It's not a myth.
On topic, I recently acquired a J-8 lens, a black one from 1975. Sample size of one here, not statistically significant.
After de-oiling the aperture and blackening the blades, and removing an amazing quantity of nasty grease from the rest of the lens mount and aperture ring, and removing some incredibly stubborn haze from the internal glass surfaces - I'm very pleasantly surprised with a lens that behaves just like a coated version of the 5cm/2 uncoated Sonnar I had on a prewar Contax II. The focussing is as silky smooth as any lens I've owned. It's not a modern lens and don't expect it to act like one, but it's more than sharp enough at say f;4/5.6 and a lot of fun to use!
But it's not a sample of one!
I've read an article about using vibrations to center lens elements during re-assembly. Hence my I-61 remark, I just need a spanner wrench.
Russian glass was made really well, metal parts have measurable tolerances, that were rather strict, and the main problem was the assembly made by hand and the toll that the time took afterwards. Workers were working in a society, where sober people usually cooperated with the regime, vodka was the common way to control the masses, it was used to survive the working day, as well as to socialize on Sundays and holidays, cure diseases and survive the bitter Siberian cold. Also, there was a system of quantity standards (rather, than quality). So if there was a plan to make X lenses, plus 20% to please some people, the lenses could have been produced incomplete, out of incompatible or rejected parts (mixing parts from two production series would be a hypothetical example here).
So yes, cleaning and careful re-assembly will sometimes make things better.
If you want to start using rangefinder cameras, a Zorki is probably not the best place to start.
Second E von Hoegh and j-dogg. I have a Leica IIIa and IIIf and a Kiev 4a, and I'm very careful about cocking the shutter first. After a while, this becomes second nature.
Wow!! Just checked back on this post and saw all the fantastic replies so far. Lots of great info. I'll have to save this thread as a user manual..... Thanks to all!!!
Be careful of the eyepiece if you wear glasses. Can scratch.
Lamar, well, this is Soviet gear. It was made to work, not to be smooth, comfortable or intuitive. I've figured you might need the info not to get frustrated. And some luck to have a pair of working cameras ("working" is the key word here, not "fully operable" :D)
After shooting for 22 years with "Warsaw Pact" cameras only (that's FSU, Polish and East Germany gear) I have to say I love Ricoh and Pentax, even though it's delicate. And I'm still making errors, like converting a FED 5 rangefinder into a pinhole camera with ~24mm focal length - it's hard to guess that in advance, but the rangefinder cam made some considerable changes to the image.
Please, drop us a line, show us some photos as soon as you have it :)