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Soviet Central Television
TypeBroadcast television
First air date
1 May 1931; 93 years ago (1 May 1931)
Founded9 March 1939; 85 years ago (9 March 1939)
TV stationsProgramme One[a]
Programme Two[b]
Moscow Programme[c]
Programme Four[e]
Leningrad Television[f]
Technical Programme[g]
OwnerGovernment of the Soviet Union
Launch date
22 March 1951; 73 years ago (22 March 1951)
Dissolved27 December 1991; 32 years ago (27 December 1991)
Picture format
SECAM (576i 4:3 SDTV)

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

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, 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 programs, 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.

Programs 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 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 studio.

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, Programme 2 and Moscow Programme) 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.


Ostankino Tele Tower was built for expanding CT USSR's broadcast networks.

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

Educational, health, science and technology


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, 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. The OSKM abbreviation means "Simultaneous system with quadrature modulation" (In Russian: Одновременная Система с Квадратурной Модуляцией[1]). It used the color coding scheme that was later used in PAL (YUV instead of YIQ), because it was based on D/K monochrome standard, 625/50. The color subcarrier frequency was 4.4296875 MHz and the bandwidth of UV chroma signals was near 1.5 MHz.[2]

Only circa 4000 TV sets of 4 models (Raduga,[3] Temp-22, Izumrud-201 and Izumrud-203[4]) were produced for studying the real quality of TV reception. These TVs were not commercially available, despite being included in the goods catalog for trade network of the USSR. The broadcasting with this system lasted about 3 years and was ceased well before SECAM transmissions started in the USSR. None of the current multi-standard TV receivers can support this TV system.


SÉCAM 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 though the 7 November 1967 parade was broadcast in monochrome on the main national channels and Programme 4. CT USSR chose the French SÉCAM colour standard, which would later be adopted across the Eastern Bloc such as East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Bulgaria, the Mongolian People's Republic, North Korea and North Vietnam.

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



In 1982, there were three idents which were broadcast each day on CT USSR.

Logo history

Opening and closing times

Sign On


As of 1990, Soviet Central Television (Programme One, Programme Two and Moscow Programme) sign on at about 6:30 and 12:00 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


As of 1990, Soviet Central Television (Programme One, Programme Two and Moscow Programme) signed off at about 02:00 with the station ident, Clock ident, caption Do not forget to turn off the TV. Also, there was a sign off in the noon, beginning around in 1 pm and by 2:30 to 4 pm there was the second daily sign on with various news and entertainment programs shown until late night.



There was only 2 clocks 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.

In popular culture

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, spoofing King of Kensington), and a daytime show, Today is Moscow. The episode is featured on SCTV DVD Volume 2.

See also


  1. ^ Ostankino TV Channel 1, Public Russian Television, and now Channel One Russia
  2. ^ later Russian Television, RTR, Russia, and now Russia-1
  3. ^ later MTK-Moscow Television Channel, now TV Center
  4. ^ 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
  5. ^ later Ostankino TV Channel 4, Russian Universities, now NTV[d]
  6. ^ Petersburg State Television Company till 1997, Saint Petersburg Television and Radio until 2004, presently Petersburg - Channel 5
  7. ^ Technical channel, TV-6 Moscow, TV-6, NTV-Plus Sport on channel 6, TVS, Sport, Russia-2 and now Match TV


  1. ^ Лекция 8 - по дисциплине: "Основы телевидения и телевизионные системы" (PDF). Kyev: Министерство образования и науки Украины - Государственный Университет Телекоммуникаций - Кафедра радиотехнологий. 2014.
  2. ^ Sokolov, Georgii; Sudravskii, Dmitrii (1963). Amateur Colour TV Receiver TSVET-2. Archived from the original on 5 September 2022.
  3. ^ "Raduga OSKM Color TV (1962)". 6 September 2022. Archived from the original on 30 June 2020.
  4. ^ "Izumrud-203 OSKM Color TV (1959)". 6 September 2022. Archived from the original on 30 June 2020.