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LC-A Big Book Chapter 42: 1914-1920 Communism and the First Cinema Projector of the Union

In June 1918, the first domestic motion picture projector “Rus” was unveiled. It was used in many small remote villages far away from the centres of power and allowed many brave Russians to enjoy the pleasure of Russian cinema. It is very probable that many projections of Sergej. M. Eisenstein's famous film “Bronenosetz Potemkin” (Battleship Potemkin) have been shown on the “Rus” or other LOMO PLC-produced projectors across the whole country.

49. The ‘Forty Martyrs’ optical machine used at LOMO PLC in the 1920s. Lenses for glasses were made with this wooden workhorse.

The operation received equipment from all over the world. Optical machines and glass from the "Parra Mantois " works, turning lathes and milling machines from “Schuhardt and Schutte”, wiring equipment from “Siemens and Schukkert”, steel from America and a calibrating machine from Geneva. RAOOMP was going into production speedily and mainly served the Head Artillery and Head Shipbuilding Departments of the Military Ministry. They urgently needed the equipment, as World War I had just broken out. Even though the war created a difficult environment, the young company performed well and the factory’s workers were kept more than busy; producing all kinds of optical instrumentation for war purposes. In 1914 the company started with only 80 workers, whereas by 1915 it already numbered 300. By 1916 around 900 bright engineers and assemblers were popping through the wooden doors at Chugunnaya Street daily however, the conditions in these years were more than complicated. The old Russian Empire not only had to fight the central power forces on the Transylvanian border, but also had to struggle with the people’s dissatisfaction over how the country was being ruled by Tsar Nicholas II and Tsarina Alexandra Fyodorovna. By February 1917, the preconditions for the upcoming revolutionary uprising had been met. The Putilov plant, the major factory in St Petersburg, went on strike, which adversely affected RAOOMP as this plant delivered equipment for their production. Strikes in RAOOMP’s own factory were just a matter of time. By the time of the October Revolution, production had practically stopped and the works were on the verge of closing. Shortly after, management was taken over by members of Lenin’s Bolshevik fraction, in line with the rest of the country.

50. Russia’s first domestic motion picture projector ‘RUS’ from 1918.

Civil war followed the events of 1917 and harsh times arrived at the gates of the RAAOMP works. As with many of St. Petersburg’s companies (or Petrograd as it was known then), the factory was short on fuel and electric power and many of their workers were on the front line. Nevertheless, in the minds of the workers their jobs always came first, and the works continued producing in grim conditions. New orders were very much needed to survive, and so the Factory Committee applied to the People’s Commissar of Education with a request to provide promotion: “in receiving orders for apparatus and instruments necessary for the education of the people and economic development of the country, such as cinematographic apparatus, geodesic instruments, physical instrumentation etc”. In June 1918, the first domestic motion picture projector “Rus” was unveiled. It was used in many small remote villages far away from the centres of power and allowed many brave Russians to enjoy the pleasure of Russian cinema. It is very probable that many projections of Sergej. M. Eisenstein’s famous film “Bronenosetz Potemkin” (Battleship Potemkin) have been shown on the “Rus” or other LOMO PLC-produced projectors across the whole country. Coincidentally, the real event in the Battleship Potemkin, the rebellion of the oppressed sailors against the ship’s crew, on which the film was based happened in 1905 the founding year of our friendly Russian optical works.

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written by ungrumpy

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This is the original article written in: English. It is also available in: Italiano & Spanish.