Putin’s vogue fake pas: Russian navy uniforms unsuitable for fight in brutal winter combat

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The temperature in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, not too long ago dropped to 25 levels and Ukrainians are freezing as Russian airstrikes are pounding the nation’s important infrastructure, slicing off electrical energy and warmth and depriving them of ingesting water.

However “Common Frost,” on which the Russians have relied for hundreds of years to assist defeat the nation’s enemies, has additionally turned its weapon towards President Vladimir Putin’s troopers. The Russian forces, who’ve been preventing, on Putin’s orders, towards their Slavic brethren for 10 months, are reportedly dying from hypothermia as a result of their uniform not holds as much as extreme Eurasian winters.

The fiasco stems from a number of odd choices made by the post-Soviet navy management and by Putin himself.

The Soviet Purple Military uniform was a poor man’s model of the Imperial Russian Military costume from the nineteenth century. Within the run-up to World Struggle II, when Russia had the biggest military in Europe, roughly 2 million troopers, Moscow prioritized low-cost however efficient couture, in comparison with the pompous, flashy designs favored by the czarist generals. The uniform was sensible, with no frills aside from a shiny distinctive insignia worn by senior officers that made them simple targets for German marksmen.

Russian servicemen march at Purple Sq. in the course of the common rehearsal of the Victory Day navy parade in Moscow on Could 6, 2018.
(Kirill Kudryavtsev/AFP through Getty Photographs)

The winter put on included a greatcoat or half-length fur coat, a cap with ear flaps and thick felt wool valenki footwear worn by the Russian navy and civilians alike for a whole bunch of years. Designed for excessive Russian winters, the uniforms helped the Russians forces beat the French in 1812 and the Germans in 1941-1945. Napoleon Bonaparte admitted that the Russian winter was largely chargeable for the disintegration of his military. A lot of Hitler’s flippantly clad Nazi troops additionally froze to loss of life.


After the collapse of the Soviet Union, nonetheless, desperate to shed their communist heritage, varied post-Soviet protection ministers launched modifications to the Russian uniform. Military Common Pavel Grachev, who was Boris Yeltsin’s protection minister, instituted modifications that made the Russian uniform resemble NATO’s. 

An exception was the officer discipline cap that proudly sported a brand new Russian nationwide image, the double-headed eagle, which the troopers dubbed “mutated rooster.” Igor Sergeyev, who rose to protection minister in 1997 beneath Yeltsin however was fired by Putin in 2001, made Russian navy costume seem like that of the U.S. Military. And Anatoliy Serdyukov, who was additionally fired by Putin, ordered winter uniforms to be slim and tailor-made.

Author’s grandfather, Vasiliy Khudyakov, wearing a Soviet Army field combat uniform. The photo was taken in 1944 during World War II, which he fought in and survived. He sent the photo to the author’s grandmother during the war.

Writer’s grandfather, Vasiliy Khudyakov, sporting a Soviet Military discipline fight uniform. The picture was taken in 1944 throughout World Struggle II, which he fought in and survived. He despatched the picture to the writer’s grandmother in the course of the struggle.
(Rebekah Koffler)

However the greatest uproar within the ranks erupted after the unconventional modifications made by a well-known designer Valentin Yudashkin. Recognized for his theatrical types, Yudashkin’s night robes are displayed within the Metropolitan Museum of Artwork in New York, the California Museum of Trend in Los Angeles and the Museum of Trend and Textile in Paris.

He dressed Raisa, the spouse of former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev, and his work appeared in Elle and Vogue. Russian troopers, nonetheless, didn’t respect the skills of the primary post-Soviet couturier who claimed to have visited the factories that produce uniforms for the French, Italian and Israeli militaries to realize experience. 

Service members complained that the uniform was fabricated from low cost artificial materials, making them too sizzling in summer season. Its pockets have been too small and didn’t match a cell phone or identification papers and different paperwork. Velcro patches fell off, buttons disappeared inside two weeks, stitching got here aside, and coloration pale after a few washes. The uniform was additionally inappropriate for fight as a result of it made a rustling sound with motion and melted in hearth.


Volunteers have military training in Rostov on December 6, 2022, amid the ongoing Russian military action in Ukraine.

Volunteers have navy coaching in Rostov on December 6, 2022, amid the continued Russian navy motion in Ukraine.
(Stringer/AFP through Getty Photographs)

Most significantly, the “designer” uniform was additionally too flimsy for Russian winters, as a result of as a substitute of pure textiles, like cotton, linen and wool, it was made of latest high-tech supplies. The Russian troopers joked that at minus 15 Celsius they began leaping up and right down to preserve heat, and at minus 20, they couldn’t look ahead to the enemy to shoot them to spare them from freezing to loss of life. Putin’s present protection minister banned Yudashkin’s invention the minute he assumed his publish in 2012, prompting the famed fashionista guilty the Russian navy authorities for “enjoying Dolce & Gabbana” moderately than following his design suggestions.

Present Russian Protection Minister Sergei Shoigu made a collection of his personal improvements. Since Shoigu has no navy expertise himself, he didn’t need to visually seem as being outranked by his military males. Shoigu launched the restrict to the variety of medals worn on the ceremonial navy costume to 10, permitting solely these earned in fight. Till then, Russian servicemen collaborating in navy parades on Purple Sq. embellished themselves with a number of dozen medals organized in 4 or 5 rows that didn’t match on their chests, a lot of them civilian and, due to this fact, meaningless.

Russian military cadets take part in a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade in Saint Petersburg on April 28, 2022.

Russian navy cadets participate in a rehearsal for the Victory Day navy parade in Saint Petersburg on April 28, 2022.
(Olga Maltseva/AFP through Getty Photographs)

Probably the most radical change to the Russian uniform was launched by Putin himself. In September 2020, by presidential decree, Putin banned the well-known Russian navy papakha headdress, which was worn by Russian, and beforehand Soviet, generals and high-ranking places of work.

Fabricated from the fur, skinned from 3-day-old child lambs of a particular breed referred to as Karakul, these hats saved the Russian generals heat as a result of the fur bristles have been thick, densely set and water-repellant. However Putin and Shoigu selected to switch the $317 papakhas with a lot less expensive $79 caps fabricated from rabbit fur.

Pro-Russian rebels are shown wearing papakha.

Professional-Russian rebels are proven sporting papakha.
(Maxv Vetrov/AFP through Getty Photographs/File)


With the useless Russian navy brass having prioritized model and copying the West over performance within the post-Soviet uniform, it’s hardly shocking that their forces are shivering to loss of life as winter units in on the battlefield.

Whereas the troops look dapper in the course of the well-known Russian navy parades, pleasing Putin and his lieutenants, they’re making handsome corpses, too.


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