Tonika electric guitar, made in U.S.S.R.
The first Soviet mass production electric guitar

This is the first solidbody electric guitar produced in USSR. It was made in Leningrad at Lunacharsky factory of folk musical instruments. Tonika had several modifications with this one being the first. The "second" Tonika was made in Sverdlovsk ("Ural" factory of keyboard musical instruments), Rostov ("Kavkaz" musical production union, Rostov-on-Don factory of keyboard instruments) and Ordjonikidze ("Kavkaz" musical production union). The "first" Lunacharsky Tonika is different, it has a slightly different body shape, a completely diffrent pickguard design, hardware and headstock shape.

As you may have noticed, two guitars on the picture look slightly different. It is a common feature of all early Soviet guitars, but on Lunacharsky Tonikas the differencies are striking. Just look at the pictures below (the school band), where Tonika has three knobs and two additional switches. Why? It is possible that in a couple of years we will be able to distinguish between '70, '71 and '72 Lunacharsky Tonikas, but untill then we can hardly find out what happened there.

The guitar on the left features "Leningrad" logo in oval frame, and you may also see the typical Soviet neck adjustment mechanism on that picture (coins under the neck). The other guitar has the original pickguard but the bridge is missing. Obviously, finding a clean example of Leningrad Tonika should be next to impossible.

It's still hard to say when the production started. Lunacharsky factory was the oldest stringed instrument maker in USSR, the factory produced acoustic instruments - violins, balalaikas, domras as well as six and seven string acoustic guitars. "Electromusical picking instruments" book (D.S.Medvedovsky, O.N.Guzevich, Leningrad, "Energy", 1979) states Lunacharsky factory has been making electric guitars since 1964! While this sounds a bit too early it is possible that the date relates to prototype instruments or acoustic (or hollowbody jazz) guitars equipped with electronic pickups. Tonika appeared at music shops somehwhat later, possibly around 1967.

Lunacharsky Tonika was discontinued already by the beginning of the 70's and the new, redesigned Tonikas were made through the first half of the 70's. Lunacharsky factory developed a hollowbody electric guitar which replaced Tonika and by the end of the 70's a line of semihollow guitars with plastic bodies ("Maria") appeared. None of these guitars were playable or sounded good, and Leningrad (Lunacharsky) electrics were among the worst Soviet instruments.

Kirill Zaitsev, Alexstar, Evgeny Lykov (E), Stanislav Vitchenko, Lordbizarre, BigBeat,

Different Tonikas:
Lunacharsky Tonika
Rostov Tonika EGS-650
Ordjonikidze Tonika EGS-650
Sverdlovsk Tonika EGS-650
Rostov Tonika bass

A page from a '1971 "The Repair of picking instruments" book showing a number of different guitars. Notice the hollowbody model next to the Tonika, it is possible that this is another Lunacharsky product.

A couple of awesome pictures courtesy of Alexstar showing a Soviet school band at work. This time Tonika has three knobs and additional switches - probably also stock.

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