“Attention, this is Moscow calling.”
These words have been heard all over the airwaves in the Soviet Union. This voice belonged to Yuri Levitan, who was dubbed the “Voice of the War.”
These words unified the people of the Soviet Union in the midst of the Nazi threat. Every night, the Russians would listen intently to the news, waiting to hear of the newest city to fall, which region the Russians had regained, and if there were incoming air raids.
One woman recalled to Russia: Beyond the Headlines the impact in which Levitan’s broadcasts would have. She says, “In those days we couldn’t afford a radio, but there were loudspeakers mounted on certain streets, and people would flock to them at a strictly defined time to listen to news from the front.”
It has been said that Levitan’s voice was “clear and velvety” and gave hope to all who listened, regardless to what was being said.
Levitan and his father lived in a town 120 miles east of Moscow, Vladimir, where they lived rather humbly. Levitan was eager to escape his childhood town, he moved to Moscow where he attempted to become an actor. When he didn’t get any acting jobs, he applied to be a radio job.
In the beginning of his radio career, he was told that his accent was too strong, so he worked on perfecting the Moscow pronunciation. During his first broadcast, Joseph Stalin tuned into his show.
It could be said that the Soviet leader was the reason Levitan became the Voice of the War for the Russians. Levitan was only 19 years old when he was thrust into radio stardom.
His rise to stardom didn’t come easily however. Hitler deemed the young radio star as “Public Enemy Number 1″ because of the morale he inspired in the Russian people. Hitler placed a bounty on Levitan, 250,000 Reichsmarks, which is roughly $1.3 million dollars in today’s currency.
Levitan was given his own security guards and as an extra precaution, the radio station was relocated to the Ural Mountains.
Levitan’s voice was so widely know and associated with the war, he found it difficult to find work after the war ended. The jobs he applied for turned him down because his voice was synonymous with the war. The only jobs he could get were limited to announcing monumental moments–such as the first man in space or the death of Stalin.
Levitan did find work. Most of the money he was able to make came from voice over work for documentaries, speaking with veterans or doing lectures for students. One of the most monumental moments in his career was when he announced the flight of the Gagarin. He said it was “just like 9 May , when I read the act of surrender by Hitler’s Germany.”
Yuri Levitan passed away at 69 years old in 1984.