Soviet Union

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The Russian Revolution of 1917 spearheaded the spread of communist regimes by establishing the first one over one of the largest empires in history. The Russian Empire became the Soviet Union. The people's ideology was that the welfare of the masses of common people had to replace the welfare of the single bourgeois. The Communist Party was the only legitimate owner of the truth in that system.

Fortunately photography was one of the things that fit the conception of people's welfare - Soviet people were allowed to own cameras if they didn't photograph military or other communist secrets. Unfortunately the good photographic products of this and other communist countries were soon appropriated for export to rich capitalist countries, or at least to rich communist party officials. And most of the best products were made in small numbers, like the Sport and the Leningrad.

Most items of photographic equipment from the Soviet Union are marked with the logo of the factory where they were made.



Zavod Arsenal (Завод Арсенал = Arsenal Factory), Kiev, Ukraine. Arsenal is one of the oldest and most famous industrial factories in Soviet Union and later Ukraine. The factory mainly specialized in optical components for the Soviet military and space programs. The factory also produced the professional grade photographic cameras. They were Kiev 135 film and 120 film series, Salyut series, and some others.


F.E. Dzerzhinsky Factory, Kharkov, Ukraine. FED is the initials of F. E. Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the NKVD, in honor of him the factory was named. The NKVD was the People's Commissariat for Internal Affairs (= Народный комиссариат внутренних дел = Narodnyy Komissariat Vnutrennikh Del, (НКВД = NKVD), a secret police organization of the Soviet Union later known as the KGB. The factory was originally an orphanage workforce was based on youths living and working together in a commune. After the groundbreaking introduction of the Leica II in 1932, Soviet leaders stopped the import of photographic equipment and set the FED factory to its task of creating a Leica of their own. Only 18 months later, in 1934, the FED factory began churning out its first clone of the Leica II rangefinder camera. Since then, they have produced millions of cameras, some good and some not so good. The variations in the engravings on the FED camera tops make it worth a special mention, reflecting the changes within the Soviet Union.


State Optical-Mechanical Factory (= Государственный оптико-механический завод, Ленинград, ГОМЗ, Gosularstvennyi Optiko-Mekhanicheskii Zavod, Leningrad). It was the manufacturer of the early series of the famous Lubitel cameras. One of the biggest Soviet camera industry giant was GOMZ . In 1962 GOMZ became a part the Leningrad Optical and Mechanical Association of Enterprises (LOOMP), (= Ленинградское объединение оптико-механических предприятий, ЛООМП), In 1965 the name changed again as Leningrad Optical-Mechanical Union. (LOMO), (= Ленинградское Oптико-Mеханическое Oбъединение, ЛОМО́). Fotokor folding bed, Reporter folding, Efte folding, Komsomolets TLR, Smena 35mm series, Leningrad 35mm rangefinder series and some other cameras were manufactured in GOMZ also.


Izyum (Kharkiv oblast, Ukraine) factory produced military equipment and also was the second largest manufacturer of optical glass in USSR.


Krasnogorsky Mekhanichesky Zavod KMZ (Красногорский механический завод = Mechanical Factory of Krasnogorsk), near Moscow. KMZ is known largely for its cameras like Iskra, Kristall, Mir, Moskva , Start, Zenith (early series), Zorki series and some others. Some of these were produced several millions. It also has a large military optics and mechanical engineering division.


Lytkarino Optical Glass Factory (= Лыткаринский завод Оптического Стекла LZOS), in Lytkarino, 100 km north of Moscow. It was a KMZ satellite plant, included in KMZ's production union and the most famous for manufacturing various lenses for KMZ cameras.


Optical-Mechanical Factory Valdai is located about 400km north-west of Moscow. Very little is known of this plant, but it has been a prolific producer of lenses for KMZ, and Zenit BelOMO. The SLR lenses were named Helios.


The Soviet times factory Vileiskiy Zavod Zenit 's new name is Vilejka Factory, or officially Om Rup Zenith. Founded in early 1969 in Vilejka, about 75km north-west of Minsk, as a side plant of MMZ and KMZ to produce Zenit cameras. Vilejka has produced many late Zenit models, like E, TTL, ET, 11, 15, under slightly different designations. Vilejka is apparently still producing Zenits, i.e. Zenit 130.


In 1929 the Council of Labour and Defence of the USSR decided to join all optical and mechanical factories of the era under the same name, "Union Trust opto-mechanical enterprises" (VTOMP), (= Всесоюзный Трест Оптико-Механических предприятий ВТОМП). In 1930 VTOMP name changed as the Union of Optico-Mechanical Companies (VOOMP), (=Всесоюзное объединение оптико-механической промышленности, ВООМП). Under this name a small number of cameras and lenses were produced in the pre-war years, like folder Fotokor-1, VOOMP II Pioneer (one of the first Leica II copies made in the Soviet Union).

In the transition times, VOOMP and very early GOMZ logos are seen together on the Fotokor-1 cameras.

In 1932 the company was renamed again as State Optical Mechanical Plant (GOMZ).