The Ghostly Radio Station that No One Claims to Run

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Lorenzo von Matterhorn
Jan 31, 2009
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The Ghostly Radio Station that No One Claims to Run
“MDZhB” (UVB-76) has been broadcasting since 1982. No one knows why.

In the middle of a Russian swampland, not far from the city of St Petersburg, is a rectangular iron gate. Beyond its rusted bars is a collection of radio towers, abandoned buildings and power lines bordered by a dry-stone wall. This sinister location is the focus of a mystery which stretches back to the height of the Cold War.

It is thought to be the headquarters of a radio station, “MDZhB”, that no-one has ever claimed to run. Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week, for the last three-and-a-half decades, it’s been broadcasting a dull, monotonous tone. Every few seconds it’s joined by a second sound, like some ghostly ship sounding its foghorn. Then the drone continues.

Once or twice a week, a man or woman will read out some words in Russian, such as “dinghy” or “farming specialist”. And that’s it. Anyone, anywhere in the world can listen in, simply by tuning a radio to the frequency 4625 kHz.

It’s so enigmatic, it’s as if it was designed with conspiracy theorists in mind. Today the station has an online following numbering in the tens of thousands, who know it affectionately as “the Buzzer”. It joins two similar mystery stations, “the Pip” and the “Squeaky Wheel”. As their fans readily admit themselves, they have absolutely no idea what they are listening to.


UVB-76, also known as "the Buzzer", is the nickname given by radio listeners to a shortwave radio station that broadcasts on the frequency 4625 kHz.[1][2] It broadcasts a short, monotonous buzz tone (help·info), repeating at a rate of approximately 25 tones per minute, 24 hours per day.[1] Sometimes, the buzzer signal is interrupted and a voice transmission in Russian takes place.[3] The first reports were made of a station on this frequency in 1973.[4] Its origins have been traced to Russia, and although several theories with varying degrees of plausibility exist, its actual purpose has never been officially confirmed and remains a source of speculation.[5]

The buzz:


One theory for a UVB-76's purpose is as a part of "Dead Hand". Amazingly, the following Soviet system is like the one fictionalized in the satire film "Dr. Strangelove".

Dead Hand (nuclear war)

Dead Hand (Russian: Система «Периметр», Systema "Perimetr", lit. "Perimeter" System, with the GRAU Index 15E601, Cyrillic: 15Э601),[1] also known as Perimeter,[2] was a Cold War-era automatic nuclear-control system used by the Soviet Union.[3] General speculation from insiders alleges that the system remains in use in the post-Soviet Russian Federation as well.[4][5] An example of fail-deadly and mutual assured destruction deterrence, it can automatically trigger the launch of the Russian intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) by sending a pre-entered highest-authority order from the General Staff of the Armed Forces, Strategic Missile Force Management to command posts and individual silos if a nuclear strike is detected by seismic, light, radioactivity, and overpressure sensors even with the commanding elements fully destroyed. By most accounts, it is normally switched off and is supposed to be activated during dangerous crises only; however, it is said to remain fully functional and able to serve its purpose whenever it may be needed.

In order to ensure its functionality the system was originally designed as fully automatic, and with the ability to decide on the adequate retaliatory strike on its own with no (or minimal) human involvement in the event of an all-out attack. Its existence is sometimes referred to as being "immoral",[citation needed] but is in fact the only deterring element that guarantees a fail-deadly retaliation when the adversary attempts to launch a pre-emptive strike.

Upon activation and determination of the happening of a nuclear war, the system sends out a 15P011 command missile with a special 15B99 warhead which passes commands to open all silos and all command centers of the RVSN with appropriate receivers in flight.
Dead Hand in a National Geographic Channel documentary starting at the 1 minute 32 second mark:

I discovered that video via this article:

Five Ways a Nuclear War Could Still Happen
June 16, 2014

That is, unless someone builds a “Doomsday Machine” that takes the human beings out of the loop. And who’d be crazy enough to do that?

Turns out the Soviet high command, in its pathetic and paranoid last years, was just that crazy. The USSR built a system called Perimetr, known informally in Russia as “the Dead Hand.” Perimetr was essentially a computer system that would watch for signs of nuclear attack and retaliate on its own if the Soviet leadership was struck first and wiped out. (I explained this is more detail for National Geographic, which you can watch here.) We’ve since asked the Russians if it’s still on, and they’ve reassured us, with complete confidence, that we should mind our own business. Let’s hope they’re just being rude.
Eventually we'll blow up the planet. How else could we have the Planet of the Apes movies?
For all the non-fiction I've read about nuclear war, and that's a lot, I was amazed that the past existence and very possible continued existence of the Soviet/Russian "Dead Hand" system isn't more widely known. This was the first time I've read about it as anything other than a work of fiction and even that was an accident of reading the UVB-76 article. I'm not worried about it even if it still exists, I just find it fascinating.
Eventually we'll blow up the planet. How else could we have the Planet of the Apes movies?
Nah, I don't think so, maybe just parts of it. All out nuclear war is suicidal for everyone.