History of the legendary Ural motorcycles dates back to year 1939 when the USSR was preparing for World War II. According to the official version, that year the Soviets smuggled five BMW R71 into Russia. These bikes were then dismantled by the Soviet engineers in Moscow and two years later the first M-72 was produced. The motorcycle which was virtually reverse engineered BMW R71 was shown to the Soviet leader Josef Stalin who approved the mass production. There is another version of the development of the first Ural motorcycle which goes that the Nazi Germany supplied the Soviet Russia with the construction plans of the BMW after the non-aggression pact, known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact was signed in 1939. Reverse engineering was not unusual at the time. Harley-Davidson copied the BMW as well when engineering the XA model for the US Army, while the Japanese copied Harley-Davidson.
Shortly after Stalin approved the production of the M-72, the Soviet Union was attacked by the Nazi Germany. The rapid advance of the German army forced the Soviet authorities to move the factory to the Ural Mountain region, more precisely to a small town of Irbit which was an important trade center before the Russian Revolution of 1917. The first M-72 bikes were sent into the war in 1942 and by the end of World War II, the Red Army was supplied with nearly 10,000 M-72s . In the later 1950′s, the production of Ural motorcycles for military purposes was taken over by a factory in Ukraine, while the Irbit Motorcycle Works (IMZ) started manufacturing Ural bikes for civilian use. In the 1960′s, the factory began producing exclusively non-military Urals as a result of their increased popularity in Russia as well as abroad.
As early as 1953, the IMZ started exporting the first Ural motorcycles. They were initially exported to the developing countries but they also became available in the developed countries in the 1960′s where they became highly valued for their timeless design, exceptional functionality and a great price. After their introduction to the international market, the Ural motorcycles gradually “conquered“ all continents.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the IMZ company was transformed into Uralmoto Joint Stock Company and privatized. About 40% of the factory was divided among the management and the employees, 38% was sold (mostly bought by the management and employees), while the remaining 22% was retained by the Russian government. In 1998, the company was bought by private Russian interests and two years later the Russian government redistributed its share to the investors. The new owners remained loyal to the tradition and legacy of the Ural motorcycles although they also launched new solo and sidecar models to meet the taste of the Western customers. The flagship models, however, are still build for the rough Russian roads.