(Oldest Lada model, called Jiguli)
You know the game. First for atmosphere, play this in a separate tab: LINKY.
Throughout the former Eastern Bloc, the USSR was famous for its machine industry, including the car industry. The countries in the Bloc had this thing called "distribution of labor" - each country specializing in certain industries and contributing to the bloc - meaning that Hungary would produce vegetables, Poland would produce potatoes, Russia would produce machines, Ukraine would produce wheat, Bulgaria would produce wine, etc etc etc. Well, the Russian cars were Lada and Moskvich, and they were pretty good at their time. (Lada was the ancient pagan Slavic goddess of love btw, and Moskvich simply means Muscovite).
(One of the oldest Moskvich models)
Thing is, you had to wait for months and often years in order to see your turn coming in the queue of applications for buying a car. Because yes, you had to apply for a car and wait. The Trabant (legendary East German car looking like a cardboard box, called by the endearing name "Trabi") was the easiest and fastest to get. Then followed the Moskvich and Wartburg, and then the Lada. there were some others, like Dacia (from Romania), Zastava (from Yugoslavia), and of course Skoda (from Czechoslovakia). Some cars like the Volga were considered limousines and were explicitly reserved only for the apparatchiks and the top comrades in the state bureaucracy. The top of all the car park was a car called Chaika, something like Volga on steroids. Only presidents could get in such a car.
(Chaika, meaning sea-gull)
My parents bought a Trabi at first, because you didn't have to wait on the queue for a Trabi even for a day. You just had to go to the car shop and take one - that was something unthinkable in the commie days regarding cars. Later they got my grandparents' Lada. The Lada was an elegant car at the time, it was the symbol of the great Soviet machine industry lol. And don't even mention Western cars, they were a taboo. I remember the Turkish gastarbeiters traveling regularly to West Germany and driving their Mercedeses, the name of the model has remained in our conscious as the "Turkish Mercedes". Those were the only Western cars to be seen around here until well into the 80s.
(Mercedes Benz, aka the Turkish Mercedes)
You'd be surprised, but the Lada (and the Moskvich too) are some of the most durable and toughest cars in the world, many of them could still be seen on the streets across Eastern Europe today, some of them are more than 40 years old and still working just fine. A guy was shown on TV today, his Lada has passed 2.5 million km in its entire life, and the last time it stayed for a while in the car service was 1.2 million km ago. So you can imagine what a tough beast that is!
(One of the "newer" Ladas)
These cars have a sentimental value for many people here, particularly of the older generations. They're still used widely, not so much in the big cities but in the more remote provincial areas, some are even used for working in the field, carrying enormous luggages, some are even getting transformed into horse carts, etc. They look out of date, old, almost ancient now.
(The many faces of Soviet cars)
And there's a whole folk lore of jokes and anecdotes about Lada, Moskvich and especially the Trabi that has developed over the decades. For example:
"You'd see a woman shutting her mouth before you see the door of a Lada being shut properly".
"Are you happy with your Trabi?" - "Sure. I just need to repaint it." - "But why?" - "Because it's yellow, and every time I open the window, people decide it's a mail box and they start throwing envelopes inside".
The most frequently used synonym for a Trabant was "soap box". Its most typical feature was that when you got bored with its slow speed, suffocant fumes and super-loud purring, you could step out of the car, lift it with your two hands and carry it on your back up the stairs or something. Or so they used to say!
There's also this new attraction for tourists these days, called "Go Trabi Go!" (named after a German comedy movie) - a bunch of renovated Trabis being turned into cabrios and humming around the seaside resorts around here, to the delight of the kids. Make sure you try it some time if you happen to drop by in Sunny Beach! :-)
(Go Trabi Go!)