Even though Russian cars are less known today, the automotive production is still a significant part of the industry in Russia. With more than 600.000 employees, Russia is the world’s 15th largest car producer, accounting for more than 2% of the worldwide production.
But it’s the Soviet Union that shaped today’s industry and brands that we all come to know. Spanning from 1929 to 1991, the USSR built some of the most iconic car brands, such as LADA, Volga, Zil and Moskvich. Before its disintegration in 1991, it was the the sixth largest automotive producer.
The Soviet government agenda dictated the trajectory of the industry. It all started with the production of superheavy trucks, military and off-road vehicles, passenger transport, buses, vans, and other various types of trucks. Notable brands were: GAZ, UAZ and KAMAZ.
But the 1960s marked a shift in the industry: The communists decided it was time to design a car for the masses. Having little experience in this field, it was decided to base the car upon an existing model. The USSR turned to the more experienced Western industry. Many of the following models that came to life were based on existing cars from famous brands. This was the decision that marked the term “copy-paste industry”. Lots of designs were shamelessly copied from leading western cars of those times.
The communist era also spawned some great advertising to accompany the industry. Colorful pictures depicted the cars along with their owners, in various beautiful landscapes. Looking at these photographs now, one might think that it was a great time to live in the USSR back then. Cheerful people in nice clothing, smiling faces and vibrant painted cars in a holiday background. What’s not to love?
One of the most famous cars was the VAZ – 2101 (Zhiguli), the first model off the Volzhskiy factory. It was based on the Italian Fiat-124. The export version of the car bas branded as LADA. Being cheap and reliable, it was an instant success on the soviet market. You can spot them on the streets of Russia today, as many nostalgic drivers still cherish them.
The LADA brand is still made today by AvtoVaz car manufacturer, in collaboration with Renault-Nissan.
Another iconic Russian model was the Moskvich. Production started in 1949, followed by a hiatus during the war, and a return with the Moskvich 400, based on the German Opel Kadett. Since 2009, Volkswagen owns the brand.
“- I bet it was so easy to buy one of those cars.”
What you see is the product of communist propaganda. Buying an automobile during the Soviet times was not a matter of visiting a car dealership, getting advice and choosing a color. No, you had to go to a government office and submit a written request to buy a car. After a period of one to three years, you found out if your request was given a green light. The government had to give YOU the right to buy one! Choosing the desired model was somewhat impossible. Only people in the higher ranks of the communist party had such a privilege. After submitting your order, you had to wait for another three to five years until the actual delivery. As if it weren’t enough, few people could the cost of a car.
Most of the production went for export. The nicer, more expensive models went to the western countries, while the rest of the production went to the communist bloc (Cuba, Vietnam, etc.).
In spite all of this, owners of the Soviet Era cars still have fond memories about those times.
– via merelinc.com