c.1960 Russian "Soviet" Balalaika

This is an anonymous Soviet-era Russian balalaika (prima?) -- the little size. This is going to be a trade-in for some work I'm doing on a cello. I've glued some top cracks, cleaned her up, polished up the frets, and set it up. Traditionally these have 4-piece spruce tops (which this has) and beech or birch back, sides, and neck (which this has). This one is a bit nicer than the typical Soviet-era balalaikas in that the back is bowled like a mandolin. The scale length is about 17" (like a mandola) and I've strung it up to be used in either the traditional tuning (EEA) or "mandolin" tuning (GDA).

Fun colors: the inset pieces are an orangey-brown stained wood that picks up a lot of light.

Headstock: curiously the tuners work backwards (the top tuner is the lowest pitch string).

Detail of maple bridge.




As you can see, the finish cleaned up really nicely... and the heel join is very cool.

Funky tuners. I think I'd prefer straight-back banjo tuners myself.

I love this end-pin loop-end string arrangement, however. This is reminiscent of early mandolins which did a similar job with 4 pins. I think I may resurrect this feature for an instrument I've just started building (spoiler alert!) as it's really easy to string up and would look quite nice with ebony or rosewood pins.


HumbleUker said…
Jake, I just bought a balalaika and posted a few videos on HumbleUker. I am looking forward to trying it out. I got it from eBay and it is almost identical to your pictures here. Have you tried playing it? Now I need to do some research. Jeff
Unknown said…
I just got this very same model balalaika there is a label inside but it's in Russian, however there is a blackbird on the label and the year is stamped 1967....everything is in Russian do I don't have a clue as to the Brand....can anyone help me....my email is derrick.clayton1985@gmail.com
Sharon Demkovich said…
I have the exact same Balalaika (says made in the USSR on the back). The wood looks to be dried out from age. Is there an easy way to restore it's original luster? I have a friend that wants to purchase it and learn to play. Does anyone know of a reputable website where I can find out how much I should sell it to her for?

Also, there's something rattling around on the inside, but I have no idea what it is. Is this standard for a balalaika?

Thanks to anyone who can help!