Oldtimer gallery. Number plates. Brief story of Soviet number plates.
Russian alphabet consists of 33 letters, but only 28 of them were ever used for registration plates.
Since I'm unable to show Russian letters on the monitors of non-Russian-language computers, I can describe here only main
situation with number plates history in Soviet Union. More detailed information (in Russian) is here.
Only number plates for 1932 - 1970's period are described here. Early number plates in the USSR and Russia were ordinary,
beginning from 1 and seems every city had own registration system.
Beginning from 1930's, number plates standards were the same for the whole Soviet Union, but there was special letters of
region on the numbers. So one can define, what region this automobile arrived from.
Number plates of this period were made of steel (excluding some of WW2 years). Plates were "long-life". A vehicle changed its number plate only if it was moved to another registration region, or if it
changed the owner (but in 1930's-1950's such plate change wasn't necessary in case of new owner).
The whole number plates standard was changed quite often, and in this case all old numbers should be changed for new ones
during quite short period (often - one year). Only "yellow numbers" of 1946-1959 were allowed until 1965-1966, and
motorcycles often received old-type numbers from militia even in early 1960's. Laws in Russia are very strict, but they are
softened by unnecessity of their execution, and even today one can meet 1950's yellow number plates in some distant regions
(extremely seldom, of course).
Following vehicles were subjects to registration: cars, trucks and automobiles on their base, buses, motorcycles.
Agricultural tractors became a subject of registration only from late 1950's.
Light motorcycles (mopeds) were a subject of registration only in 1960 and few further years, but since nobody cared about to
register them, and overloading of registration divisions of Soviet road police (ORUD, then ORUD-GAI, GAI and at least
special division of GAI - MREO), the idea of moped registration was cancelled soon.
Just before the WW2 and until mid-1950's bicycles were also a subject to registration, but every small town had separate
standard for number plates, and they were very different, small and nice.
Red Army (later Soviet Army) automobiles in WW2 and afterwards had own military number plates. Sometimes (seldom)
army automobiles were registered under civilian numbers. This wasn't for conspiration, because military numbers were more
profitable on the road.
Perhaps this was in cases, when military registries were too distant. Battle armoured vehicles were never registered. (only
armoured transport, but very seldom). Such vehicles carried 1-2-3-digit painted board numbers.
Tramway carriages carried painted ordinary numbers. Every city has own system, usually from 1 and up.
Trolleybuses had similar- but separate from tramway system, usually from 1 and up too.
What else in the net:
Russian License Plates (in English).
You are welcome to write me by E-mail Contact. Andrei Bogomolov.
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Last updated 30 I 2000.