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History, Documents & Ephemera > Factory Histories > Kiev Arsenal
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Kiev Arsenal



Started in 1764 as a repair and production facility of the Russian army it was initially based in a Kiev fortress compound in the Pechersk (Печерськ) district of the city. It is now a large state-owned company.

The Revolution and World War II events

In January 29, 1918, the workers of the factory organized an armed pro-Bolshevik mutiny known as a Kiev Arsenal mutiny or a January Rebellion against Tsentral'na Rada, the Ukrainian assembly that declared the independence of Ukraine. To commemorate the event, the Soviet authorities preserved the historic defensive wall bearing the traces of shelling (situated on the city's Moskovs'ka Street near the Arsenal'na metro station).

While the civil production lines were added to the factory starting from 1918, the factory produced mostly the military related products throughout its history. In the 1920s, 1930s and during the World War II the factory mainly produced the artillery, anti-tank and anti-aircraft guns. In summer 1941, immediately after the outbreak of the war between the Soviet Union and the axis powers, the factory was quickly evacuated to the Russian city of Perm in the Ural mountains far away from hostilities. The factory buildings in Kiev suffered heavy damages from German bombings. The relocated "Arsenal" continued to play a major role in the arming of the Nazi-fighting Red Army.


After the war, the Arsenal was practically built anew at its Kiev location and partly converted into a civil company named Zavod Arsenal (while the other, smaller, part remained an unremarkable military repairing facility under a different name). Since that time, the name Arsenal is mostly associated with the larger company rather than with the military one (occupying the oldest building of old arsenal). During the Cold War arms race, Arsenal developed dramatically, becoming an important manufacturer of the military-related products and employing tens of thousands of people. The factory mainly specialized in optical components for the Soviet military and space programs. The factory also produced the professional grade photographic cameras "Kiev" but civil production played only a minor role in factory output. Tens of thousands of people where employed at the "Arsenal"

After World War II, much of the tooling at the Zeiss factory was appropriated by the Soviets and installed in the Ukraine, at a defense factory in Kiev known as Arsenal. Arsenal is best known for having cloned some notable cameras, including models by Hasselblad, Zeiss Ikon, Nikon and Pentacon. Most of them were not copied directly, but were instead simplified for production behind the Iron Curtain. Some, such as the Contax clones, were quite good. Arsenal also created one of the most original of all cameras: the Kiev 10. Of all Soviet camera manufacturers, Arsenal also has the largest cult following, given their product complement of cheap yet usable medium format equipment.

The Arsenal factory produced all Kiev cameras. The most well-known camera produced at Arsenal is the Kiev 88 (derived from the original Salyut), which shares origins with the original Hasselblad 1000 and 1600. Who borrowed whose design is the subject of endless debate, which you can read about in a number of places.

The Arsenal factory also made Mir and Arsat lenses, which were good Zeiss copies. Their ubiquitous quality-control problems notwithstanding, the Ukrainian lenses are quite good, and some of them are outstanding. The company still produces cameras and lenses.

Perestroika and independence

After the beginning of the perestroika, the military orders have dropped drastically and the Arsenal factory fell into a still ongoing crisis. The management attempts to convert the factory by concentrating more on the consumer optics and other civil products did little to help the factory to emerge from the crisis. Comparatively insignificant figures of civil production sales could not support the employment of military-specialized workers in such numbers and maintain the gigantic premises.

After the beginning of Kiev's economic growth in the mid-1990s, the company found itself a significant real estate holder in an elite commercial and administrative district. The company's real estate, rather than largely deteriorated equipment and expertise, became its major asset. However, the industrial activities (both civil and arms-related) continue to this day. The modern day military equipment produced at the Arsenal is mostly imported by Russia for its military and space program needs. The factory civil production includes consumer optics, medical and banking equipment, gauges for the natural gas and optical diode-based traffic lights.

Art museum project

In 2004, a Ukrainian oligarch and art philanthropist Viktor Pinchuk suggested to establish a modern art gallery in the oldest 19th century building of Arsenal. This large fortress-looking brick structure, situated on the Tsitadel'na Street and recognized as architectural monument, now belongs to Ukrainian military and is poorly maintained. Later, Viktor Yushchenko, the President of Ukraine, expressed his support to the museum idea but suggested that the museum had to be state-run and dominated by more traditional art pieces in order to become a "Ukrainian Hermitage". The process of converting the building to a civil use is underway while the nature of the museum is still discussed.

(Source: Text: Wikipedia, Images:Wikipedia:Halibutt)
(Click to enlarge)

Created by Vlad on 8/23/2007 8:54:16 PM   |   Last Edited by Vlad on 8/23/2007 8:58:30 PM   Revision History  
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