The Makarov pistol dates from the early 1950's. Designed by Russian firearms designer Nikolai Fyodorovich Makarov, it became the standard issue pistol for both the Soviet forces and the Warsaw Pact.
Externally it was in almost every respect a copy of the German Walther PP, except that it was chambered for the Soviet 9x18mm cartridge, a design that is believed to have originated with the pre-war German 'Ultra' round. It was probably developed in order to gain as much power as possible in a comparatively small blowback pistol, and there were probably also elements of standardizing on a cartridge that only the Soviet bloc used.
The Makarov was the result of a competition held to design a replacement for the aging Tokarev TT-33 semi-automatic pistol. The TT had been loosely derived from the popular M1911 and was, by 1945, felt to be too large and heavy for a general service pistol.
Makarov called his design the Pistolet Makarova, and it was selected over its competitors on account of its simplicity (it had few moving parts), economy, ease of manufacture, accuracy and reasonable power.
The Makarov was manufactured in several Eastern Bloc countries during the Cold War and afterwards; apart from Russia itself, they were East Germany, Bulgaria, China, and post-unification Germany, which also found itself with several thousand East German Makarov pistols.
Makarovs which were made in East Germany are the most widely preferred on the market. The Bulgarian pistols are not quite as polished but are still solid and reliable. The Russian and Chinese Makarovs are not thought of highly, except as nostalgic collectibles of a bygone age, although they nonetheless possess the inherent simplicity and reliability of the Makarov design.