Russian license plates: What do they mean?

Igor Ivanko/Moskva agency
Vehicle registration plates in Russian look different from those in Europe, the U.S. or any other country. And they have mysterious two- or three-digit numbers at the end. What are they for? Let’s find out.

The Russian registration plate consists of several parts. First comes a registration code and series that includes a unique combination of numbers and letters. It always looks like a letter - three numbers - and another two letters. 

Interestingly, only 12 letters of the Russian alphabet are used in these plates and only those that have spelling analoges in the Latin alphabet, so as not to confuse foreigners in case a car registered in Russia crosses the border or a car from a foreign country has an incident in Russia. Such Cyrillic letters as ‘Щ’ or ‘Ы’ are not used. Read more about this rule and the evolution of the Russian license plates here.

The registration code and series is then followed by a square separated by a line. The Russian flag and country name RUS are depicted, as well as the region registration code in it. 

Recently, the authorities allowed the use of shorter, more quadratic number plates for cars and vehicles, such as motorcycles, which have no space for usual Russian plates. Here is how elements are arranged on such number plates.

What does the regional code mean? 

Actually, it matches the code that each Russian region was allocated. So, how would you recognize this code? It’s very easy… in theory.

According to the Russian Constitution, all 85 Russian regions are listed in a certain order and each of the regions has its own number which actually is also the car code.

The first 21 republics on the list are in alphabetical order and each of them, from Adygea to the Chuvash Republic, have the numbers from 01 to 21. The 22nd republic of Crimea has the number 82, as it joined the list later. 

The six territories which in Russian are called “krai” follow next. From the Altai Krai to the Khabarovsk Krai, they are also listed in alphabetical order. They are spelled in Russian, of course, and have numbers 22 through to 27. 

Another three “krais” (Kamchatsky, Permsky and Zabaikalsky) are situated somewhere in the middle of the regions’ list, because, as subjects of the Russian Federation, they were formed later. For example, Zabaikalsky Krai has number 75, as it appeared only in 2008 after the referendum, which united the former Chita Oblast and Agin-Buryat Autonomous Okrug.

From number 28, regions that are called “Oblast in Russian” begin, starting with Amur Oblast (28) and finishing with Yaroslavl Oblast (76) - there are 46 oblasts in total. 

Surprisingly, after that, Moscow (77) and St. Petersburg (78) are listed, because they are separate administrative subjects. And, as they are huge cities with millions of cars registered there, they have more than one car registration code. Moscow’s main code is 77, but it also has the numbers 97, 99, 177, 197, 199, 777, 797 and 799.

Car sharing vehicles with Moscow numbers

While St. Petersburg also has the numbers 98, 178 and 198. Several other regions also have more than one code, but usually they “play” with the same numbers: 61, 161 and 761 for Rostov Oblast, for example.

After Moscow and St. Petersburg, the list is completed with the Jewish Autonomous Oblast (79) and four autonomous “okrugs” (83-89). Sevastopol, another city of federal classification, finishes the list with the number 92. Kazakhstan’s Baikonur, which houses the Russian cosmodrome is administratively a Russian city also has its own code - 94. 

Do all Russians know these numbers?

Definitely not! Probably only very engaged car enthusiasts can name all of them, but we haven’t met any yet! However, one can guess the region by number - for example, if it’s neighboring the region one knows in the alphabetic order.

Finally, there are special apps which identify the region by its code in a second. And, in fact, many Russians play a kind of a game, checking one’s knowledge of the regions while on the road. 

Numbers of non-Russian territories

There are self-proclaimed states which are partly recognized, but have their own registration system. These numbers look similar to Russian ones. They don't refer to Russia, but they are recognized by Russia. 

If you ever see this kind of license plate on the road, it means it’s a vehicle of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR). While ‘LPR’ code and flag mean the Luhansk People’s Republic.

The partly recognized Abkhazian republic also has its own license plate with the ‘ABH’ code and a flag. 

Here’s the full list of Russian regional codes:

01 Republic of Adygea

02, 102, 702 Republic of Bashkortostan

03 Republic of Buryatia

04 Altai Republic

05 Republic of Dagestan

06 Republic of Ingushetia

07 Kabardino-Balkar Republic

08 Republic of Kalmykia

09 Karachay-Cherkess Republic

10 Republic of Karelia

11 Komi Republic

12 Mari El Republic

13, 113 Republic of Mordovia

14 Sakha Republic

15 Republic of North Ossetia–Alania

16, 116, 716 Republic of Tatarstan

17 Tuva Republic

18 Udmurt Republic

19 Republic of Khakassia

(20), 95 Chechen Republic

21, 121 Chuvash Republic

22, 122 Altai Krai

23, 93, 123, 193 Krasnodar Krai

24, 84, 88, 124 Krasnoyarsk Krai

25, 125 Primorsky Krai

26, 126 Stavropol Krai

27 Khabarovsk Krai

28 Amur Oblast

29 Arkhangelsk Oblast

30 Astrakhan Oblast

31 Belgorod Oblast

32 Bryansk Oblast

33 Vladimir Oblast

34, 134 Volgograd Oblast

35 Vologda Oblast

36, 136 Voronezh Oblast

37 Ivanovo Oblast

38, 85, 138 Irkutsk Oblast

39, 91 Kaliningrad Oblast

40 Kaluga Oblast

41, 82 Kamchatka Krai

42, 142 Kemerovo Oblast

43 Kirov Oblast

44 Kostroma Oblast

45 Kurgan Oblast

46 Kursk Oblast

47, 147 Leningrad Oblast

48 Lipetsk Oblast

49 Magadan Oblast

50, 90, 150, 190, 750, 790 Moscow Oblast

51 Murmansk Oblast

52, 152 Nizhny Novgorod Oblast

53 Novgorod Oblast

54, 154 Novosibirsk Oblast

55 Omsk Oblast

56, 156 Orenburg Oblast

57 Oryol Oblast

58 Penza Oblast

59, 81, 159 Perm Krai

60 Pskov Oblast

61, 161, 761 Rostov Oblast

62 Ryazan Oblast

63, 163, 763 Samara Oblast

64, 164 Saratov Oblast

65 Sakhalin Oblast

66, 96, 196 Sverdlovsk Oblast

67 Smolensk Oblast

68 Tambov Oblast

69 Tver Oblast

70 Tomsk Oblast

71 Tula Oblast

72 Tyumen Oblast

73, 173 Ulyanovsk Oblast

74, 174, 774 Chelyabinsk Oblast

75, 80 Zabaykalsky Krai

76 Yaroslavl Oblast

77, 97, 99, 177, 197, 199, 777, 797, 799 Moscow

78, 98, 178, 198 St. Petersburg

79 Jewish Autonomous Oblast

83 Nenets Autonomous Okrug 

86, 186 Khanty-Mansi Autonomous Okrug

87 Chukotka Autonomous Okrug

89 Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrug

92 Sevastopol

94 Baikonur

(You can check out a detailed list here.)

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