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Soviet Basses

Discussion in 'Setup & Repair [DB]' started by jneuman, Dec 27, 2004.

  1. I read somewhere on the Internet, an article by a guitar maker from the former USSR, in which he said that it was illegal to repair damaged double basses back in the day. Instead they would burn them, yes incinerate them if they became disfunctional for some reason (cracks, what have you). The reason? The basses were the property of the State, and as such, were to be destroyed if not workable. Presumably the State would provide a new instruement to the player. They did not want repaired instruments getting into the wrong hands or people making money on the side repairing instruments. What a terrible waste.

    Maybe some luthiers can answer this. Is it my imagination, or do basses from USSR, E. Germany, etc (I have not seen pictures of many) have outside lining extending over the edge of the top and back? If so, this was probably done to make taking the top or back off very difficult. Have any of you guys run into this before? Just curious.

  2. I seriously doubt this redicule, back in the day in the glorius days of fake socialism there were no possible way to replace an instrument, moreso something the size of a double bass, people would steal (yeah, steal) strings from each other. I used to play an old alto sax that has been around for centuries and I had to fix the keys almost every month from my own pocket. That's how the imagination of Soviet-block luthiers developed, perhaps -- necessity is the mother of invention, so true for good ol' soviet musical instrument industry.
  3. I doubt this. Russian symphony orchestras have wonderful Italian and other European basses, all imported in the pre-revolution era. Burning them would have been a serious crime.
    No matter how ridiculous political actions the communist government took, it is not commonly accused of underestimating the value of Art.

  4. nicklloyd

    nicklloyd Supporting Member/Luthier

    Jan 27, 2002
    Cincinnati, Ohio

    You might change your mind after you read "The Ransom of Russian Art" by John Mcphee. If you like interesting non-fiction, John Mcphee is the man. It isn't more than 250 pages, and describes in engrossing detail, a Georgetown U. professor's (not John Mcphee's) one-man smuggle of dissident art out of the former Soviet Union. This guy has thousands of different paintings, sculptures, etc., stored in Delaware, and all brought over in a ten-year period. A great read and insight into the communist art world.
  5. Nnick, that´s very interesting, I´ll definitelytry to find the book.
    In fact, what I meant by "underestimating", is that many Soviet orchestras, theaters and operas, such as Bolshoi, Marinskij and so on, were excellent tools in propaganda, and thus enjoyed the government´s full support. Also the high level musical education was due to this.
    What socialist realism did to paintings, sculptures and such, is a whole another horror story.
    Don´t know how much politics this forum stands...but this is undoubtedly off topic!

  6. My bass was made in East Germany some time ago.. It does in fact have some sort of lining around the edges that round off the edge of the top and bottom which would probably make it difficult to repair...

    And on that note, I dont know how difficult it would be to remove the top, but there are two cracks on the front, one with a slight cave, which have not been repaired according to proper luthiery methods. They said that hide glue was used, but there are no tacks, and hence, one of the cracks has caved over the past couple of years (not in my posession). They sold me the bass stating that the cracks would not pose a problem in the mild, humid, and 'friendly for bass' weather. Perhaps they simply couldn't repair the cracks?.. conspiracy? hmm...