Deciphering Number Plates: Russia

Deciphering Number Plates: Russia

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Curious how the registration-number system is handled in the world’s biggest country? Or how come even people who don't know the Cyrillic alphabet can read Russian number plates with ease? Or how many regional codes Moscow has? This article has all the answers.

2. 5. 2019

In this instalment of our Deciphering Number Plates series, we are heading to the biggest country in the world – the Russian Federation. Just to give you an idea of the scale, the area of Europe (excluding Russia) is approximately 6 million km2, whereas Russia covers 17 million km2, making it almost three times larger. The administrative structure reflects this and can be seen in the system used for vehicle registration numbers.

The Russian Federation’s current constitution divides the territory into 85 self-governing units, which take the form of republics, regions, oblasts (“provinces” or “zones”), and federal cities. Each of these units has its own regional code. In other words, there are 85 basic codes plus a special code to denote places that lie outside Russian territory but are under its control, such as Baikonur.

Kodiaq-silver-back-zoom

Standard Russian number plates feature black characters on a white background, and the registration number consists of eight or nine characters. In the first section of the number plate, there is one letter, followed by three numbers and then two more letters. Taken together, the letters together indicate the series. The digits are the serial number. Interestingly, only the letters of the Cyrillic alphabet that look like characters in the Latin alphabet are used. There are 12 in total: А, В, Е, К, М, Н, О, Р, С, Т, У and Х. The aim is to make Russian number plates easy to read abroad.

On the right-hand side, in a separate frame, there is the two- or three-digit code of the region in which the vehicle was registered (at least the place of initial registration – due to the lack of numerical combinations, those who buy a used car can now retain the original registration number), Russia’s international code (RUS), and a Russian flag.

What's in a number plate?

As only 12 letters are available, each regional code has approximately 1.7 million combinations (12 letters x 1,000 numbers x 12 letters x 12 letters). However, this is often not enough, and the problem is compounded by the fact that a registration number cannot be reused once it has been removed from the register. To combat this, selected regions use more than one two-digit code, though not many of them enjoy this privilege (considering that there are 86 regions and 99 double-digit combinations), so the numbers 1 and 7 have started to be added in front of the regional code. A shining example is Moscow, which actually had three double-digit codes (77, 97 and 99), but not even this kept up with demand, so they started adding digits. Now Moscow has a total of nine regional codes (the original three have been joined by 177, 197, 199, 777, 797 and 799). Other stricken areas include the Moscow Oblast (5 codes: 50, 90, 150, 190, 750) and Saint Petersburg (4 codes: 78, 98, 178, 198). However, as it is only a matter of time before even these codes run out, it has been suggested that the number plate format could be modified to add a fourth digit to the serial number. This would push the number of possible combinations up from 1.7 million to 17 million for each regional code.

As in other countries, you will find vehicles on Russian roads that do not have the standard number plates. Non-standard plates can often be distinguished instantly by their colour. Another tell-tale sign is that most special number plates do not have a Russian flag on the right, plus the number formatting frequently tends to be a lot different. One example is the police number plate, which has white letters on a blue background and consists of a single letter, to identify the branch of the police force, followed by a four-digit serial number, the regional code, and Russia’s international code. You can tell a military number plate by its white lettering on a black background. The plates of public transport vehicles (buses, trolleybuses, and even taxis) use black lettering on a yellow background.

Rapid-green-front

If you ever go to Russia, chances are you will see trucks or buses with their registration number displayed twice on their rear section – once in the conventional format and again in large characters elsewhere on the back. You may also notice that it is only older vehicles that have this. This arrangement was mandatory in Russia until 2008. The bigger registration number had to be at least 30 cm tall and each character had to be at least 12 cm wide. This may have been to make the number easily readable even in bad weather or if the number plate had become dirty or difficult to make out.

Rapid-red-front-rus

This number plate with the three-digit number 777 – like all the plates pictured in the article that use the three-digit number 799 – denotes the Moscow region. Selected Russian regions use more than one two-digit code, though not many of them enjoy this privilege (considering that there are 86 regions and 99 double-digit combinations), so the numbers 1 and 7 started to be added in front of the regional code. A shining example of this is Moscow, which actually had three double-digit codes (77, 97 and 99), but not even this kept up with demand, so they started adding digits. Nowadays, Moscow has a total of nine regional codes.

An interesting feature in the Russian number plate system is the diplomatic plate. Diplomatic number plates have white lettering on a red background and begin with a three-digit number denoting one of the countries with which Russia has diplomatic relations. Numbers are allocated in sequence, according to when the state in question established diplomatic relations with Russia or the Soviet Union. The United Kingdom has the number 001, Germany 002, and Canada 003. The United States of America were fourth. Czechoslovakia was assigned the code 092, but this code was discontinued when the federal republic split. Now the Czech Republic has code 148 and Slovakia 149. The highest country code to date is 170, which signifies Grenada, a small island state in the Caribbean Sea. In addition to states, some international organisations, such as the European Union, the Arab League and UNESCO, also have their own code. And if you see a diplomatic plate with the number 111, that is an envoy of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta.

Octavia-silver-back-rus

Here, you can see plates using the triple-digit number 799 and, in the photograph used above in the article, 777, both of which are for the Moscow region. Selected Russian regions use more than one two-digit code, though not many of them enjoy this privilege (considering that there are 86 regions and 99 double-digit combinations), so the numbers 1 and 7 started to be added in front of the regional code. A shining example of this is Moscow, which actually had three double-digit codes (77, 97 and 99), but not even this kept up with demand, so they started adding digits. Nowadays, Moscow has a total of nine regional codes.

Timur-Aliev-circle



IMPORTER QUESTIONS
Answered by: Timur Aliev, PR Manager, ŠKODA AUTO Russia


How would you sum up ŠKODA’s historical presence on the Russian market?

ŠKODA has a long-standing, rich tradition in Russia. Czech cars were well known in Russia as far back as 1907, i.e. more than a hundred years ago. At the beginning of the 20th century, there were Laurin & Klement dealerships not only in Moscow and Saint Petersburg, but also in Samara, Simferopol and Rostov-on-Don.

The brand’s modern history in Russia began in 2004 with the foundation of ŠKODA AUTO Russia, a company formed within Volkswagen Group RUS, itself a subsidiary of the Volkswagen Group. In keeping with the Volkswagen Group’s principle of engaging in comprehensive development within regional markets, the assembly of completely knocked down (CKD) ŠKODAs was launched at Volkswagen’s Kaluga factory in 2009. Another ŠKODA AUTO Russia production site can be found in the GAZ Group plant in Nizhny Novgorod (the GAZ Group is a local automobile manufacturer that entered into a cooperation agreement with the Volkswagen Group in 2011).

The Volkswagen Group is one of the largest investors in Russia. It has channelled EUR 1.75 billion into business development here, where three ŠKODA models – the KODIAQ, OCTAVIA and RAPID – are currently being produced.

How is ŠKODA faring on your market right now?

ŠKODA enjoys a strong standing in Russia. Our well-balanced product mix currently spans four models – the SUPERB, OCTAVIA, RAPID and KODIAQ. The KODIAQ in particular – ŠKODA’s first family SUV – has been well received in Russia. This year we are planning to introduce several important models, including the long-awaited ŠKODA KAROQ SUV.

We had a successful year in 2018 – after several challenging years of financial crisis in Russia, which started in 2014, we are now reporting solid results again. Last year, we delivered more than 81,000 vehicles to clients, a 31% increase on 2017. Every model achieved double-digit growth.

Which models sell best on the Russian market and how do they fare against competitors in their class?

Our top-selling models have long been the ŠKODA OCTAVIA and the ŠKODA RAPID – last year, we delivered 25,026 of the first (+10.5%) and 35,089 (+19.2%) of the latter. The number of ŠKODA KODIAQs sold increased to 16,233. Since the beginning of 2018, when the CKD assembly of this model was launched, thereby expanding the range of available engines and trim levels, the KODIAQ has reported unwavering growth and has plenty of potential yet. The ŠKODA SUPERB, our flagship, has also been warmly welcomed in Russia, with sales up 15.9% (to 1,881 vehicles) in 2018.

We prize the trust of our clients and their families, and I would like to add here that this success could not have been achieved without our highly professional team and widespread, reliable sales network.

What trends have you observed on the Russian market?

Russia is traditionally viewed as an “SUV country”, with local people preferring big sturdy cars and all-wheel drive. This is mainly because of the great distances we have to cover and the inclement weather conditions prevailing in the country for most of the year. We are confident that our worldwide SUV offensive has the potential to be a major success story in Russia because the local market is huge.

Historically, too, Russians have preferred sedans over estates for aesthetic reasons. That is why our liftbacks in Russia are so popular – they combine the practicality of an estate with the elegance of a sedan.

If you visit Russia, you need to brace yourself for the fact that you will encounter ŠKODAs literally on every corner, because the OCTAVIA and the RAPID are commonly purchased as company cars and taxis, and are also the car of choice for several carsharing companies.

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