Radio has been used since the early 20th century for art, entertainment, social value, information sharing, political purposes, and more. Alexander Popov, a key player in the invention of radio, made his discoveries in Kronstadt, an island town in the St. Petersburg municipality. From rebellious Soviet young adults trying to pick up static-filled Voice of America and Radio Free Europe broadcasts during the Cold War, to the soothing sounds of a metronome broadcast during the Nazi blockade of St. Petersburg, radio has a strong and enduring legacy in Russia.
In 2009 New Zealand scientists published a study citing frequent exposure to a language’s sound patterns, even without fully understanding what is being said, “will dramatically boost your ability to pick up the language and learn new words.” A more recent Swiss study showed that listening to recently learned foreign words in your sleep helped participants memorize those words better. Of course, passive listening will never make you fluent, but supplementing regular studying with casual listening can be significantly useful. Additionally, radio is a way to practice listening without the help of body language and other contextual clues. While purely audio-oral communication has declined in recent decades, telephones are still widely used by most people, and you’ll definitely need those non-visual listening skills when ordering delivery sushi!
Radio can also be a great way to find out about events happening in your area- concerts, free shows, weekend parties, festivals, etc.
Ways to listen:
If you are in Russia, you are lucky, as not all local stations are available online. You can pick up a small AM-FM radio at Media Markt or M.Video (there’s one in Galleria shopping mall, metro Площадь Восстания/Ploschad’ Vosstaniya) for around 800 rubles. If you’re living with a host family, they will likely have a radio.
If you are outside of the St. Petersburg area, you can listen to radio online. Of course, there is a huge variety of stations to listen to. Russian language broadcasts are found in most countries of the former USSR and it is especially interesting to compare radio broadcasts from Moscow or St. Petersburg to those from regions like Dagestan or Siberia! Some good websites are Tunein.com and Piter.fm.
Now to the good stuff: here is a list of the radio stations available in St. Petersburg with my personal descriptions and reviews. I encourage you to spin the dial and give these stations a shot!
St. Petersburg’s Radio Stations
(for more on Russian Media, click here)
Talk and news
Talk and news
Classic Russian/Soviet pop music
Older pop music and disco
Russian Pop Music, talk, and comedy
Local news and talk
Rock music and coverage of local sports (Zenit is the St. Petersburg soccer team)
Jazz / Blues
Older pop Music
Talk, mostly political opposition, fairly anti-Kremlin
Russian News Network
Talk, official state news broadcast, high quality
Dance / Pop Music
American/international pop music, mostly 2000’s and beyond
Russian pop music, 90s, 2000s, and today, popular in cafes
Older Russian pop music
Pop music from around Europe and the United States
Shanson (unique Russian genre)
Oldies (note the pun on Eldorado)
Pop Music / Dance / R&B
Rock, mostly 90’s and beyond
|Popular club/dance music, mostly English, some Russian and other foreign language pop and dance songs|
For children; interestingly, they go quiet at night while the “children sleep”
Russian rock, alternative, a really good station overall
Russian Pop Music, but not necessarily top-40
|Russian and English pop music, sponsor lots of concerts/events|
|DJs who take on English-sounding names, obscure dance music|
Dance music, lots of remixes of American pop songs
|Classic Soviet station, news and talk *note the tone they frequently play, many people strongly associate the jingle with Soviet times|
Business and financial news and talk
|Modern Russian pop music with lots of advertisements- many for local concerts, festivals, and other events; my beloved daily dose of cheesy pop music, energetic DJs, and the incredibly catchy “Всё Будет Хорошо” jingle|