In order to be able to dispense with double-heading with two ВЛ22s in freight traffic, the first Soviet electric double locomotive with a total of eight axles was manufactured in 1953. Due to the original production site in Novocherkassk, it was initially called Н8 (N8), but was renamed ВЛ8 (VL8) in 1963 in honor of Vladimir Lenin. The one-part, six-axle ВЛ23 was developed directly from the ВЛ8. The successor ВЛ10 was manufactured from 1967 after 1,723 ВЛ8 had been built.
It was initially only used in Siberia on lines electrified with 3,000 volts direct current, but that was later expanded to a larger area. In the 1970s some ВЛ8s received train heating. From 1976 onwards the conversion to the 100 km/h fast ВЛ8М took place. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the locomotives were in use in several CIS countries. Some were in use in Ukraine until 2010, and in Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia even for longer.