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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russian Radio Hits Miami

MIAMI -- Something unusual has been happening recently at one of Miami's most popular Cuban radio stations: Every evening the disc jockeys start broadcasting in Russian.

In Miami, where Latin culture has come to define the city and Spanish is spoken as frequently as English, there is a growing community of Russian speakers. The 2000 census counted more than 200,000 Floridians claiming Russian ancestry out of a population of about 16 million. But some here say the population of Russian speakers is probably closer to 300,000 in South Florida alone, after counting Ukrainians and other immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Russian Radio Miami, which has a news and discussion format, hit the airwaves in February for one hour a day Saturdays and Sundays. By July, the station had increased the program to two hours every day after receiving a huge response from listeners and from businesses wanting to buy advertising time.

Some of the most enthusiastic callers were Cuban-Americans. Many Cubans studied Russian in their homeland during the 1960s, when the two communist countries had close ties.

Dmitri Poletaev, whose company Global Media International brought the concept to Florida after successfully starting a similar station in New York, said he expected the instant popularity when he pitched the idea.

"Miami was one of the biggest Russian populations in the United States without a radio station," Poletaev said.

Poletaev said he saw the potential after noticing an increasing number of Russian restaurants and businesses open over the past five or six years.

South Florida has four weekly Russian-language newspapers and magazines and one monthly magazine.

Larisa Voyvhinsky, editor of Contours magazine, said monthly circulation has grown to 7,000 from 1,000 in 1998. "I didn't realize how big the community was when I started it, but now I am printing 7,000 copies and it is still not enough," she said.