Basic gear from the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

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David Wilson

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Newcastle upon Tyne, UK
I've plumped for the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia for my next country profile of basic diving equipment. It will be a relatively short thread as I haven't found a lot of gear to review from this Southeastern and Eastern European territory, whose short name, Yugoslavia (Jugoslavija, Југославија), means "Land of the South Slavs" and which was a federation of the constituent republics of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia:

Ethnic tensions grew in Yugoslavia after the death of the strongman-president Tito in 1980, leading to an inevitable dissolution of the federation and eventual foundation of the modern successor states of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Slovenia, Montenegro, Macedonia and Kosovo (status contested) during the nineties and noughties. The breakup was not universally peaceful and the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia is due to make a judgment in the case of one of the leading perpetrators, Ratko Mladić, in November 2017.

Right, enough history and geography for the moment and on to basic diving gear made in Yugoslavia. The map above shows how the country has a long coastline along the Adriatic Sea. The Adriatic coast of Yugoslavia was a popular vacation destination for West European tourists when I went there during the 1970s while travelling in Eastern Europe, not least because of its unspoilt beaches and reasonable hotel and restaurant costs. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that the two firms manufacturing basic diving gear operated in the two coastal Yugoslavian republics of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. Both firms used the brand name "RIS".

Today we'll concentrate on the Bosnia and Herzegovina company (below), whose products during the Tito era included fins but which now focuses on rubber sailing dinghies.

The firm is based in Gradačac (location below):

The firm of RIS-SPORTNAUTIK d.o.o. was founded in 1961. In the early days, it made fins, including one model named "Neptun" (Neptune) and available in child's as well as adult sizes:







Some of the images above focus on the fin upper, where the company name "Sportnautic" and the product name "Neptun" are embossed. The trade mark appears there too, here in its modern manifestation:

So, to sum up, the "Neptun" was an all-rubber full-foot fin manufactured by RIS Sportnautic with a symmetrical blade reinforced by side rails and a central rib that extends from the toe opening to the tip of the blade. The size range included the European 31-33 (12-1) children's size. I'll be moving on to another fin model made by the company in my next message.
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As always several steps above fantastic !

As I recall -- so many years ago-- there was a international Spearfishing meet along the Baltic coast in a place called "Monte Luzan" in the late 1950s, possibly 1957

Once again, "as I recall" the team was coached by Gus dela Valle, who was a founder of SCUBA Pro, team members Big Jim Christiansen, who became an official of SCUBA Pro, Little big man Bobbie Weaver and possibly Bob Manaiki.was the third member of the team

We were all member of the Long Beach Neptunes Spear fishing club - when spear fishing was the king of sports

Lots of memories

Sam Miller,111
As always several steps above fantastic !

Thanks, Sam.

As I recall -- so many years ago-- there was a international Spearfishing meet along the Baltic coast in a place called "Monte Luzan" in the late 1950s, possibly 1957 Lots of memories Sam Miller,111
Which European country was this?

Bosnia was in the news this morning as reports emerged about the United Nations International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia judgement on Ratko Mladić and we were reminded of the genesis of the dreadful euphemism "ethnic cleansing" in this war-torn land.

Anyway, let's move on to happier times in the past of what is now the Southeastern European republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, reviewing another fin manufactured by RIS-SPORTNAUTIK at Gradačac, 170 kilometres north of the capital Sarajewo. This model does not appear to have a product name.

RIS fin




The fin resembles the Cressi Rondine in shape with full foot coverage, toe opening and a concave tip. The blade is reinforced with side rails without centre ribs. The fourth image above provides a close-up of the markings. The letters "RIS" can be clearly seen on the foot pocket upper along with the place of manufacture Gradačac, while the blade has the trade mark, a fancy circled "R". I'd love to know what the simulated handwriting says above the trade mark. In auctions for these fins, the name "Molina" crops up, but I'm unpersuaded that is what the cursive lettering says. Any suggestions?

This fin didn't just come in black. One online auction at Ženske peraje offered a light orange pair with the following description:

Croatian: Prekrasne ženske peraje, odlično očuvane. Označena veličina 5-6.5, odgovara veličinama 38-39. Dužina unutrašnjeg dijela je 25cm. Proizvedene su u jugoslavenskoj tvornici RIS OOUR Gradačac osnovanoj 1961. godine. Peraje su iz 70tih ili 80tih godina."
Rough English translation: Beautiful women’s fins, preserved to perfection. Marked size 5-6.5, they fit sizes 38-39. Inside length is 25cm. They were made in the Yugoslavian RIS OOUR Gradačac factory, founded in 1961. The fins are from the 70s or 80s.

Here are the auction pictures:





The word "plivajući" in the last image means either "swimming" or "floating" in Bosnian. As a fin descriptor, the adjective means "floating" here. And "DOBRI Buvljak"? "The Kind-Hearted Flea Market", apparently. And although this offering is billed as a "woman's fin", the light orange fin was also available in size 44-46 (roughly US 10-12), as below:


Next up in this thread will be a diving mask made by RIS in Croatia.
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On to masks made in Yugoslavia. A sign of modern times is that although this subaquatic eyewear was manufactured by a company with the same brand name as the swim fin producer (RIS), it operated in the capital of what is now another independent country: Zagreb in the republic of Croatia.

But, using the opening words of Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood, "To begin at the beginning". Matko Vojković's blog at Sve o maskama za ronjenje - describes what things were like when it came to diving masks during the early days of diving in Yugoslavia:
Bosnian text: Naši stari su bili sretni sa bilo kakvim modelom, ukoliko je služio svrsi. Okrugli komad stakla relativno glatkih bridova, te zračnica automobila i par zakrivljenih komada žice, bili su dovoljni da se izradi ronilačka maska. Zbog ručnog načina izrade, a samim i tim i upitnog stupnja kvalitete, gotovo je nemoguće bilo izbjeći propuštanje mora unutar maske, ili pak magljenje iste, a kada mi na pamet padne izjednačavanje tlaka u ušima, mogu samo zamisliti kojih su problema imali oni ronioci koji su spomenuti manevar izvodili stiskanjem nosa prstima.
My very rough translation: Our elders were happy with any model (of diving mask), if it served the purpose. A round piece of glass with relatively smooth edges, a car tyre and a pair of curved wire pieces were enough to make a diving mask. Of course, the quality of the manually constructed mask was questionable. It was almost impossible, therefore, to avoid the mask letting seawater in or fogging up. When equalising my ear pressure, I can only imagine the problems those divers experienced as they squeezed their noses with their fingers to carry out the same manoeuvre.

So the pioneers of underwater swimming in Yugoslavian waters had to rely on their own devices and ingenuity in the same way as the first divers in, say, Czechoslovakia had done. However, over the years, things improved and commercial production of diving masks began in the Croatian capital Zagreb (location below):

The successor business appears to be called "RIS Marine Zagreb" and to be now engaged in the rubber dinghy trade like its counterpart in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The original Yugoslavian firm of RIS/Zagreb manufactured at least two models of mask, one of which will be reviewed in this posting. My information comes from a thread on a Croatian-language forum commemorating twenty-five years of Croatian independence with particular reference to certain products of the toy and sporting goods industry from the Yugoslavian era. The discussion can be found at - Jugoslavija - decja radosnica.and it's worth a look just for the images of bygone playthings.

RIS/Zagreb diving mask


The Croatian-language caption "RIS/Zagreb firma za razne sitnice za more..ovo je klasicna decja maska za ronjenje iz 1988me....i dalje ima onaj prodoran miris gume :)" means "RIS / Zagreb is a firm specialising in a variety of things to do with the sea.. a classic children's diving mask from 1988 or so .... it still has that penetrating smell of rubber :)"

These are the only images I have found so far of this mask. On the first picture you can see the words "RIS" Zagreb embossed on the split headstrap. In the second, you can see the rubber nosepiece used for equalisation. The mask's kidney-shaped lens grew in popularity around the world in the late 1970s and 1980s, but it can be traced all the way back to Luigi Ferraro's iconic Cressi Pinocchio mask from sixty years ago and still in production:

Italy was one of the neighbours of the former Yugoslavia and Italian visitors may well have brought their Italian-made snorkelling masks with them to use when bathing in the Adriatic Sea. They may have been copied or adapted by RIS/Zagreb for sale to domestic holidaymakers and foreign tourists as they headed for the beaches on Yugoslavia's Adriatic coast.

Right, that's it for today. I have one more RIS/Zagreb diving mask to showcase in this thread before I proceed to another thread focusing on the basic diving gear manufactured in the People's Republic of Bulgaria.
Thanks for the "likes", John. It's good to know that my web gleanings are appreciated.

Let's move on to the final item in this series, a second mask branded "RIS" and made in the capital of the former Yugoslavian republic of Croatia, Zagreb. This is the first mask in all my threads so far to have a built-in snorkel.

RIS/Zagreb combined mask and snorkel


As you can see, this is a high-volume (full-face?) mask with a large eyescreen. The skirt and split headstrap are both made of light-blue rubber. The demand end of the integrated black snorkel opens into one side of the mask, permitting nasal breathing. The supply end of the breathing tube has no shut-off valve, confining the mask to surface use.

The picture above is captioned thus:
Original Croatian: "Maska za ronjenje u mint stanju firme RIS/Zagreb iz 1989te...kao nova i spremna za nova ronjenja."
Rough translation:
"Diving mask in mint condition made by RIS/Zagreb company in 1989... as new and ready for new dives."

This combination snorkel/mask was not only available in a light blue colour:
In this series of online auction photographs, the white breathing tube has been separated from the mask, leaving an open socket at the side of the orange mask. Like the other mask, this model does not come with a metal clamping rim and top screw. The large lens will be retained within a groove in the front of the skirt.

The description reads as follows:
Original Bosnian: "Proizvodjac: RIS Zagreb. Dimenzije 20 x 16 cm. Dobro ocuvana, s obzirom kada je proizvedena. Staklo je izuzetno veliko tako da se osecate kao da imate manji prozor pred sobom. Dugacka guma, jednostavna za podesavanje. Kvalitetna, ovakve modele vise ne proizvode. Uobicajene sitne ogrebotine."
Rough translation: "Dimensions 20 x 16 cm. Well preserved, considering when it was manufactured. The lens is very large so it feels like having a small window in front of you. Long rubber strap, easy to adjust. These high-quality models are no longer in production. The usual small scratches."

Though rare in the eastern bloc before the demise of the USSR, many combined snorkel/mask designs were marketed in western Europe from the 1950s to the 1970s. At Wayback Machine, you will find an interesting July 2001 HDS Italy article about early 1950s diving masks. In this review, the distinguished diving historian Fabio Vitale illustrates and describes no less than nine combined snorkel/masks made by Cressi, Pirelli, Salvas and other Italian diving equipment manufacturers of the day. Do take a loook if you're interested in early commercial diving mask development.

This will probably be the last of my reviews of basic diving gear from the former Yugoslavia, unless somebody has information about other underwater swimming products manufactured there. I will proceed next to review basic diving equipment made in the People's Republic of Bulgaria.

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