"Kiev " and " FED ": 12 years later
Or Why have not Ukraine become a camera constructing state?

The post-war life of our former country has been inextricably connected with two names of cameras as now called brands: "Kiev" and "FED". The first was issued in the Ukrainian capital, the second - in Kharkov. Today modelling line of "FED" has died, "Kiev" is being produced by tiny parties of only two kinds.


Though the state enterprise a factory of "Arsenal" is in the center of Kiev, nevertheless during Soviet times and today its phone number is confidential. If you want to be convinced of it, it is enough to call to the city help 09 and that will be the answer: this number is not in service. Nevertheless phone number of reception of factory's director   is specified... on the web-page of the enterprise in the Internet. By the way, there you can also find phone numbers of the deputy director on marketing, a department of marketing and a sales department...

During  mentioned Soviet times the factory of "Arsenal" was a part of the USSR's military-industrial complex and was not just a giant of MIC but in some way a symbol of historical power of socialistic formation, according to plan developing to communistic society. Ancestors of workers of this enterprise in far 1918 have seen light communistic future and have started to struggle for its approach with the weapon in hands and under red flags. That is the way we were taught at school, and a confirming was a gun that have become a monument;  "Arsenal" workers with this gun ostensibly shot in "blue-yellow" Petlyura followers at 1918 , and also traces from shells on the factory wall, left by guns of Petlyura followers. They shot in "Arsenal" workers more successfully that is why they have won then.

However "Arsenal" have won anyway, Petlyura followers from Kiev have been expelled, factory have received a name of Lenin, and nobody knows when and why it was dismissed  (it is hard to remember public refusal of it). And workers have selected the proletarian leader as the honourable turner of a factory and have allocated for his  work the best for that time machine tool which  stood in 7-th shop of the enterprise on a wooden eminence up to disorder of the USSR.


What factory of "Arsenal" produces  and how many people are  working here, the last time public could find out in ... 1763 when for repair of guns and the military equipment kept in warehouses have been constructed metalwork, forge and woodworking workshops and a barracks for soldier - workers " numbered by 170 souls and under command of the lieutenant above masters " as it has been told in " Establishment about Kiev Arsenal command ".

Beginning with 50th years of the last century the guides, who acquainted tourists " with famous revolutionary, fighting and labour traditions of the Arsenal ", told  that here only well-known cameras " Kiev " are produced. Kiev inhabitants joked that from the small details of camera " Kiev " which are released on "Arsenal" at one change it is possible to combine one big rocket easily. However it was a lie - rockets  "Arsenal" did not produce. But optics for them, and also for submarines, tanks, satellites and planes have been really released.  "Arsenal" workers indulgently called cameras as "WIDELY CONSUMED GOODS".

The modelling line of the "Kiev" cameras then was as wide  as a ceremonial step of cadets company. It began with the "Kiev"  in 1947 made  out of the trophy equipment of German firm Carl Zeiss and with the German technology. That is why it is no wonder that the first cameras which have been released in Kiev, as two drops of water, were similar to German "Contax".


Another giant of Ukrainian Soviet  camera constructing  - factory "FED" - was in Kharkov. In December 1927 the children's labour commune by the name of Dzerzhinskiy  has been organized here. Some time after on its base a small factory has been created. In January, 1934 it began a serial release of  copied from German "Leica" the first in Soviet Union a little format camera with narrow film " FED ", that was deciphered as Felix Edmoundovich Dzerzhinskiy. A modelling line of the Kharkov cameras was, perhaps, more longly then "Arsenal" one.  
Photo from archive " SHEETS "  

"FED" workers made cameras for simple citizens and for special agents of KGB (committee of state security), created photographic  bombers equipment  fixing defeat of the targets, cameras for space researches and so on.

- If to speak frankly, - Eugeny Vodotyka, the head of marketing department of closed joint-stock company " Corporation " FED ", tells    - during the Soviet times cameras " FED " were a screen which covered our aviation manufacture. Photomanufacture always was  unprofitable for us that is why on government subsidies - the same as for Kiev "Arsenal" and for other enterprises of military-industrial complex  pretending to be photomanufacturers .


Ukraine with such powerful industrial giants of the Soviet photoindustry as the Kiev factory "Arsenal" and Kharkov factory "FED" seemed to have all bases  to take a worthy place in world camera constructing after disintegration of the USSR. However it did not happen. Moreover, factory "FED" in 1995  has  stopped release of the well-known cameras at all (the quantity of workplaces then was reduced from 10 thousand up to 3,5 thousand). Though the enterprise continues to sell the cameras -  Eugeny Vodotyka has told, for the future so many items were created  that " at least 5 years for selling we have ".

On the "Arsenal" only two models in small parties are being produced today: middle format camera " Kiev - 88SM " and little format mirror camera " Kiev - 19 ". However, according to the Tatyana Solovyova, the expert in marketing of a factory (she answered my question concerning volumes of the photoequipment release as all "arsenals" : "I won't tell" ), such cameras are accessible not to everyone - "Kiev - 88", for example, costs 1600 up to 2100 grivnas ($1=5.1grv) . And though a certain firm in the USA buys small parties of them , in own motherland they have not great demand. And Europe also do not need them, as, according to my interlocutor,  there are no service centers for repair and service of "Arsenal" production.


Why Ukraine in market conditions has failed to master the release of competitive cameras, proceeding at least from the doctrine of domestic motor industry: better we make worse things but much cheaper, than the abroad? Differently: why here have failed to create not only Ukrainian digital Canon or Nikon, but even - the simple Ukrainian camera "soap tray"? (its called so because it has a plastic compact camera-body .aut)

Here is the way experts answer this question.

Vladilen Liunchenko
The 70-years old designer of the "Arsenal" cameras, who have come on the enterprise in 1949:

(His photoappliance flied into space, he developed on "Arsenal" a copying photodevice which has consisted on arms in the Soviet military aviation and soon has been officially named after him ...)

- To buy the new modern technological equipment, most likely, some money were necessary. Technological because photomanufacture on the "Arsenal" worked with out-of-date equipment. If briefly, some push was necessary. The same push as in motor industry "Fiat" has given to "Zhigulis" in  the due time...

Eugeny Vodotyka
the head of marketing department of closed joint-stock company " Corporation " FED ":

- Earlier "FED"  as well as  "Arsenal"  had two main components at camera manufacturing: exact mechanics and optics. And today's camera constructing is electronics and optics. The digital camera is a computer. And even simple "soap tray" is. But we  practically do not work in computer electronics...

Valery Miloserdov
The picture editor of the newspaper  the " Kiev Sheets ", the winner of competition of the European photo in Switzerland:

- The phototechnics market is divided for a long time . For amateurs "soap trays" have appeared, where  it is necessary just to press the button to get a qualitative picture. And for the professionals there are Japanese narrow film cameras such as Canon, Nikon, German ranging camera Leica and large-format Swedish camera Hasselblad. In the meantime cameras made in the USSR were basically expected  for amateurs photographing inside the country. The state was closed, the western cameras never let to come in, and our own were produced. However when the world became a slightly opened, the fact that the Soviet cameras in the world market are noncompetitive became obvious...

By the way

The experts name one more reason for such modest successes in camera constructing business in Ukraine, however, as well as in Russia; it's the  absence in the USSR an internal competition in the market of the photoequipment. On the other hand  in manufacture of tanks in Soviet Union the competition also was absent. But there's a fact: now Ukraine produces in the same Kharkov tanks T-80 and -84 , as said, on a high level of the world standards, and successfully participates with them in the international tenders. And Russia successfully makes and sells abroad tanks T-90.
Translation by Kirill Davidenko


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