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M-125-3M   Russia/Soviet Union
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.

The machine is the successor to the letters only M-125 and is suitable for the Russian language only, as it has no support for Latin. It features 30 characters of the Cyrillic alphabet plus numbers and punctuation marks (lacking on the M-125).

The image shows an original Russian M-125-3 Fialka, as it was rediscovered in a large Russian city in 2017. It had previously been used by the KGB and had been given to a high ranking KGB official on his retirement. Surprisingly, it was found with the original Russian cipher wheels intact, which enabled us to recover the wiring.
Russian Fialka M-125-3M

Each key on the keyboard holds two characters. The lower one is always a character of the Cyrillic alphabet, whilst the upper one provides a selection of numbers, punctunation marks and special characters. The machine has three modes of operations – hence the additional '3' in the model number – (1) letters only, (2) numbers only and (3) mixed mode (i.e. all characters). In mixed mode (3), the left and right keys of the middle row are used as letters-shift and figures-shift.

During the Cold War, the M-125 and M-125-3 were used by all countries of the Soviet Union (USSR), using the Russian language for all secure communication. For the non-Soviet countries of the Warsaw Pact, such as Poland, East-Germany (DDR), Hungary and Czechoslovakia, country-specific bi-lingual variants of the M-125-3 were made, identified by a suffix to this number, for example M-125-3MR2 for the Polish variant.

The Russian machine shown here, should be regarded as the original Fialka on which the country-specific bi-lingual machines are based.
Close-up of the Russian keyboard

At the end of the Cold War, the Russians ordered the destruction of all variants of the 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) escaped demolition and have since found their way to collectors. For a long time it was assumed that all original Russian Fialka machines had been destroyed, until a machine surfaced in 2012 in Riga (Latvia), as part of the private collection of former KGB officer Igor Ristolainen [1]. Unfortunately, the original cipher wheels were missing from that machine.

With the discovery of another one in late 2017, we finally got our hands on an original Russian Fialka M-125-3 with the original Russian cipher wheels. This has enabled us to trace the wiring of the wheels, which is given below. The Russian cipher wheels do not have a 1K-prefix to their serial number, as was originally assumed. Instead, the numbers on the wheels are prefixed by 68.

Fialka M-125-3M with serial number 98-39321 Russian Fialka M-125-3M Close-up of the Russian keyboard Serial number tag Original Russian Fialka cipher wheels (68-prefix) Interior - left view Interior - right view
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Fialka M-125-3M with serial number 98-39321
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Russian Fialka M-125-3M
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Close-up of the Russian keyboard
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Serial number tag
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Original Russian Fialka cipher wheels (68-prefix)
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Interior - left view
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Interior - right view

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.

Wooden transport box
Print head Cipher wheels
Transport box   wanted item
Fialka machines were distributed and stored, inside a large grey wooden transport box, or crate, that carried the model and serial number of the machine on its top lid.

The image on the right shows the original Fialka transport box of the M-125-3M with serial number 98-39321, as held in the collection of the KGB Spy Museum [2].
Original Fialka wooden transport box

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 variants, so that messages could be exchanged between the various Warsaw Pact countries.
Mixed Mode Russian print head

Russian cipher wheels
Each Fialka machine came with two full sets of 10 cipher wheels each: a standard set and a spare one. The standard set had black lettering with the letter that represents the wheel's ID in red. The spare wheel set had red lettering.

The image on the right shows the cipher wheels with black lettering, as they were found with the machine. They are of the PROTON-2 type, and have removable wiring cores. The spare wheels are currently missing from the set. The wiring of each wheel and the positions of the advance blocking pins, are specified in the table below.

Original set of Russian Fialka cipher wheels

Wooden transport box with open lid Wheels stored inside the top lid Original wax seal on the cylindrical container Cipher wheels in aluminium can Original Russian Fialka cipher wheels (68-prefix) Original Russian Fialka PROTON-2 cipher wheels Original set of Russian Fialka cipher wheels Close-up of the serial number. Note the 6-prefix that is common to all original Russian wheels
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Wooden transport box with open lid
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Wheels stored inside the top lid
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Original wax seal on the cylindrical container
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Cipher wheels in aluminium can
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Original Russian Fialka cipher wheels (68-prefix)
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Original Russian Fialka PROTON-2 cipher wheels
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Original set of Russian Fialka cipher wheels
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Close-up of the serial number. Note the 6-prefix that is common to all original Russian wheels

Russian wheel wiring   68-series
For a long time, the wiring of the original Russian cipher wheels was unknown, as none had ever turned up on the surplus market, and no technical documentation has so far been submitted to the public domain. In 2017, Marc Simons and Paul Reuvers of the Crypto Museum were the first to recover and publish the wiring of the Russian wheels, that have a 68-prefix. It is believed that these wheels were also used in other countries of the Soviet Union (USSR), such as Ukraine [3].

In this table, each row represents a wheel, whilst each column represents a single contact on a wheel. At the top of the table are the entry contacts which are at the right side of the wheel (i.e. the side with the spring-loaded contacts). The table itself shows the output contacts (i.e. the left side of the wheel). The positions of the Advance Blocking Pins are marked in red. At the far right is the total number of Advance Blocking Pins for each wheel.

 All known wheel wirings

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
Wheel stepping   68-series
When testing a Russian Fialka, either as a real machine or as a simulation, the following table might be useful when checking the wheel stepping mechanism. Put all wheels in their default setting (i.e. ring set to 'A', matching core with side '1' up with the mark set to 'A') and place them in the machine in the default order: АБВГДЕЖЗИК. Now lower the ruler and set the wheels to AAAAAAAAAA (just above the ruler). Next, type 20 random characters on the keyboard and compare the position of the wheels after each step with the following table:

Wheel А Б В Г Д Е Ж З И К
Step 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10
0 А А А А А А А А А А
1 Б Й Б А Б А Б А Б А
2 Б Я Б Й Б А В А В А
3 Б Ю Б Й Б А Г А Г А
4 Б Ь Б Й Б А Г А Д А
5 Б Ы Б Й Б А Г А Е А
6 Б Щ Б Й В А Д А Ж А
7 Б Ш Б Й В А Е А З А
8 Б Ч Б Я В Й Е А И А
9 Б Ц Б Ю В Й Е А К А
10 Б Х Б Ю В Й Ж А Л А
11 Б Ф В Ю Г Й З А М А
12 Б У В Ь Г Й З А Н А
13 Б Т В Ь Г Й И А О А
14 Б С Г Ь Д Й К А П А
15 Б Р Д Ь Е Й Л А Р А
16 Б П Д Ь Е Й М А С А
17 Б О Д Ы Е Й М А Т А
18 Б Н Д Ы Е Й М А У А
19 Б М Д Ы Е Й М А Ф А
20 Б Л Д Ы Е Й М А Х А
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.

 More information

Original Russian M-125 cipher machine

  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. KGB Spy Museum, Wooden Fialka transport box 98-39321
    Lithuania. Personal correspondence, November 2017.
    Images reproduced here by kind permission of the KGB Spy Museum.

  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.

  4. Jörg Drobick, Nutzung der Fialka M-125
    Website: Der SAS- und Chiffrierdienst (SCD). Retrieved May 2014.
Further information
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Crypto Museum. Created: Sunday 06 July 2014. Last changed: Friday, 16 November 2018 - 13:16 CET.
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