Railway electrification in the Soviet Union
Railway electrification in the Soviet Union began in 1932 with the opening of a 3000V DC section in the Georgian SSR on the Surami Pass between the capital, Tbilisi, and the Black Sea. By 1941 electrification was limited, less than 2000km: most electrification took place in the post second world war period alongside dieselisation and the removal of steam traction. By 1990 60% of the rail system was electrified at 3kV DC or 25kV AC 50Hz.
Early years 
Railway electrification in the Soviet Union began in 1932 with the opening of a 3000V DC section in the Georgian SSR on the Surami Pass between the capital, Tbilisi, and the Black Sea. The grade (slope) was steep: 2.9%. The original fleet of eight electric locomotives was imported from the United States and were made by General Electric (GE). The Soviets obtained construction drawings from GE enabling them to construct locomotives to the same design. The first electric locomotive constructed in the USSR was an indigenous design completed in November 1932. Later in the same month, the second locomotive, a copy of the GE locomotive, was completed. At first, many more copies of US design were made than ones of Soviet design - no more locomotives of Soviet design were made until two years later.
World War II 
In 1941, the USSR had electrified only 1865 route-kilometers. This was well behind the US, with nearly 5000 kilometers. However, since the USSR rail network was much shorter than the US, the percentage electrified was greater than the US. Electrification was put on hold during World War II as the western part of the Soviet Union (including Russia) was invaded by Nazi Germany. After the war, the highest priority was to rebuild the destruction caused by the war, so railroad electrification was further postponed for about 10 years.
In 1946 the USSR ordered 20 electric locomotives from General Electric, the same US corporation that supplied locomotives for the first electrification. Due to the cold war, they could not be delivered to the USSR so they were sold elsewhere. The Milwaukee Road US obtained 12, nicknamed "Little Joes", "Joe" referring to Joseph Stalin, the Soviet premier. In the mid-1950s, the USSR launched a two-pronged approach to replace steam locomotives. They would electrify the lines with high density traffic and slowly convert the others to diesel. The result was a slow but steady introduction of both electric and diesel traction which lasted until about 1980 when their last steam locomotives were retired. In the US, steam went out about 1960, 20 years earlier than for the USSR.
Traffic growth 
Once dieselization and electrification had fully replaced steam they began to convert diesel lines to electric, but the pace of electrification slowed. By 1990, over 60% of railway freight was being hauled by electric traction. This amounted to about 30% of the freight hauled by all railroads in the world  and about 80% of rail freight in the US (where rail freight held almost a 40% modal share). The USSR was hauling more rail freight than all the other countries in the world combined, and most of this was going by electrified railway.
Post-Soviet era 
After the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, railroad traffic in Russia sharply declined  and new major electrification projects were not undertaken except for the line to Murmansk which was completed in 2005. Work continued on completing electrification of the Trans-Siberian Railway, but at a slower pace, finishing in 2002. Tonne-kilometers hauled by electric trains has increased to about 85%.
Electrical systems 
Examples of electric locomotives are shown below.
3 kV DC 
25 kV AC 
Dual voltage 
See also 
- Electrification of Saint Petersburg Railway Division
- History of rail transport in Russia
- Rail transport in the Soviet Union
- Trams of Putilov plant
- Раков, В.А., "Локомотивы отечественных железных дорог 1845-1955" (Russian) Москва, Транспорт 1995. See 11.2 Сурамские электровозы p. 394+
- Пласк (Russian), 1993, See 1.2 Short history and current state of electric railroads (translated) p.7+
- Morgan, David P., "The Mystique of Electrification", Trains, July 1970. p. 44
- Middleton, William D., "Those Russian Electrics", Trains, July 1970. pp. 42-3
- Плакс (Russian), p. 7 Fig. 1.3
- Railroad Facts: Table: Locomotives in Service
- Freight by electric railroad 2008 (Russian)
- Плакс (Russian), p. 3 (no 3 printed on p. but has heading: "От Авторов")
- United Nations (Statistical Office) Statistical Yearbook. See table in older issues: "World railway traffic". This table has since been discontinued.
- "Transportation in America", Statistical Analysis of Transportation in the United States (18th edition), with historical compendium 1939-1999, by Rosalyn A. Wilson, pub. by Eno Transportation Foundation Inc., Washington DC, 2001. See table: Domestic Ton-Miles by Mode, p.12
- UN 40th p. 514; UN 48th p. 527
- Murmansk Electrification (Russian) ,[http://www.gov.karelia.ru/News/2004/11/1123_05.html Electrification Completed (Russian)
- Transsib electrification (Russian)