Balalaika (Prima)

Video of the instrument being played: 
Excerpt of "в саду ли в огороде" written by Alexander Pushkin in 1831. Originally performed by Yuri Morfessi and released as "The Tale of Tsar Saltan".
String Gauges: 

.032 (tension - 12.32) * 2, .011


This particular prima balalaika was built in the Lunacharsky Factory in Leningrad, which is present day St. Petersburg in 1974.


This information has been copied from - In 1818 on the Bolshaya Wulfova street (today known as Chapaev street) a native of Saxonia named K. Schreder has built a factory called K. Schreder's First Russian Piano Steam Factory. Schreder's factory made grand pianos for concerts and salons. At first, 170 workers were employed at the factory. By 1885 their number has grown to 200, with the yearly production of instruments at 500 to 550. Highly qualified woodcutters were working at Schreder's factory, it was equipped by the most advanced machinery of the time. Schreder was the first man in Russia to use steam power for the making of musical instruments. Schreder's instruments have gained a high reputation in Russia and began to be known in the West. They have received high awards at exhibitions. Schreder himself, a cavalier of the Legion of Honour Order, was awarded the "Emperor's Court Supplier" title.


Time has gone by. Schreder's successors have continued to expand the factory's production. During the first years of the 20th century the factory's equipment was fully renovated, new machines were installed.


During World War I the manufacturing of instruments was reduced, as the country's war needs were being serviced. In 1918 Schreder's factory was nationalized by the Northern region's Council of National Property. By 1922 it was named after the Public Education Commissar A.V. Lunacharsky.


In 1948 the factory has begun to make harps. The harp is among the most beautiful and complex musical instruments. The production process is quite unique and there is no other factory in Russia to do this.


In 1955 new production facilities were built in order to increase the output of instruments. Beginning from 1954 instuments produced by the factory, including balalaikas, guitars, harps and folk instruments were exhibited in Leipzig, Vienna, Lyon, Copenhagen and Beijing. They were sold at international fairs in Italy, Yugoslavia, Greece, Iceland and Syria. They have received both national and international prizes and diplomas.


In 1960 the factory's guitars have been awarded the All-Russian Economic Accomplishment Exhibition's silver and bronze medals.


In 1968 they have received the gold medal at the same contest.


In 1969 the factory's 12-string guitar has received the contest's bronze medal.


In 1988 the factory's guitars received a diploma at the International Classical Guitar Contest in Czechoslovakia.


In 1993 the factory was privatized and received its new name, Arfa. Yet the factory's traditions have not changed with the new name.



When I was visiting my favorite local instrument shop and repair, Outpost Music, the owner Jesse Lyell sold me this instrument for a reasonable price. All I really had to do to make it playable was to sand the frets a bit, and replace the strings to the proper nylon/steel combination.


Since the information about the instrument in the soundhole was in russian cyrillic, I had to have my friend, Robert Toomey, translate it.


Further Notes: 

Always use nylon strings for the lower drone strings. Stainless steel for the high string.

Alternative Names: 
Balabaika, Balalayka
Scale Length: 
Russia (European)


Lunacharsky Prima

Add new comment