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M-125-3M   Russian version
Russian variant of the M-125-3 Fialka

The M-125-3M was the original Russian version of the enhanced Fialka cipher machine, on which all country-specific M-125-3xx machines were based. It was used throughout the USSR during the Cold War from the early 1960s onwards, right until the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1992.
During the Cold War, Fialka machines were used by all countries of the Warsaw Pact and probably even in some alled countries like Cuba. Most countries used a customised version of the Fialka, which mainly involved a country-specific keyboard and print head. The M-125-3 was an improved version of the earlier M-125, which introduced the use of an extended character set (letters, numbers and punctuation marks).

Furthermore, most of the M-125-3 machines were bilingual (Russian and Latin with country-specific extensions). In order to cope with the different functions of each key, the rounded key tops of the earlier M-125 were replaced by square key tops, giving each key four functions.

The machine shown in the image on the right however, is the only exception to this rule: it is the M-125-3M, the original Russian version of the M-125-3, but instead of square keys it has rounded keys, similar to the keys of the M-125.
Frontal view of the M-125-3M

As this machine does not support Latin characters, each key only has two functions, which is probably why the older keys were used. Nevertheless, this machine supports the three Text Modes that were introduced on the M-125-3: Letters Only, Numbers Only and Mixed Mode.

Once the Cold War had ended, the Russians ordered the destruction of all Fialka M-125 and M-125-3 machines, which took place in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Some machines (notably the Polish and Czech versions) have miraculously escaped the sledge hammer and have since found their way to collectors. For a long time it was thought that all original Russian Fialka machines had been destroyed, until the machine shown in the images on this page surfaced in Riga (Latvia). It is from the personal collection of former KGB officer Igor Ristolainen [1].

Although the machine appears to be in good condition, as can be observed in the images below, the original wheels and most of the accessories are missing. Although we are pretty certain that the wheels for this version of the machine carried the '1K' prefix, they didn't come with the machine. This means that the Russian wiring for the 1K wheels will remain a mystery for now.
Frontal view of the M-125-3M Interior of the machine View of the right side Rear view featuring the 3-position switch left of the center View of the left side Bottom view Fialka M-125-3M with closed lid Serial number plate Inside the top lid

The keyboard of the Russian M-125-3M is different from the keyboards of the other M-125-3xx versions. Rather than square key tops, the keyboard has rounded keys, similar to the ones on the keyboard of the older M-125. The reason for this is that only two rows of characters were needed for this Russian-only version of the enhanced Fialka. The characters on the upper row are green.

Layout of the keyboard of the Russian version of the M-123-3M

The outer two keys of the middle row have a special function. When used in Mixed Mode (Text Mode lever set to С), the leftmost key (ЦФ) is used to switch to Numbers, similar to the (1...)-key on the Polish Fialka. The rightmost key (БК) is used to return to Letters, similar to the (A...)-key.

When used in Letters-only mode (Text Mode lever set to Б), the leftmost key on the middle row produces the letter Ф, whilst the rightmost key produces the letter Ж. In this mode, the machine is backwards compatible with the earlier M-125 and all other machines with a Russian print head.

The keys that are used in Numbers-only mode (NumLock)

When used in Numbers-only mode (Text Mode lever at the rear set to Ц and the 30 ↔ 10 lever at the left bottom set to 10), only the keys that have numbers on them can be used. All other keys are mechanically blocked in this mode. The numbered keys are highlighted in the drawing above, but unlike the country-specific M-125-3 variants, they keys on the Russian version are all white.
Label Russian Phonetic English
ЦФ Цифры Cifry Numbers
БК Буквы Bukvy Letters

Mode of operation
A three-position lever in the large red circular 'blob' to the right of the drum, is used to select the required mode of operation. It is called the MODE selector and is used to select between Coding, Decoding and Plain Text. Furthermore, a vertical lever at the rear right (just behind the printer) is used to select the desired TEXT MODE. It has three possible settings and allows selection between Letter Mode, Number Mode and Mixed Mode. The settings are explained in the following table:
Label Russian Phonetic English
О Открытый Текст Otkrytyj Tekst Plain text
З ЗашифроватЬ Zashifrovat Cipher
Р РасшифровыватЬ Rasshifrovyvat' Decipher
Б Буквы Bukvy Letters
С Смшанные Smjeshannyje Mixed
Ц Цифры Cifry Numbers
ПФ Перфорация Perforacija Punch 1
ПЧ Печатание Pechatanije Print

The lower two entries in the above table are the settings of the Print/Punch control lever, that is located to the right of the MODE selector and is part of the same red 'blob'.
  1. Please note that the ПФ settings of the Print/Punch selector, is affected by the 2-position rotary switch at the bottom of the machine. When set to БКЛ (ON) the printer is activated. When set to ОТКЛ (OFF) the printer is disabled.

Russian print head
The image on the right shows the print head that was used with the Russian M-125-3M variant. It contains two rows of characters in order to support the Mixed Mode of the enhanced Fialka.

The lower ring contains the 30 Cyrillic letters of the Russian alphabet that are supported by this machine, whilst the upper ring holds the numbers and punctuation marks. This Russian-only print head was identical for all M-125-3 versions, so that messages could be exchanged between the various Warsaw Pact countries.
Mixed Mode Russian print head

Russian wheel wiring   1K
As no surviving Russian Fialka wheels sets are known, we have not been able to trace the wiring of these wheels. Although we have no way of veryfing this, we are pretty certain that the Rusian wheels were identified by '1K', which was engraved a a prefix to the serial number on each wheel.

 All known wheel wiring
The Russian M-125-3M was supplied with the same accessories as the other M-125-3 variants, except for the spare print heads. As the M-125-3M was a Russian-only machine, the only print head that was used was the Mixed Mode Russian version which was present inside the machine. As a result, the axle that holds the test reflector inside the metal dust cover, has no room for additional print heads. Click any of the thumbnails below for additional information.

 Overview of the accessories
Original check list Metal dust cover that protects the machine and is used to store some accessories Metal box for collecting paper chad from the punched paper tape Paper feeder that holds a fresh paper tape reel Small hand crank for making corrections and for releasing a blocked mechanism Spare print heads Test reflector Spare set of wheels in aluminium can
Canvas wallet with various tools Oil can used for maintenance User manual Standard Power Supply Unit (PSU) Tempest complient Power Supply Unit (PSU) 24V service lamp used for seting up and maintenance Metal test triangle for the card reader Wheel opening tool

Older version
The M-125-3 was based on the earlier M-125, which did not support a mixed character set. Although the keyboard of most of the older M-125 machines has two characters on each key top, a Cryrillic one and a Latin one, the Russian-only M-125 has no support for Latin and had just one letter on each key top. The image below shows the layout of the Russian M-125.

Although we have never actually seen a Russian M-125, the above drawing shows the most likely layout of its keyboard. It is believed that the letters were engraved in black and that the (Й)-key at the top left, the one that is shared with the spacebar, has red lettering on it.

 More information about the older M-125
  1. Igor Ristolainen, Original Russian M-125-3M (Fialka)
    Riga, Latvia. October 2012. Photographs Crypto Museum Archive #301638.
    Photographs reproduced here with kind permission from Mr. Ristolainen.

  2. Jörg Drobick, Nutzung der Fialka M-125
    Website: Der SAS- und Chiffrierdienst (SCD). Retrieved May 2014.

  3. Paul Reuvers and Marc Simons, The Fialka M-125 Reference Manual
    Copyright 2005-2009. Version 2.0, June 2009. ISBN 978-90-79991-01-3.

Further information

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Crypto Museum. Created: Sunday 06 July 2014. Last changed: Monday, 12 October 2015 - 14:58 CET.
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