV centre is celebrating its 40th anniversary. It's the place where dreams are bor

Many think that Russia's main television centre is situated in the Ostankino Tower. But this, in fact, is only the antenna. The main operational centre is situated in two enormous buildings nearby. The tower, however, is vital for the broadcasts of the Ostankino centre. 

Hooked for life

Statistics show that a person who comes to work in Ostankino, doesn't matter whether he's connected with the creative or technical aspects of the production, will inevitably be somehow involved with television for the rest of his life. And this is just one of the many mysteries surrounding Ostankino.

A legend of Russian television Anna Shatilova
A legend of Russian television Anna Shatilova

Anna Shatilova, a presenter, a legend of Russian television, is one of those many who became emotionally attached to the Ostankino television complex. She was crying when watching the centre ablaze in August 2000.

“I can see the tower from my window. I saw the tower in smoke and couldn't understand what was happening. I turned the TV on, and saw the reports on the blaze, and I started crying… Because that tower is very close to my heart, it represents our television. There it was, on fire, and it seemed no one could help it,” Anna Shatilova recalls.

The fire in Ostankino killed three people. The failure of the electronic equipment which was installed in 1967, and poorly maintained, caused severe damage.

What's at the bottom of it all?

The TV centre has been the subject of many stories and legends.

It was planned as the largest broadcasting centre in the world. But when Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev saw the general plan of the construction, all 26 stories of it, he crossed out half of the building.

The architect took off his hat as a sign of submission and placed it under the foundation stone of one of the buildings.

The second building of the centre was slated to be completed for the 1980 Moscow Olympic Games. The construction workers were in such a hurry that they forgot about a tractor and left it in the foundations.

“Whether there really is a tractor there or not is impossible to tell. But we think the story is true,” said Vyacheslav Andreev, Chief Engineer of the Ostankino TV centre.

Stairway to nowhere

A grand staircase was supposed to lead from the main entrance to the core of the building. But due to a mix up during construction, it now leads from a random hallway into a deserted winter garden – a stairway to nowhere.

Both of the Ostankino buildings were built in a haphazard manner. Everyone who's worked there has gotten lost in the maze of corridors, halls, and stairwells at least once.

“When we moved into the new building, it was really hard to find different studios. One of our presenters used to tear up paper and sprinkle it on the floor to trace her way around the building,” Anna Shatilova recalls.

Every day the broadcasting centre uses energy equivalent to the output of Dneproges, the largest hydroelectric power station in Europe.

Several technical rooms in the Ostankino centre are 100 per cent sound proof. It's said you can even hear your heart beat when inside. 

There are dozens of rooms and studios, serving as storage areas for everything that's been saved up over forty years. Most of the costumes and machinery won't be used again. But they'll stay here because they're now a part of Ostankino history.