If you came into my dorm room when I was a second-year university student, you most likely would have seen me cheerfully reading and taking notes for my classes, all the while listening to Voice of Russia radio. I would take study breaks and read news stories in Russian, most often on the international service RIA Novosti. I liked RIA Novosti because I often could find the same story in both English and Russian, so there was a ready-made translation to help me learn new words.
On Monday, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced that RIA Novosti and Voice of Russia are closing, as ordered by state decree. The Western media has devoted a surprising amount of reportage to the affair, ranging from the (relatively) balanced to the melodramatic.
I always enjoyed reading RIA Novosti. The website was well-organized, which is more than I can say for many news websites, Russian or otherwise. And I loved Voice of Russia. I practically learned to understand spoken Russian by listening to Voice of Russia. The announcers spoke quickly but clearly and after many months, I realized I was able to understand almost everything. Voice of Russia may have been “Kremlin propaganda,” in the words of my Russian professors, but it was good propaganda. The streaming quality was excellent and reliable, unlike other radio stations like Ekho Moskvy (which some of the worst streaming I have ever had the misfortune of dealing with).
I know Putin is planning to merge the agencies into one new agency. I hope the new agency is decent, but I can’t but help feel a little sad about this decree. I have many fond memories associated with RIA Novosti and Voice of Russia and I’ll miss them both.