Monday, July 1, 2024

Berets in the Soviet Military

Berets as a headdress for military personnel in the Soviet Union dates back to 1936.

Marya Dolina; PE2 Pilot and Dep. Sqn. Commander of the women's 125th Guards Bomber Regiment

By order of the NKO of the USSR dark blue berets became part of the female summer uniforms and for students of military academies.

In 1963, Ministry of Defence order 248 introduces a new field uniform for the Special Forces and USSR Marine Corps – including berets. Privates/sailors and nco’s wore black cotton berets; officers berets in black wool. A red star was placed at the centre front and a flag badge was stitched to the left side of the beret.

June 1967 saw the introduction of berets for the airborne forces. Designer/artist A. B. Zhuk proposed maroon berets, as was typical for airborne troops around the world. These were worn during the November 1967 parade, but soon after, were replaced by light blue berets as the military leadership didn’t want to conform to western ideas and thought ‘sky blue’ more appropriate for paratroopers.

Prior to the Red Square parade of 1968, beret badges were moved to the right side, so to be visible for the top brass watching from Lenin’s mausoleum (no joke).

Next were the units of the armoured corps, who got black berets (following the western trend) in 1972.

In 1989 the troops of the Ministry of the Interior (MVD) got olive coloured berets and could earn the maroon beret by qualifying in tests, courage or in battle.

Meanwhile, a camouflage cotton beret became standard issue for infantry and a green beret for border troops.

All these berets were typical Soviet/Warsaw Pact  models: not knitted and felted, but made of various pieces of woven felted wool sewn together, fitted with a fake leather rim and 4 air vents (2 on each side). A similar model is still made in Poland: the Warszawski and Sosabowski berets.

Right at the end of the USSR’s existence, an orange beret was introduced for the Ministry of Emergency Situation troops.

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