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Thread: My Amazing Russian Mandolin

  1. #1
    Registered User mandopulu's Avatar
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    Smile My Amazing Russian Mandolin

    Howdy ho,

    I've been sniffin around these pages for a while, and am finally posting this by way of an introduction

    I'm an American living in Finland. I've been playing tenor banjo for a while, and thought that I would have a try at playing the mandolin as well. It's basically the same tuning so must be the same, right?

    There was only one small problem: I'm a cheapskate.

    Finland has a plentiful supply of these old Russian Mandolins from (I guess) the 70s, and you can get them on the net for about 40. So my cheapskate instincts were piqued when I spotted one going for 25! There was something about some damage to the neck, but it was all in Finnish so I just ignored it - I can read Finnish, but it I have to work at it, and the desire to translate correctly was drowned out by the noise coming from my cheapskate-instincts. To my delight I won the auction, and in a few days I had my amazing Russian mandolin:

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    And on the inside:

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    The details on the inside say

    MANDOLINA
    ARTIKYL 301

    This means something lke Mandolin, model 301

    Then "Preiskyrant no 077-01-1982/61". I am guessing that this is the serial number, and maybe the year of manufacture?

    Then I realized that "damage to the neck" meant that it had broken entirely and been SCREWED BACK TOGETHER!

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    The mandolin is Russian made, but probably the damage to the neck and subsequent repair was done by a Finn. I suspect this because I live my life among Finns, and know there is a strong "make do and mend mentality" in Finnish society, one of the things I love about Finns.

    So I put the Russian mandolin aside for a couple of weeks and I went back to my banjo.

    Then one evening when I was all banjed out I took another look at my Russian Mandolin, and after picking at it for a bit realized that although there was a slightly rough repair job, the neck was straight and it was playable. The strings were ancient and untunable, but if you ignored that the tone was ok and it felt quite nice to hold and strum. So I got a set of new strings for it and tried it again.

    While restringing, I discovered this awesome third fret detail

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    Sadly, after restringing it and tuning it up the string action was higher, and the scale length is all messed up - I guess the repair job wasn't so good, and the neck seems to be coming apart a little. The mandolin is basically not playable. Part of me thinks it would be fun to work on it some more and "restore it to it's former communist glory", but the sensible me says life's too short, so I found a Mandobird on sale in Germany for a good price and ordered it. V happy with that, and the old Russian mando is making a lovely ornament in my office right now.

    In conclusion, if you ever see one of these Russian babies for sale, and assuming that it hasn't had the neck broken in two and bolted back together again, it's probably a nice, fun little insrument. Well worth 40 eurodollars :D

  2. #2
    Different Text eadg145's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Amazing Russian Mandolin

    Welcome to the Cafe!

    While your story was painful in parts, I have to admit it made me smile. And I'm happy to read the happy ending!

    I can't wait to see your posts in about 2 years from now, when MAS will undoubtedly have caught you in its grip...
    Think globally, bike locally.

  3. #3
    Registered User Kerry Krishna's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Amazing Russian Mandolin

    Pulu, an apartment I moved into in Winnipeg came with a Russian balalaika and mandolin, vera similar to yours. The balalaika was a 3 string and came straight from the factory needing a pair of pliers to tune the machine heads. They were kinda 'looks like, but not actually' machine heads. The mandolin was exactly the same. They were both built in Ukraine at 'Musical Instrument factory # 3' .
    The mando was only a 'Mandolin Shaped Object' , and same again with the other. They would have sold over there for around $30 canadian back in the early 70s.
    "Listen here Skippy. This here mandolin is older than your Grandpa, and costs more than a new Porsche, so no. No, I can't play any Whane Newton on it..."

  4. #4
    Registered User mandopulu's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Amazing Russian Mandolin

    Hey!

    I'm finding that as soon as I stopped worrying about plucking the two strings and got used to the frets being close together, I'm loving the mandobird. And I can play it in the middle of the night without waking the neighbors up :D

    I went back to the old mando, picked up a torch and with some help from the googles investigated if the mando could be from the ukraine. I couldn't see the names of any of the Ukrainian instrument factories, or the word 'Україна' anywhere, but it does have the word 'РОСМУЗПРОМ' prominently.

    (Now I've figured out how to put Руссйн characters into my puter)

    A google search suggests that the Rosmuzprom instruments were made in the 80's USSR. There are a whole load of other things to investigate, but it's possibly a little bit esoteric by now. Would be great to find the factory, maybe they could fix the neck for me....?



    Pulu

  5. #5
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Amazing Russian Mandolin

    I am glad you are enjoying this Russian mandolin. I assume that you are posting with a sense of humor about this instrument and are joking about having the neck fixed.
    Jim

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  6. #6
    Registered User mandopulu's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Amazing Russian Mandolin

    Interesting to learn about where things come from, but joking about getting it fixed :D

  7. #7
    Registered User Randi Gormley's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Amazing Russian Mandolin

    Thoroughly enjoyed the story, fwiw, and always figure that more information is better than not enough. Makes a good story, in any event! Glad you're finding mandolin as interesting as you had thought ... and welcome to the cafe!
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  9. #8
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    Default Re: My Amazing Russian Mandolin

    Those Russian mandolins are not bad - loud and bold, rather than delicate and complex, but much better than many modern 'budget' instruments. If you can pick one up for a few /$/€, why not put a couple of hours into getting in nicely set up? Maybe this one's too far gone, but I've worked on a couple and ended up with good beginner-intermediate instruments. The craftsmanship on these mandolins doesn't stand up to close inspection and the materials are more bottom-of-the-firewood-pile than top, but they are, in my experience, structurally sound, straight etc.

  10. #9
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    Default Re: My Amazing Russian Mandolin

    Ok - I know this is an old post, BUT...

    I bought this very mandolin for my Dad when I visited the Soviet Union in 1987. He played guitar, and I was just looking for something "guitar-ish" as a souvenir. I don't know if he ever really played it.

    Just found it again in the attic of my parents' home - it has not been well cared for, but everything is intact except the strings. The bridge is loose, but I kept a couple of intact strings on to hold it in place.

    I found this post by googling "rosmuzprom mandolin" (I studied Russian in college...hence my trip). I love the internoodle!

    I do plan to have the local stringed instrument shop attempt a setup. Happy to post pics and maybe an MP3 if the setup works...but one pic-as-proof attached...
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  11. #10
    Mando-Accumulator Jim Garber's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Amazing Russian Mandolin

    John-John: the bridge for this type of mandolin (not just Russian ones) is always loose and never glued to the top. These inexpensive mandolins could be ok. I would think best to probably use light gauge strings.
    Jim

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  13. #11
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    Default Re: My Amazing Russian Mandolin

    Ah! Very helpful, thanks!

    Quote Originally Posted by Jim Garber View Post
    John-John: the bridge for this type of mandolin (not just Russian ones) is always loose and never glued to the top. These inexpensive mandolins could be ok. I would think best to probably use light gauge strings.

  14. #12
    Registered User maudlin mandolin's Avatar
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    Default Re: My Amazing Russian Mandolin

    I have one of these Russian models which I like to think of as the Kalashnikov of the mandolin world - cheap and unsophisticated but robust and hardwearing. With regard to string gauge, I have used medium without difficulty.
    My only problem was with the tuners, one of which snapped off as soon as I strung the instrument..

  15. #13
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    Default Re: My Amazing Russian Mandolin

    Kalashnikov! I love it...

    These would have to be hardy instruments to survive my parents' attic - yikes...

    Quote Originally Posted by maudlin mandolin View Post
    I have one of these Russian models which I like to think of as the Kalashnikov of the mandolin world - cheap and unsophisticated but robust and hardwearing. With regard to string gauge, I have used medium without difficulty.
    My only problem was with the tuners, one of which snapped off as soon as I strung the instrument..

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