How the Russians invented the radio

Issue Number: 
Joe Adamov

Could you give us particulars to prove that Popov invented the radio before Marconi?

– John Devon, Long Beach, California, U.S.A.

In Soviet times, we claimed to have invented everything, except, perhaps, the wheel. We claimed Cherepanov, not Stevenson, invented the steam engine. Lodigin, not Edison, invented the electric bulb. Mozhaisky, not the Wright brothers, invented the airplane. The list is long. But one thing is true, something we claim to this day: It was Popov, not Marconi, who invented the radio. Popov demonstrated his receiver on May 7, 1895. Draw your own conclusions: In January 1896 Popov published a detailed description and design of the world's first radio receiver in a Society of Physics and Chemistry magazine. In March, Popov demonstrated the transmission of signals without the use of wires and sent the first words: "Heinrich Herz." Only in June of that year, several months after Popov's article was published in the Russian magazine, did Marconi patent an analogous invention. Marconi published a description of it a year later, in January 1897, replicating the design and construction of Popov's apparatus. Popov's great work in inventing the radio was officially recognized in 1900, when he received a Diploma of Honor and a Gold Medal at the Fourth World Electro-Technical Congress in Paris. Popov, not Marconi, received the honors.

Just what happened in Moscow after Russia lost to Japan in the World Cup?

– William Thompson, London, UK.

A riot took place 100 meters from the Kremlin, on Manezh Square. The crowd watched the game on huge outdoor screens. To this day, it is not clear whether the riots were organized by someone or just sparked spontaneously. As a result, one man died and 75 were wounded. Two hundred and twenty-seven shop windows were shattered and 97 cars smashed, overturned or burned. What will help catch the rioters is that much of this hooliganism was filmed. Some have already been apprehended. There were not enough police officers on site, not to mention that alcoholic drinks in glass bottles added fuel to the fire. Our prosecutors say the riot was spontaneous. This regularly takes place at stadiums, when fans start fighting and breaking everything. The police have learned to control them. On the other hand, our police say it was organized: When you go to a soccer match, you don't take metal bars or Molotov cocktails with you. Eighteen policemen ended up in the hospital.

Please tell us a little about the Council on the Russian Language set up by President Putin.

– William Kerr, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

Back in 1995, after many articles in the press about the Russian language being inundated with foreign words, the president issued a decree "On the Council for the Russian Language under the President of the Russian Federation." An extensive program of action was adopted, but nothing came of it. In January 2000, Putin passed another decree on language, with no effect. At a round table on language policies in St. Petersburg, First Lady Ludmila Putina said the Russian language is in a state of development, and, today, it is untimely to reform it.

On the TV and radio, anchormen and government officials make many mistakes in punctuation, grammar and pronunciation. Many rattle words off like machine guns. Mistakes in speech must be corrected, and vulgar words must be avoided. But you can't stop foreign words infiltrating a language. It's only natural. "Sputnik" is a Russian word that became firmly rooted in the English language. The words "sponsor" and "marketing" are now part of the Russian language. Armenian is not a Slavic language, but belongs to the Indo-European family. Still, "achker," which is "eyes" in Armenian, is similar to "ochki" in Russian, which means eyeglasses. I can cite no end of words in English, Russian and Armenian that have the same roots. Languages are intermixed; they influence each other. English was influenced by 300 years of the Roman invasion, then the Norman invasion in 1066 and many others. You can't fence one language off from another.

(E-mail Joe Adamov at