By marshrutka

Marshrutkas are minibuses that follow fixed routes

Typical GAZelle marshrutkas
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The role of the modern marshrutka is theoretically similar to the share taxi, that use minibuses in other countries.

Trip costs can be vary, though a flat fare of 25 rubles is usual.

Hand your fare to the driver after entering the minibus; pass it to a passenger forward of you if necessary, it will reach the driver eventually.

You can get on and off anywhere along the route. To get off just let the driver know, shouting «На углу!» (nah oogloo, meaning "at the corner».

Mercedes-Benz Marshrutka in Moscow
pinterest button Mercedes-Benz Marshrutka in Moscow Brateevsky, CC BY-SA 3.0

Iis a clear way, though a plain English shout of «Stop!» would also work. Make sure you're heard! Some of the minibuses have a warning sign: «Тише скажешь – дальше выйдешь» (If you speak quietly, you'll travel far).

Marshrutkas tend to go a little faster than buses, though this may be due to more reckless driving!


Early days (pre-1992)

«Route taxicabs» were introduced in Moscow for the first time in the USSR in 1938, operated by ZiS-101 limousines. It was the only chance for ordinary people to ride luxurious ZiS cars, reserved otherwise for higher officials. At first they were meant mainly for tourists and joined mainly stations and airports. Unlike ordinary taxicab using the taximeter, routed taxicab rides were paid per zones, like trams, buses and trolley buses; the fare was lesser than in ordinary taxis, but higher than in large-scale public transports. Unlike ordinary taxis where a passenger could enjoy a private ride, the routed taxicab would also pick up and drop passengers along its route. At the time of the communist rule, all marshrutkas were naturally operated by state-owned taxicab parks.

During the WWII (Great Patriotic War), as cars were requisitioned by the Army, routed taxi services were ceased. They returned to Moscow in 1945. It was only by the 1950s that these were reintroduced in most cities where they were used before the war. The ZiS-110 and GAZ-12 ZIM cars were widely used in this role until the mid-1960s.

There were interurban services of routed taxicabs, too. From Moscow they rode to distant cities, like Simferopol, Kharkov, Vladimir, Tula, Riazan. For example, Moscow-Yalta route was operated in summer season taking 2 days, with a night stop in Belgorod.

Typical GAZelle marshrutkas
pinterest button Typical GAZelle marshrutkas   Serko, Public Domain

In the 1960s, minibuses RAF-977 became most common as routed taxis, replacing passenger cars. The routes were operated at municipal level, thus the quality and concept varied greatly between regions. The fare gap between buses and routed taxicabs lessened. For example, in Moscow the standard bus fare was 5 kopecks, and minibus fare was 15 kopecks with most routes.

Later, RAF-977 minibuses were replaced by the new model, RAF-2203 Latvija. Eventually, practically all marshrutkas became RAF-2203 Latvija; many people even referred to Marshrutka as «Latvia».

Marshrutka boom (1992–2000)

The introduction of market economies greatly changed the supply of transportation in the urban population in the CIS. The demand for faster and more versatile public transit came to be fulfilled dramatically, while the demand for the underfunded municipal transportation system dropped; people are willing to pay premium for better service. Although existing buses (like Ikarus, LAZ, PAZ, RAF, and KAvZ, as well as irregular imported used minibuses), obtained on a secondary market, had been used by entrepreneurs as a back-up on the busiest routes since the early 1990s, it wasn't until the auto manufacturer GAZ rolled out in 1996 the first mass-produced Russian minibus, GAZelle, that the modern system took shape.

GAZelle was an instant hit. The cheap, easy-to-repair, and lease-friendly passenger minibus with a capacity of twelve seated passengers was exactly what entrepreneurs needed. An initial investment of around US$8,000 could be paid off in less than a year given some luck, so a lot of individual entrepreneurs entered the market, as well as some larger companies. At this point in time, licensing for public transportation in particular was not required. The vehicle only had to pass annual safety check-ups, which were relatively easy, since local authorities trusted GAZ cars. Moreover, the GAZelle could be easily equipped to run on natural gas.

During this period, most marshrutkas followed already well-established public transit routes.

Modern days (2000–present)

Witnessing the success of privately owned public transportation led to some reaction from the society. Local authorities responded by toughening safety and licensing requirements—like mandatory free transportation of a certain number of disabled passengers upon request and «package deals» in route licensing—tying the privilege to drive on a lucrative route to the chore of driving several not-so-profitable ones. The market became dominated either by large companies or by unions of owner-operators of individual minibuses. Some of municipal public transportation companies entered the business, and prices dropped due to increased competition.

Another consequence was a massive response from car and bus manufacturers. Old manufacturers introduced smaller, more manoeuvrable models (like PAZ or KAZ) and started licensed assembly of minibuses (KrAZ started assembling Iveco minibuses). Diesel-engined models in the form of the new Isuzu Bogdan, Tata Etalon and others have seen immense popularity. The capacity also grew from fifteen sitting passengers to jam-packed small buses of fifty, and the busiest routes in major cities now use full-size privately owned buses operating at the same price with municipal companies. The original GAZelle saw a few official modifications to its body, length and passenger capacity to better serve buyer demands, including models featuring diesel engines.

Russian: маршру́тка
Translit. [mɐrˈʂrutkə])


The Russian word "маршрутка" is the colloquial form for "маршрутное такси", which literally means "routed taxi(cab)" ("маршрут" referring to a planned route that something follows, and "такси" meaning "taxi(cab)").

The word "маршрут" is from the German word "Marschroute", which is composed of the word "Marsch" (a walk, march) and "Route" (route).