The story of the firm producing photographic cameras, FED, is closely linked to that of one man, Anton S. Makarenko, a teacher,
poet and writer (1888 -1939). The history of the FED working commune is in fact a summary of the post Bolshevik revolution years in
This joint history is comprehensively described, commented and illustrated in a highly documented study, by Oskar
Fricke, published in the "History of Photography".
September 1920. First Ukrainian rehabilitation Colony for "young orphans of the revolution" at Poltava under the
management of Anton Makarenko.
1925. The Leica-1-appears at the Leipzig fair.
1926. Death of Felix Edmundovich Dzerjinski (born in 1877), founder of the Soviet Secret Police, the "Tcheka"
which in the year of his death becomes the OGPU (Confederate State Political Department). The Ukrainian political board decided to
create a "working commune for children" in the suburbs of Kharkov and to give it the name of the "'late lamented chief", F. E.
June 1927. Anton S. Makarenko is "invited" by the Ukrainian police to come and supervise the organization of the
completely new Working Commune of F. E. Dzerjinski name. He remains as its director for 8 years.
29th December, 1927. Official creation of the FED Working Commune, made up of 150 girls and boys between the ages
of 13 and 17 years supervised by a nucleus of 50 "senior members" from the Gorky Colony. There were to be 300 "Communards", the name
they liked to give themselves, in 1932 and 600 in 1935.
1927. Government directives forbidding the importation of foreign materials.
1928. Stalin, with a consolidated power, launches the first five year plan. The objective is to transform an
essentially agricultural country into an industrial nation, independent from the "capitalist world". Makarenko's method of education
combines productive work with secondary education according to the Marxist principals, which seek to eliminate the distinction between
physical work and intellectual work.
End of 1929. The working commune has developed several types of craft industry: carpentry, ironwork, cobbling and
sewing. The products sell well and the communards receive their first salaries.
From September 1930. A group from the Engineering Institute in Kharkov comes and delivers a university program to
the worker-students as supplementary education, in response to the Government's directives to take part in the industrial expansion.
May-November 1931. Using the profit from their sales and with the help of a state loan, the business takes an
active part on the construction of new buildings, on two floors, to be used for the mass production of portable electric drills.
January 1932. Inauguration of the buildings. Assembly of the first FD-1 drills, copies of an Austrian Assembly
drill. FD, of course for Felix Dzerjinski.
June 1932. Two other models of drills, the FD-2 and FD-3, copies of the American Black & Decker are put into
production with 11,500 drills planned.
April 1932. Launch of the Leica II in Leipzig.
June 1932. In parallel with the production of the drills, the construction of a Leica type camera is planned on
2nd June. The code name is F. On 21st June a special research department is established in the commune.
On 26th October the first 3 "Soviet Leicas", exact copies of the Leica 1a are assembled.
This important news is reported in the official press medium Izvestiya on 5th November. January-February edition of Proletarskoe
Foto: the first photo of the first FED model called ... Pioneer appears.
1933. This year is devoted to the planning and preparation of the production of cameras, whilst the production of
drills increases. The challenge for the commune is paramount, new techniques and new tools are perfected for the production of the
more than 300 necessary parts. Nothing, like this copy of the Leica, has ever been mass produced in the field of optics in the USSR
before. A margin of error of less than a micron is demanded of the tools. The polishing of the lens elements requires the highest
precision, and if the lenses of the first three models of October 1932 and of the first series, 3.5 anastigmat lenses of 50mm are made
by VOOMP, the commune will soon be in a position to produce them, with the help of GOI.
New buildings were erected in order to protect the manufacturing department. Plans are made to produce 30,000 cameras per year.
Only 30 FED copies of the Leica 1 will be made. To this day, none have reappeared.
In January 1934, the production of the FED 1 started, a copy of the Leica II. The first 10 "standard" FED were
assembled, numbered from 31 to 40, at the end of January. The FED and the Commune were the subject of a eulogistic report in the
April 1934 edition of the magazine "USSR in construction" in which the brand new FED appeared for the first time ("FEDKA" as called
by the communards or A. S. Makerenko in his letters to Maxime Gorki). An extraordinary achievement less than 18 months after the
presentation of the Leica "Complex" at the fair in Leipzig, the prestigious camera is copied and mass produced by a "group of young
lads and lasses" aged about twenty.
In July 1934 the state police service is transferred from the OGPU to the NKVD (People's Board for Interior
affairs). The engraving "NKVD" appears on the FED covers. (FED 1b)
In December 1934 1,800 cameras were delivered (type. 1a).
1935 will be a year of many changes for the commune. In July 1935 Makarenko is transferred to Kiev.
In January 1937 he retires to Moscow in order to write, until his death on 1st April, 1939.
September, 1935: the 10,000th FED was assembled.
November, 1936: the 25,000th FED was assembled.
The success of the FED, diversification at the request of the public and the photographic press, additional lenses, accessories,
enlargers, projectors, etc... and increase in the number of members of the commune, more than 750, and in addition 400 people from
outside, all contributed to a necessary change in the structure.
This need for change coincided with a decree dated 4th March 1937 from the Narkompros (People's Board for Education) ordering the
abolition of working communes in the USSR. Since the F. E. Dzerjinski commune was not under the jurisdiction of the Narkompros, it was
not immediately affected by this, but the era of shared work and education was over.
The first accessories appear at the end of 1937, in the form of a photo-electric cell, a strange self-timer with a positioning
mirror, and laboratory material.
In November 1937 a FED equipped with sportsfinder based very closely on the Leica model is presented in "Sovetskoe
Foto". One has to wait until the end of 1938 for the appearance of the additional lenses requested by many:
- The wide-angle lens f4.5/28mm and its viewfinder.
- The f2/50mm.
- The f3.5/50mm reproduction.
- The f5.9/100mm and its viewfinder (advised aperture for usage: 6.3 replaced by the f6.3/100mm).