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Lot #248
Fialka M-125 Cipher Machine

The Soviet Union's Cold War answer to 'Enigma'—a scarce Fialka cipher machine

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Estimate: $15000+
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The Soviet Union's Cold War answer to 'Enigma'—a scarce Fialka cipher machine

Scarce original Cold War-era Russian M-125 cipher machine, codenamed 'Fialka,' in its case with separate original power supply. The machine's case measures 11″ x 13″ x 9″, and is stenciled on the front with a serial number, "98-70297." The suitcase-style power supply box measures 10.5″ x 6″ x 7″, and is stenciled with the serial number "98-70270."

The Fialka is an electromechanical, wheel-based code-generating and decoding machine. Its development came after World War II, and was based loosely on the German Enigma machine, with rotors moving to a new position each time a key is pressed, creating a new electrical circuit and an alphabetic substitution for the letter that was pressed. However, the Fialka incorporates a number of different features from the Enigma that made it a much more daunting cipher-generating machine. These features include the use of 10 rotors (each with 30 contacts), wheels rotating in opposite directions, and more frequent wheel stepping. In addition, the rotors could be quickly rewired in the field, and input and output from the machine was accelerated via the use of punched paper tape, a spool of which is included. This example has ten rotors installed in the device's drum, an additional set of ten spare rotors stored inside the lid (in their original canister), plus one single extra rotor. The installed wheel-set contains eight adjustable rotors (with black plastic center discs) originating from the PROTON-2 operating procedure, plus two earlier fixed rotors with brown bakelite centers; the spares are all of the earlier, fixed type.

The wheels would be arranged on the rotor based on a daily key, as with the Enigma. The adjustable rotors in this wheel-set stem were introduced with the PROTON-2 operating procedure in 1978, which added greater complexity to the wheels—like the initial, fixed rotor set, each wheel has 30 electrical contacts on either side. These adjustable wheels additionally feature moveable letter index rings and interchangeable/rotating wiring cores, thereby increasing complexity and making encoded messages more difficult to decode.

Being regularly produced starting in 1956, the Fialka quickly became a primary cipher machine for all of the Warsaw Pact countries and Cuba. Each country had the Fialka keyboard modified to their language—this example has Cyrillic and Latin characters—and had specially wired rotors. The Fialka was in use by Russia and its allies well into the 1990s, and very little information was available about this machine until 2005 as it had been kept secret. Few Fialka machines remain as they were systematically destroyed by the Soviet Union and its successors as the machines were taken out of service.

In very good cosmetic, non-functional condition. Accompanied by a detailed reference manual in English, compiled by Paul Reuvers and Marc Simons. An important piece of Cold War code-making history.

Auction Info

  • Auction Title: Fine Autograph and Artifacts
  • Dates: #680 - Ended December 06, 2023