Spy radio receiver · 1976
A-610, codenamed SEZHA 1 (Russian: СЕЖА), is a miniature transistorised
short-wave (SW) spy radio receiver, developed and manufactured
around 1976 by Alfa 2 in Riga (Latvia). 3
It was used during the Cold War for agent communication
by the Soviet KGB
and other intelligence services of the former
USSR and Warsaw Pact states.
It is believed to be modelled after the American RR-49.
The receiver is housed in a die-cast aluminium enclosure that measures
110 x 75 x 42 mm and weights 470 grams. The control panel labels are
in English. This was done to confuse foreign law enforcement agencies when the
device was accidentally discovered, but also to aid foreign agents who
generally did not speak Russian.
The A-610 was supplied with accessories in a watertight metal container.
It is freely adjustable (VFO), but was also supplied with 25 miniature
quartz crystals in a plastic container, for the reception of predetermined SW
The A-610 is very similar to the American RR-49,
which is more than 10 years older (1964), and serves the same purpose.
It therefore seems likely that it was modelled after the
after the latter had been found on captured American spies.
As far as we know, the A-610 was used as a stand-alone receiver.
It does not seem to be part of a complete radio station.
SEZHA (СЕЖА) is a Russian word which means face.
Also transliterated as SEJA.
Until 1971 known as Radiotehnika - Rigas Radio Rupnica (RRR).
Alpha was liquidated in 2006.
At the time, Latvia was part of the
Soviet Union (USSR).
PLEASE HELP —
We are still looking for additional information about this miniature receiver
from the Soviet era, such as operating instructions, a service manual and the
circuit diagram. If you can provide any of these, please contact us
We would also like to hear from former users of this device.
The diagram below provides a quick overview of the controls and connections
of the A-610. The device measures 110 x 75 x 42 mm and weights 470 grams.
It is housed in a grey extruded metal enclosure and has a die-cast aluminium
front panel, that is painted in a slightly brighter grey tone.
The internal parts, controls and antenna terminals
are all mounted to the front panel.
At the upper edge is a film-based frequency tuning scale. It has two
controls just above the scale: one for coarse and one for fine tuning.
If neccessary, the scale can be calibrated by turning on the built-in
calibrator (at the bottom right), tuning the frequency until a tone is
heard, and lining up the vertical index line with the nearest 1 MHz
mark on the scale, using the scale calibration knob.
Antenna and ground wires should be connected to the
spring-loaded terminals at the right.
The supplied earpiece should be connected
to one of the headphones sockets at the left side.
The unit is powered by an internal 9V battery
and is switched on by turning the volume knob at the bottom left away
from the OFF position. For the reception of CW signals
(morse code) the BFO should be enabled
and adjusted. When crystals are used to determine the reception
frequency – instead of the VFO – the switch below the frequency scale
should be set to the XTAL position.
The A-610 is very similar to the RR-49 receiver
that was used by the US
Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)
for the same purpose. The two receivers
are shown side-by-side in the image below. Not only are the dimensions very
similar, the functions and features are nearly identical. It seems therefore
likely that the Soviet A-610 (SEZHA) was modelled after the
Apart from the similarities, there are also differences. The front panel of
te A-610 is made of die-cast aluminium, whilst the RR-49 is housed in a molded
enclosure. The crystal socket of the A-610 is suitable for
different types of crystals,
whilst the RR-49 is only suitable for
➤ More about the RR-49
The image on the right shows the bare receiver. After
installing a 9V battery,
the only additional part needed to operate it, is an earpiece and,
of course, a suitable antenna.
Using the built-in Variable Frequency Oscillator
(VFO), it can be tuned to any frequency in the 3 - 24 MHz range.
In addition, a crystal can be used to use the receiver on a single
predetermined channel. A plastic container with 25 such crystals,
was supplied with the kit.
Each receiver was supplied with a small white plastic container with 25
crystals, that could be used for the reception of predetermined radio channels.
The frequencies ( in kHz) are printed inside the lid of the container.
When unused, the crystal container was normally stowed inside the
storage case, aside the A-610 receiver.
The A-610 has two sockets for the connection of an earpiece, such as the one
shown in the image on the right. It allows up to two persons to listen
simultaneously. One earpiece was supplied with the receiver.
Note that a typical 2.7 mm USSR mono jack plug is used, which is not compatible
with the more common Western 2.5 or 3.5 mm jack.
Like most other short-wave spy radio sets, the receiver is supplied with
a suitable wire that can be used as antenna. The wire has a plug at one end
that can be fitted in the antenna terminal of the receiver.
When unused, the antenna wire is wound onto a metal spool and stowed in the lid
of the storage container, where it is
held in place by two clips.
The metal crocodile clip shown in the image on the right was supplied with
the kit, to allow the ground terminal of the receiver to be connected to a
suitable ground (earth), such as the water supply, a heating pipe or the
When unused, the clip is
stowed in the storage container.
The interior of the receiver can be accessed by removing three recessed
miniature screws from the bottom panel, after which the die-cast aluminium
front panel can be extracted from the case shell at the bottom.
All internal parts are mounted to the front panel, with only the 9V battery
compartment and the two jack sockets for the earphones fitted inside the
bottom case shell.
Although the exterior of the A-610 receiver is very similar to the
American RR-49, the interior is completely different.
The design has a typical 1970s Soviet signature, but is extremely well
built, as is clearly visible in the images below.
The image on the right shows the densely constructed interior as seen from
the top left, with the frequency film scale at the front edge. There are
several printed circuit boards (PCBs) that are mounted with the solder side up.
At the centre are the 3-gang tuning capacitor and the RF filters for
each of the three frequency bands.
The A-610 is built from first class components, so it is unlikely that you will
have to restore or repair it, should you ever find one. There are a few things to
watch out for though. Due to the use of low-quality plastics and plasticisers
— the stuff that gives cables their flexibility —
any plastic parts may get damaged when the plasticisers start to evaporate.
It is important to realise that in a closed environment like the
watertight storage container,
these gasses have nowhere to go, and will eventually deteriorate
any plastic parts and potentially also the
front panel of the receiver.
With the device featured here, traces of plastic deterioration caused by
evaporating plasticisers are visible as a series of stains on the
plastic crystal container. It was caused by a
short piece of cable that was packed inside the container.
Similar traces were found on the white styrofoam (polystyrene) interior of
the storage container where it has been in direct contact with a cable.
Another example of bad plasticisers are the two push-buttons for the antenna
and ground wires, at the right edge of the front panel of the A-610.
Over time, these buttons have become brittle.
When we obtained our A-610, one of the two black plastic knobs already
had a crack that a previous owner had attempted to repair with glue. As the
glue was blocking the spring-loaded terminal, we tried to remove the knob,
but in doing so, it complately disintegrated. The other knob followed suit
and also had to be considered lost. Both knobs were eventually replaced.
Due to the application of bad plastics and plasticisers, the gasses from
evaporating plasticisers may cause damage to other plastic parts and to
painted surfaces. When storing the device, leave the storage container open
to allow the gasses to escape.
The following short video clip was made by Harry Sever and is available on
YouTube . It shows how well this miniature solid-state receiver
from the 1970s still works after so many years.
Harry uses it for the reception of radio amateurs on the short-wave (SW)
amateur radio bands.
OrganisationKGB and Warsaw pact intelligence agencies
ManufacturerAlfa, Riga (Latvia)
PrincipleSuperheterodyne, VFO and crystal operated
Frequency3 - 24 MHz
Bands3 (see below)
ModulationAM, CW, SSB
PowerInternal dry battery
White● 3 - 6 MHz
Yellow● 6 - 12 MHz
Red● 12 - 24 MHz
- Metal container
- A-610 (Sezha) receiver
- Plastic box with crystals
- Wire antenna
Supplied crystals in plastic container (in MHz):