Founded in 1930 as KIM, or Communist Youth International, the plant became MZMA (Moscow Small Car Factory) in 1939, before finally changing its name to the more familiar Avtomobilny Zavod imeni Leninskogo Komsomola (AZLK)- literally "Lenin Communist Youth League Automobile Factory" in 1956.
Beginning in 1939, the factory's passenger cars were sold under the Moskvitch ("Muscovite") brand. The plant was originally under the authority of GAZ - Gorkovsky Avtomobilny Zavod (Gorky Automobile Factory) founded at about the same time, but by 1939 it was operationally independent.
AZLK's role under the Soviet system was the production of small cars, which could be classified as anywhere from compact to mid-size. AvtoVAZ and IZh were also charged with producing vehicles in the same category as AZLK, while GAZ handled the large car/full-size segment.