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The Leica led to the FED, the FED led to the Zorki…


…and the Zorki led to the Dark Side. Or to the Zenit, which is the same thing for all of us who own one.

We were saying in the last article about Zenits that they basically came from the Leica. Let’s see how.

In the 1930s imports in the Soviet Union were scarce and the official economic doctrine put great emphasis on autarchy, so the great plan of the commies became to produce everything at home… by breaking any patent laws if necessary. Many implements of Soviet manufacture, especially consumer goods were close copies of Western models, and cameras were no exception. Well, as close as the Soviet production model, which clearly didn’t favor quality, allowed.

The FED, or FEDca, was one of those goods. Yes, the Soviets called it FEDca because of the Leica. You get the joke. Russian humor.

But if you use your bad-mojo-meter anywhere near a FEDca, the lecture will be off the scale: it was an illegal copy of the Leica built on reverse-engineering blueprints stolen from nazi Germany and made emplying children labor in the Ukraine by underage war orphans educated in a worker’s commune under an experimental education regime based on peer bullying. If this wasn’t creepy enough, the labor commune bore the name of the founder of the NKVD (the future KGB): Felix Edmundovich Djerjinsky. Dark Side aplenty for everyone. Yay.

During WWII, Ukrainian factories were moved east of the Urals by the Soviets, and many never came back after the war. In 1941 the FED factory was split into two: most of it was sent East and some of its personnel was transferred North, to Moscow, where they were to be employed by KMZ, the optical-mechanical factory near the capital. There they re-created the Fedca and called it the FED Zorki. For them, a FED just a ‘Leica’ made in the USSR, so their camera was generically called a FED; they named their camera Zorki (falcon sight in Russian) to distinguish it from the ‘original’. It was, then, a copy of a copy.

You know what happens when you xerox a xerox copy, don’t you? And if you xerox it again? You get the idea.

Next issue: what the Soviets did with that xerox of a xerox of a xerox (they made a paper hat with it, then, xeroxed it again).   

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