When most people think of cameras, they think of Japan, Germany or the US. But behind the Iron Curtain, the Soviet Central Command Economy had ordered the production of millions of cameras and lenses across the decades; many of which weren’t commonly available to the rest of the world until after the fall of the Berlin Wall.
When Stalin replaced Lenin’s New Economic Policy with his own policies, it was with a focus on dragging Russia out of the 19th century and into a heavily industrialised economy where vast numbers of workers could maintain productivity, and the Soviet Empire could grow until it matched and or even exceeded prosperous economies like the US.
Infamously, the FED type camera you see below was named after a man named Felix Edmundovich Dzerzhinsky; the founder of a Secret Police organisation called the Cheka. This was an organisation rightly feared, and was involved in a number of political purges and atrocities. Early pre-war versions of the FED camera are said to have been made in a labour commune in Kharkiv (in Ukraine) by orphans and indigent children, and now fetch rather high prices.
FED camera production began on a mass-scale in 1934 and ended in 1990. Early versions were copied after the popular Leica cameras of the era, with later versions being modernised. The FED 2 featured a combined rangefinder/viewfinder window on the back, making focussing and composing much easier.
By the time the FED 5V (looks like a B in Cyrillic) was produced in the 1980s and 1990s, the slim Leica look had been replaced by the large soap bar ergonomics you see in the photo below. I recommend using an original half case to carry it around, otherwise your fingers will know about it after a little while ! It’s not the prettiest camera, but it’s very functional.