Estonia

(Eesti Vabariik)

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From this part of Platepie page you can find information about historical and current Estonian license plates.

1920-1928 Registration of motor vehicles was the obligation of local municipalities. Every town and county organized the registration procedure independently, therefore various designs, colours and systems existed. One common system was that the plate carried the name of the county or town above or followed by the serial number. The owner had to find also the manufacturer. The city of Tallinn with the largest number of cars had white plates with four black numerals, the rear plate was of larger size. The first two numbers were probably denoting the year of initial registration.

Picture taken from The Estonian Classic Cars Gallery

Picture taken from The Estonian Classic Cars Gallery

Picture taken from The Estonian Classic Cars Gallery

1929-1932 - The first Motor Vehicle Act came into force on April 1, 1929. The Provisions for the Implementation of the Motor Vehicle Act standardized the registration procedures across the country and determined the design as well as the system of the registration plates. First license plates issued according to that law had one letter denoting the registration area, a hyphen and up to for numerals. Plates issued since 1929 had white lettering on black.

Plate measures were as follows height 140 mm, length depended on the number of numerals. For example the A-1234 format was 389x140 mm and format A-234 was 354x140 mm. Motor vehicles were registered and registration plates were issued in 14 municipal governments - 3 towns ( Tallinn, Tartu and Narva) and 11 counties. The area codes allocated for these municipalities were as follows:

A - Tallinn L- Läänemaa S - Saaremaa
B -Tartu N- Petserimaa T - Tartumaa
E - Narva O - Võrumaa U - Virumaa
H - Harjumaa P - Pärnumaa V - Viljandimaa
J - Järvamaa R - Valgamaa
Example pictures of 1929-1932 Estonian registration plates

J=Järvamaa

Picture taken from The Estonian Classic Cars Gallery

U=Virumaa

Picture taken from The Estonian Classic Cars Gallery

A=Tallinn

Picture taken from The Estonian Classic Cars Gallery

Military plates were issued by Ministry of Defense (Kaitseministeerium) and plates were of the same design but with black characters on white background - letter K followed by hyphen and 3 numerals.

Picture taken from The Estonian Classic Cars Gallery

President's representative limousine carried the plate A-1.

1933-1937/38 Since 1st of April 1933 Estonian vehicle registration system was improved as follows: last two numbers of the registration year were added to the upper left corner of plates above the yellow seal of the issuing authority. Another major change was that since 1933 Estonian license plate colour changed annually white on black plates in odd years (1933, 1935, 1937) and black on white plates in even years (1934, 1936, 1938). Characters like provincial code and numerals remained the same every year. Such colour selection could be avoiding possible confusion with Finnish plates although lettering design was different.

In 1930 - 3 years before introduction of improved Estonian system- Finland (Estonia's neighbour country) - introduced annual plates which were in odd years black on white, even years the reverse. Those plates had exactly the same characteristics like Estonian 1933-plates: one letter district code (with exception of VA for Vaasa), a hyphen and up to 4 numerals. Also Finnish 1930-plates had last two numbers of registration year at top left corner of the plates.

Pictures taken from Europlate

Most probably Estonia took over Finnish system from 1930 but I don't have any facts to prove that. 1922-1929 Finland used similar system like Estonia introduced in 1929. Those plates were black on white, one or two letter district code and up to four numerals.

The measures' standard remained the same as before height 140 mm and length was depending on the number of characters. For example: the format of 36 A-123 was 366 mm long. Still in reality the length requirement was widely ignored probably for practical reasons (too many plate formats). Area codes remained the same. Example photos of these plates:

 
Image of stamp on 1938 year b/w Saaremaa plate.
E.V stands for Eesti Vabariik (Estonian Republic)
Saare Maavalitsus means Saare County Government

Image of stamp on 1933 year w/b Saaremaa plate.

E.V stands for Eesti Vabariik (Estonian Republic)
Saare Maavalitsus means Saare County Government

 

On a photo from 1937 it can be seen, that the presidential A-1 plate is produced from a 37 A-1234 format

Picture taken from The Estonian Classic Cars Gallery

1938-1940/41 new motor vehicle law came into force on April 1, 1938. It had also effect on license plates. Plate design was changed again. Last two numbers of the registration year were placed above the hyphen between area code and numerals. Plate measures were also made smaller height 110 mm and length depended on the number of numerals. The length of A-123 format was 258 mm and A-2345 was 288 mm for example. President's A-1 plate was only 114 mm long (proof on photos from 1939). Dealer plates were also mentioned in the law, differentiating from the regular plates by the red (vermilion) colour of the characters.

This new law allowed using the old-style plates during the 1938/39 registration period and but practice all 1938 plates were of the old-style. New-style plates (white numbers on black background) were issued only starting from April 1939. The plates issued in 1940 (black numbers on white background) were valid probably until March 31, 1941.

Examples of these plates:

Picture taken from Europlate

 

Picture taken from The Estonian Classic Cars Gallery

Picture taken from The Estonian Classic Cars Gallery

1941 Estonia was occupied by Soviet Union in June 1940, still several less important laws and regulations continued to be valid for some time, including license plates system. In spring 1941 new ER and ES (special purpose vehicles?) series plates (white characters on black background), similar to the Soviet system at that time, were issued in the format of ER 12-34. Measures of the plate and characters were probably of the same size as per 1938 standard.

plate size of these examples is 110 x 340 mm

1942-1944 By the end of August 1941 Estonia was occupied by Nazi Germany and the Soviet license plate system was discontinued. During the German occupation locally registered cars and trucks carried the German plates of RO series (Reichskommissariat Ostland). Black on white. Example picture:

Picture taken from The Estonian Classic Cars Gallery

1945-1946 Soviet Union occupied Estonia again in autumn 1944, Estonia became Estonian SSR and the pre-war Soviet system (white characters on black background) was restored on license plates, but the first 2 letters were now Cyrillic T 12-34. Example pictures:

picture taken from The Estonian Classic Cars Gallery

picture taken from Dutch Numberplate Archives

 

In 1947 new soviet plate series introduced. Those were black on yellow style and had two Cyrillic letters in superscript (reduced size), two numerals, a hyphen and two numerals. In Estonia letter codes like PP (P= Cyrillic R), PC (C= Cyrillic S), PT, P (= Cyrillic U), P (= Cyrillic F) and PX (X = Cyrillic H) were used that time.

High ranking government officials' and communist party leaders' cars carried special series PP 00-xx.

Example of normal series plate of P series
Example of rear two line plate with P series

In 1959 the new Soviet standard for license plates was endorsed and first C (Cyrillic E and S) series black plates with white lettering were issued in 1960. Plate format was 12-34 CA. Private cars' series were , and . State owned cars had plates with series , , , , (also motorcycles), and .

, M and series were for motorcycles and X for mopeds.

Some interesting facts about Soviet 1959-plates in Estonia:

For cars travelling abroad the temporary plate of CCA series (special code allocated for Estonian SSR) was issued for the time of the travel.

High ranking government officials' and communist party leaders' cars carried special series , although in early 1960s that was initially . The plates were issued only in following format:

01-xx : Members of communist party bureau, prime minister and its deputies, limousines serving VIP guests. The series started with 01-01 (first secretary of the communist party) and did not exceed 01-40.

02-xx : Ministers, chairmen of state committees and other similar ranking government and party officials. The series started with 02-01 and ended 02-99.

03-xx : Party and government leaders in the regions. The series started exceptionally with 03-00 and that was given to the director of government car pool.

For a short period of time in 1980-1981 also 04-xx series existed (for 1st deputies of ministers and similar ranking officials). The plates were owner-specific and every car had regular plates as well. These could be attached to the car in case it was needed for the confidentiality reasons. The black series were in use until the introduction of the new series on white background in 1983. Example picture:

 
 
White on black B series

1971-1981. In 1971 Estonia managed to negotiate from Moscow State Automobile Inspection (GAI) the allocation of EA series and started to use only those Latin serial letters on plates, which were similar to the Cyrillic ones. Reason to do that was to reduce confusion with local alphabet in different local procedures and bookkeeping in Estonian language. In Estonian vocabulary only Latin letters are used some of which look like Cyrillic but have totally different meaning. For example Cyrillic B means V in Latin alphabet.

Private series were EAA (also motorcycles), EAB, EAC, EAM (also motorcycles), EAP, EAT (also motorcycles), EAX, EA. State owned series were EAE, EAK (also private), EAH and EAO. Still, as the number of cars increased rapidly, by mid 1970s all the Latin letters similar to Cyrillic were used up and so the Cyrillic serial letters were taken into use. For private cars the third serial letters were , , , , , , , , , and . For state owned cars the third serial letters were , , , and .

 
Front plate of white on black EAE-series
Front plate of white on black EA-series
Rear (two row) plate from white on black EAB-series

In 1982 new black on white plates were introduced in Estonian SSR for mass usage despite the fact that standard for these new Soviet plates was approved already in 1978. These were initially made of aluminium, but were not reflective as promised before. Some series were manufactured from steel, probably due to the shortage of aluminium. Only few private car series had reflective background in late 1980s.

Those were 520x112 mm black lettering on white plates with black border. For private cars registration consisted of one reduced size Cyrillic letter, four numerals (2+2) and two serial letters EA for Estonian SSR. So the format looked like: lt 12 34 EA State owned cars had four numerals (2+2) and three Cyrillic capital letters like: 12 34 EA(LT). For private cars at least these Cyrillic letters were in use to the left of plates before numerals: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , and . For private trucks there were some (end?) part of EAM (in format 12 34 EAM) and EAC series in use (in format 12 34 EAC). At least following series of letters were used on state owned vehicles: EAA, EA, EA, EAH, EAO, EA, EAM, EAP and EAC.

Some interesting facts:

1) In 1990 new EAC series of plates in reversed order (EAC 12 34) was introduced. I have information that it was firstly meant only for operative vehicles.

2) 12 34 EAM series was at least in the beginning meant for cars of Ministry of Internal Affairs. There is also information above that some of EAM series was later used on private trucks.

3) "o" series ("opasno" in Russian or "ohtlik" in Estonian) in format o 12 34 EA for usage for convicted drunk drivers since 1987.

4) O plate series was in use to celebrate 1980 year's Olympic Games in Moscow. This was the first appearance of the new type (black on white) Soviet plates in Estonian SSR at all. These series were used only at the time of Olympics. Afterwards those plates were switched to normal ones. These were issued to vehicles of the organizing committee for the security reasons. The OM plates guaranteed free access to all sites connected with the Olympic Games. The Yachting Regatta was held in Tallinn and all plates issued for Tallinn event were in 33 xx OM format.

5) The new government series plates appeared in 1983 (aluminium but not reflective) in format 12 34 . The system was slightly changed now compared to 1960-s, being in 00 xx, 01 xx and 02 xx format. For some reasons also 03 xx and 04 xx series were manufactured earlier, but kept in stocks.

In the beginning of 1990-s just before collapse of USSR so called "plate deficiency" occurred also in Estonia, and all special series, like series with "o" for disqualified drivers and EAC in reversed format were given out for everyone ("o" plates mainly for export cars). I have also information that also "O" series plates were given out for ordinary vehicles in Estonia when plate deficiency occurred but this information cannot be proved. Other sources claim that O was given up right after Olympic Games in Moscow There is also information that some government plates (04 xx and 03 xx ) were given out to everyone in the beginning of 1990-s. Example pictures:

Normal plate series for private vehicles. Normal plate series for state owned vehicles. 1987-1990 plate for use on vehicles driven by convicted drunken or disqualified drivers. EAC series of plates in reversed order. Introduced in 1990

In 1991 Estonia regained independence and new series of plates were introduced based on new standard. At the beginning drivers had to switch Soviet plates with Cyrillic letters to new ones. New Estonian plates are 520 x 113 mm size and consist of 3 numerals and 3 Latin letters. These characteristics have remained unchanged until today. There have been slight changes in design and district coding of Estonian plates in last 16 years.

In 1994 updated standard of registration plates was introduced. This became effective since July 1994. In regards of agricultural/tractor plates new standard was mandatory starting from January 1996.
From the beginning of 1992 Estonian license plates had district codes, but the system was ended somewhere between 1995-1996. One of the reasons for ending district coding might be that it did not give any valuable information to ARK (Automobile Registry Centre) creating too many small series which lead to plate production issues. It is known that already in these couple of years when district coding was used remarkable amount of deviations occurred. District codes were as follows:
A-Tallinn
D- Viljandimaa
F-Pärnumaa
G- Valgamaa
H-Hiiumaa
I- Ida-Virumaa
J-Jõgevamaa
K -Saaremaa
L-Raplamaa
M-Harjumaa
N -Narva
O-Põlvamaa
P-Järvamaa
R-Lääne-Virumaa
S-Läänemaa
 
T-Tartu
V-Võrumaa

Between 1992 and 1995(6?) small sized validation stickers with or without county shield were used on Estonian license plates:

In some cases validation sticker alone was used or in some cases only county shield was used:

When both together were used then in most cases validation sticker was above county shield but there are photos where it was below county shield.

In some cases there was no sticker at all.

In conclusion: Using of validation stickers and county shields in 1st half of 1990-s on Estonian registration plates was somehow occasional and the logic behind is not fully known. Also license plates district code and county shield on sticker were not always matching with each other because sticker was given out by ARK office where the technical inspection was made for the vehicle independent of where the first registration was made. Example:

Plate issued in Tallinn has Jarvamaa County sticker

County (town) shields which were used
Harjumaa
Hiiumaa
Ida-Virumaa
Jõgevamaa
Järvamaa
Läänemaa
Lääne-Virumaa
Narva town
Põlvamaa
Pärnumaa
Raplamaa
Saaremaa
Tartu town Valgamaa
Viljandimaa
Võrumaa
Example photos of plates with county shields:
Tallinn city
Estonian normal series plate with Tallinn shield. A indicates ARK Tallinn office
Estonian normal series plate with Järvamaa county shield. P indicates ARK Paide office
Estonian normal series plate with Viljandimaa county shield. D indicates ARK Viljandi office
After that, most definitely in 1996, district coding was finished on Estonian plates and validation stickers were also replaced. 4 repeating colours of stickers were given out by ARK until mid-2004 after Estonia joined EU. Sticker with white characters is from military plate.

Since 1st of July 2001 all types of Soviet plates are obsolete in Estonia.

Since June 2004 after joining European Union, Estonian plates have blue euroband to the left as most other EU countries. First europlates were specially issued by ARK with lettering combination EUR. As an option driver can also order new plates without Euroband. See example of current plate:

Blue Estonian euroband with identification letters EST

Some other facts about current Estonian plates: Personalised plates were very popular in the beginning of 1990-s because these were free of additional charge compared to normal plates. Today personalised plates are for fee: plates with normal lettering order, for example 111 XXX costs 321 EUR and plate like MOTOR 1 costs 1282 EUR. There can be up to 9 symbols on personalised plate. Must contain at least one numeral.

Today there are three regional codes for normal series registration plates in Estonia. T for Tartu, M for Saue and B for all other vehicle registration offices in Estonia.

In August 2007 - 16 years after issuing first Estonian license plate - A series has been exhausted and B series started from BAA.

White on green dealer plates were used for a little while (in 1993)

white on green plate sample.

Taken from Francoplaque page

 

In May 2006 discussion about introducing special plates for taxis in Tallinn. Newspaper article about this in Estonian language.

Since October 2008 trailer plates (type C) are not issued anymore. Normal series plates introduced for trailers starting from 001 YHA .

Oldtimer plate (type A9) design has also changed in October 2008. Old 302x152 mm format is not issued anymore. Oldtimer plates are issued without Euroband since October 2008.

Starting from first half of 2009 302x152 mm trailer plates issued, commencing with H .

Since about beginning of 2010 no wovels are used in lettering of normal series plates.

Moped and competition car registration plates are issued in Estonia since July 2011. Moped plates are in same size as motorcycle plates but black on light green . Competition car plates are white on red. Rear plates are with dimensions 11x52 cm . Front plates are usually smaller and adhesive 350x60mm in size  .

Starting from June 2012 new - bright green - dye used for moped plates .

Since January 2013 two-line military plates issued .

Overview of current Estonian plate types issued in 2015 according to

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications Act number 49 valid from 01.07.2011

All images below are from actual vehicles

Type A1. Normal and trailer (Y as first letter) registration plate. 520x113 mm.

Type A2. Personalised plate. 520x113 mm.

 

Type A3. Reduced size normal and trailer registration plate. 302x152 mm.

Type A4. Registration plate for diplomats (CD) and administrative/techinal staff (AT) working in embassies. 520x113 mm.

Type A5. Registration plate for leader of Foreign Representation in Estonia. 520x113 mm.

Type A6. Reduced size registration plate for diplomats (CD) and administrative/techinal staff (AT) working in embassies. 302x152 mm.

Type A7. Reduced size registration plate for leader of Foreign Representation in Estonia. 302x152 mm

Type A8. Registration plate for probe vehicles. 520x113 mm.

Type A9. Registration plate for oldtimers and their trailers 302x113 mm.

Type A10. Registration plate for competition car. 520x113 mm.

Type B1. Motorcycle registration plate. 177x101 mm

Type B2. Oldtimer motorcycle and moped registration plate. 177x101 mm.

Type B3. Moped registration plate. 177x101 mm.

Type D1. Transit plate. 520x113 mm.

Type D2. Transit plate for motorcycle, tractor, moped or trailer. 420x113 mm.

Type E1. Reduced size tractor and machinery plate. 212x135 mm.

Type E2. Tractor and machinery registration plate. 520x113 mm.

 

 

 

 

Temporary registration plate. 520x113 mm. Issued as type A1 plate but with yellow background.

Reduced size temporary registration plate. 302x152 mm. Issued as type A3 plate but with yellow background.

 

     

Overview of current Estonian miltary plate types issued in 2015 according to

Ministry of Economic Affairs and Communications Act number 101 valid from 11.11.2011

All images below are from actual vehicles

Type A1K. Military registration plate for cars. 520x113 mm.

Type A2K. Shortened (rear only)military registration plate for cars. 302x203 mm.

Type A3K. Reduced size Military registration plate for cars and trailers. 302x152 mm.

Type A4K. Military registration plate for trailers. 420x113 mm.

NA

Type B1K. Military registration plate for motorcycles or mopeds and their trailers. 177x101 mm.

NA

Type E1K. Military tractor and machinery registration plate. 212x135 mm.