Till the end of the years '90, in my country (the Italy), the young drivers had a wide range of choices about the 125 cc. motorcycles. Cagiva, Aprilia, Gilera and others were our dream of teenagers, technically advanced, real racing bikes capable of 170 km/h and even higher speeds (with a good tuning!). And in Russia? Unfortunately, for the young Russians, there was (till the end of the Communism) only a 125 cc. model: the Minsk, a brand almost unknown in Europe, but important for the past mass-motorization in Russia.
The Minsk's plant (official name MMVZ, Minsk Moto-Velo Zavod) was builted by the Germans in the homonym city of Belarus, in the 1945, during the last period of the Nazist occupation, as motorcycle and bicyle factory. The first model (first pic above), was the "M1A", produced also in Moscow with the "Moskva" brand; this bike was essentially copied from the DKW "RT 125" (a German bike that inspired several other makes in Italy, UK, Japan, etc.). In the second pic above, a following version, with a new telescopic front suspension. In the third pic, instead, the "M-101" of the 1958, with the same engine, but with a newer look.
From the "M1A", in the 1948-49 also racing versions were obtained (first and second pics above), sometime equipped with water cooling system and volumetric supercharger (!), for a power of 16,5 hp, 123 km/h. In the third pic, instead, the Moskva "M1SHCH" of the 1951, always 125 cc, but equipped with a DOHC four strokes engine.
After the "M1A", in the years '70s the "Aist 125" (in the first and second pics above) was launched. If i don't make errors, the name means "stork", shown also on the brand on the fuel tank. The engine -obviously two strokes- has no petal valves on the immission, it works with oil/fuel mix, air-cooled, kick starter, gearbox with only 4 speeds; max power, 10 hp. Only sign of modernization, the electronic ignition. Moreover, you can see the "elegant" saddle fixed with rivets! It's impressive: while Aprilia produced real "bombs" like the "RS 125" (capable of very high speeds in the "unlimited" version sold in in Italy), in Russia the 125 cc. motorcycle was this! In the third pic, the "enduro" version (substantially equal...), a bit more powerful (14 hp).
But the Minsk, although the dated project, were simple and easy to repair (therefore perfect for the Russian market), and even capable of outstanding exploits, as the climbing of the Fedscenko glacier (first pic above), between the mountains of the Pamir, beyond the 3000 m! Obviously, the bike was modified with spiked tyres, but it was substantially unchanged. In the second pic, instead, a little speedway bike with Minsk engine: the LMS "3.752", produced in the 1979, with a very low weight (55 kg), and intended for the juniores competitions. The Minsk engines equipped also the go-kart used in the USSR championships; now, they are still used only for the Junior categories (because now much more modern engines are available). In the third pic, a motocross version: my Estonian friend Vootele says that it is not an home-built bike (although some modifications, as the added headlight), and that it is a factory bike. Although the appearance is not the best....
During the '80s, the Minsk's factory reached the record of production, with 240.000 motorcycles per years: now, after the post-communist crisis, the factory produces "only" 40.000 motorcycles per year. The total production since the foundation is over 6.000.000 of motorcycles (and over 20.000.000 of bicycles!). The "Aist" (now called "Sputnik" or "Lider" on the different versions, in the first, second, third and fourth pics above) has been updated with a new coachwork in fiberglass and few other modifications (as the automatic lubrification), and some version has also a little windshield. I don't understand how the Russians (typically with a tall build) can drive these little bikes, with an interaxle (less than 1300 mm) similar to a Vespa! However, these bikes are still very diffused in Russia and other countries. There is even a "Minsk Club" in Vietnam, with an Internet site! Recently, also a new four-strokes version has been launched (fifth pic), probably powered by a Chinese-builted unit.
But i doubt that there is a fan club for the vehicle in the first pic above: the Minsk 125 mototrolley! Ok, it's a vehicle for the work, but you can see the very slim Earles fork and the rear suspension...inexistant. I don't wanna be "snob", but this vehicle is primordial! Other recent models: the "Wildcat" (second pic), a "cross" version (enough anachronistic with 14 hp...), and the "3.232" trial (third, fourth and fifth pics), with the same engine, but with a power reduced to only 8,5 hp. The trial version is not bad, but these bikes are more similar to toys...anyway, they are a first step to the modernization.
Anyway, the old little two-stroke bike produced in Belarus is not more in the desires of the young Russians. In the absurd and rough montage in the pic above, i put a Cagiva "Mito" and a Minsk, with an only common element: the displacement. What bike will win the semaphore-challenge? Who guess, wins...
Some pic taken from www.motovelo.com