1970s Lunacharsky Russian-made 3-String Prima Balalaika

Update: a fellow online told me that this was made in Leningrad by the Lunacharsky factory. Thanks!

My friend Gus has been leading a klezmer ensemble and has really been Jonesing for a balalaika. I sent him some auction listings and this is the one he bought -- and it's great! Most balalaikas available are '60s-'80s Soviet offerings and generally pretty modest, mass-market instruments.

I don't doubt that this one is modest or mass-market, but it's got upgraded specs and workmanship compared to the vast majority of them. I'm guessing it's a '70s-era instrument judging by the tuners and label-style in the soundhole, though I can't read Cyrillic so that's certainly up to debate.

It's a 3-string instrument and traditionally that equates to two gut (nylon) and one steel string for "standard" tuning. Gus plays plectrum banjo and I'd mentioned that there's a "Russian guitar" alternate tuning for balalaika that uses the same GBD (low to high) pitches as the top strings of said guitar -- which are also the top strings of said plectrum banjo.

We decided to string this one with nylon (Nylgut, here) for this GBD tuning, but as I'm waiting for some heavier-gauge strings, it's currently tuned a full step up at AC#E -- so open A in the video clip. Clearly, this arrangement will be nice for Gus because he doesn't have to re-learn fingering techniques and all sorts of sliding, useful chords will be available to him right away.

It doesn't hurt that it sounds pretty, too.

The instrument itself is lightly-built and quite loud. He's not going to have any problem leading the ensemble's rhythm with this cute old thing. 

The instrument is all-original save that the original bridge is now cut-down a bit lower, there are now side dots on the neck, two new strap buttons, and the very top of the headstock has a replacement trim piece I cut from spare-bits rosewood to fit.