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The FED factory in Kharkov in Ukraine was founded as a children's commune, for children orphaned or displaced by the combined upheavals of the First World War, the Revolution and the subsequent civil war.[1] It was founded in 1926, immediately after the death of Felix E. Dzerzhinsky (founder of the Soviet secret police, the Cheka (ЧК, for чрезвыча́йная коми́ссия or 'emergency commission'), which later became the GPU, part of the NKVD), and named in his honour. Dzerzhinsky had used the power of the secret police to bring about government action to help children, so the naming is not as strange as it may seem.

The Dzerzhinsky commune was set up and directed by educationalist Anton Makarenko, who had previously run the Gorky Colony, also a commune for children, combining education and practical training. Whereas the Gorky Colony had been mostly agricultural, the Dzerzhinsky Commune trained children in skills such as carpentry, sewing, shoemaking and locksmithing. The products were sold, and the children were paid wages. In 1932 a new workshop was opened, making electric drills, the first in the Soviet Union.

Also in 1932, a work unit was set up to plan the production of cameras. The first three examples were made in October of that year, with lenses made by VOOMP in Leningrad, and the feat was reported in the national newspaper Izvestiya, where the cameras were described only as 'Soviet Leicas'. These were copies of the Leica A, with an uncoupled rangefinder only as an accessory. However, Leitz had meanwhile produced the Leica II, with a built-in coupled rangefinder. By the end of 1933, the factory had made only about 30 of its cameras. In 1934, true production began of a Leica II copy, now with lenses made by FED; about 4000 were made in the first year.

FED has produced many millions of cameras.

Bayonet mount Rangefinder Cameras

Screwmount Rangefinder Cameras

Fixed-lens Rangefinder Cameras

Fixed-lens Viewfinder Cameras

Stereo cameras


  1. Fricke, Oscar (1979) The Dzerzhinsky Commune: Birth of the Soviet 35mm Camera Industry History of Photography: an International Quarterly Vol. 3, No. 2, pp 135-155. Source for much of this article. Reproduced as a reprint with an extra short article in PDF or other formats, at Yuri Boguslavsky's Fedka site; the article has photographs of the factory, the cameras and the electric drills!



  • BOUSSAT, Jean-Claude .- Les appareils soviétiques. In : France-Photographie, n° 209, février 2008, pp. 8-9.
  • Princelle, Jean Loup (2004), The Authentic Guide to Russian and Soviet Cameras ('Made in USSR'), Le Reve Edition. ISBN 2952252106; or the earlier edition: Hove Foto Books, 2nd edition, 1995. 200 pages. ISBN 1874031630. Paperback.