This is Some Serious Spy Shit, Y’all


Sorry for swearing, but this is genuinely nuts.

I’m about to get SUPER GEEKY, but bear with me for a bit because this is actually pretty cool for real people too. So, raise your hand if you’ve heard of UVB-76. I didn’t see any hands (probably because this is a text post on a website), so I’m gonna go ahead and explain it. UVB-76, aka “The Buzzer,” is an AM radio station that broadcasts at 4625kHz. Crazy right? No. Not yet.

The weird thing about this station (also referred to as MDZhB) is that pretty much 24 hours a day, the station broadcasts this short buzzing tone about 25 times/minute. Here’s a clip that was recorded in Southern Finland, 530 mi away from the station’s estimated location:

Until we have html embedding enabled, here’s a link to the sound.

Why is this a thing that exists? As far as we know right now, well, that’s just it -we don’t know. It could just be that Russians have weird taste in music. We do know, however, that this place has been broadcasting since 1982, and has changed several times. Every once in awhile, there’s some muffled Russian conversation in the background, which most likely means that the broadcast is actually just a mic that’s left on, with a buzzer device sitting next to it. The station itself has also changed location at least once, and the ruins of the old place are creepy as hell.

Tell me with a straight face that this doesn't make you a little nervous.

Tell me with a straight face that this doesn’t make you a little nervous.

When some “urban explorers” broke into the old compound, they found some standard run-down buildings, and also an undocumented transmission compound at least 35 feet underground. They could only explore part of it, but there was clearly much more than “public” documents initially showed. Where’s the new location? We don’t really know that for sure, either.  The case of UVB76 gets really weird, though, when you catalog some of the maybe-random things that are broadcast occasionally.

From time to time (especially starting in 2010) there’s a message spoken and repeated by anonymous Russians. Here’s an example:

At 0757 UTC on February 21, 2006: “UVB-76, UVB-76. 75-59-75-59. 39-52-53-58. 5-5-2-5.Konstantin-1-9-0-9-0-8-9-8-Tatiana-Oksana-Anna-Elena-Pavel-Schuka. Konstantin 8-4. 9-7-5-5-9-Tatiana. Anna Larisa Uliyana-9-4-1-4-3-4-8.”

In August 2010, there was another voice broadcast. Two days later, it went silent, and then some thumping noises were heard. After some garbled electronic noises, it was back to buzzing as usual, except with some Russians arguing in the background. Shortly after, in Spetember, the station’s transmitter was moved, shortly after what may have been a reorganization of the Russian military For the first week of September, transmission was interrupted frequently, usually with what sounded like recorded snippets of “Dance of the Little Swans” from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake. Below is a clip with the message heard. Seriously, listen to this and tell me it’s not fucking creepy:

(Even the guy that recorded it looks conspiracy-y.)

And here’s some nice ballet for you to enjoy.

November 11, 2000 brought more weird shit. According to listeners (yeah…. those exist…), some phone conversations were accidentally broadcast. Wikipedia says this about them:

The phone calls mentioned the “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”. The female voice says “officer on duty of communication node Debut senior ensign Uspenskaya, got the control call from Nadezhda OK”.

Once again, do we know what it means? NOPE. The Russian Government isn’t saying anything. The former Minister of Communications and Informatics of Lithuania has stated that “the purpose of the voice messages is to confirm that operators at receiving stations are alert.” Operators? Receiving Stations? The common consensus is, in fact, that the station is meant to communicate with Russian sleeper agents, and that actually makes sense. Tuning in to the broadcast is untraceable, everything’s coded, and there’s no specialized (read: “suspicious”) equipment needed.

Spectral analysis shows the repeating tone and also makes a boring sound look really futuristic.

Spectral analysis shows the repeating tone and also makes a boring sound look really futuristic.

The other big claim is that it’s for research purposes. This is based on an article from the Russian Journal of Earth Sciences that mentioned an observatory meant to record changes in the ionosphere, and the fact AM radio works over long distances by bouncing signals off it. But that theory doesn’t explain the military communications.

On November 20th, 2011, the broadcast was live again, and a dire message was posted on an anonymous internet forum. It contained this paragraph:

The Russian Station UVB-76 is a “Dead Man’s Switch” created to detonate a nuclear device set in South Korea’s capital. It will be activated by Dmitry Medvedev’s assassination in early September. It has been made clear in the sessions that North Korea will take the blame and war will begin.

This is almost clearly someone messing around, but at the time, it worked because nobody had a fucking clue what was going on but UVB-76 was making all sorts of crazy noises.

Honestly, I highly recommend that you read this Wired article on the place- it’s well-written and fascinating. It also ends with a description of the entrance to the current (locked-down) compound where the transmitter probably is, and it sounds like Comrade Wonka’s Spy Factory. I’ll leave you with this quote:

The front door appears to be locked. There is no light on inside; no one comes in or out. But someone has been here. The dog, after all, must be fed.

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7 thoughts on “This is Some Serious Spy Shit, Y’all

  1. I found your post very intriguing. You’re right I had no idea such a radio station every existed. I find it a little erie that the same type of noise has been playing on this one radio station, in slightly altered forms, for the past 31 years. I guess my question is if it was really a secret code wouldn’t they be worried about someone deciphering it eventually? And while you mentioned it had changed slightly it always seems to return to the same set of beeps. What are your thoughts? Do you think that there is actually some secret meaning behind these broadcasts?

    • My understanding is that the beeping is just basically an indicator of the station being online. I feel like the random voiceovers are the messages to whomever they’re targeting- it’s a method that actually dates back to WWII. If it’s some kind of code, I’m sure we have people working on it, but with no frame of reference or context there’s only so much we can figure out.

  2. Interesting, very interesting. While I would be eternally bored listening to static for years and years on end it is interesting to me that someone actually sits there and pays attention to the static. The secrecy concerning the transmitter’s base is another thing that makes me want to know what it is there for. I guess we’ll never know.

  3. This is extremely interesting. Relating to Alex’s comment, I believe that the CIA already is on top of this. They have technology that we cannot even fathom and i am sure they already looked into this and studied it. However, it is still extremely creepy… especially the swan lake part.

  4. I bet the CIA already knows what it means and has had the code figured out for years. Or the real conspiracy is that it is the CIA that operates this station and the Russian voices are just a disguise. The real question here Alex, is how you even heard about this broadcast. I’m interested to know how you came to hear about this in the first place.

  5. Pingback: BLOG STATS/Questions | Read this and hack!

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