Forum: Uniforms/Field Gear
Topic: Russian Impression:  A How to For Beginners
started by: Aldrich

Posted by Aldrich on Jul. 11 2013,13:53
Workers of the world unite!  Are you ready to continue the fight for the glorious Soviet Union and push back the imperialist Fascist invaders from the motherland!  Then perhaps a Russian impression is for you!

The Russian army uniform had a distinctive style that set it apart on the battlefields of Europe.  Its simple and utilitarian style made it perfect for mass production with minimal maintenance.  Massive amounts of this gear and clothing produced during and after the war mean that Russian gear can be found relatively cheap.  However, sometimes this surplus can become confusing as well.  Often times cold war uniforms are mistakenly labeled as WWII.  What follows is not an exhaustive report on all the variations of Russian gear used in WWII.  Rather it is a good start for those wishing to portray a Russian rifleman.  


Russian uniforms were made of a light, cheap, canvas material.  They came in the colors from olive drab, to khaki, to brown.  While wool variations on the uniform did exist, the canvas material was worn in both seasons and is perfect for a year round impression.

Conscript: Post 1942.

The conscript was the backbone of the Russian army.  Lightly supplied and quickly thrown into battle with little to no training, they were perfect for Russian cannon-fodder tactics.  

Tunic and Pants:  The tunic here is the post 1943 tunic with no collar.  While this uniform was designed to be worn with shoulder boards, it wasn't uncommon to see low level conscripts without them. Prior to this, tunics were issued with collars and used collar tabs to display rank, though not all of these were issued with collar tabs either.  Either is ok for a Russian impression.  Many variations exist on both versions depending on where and when they were made.  For example, some had exposed buttons or covered buttons, exterior pockets, hidden pockets, no pockets, etc.  With such variation, this tunic would be easy for anyone with sewing skills to make at home.  (This particular tunic is home made)  Production of these tunics continued into the 60's so many surplus items can be found online for cheap.  Make sure to avoid HEBE uniforms (commonly called WWII)  that button all the way down.  WWII tunics only go halfway down the front.  The pants are the classic standard issue riding pants. These particular ones are Hikishop.  For affordable reproductions, look to Trident Militaria or Hikishop.  Beware Russian sizing on surplus!!  A Russian "medium" back them is much smaller than today's.  Look to the numbered sizing (size 48) and use sizing charts found online.  These will ensure you get a proper fitting uniform.

Footwear:  The boots here are just plain leather boots.  However, WWII US boots, or East German jackboots work as well.  If you wear ankle boots, then you must also get a pair of Puttees (leg wraps).  These can be found fairly cheap.  Repro WWI US dough boy puttees will do fine.  Tip:  when tying puttees, make sure they go above the thick part of your calf and are wrapped firmly, otherwise they will fall down.  Jackboots do not need puttees.

Gear:  The gear here consists of a simple plain leather belt, Mosin Nagant pouches, and canteen.  Each item can be bought for very cheap online as surplus.  The Russians also issued a fabric belt when leather was in short supply for those who want a more authentic look.  Canteens should be oval and have a fabric covering.  These can be found cheap as they were used into the 1980's.  Mosin Pouches are also extremely cheap.  

Headwear:  The helmet here is the Russian ssh 40.  These were issued far after the war and can be found very cheap online.  Czech postwar helmets are acceptable, but the shiny green synthetic chinstraps will need to be replaced with a period looking one.

More to come....

Posted by ba64 on Jul. 11 2013,22:03
Very good info! A rough high-low pricing to go with the items would be great. I can watch for items at gun shows and re-enactment events if people want to give me a watch list.
Posted by Aldrich on Jul. 12 2013,10:00
Good idea.  A quick search on the internet showed me that most of the gear items mentioned can be found for around 10 dollars on ebay.  A good trick is to avoid vendors selling to WWII collectors as they usually jack up the prices.  Do this by looking up what, for example, a Russian WWII pattern gas mask bag is.  Then, search using general terms such as "Russian gas mask bag".   Avoid using terms such as "WWII" as you will get a lot of "WWII hand stiched in Leningrad still smells like soldier"  items for three times the price.   WWII pattern bags will pop up, but they will be at surplus prices.  I have seen the hat range from 10-20 dollars.  I have seen Russian helmets go for around 20-30 dollars, surplus.  Czech helmets are also available with the same shape, but wrong liner and wrong rivet placement.  However, if you do choose this route, make sure to either get one that doesn't have the shiny modern chinstrap, or replace it.  The uniform will typically cost you more.  Reproduction tunics from trident will cost around 100 dollars while pants are 90 dollars.  Hikishop items are around 50 dollars a piece but shipping is expensive and will take a long time.  Original can be pricey for collectors, but occasionally you will find a deal.  East German jackboots have become more pricey but some can be found around 30 dollars yet.  Puttees can be found surplus for 10 dollars to 20 dollars a pair.
Posted by Aldrich on Jul. 12 2013,10:43
Rifleman:  Post 1942.

Unlike the conscripts, the Russian riflemen were the muscle of the Red Army.  Well equipped, led, and trained, they were able to go toe to toe with German divisions and hold their own.  

Gear:  The main difference here is the gear.  Now added is the gas mask bag on his right hip.  These are simple fabric and really easy to make.  These can be found around 20 bucks.  The shovel can be found, with cover, for 20-30 bucks.  This particular one was sharpened by the original owner, however, and eats through the covers.  You may want to dull yours if this is the case.  The helmet is a Czech with a new liner and chinstrap.  Also included is a reproduction bandoleer, canteen, and veshmeshok backpack.

Items not shown:  Though optional on a combat loadout, some other useful gear can be worn as well.  A Plash-Palatka or rain cape, can be worn either in rainy weather, or rolled up in a long tube, then worn like a sash tethered at one end by a rope or twine.  (like the blanket going across the chest above)  For a complete authentic look, make sure to get a square Plash with leather grommets, not metal.  This look can also be achieved with a wool blanket or canvas green material.  Mess kits are in two forms.  For the cheap route, go with the tall bean shape tins with the removable lid.  These were standard issue in the cold war and can be found for around 10 bucks.  However, in WWII these were only issued to specialist troops.  For a more authentic and classic Russian look, get the mess pot.  Yes you guessed it, it is a pot.  These can be found around 30-40 bucks.  Another item is the Veshmeshok or rucksack.  These were issued all through the cold war and can be found around 10-20 bucks.  However, WWII ones did not have the outer pockets or four straps on the sides so postwar ones will have to be converted.  Outside these things, there are many more options, but for that, you will have to do a little of your own research!

Posted by Aldrich on Jul. 13 2013,10:36

Unlike the Germans, the Russian soldier was well equipped to handle the winter weather of WWII.  Russian winter gear came in a variety of forms.  Since the eastern front was known for its cold harsh winters, a winter impression is a great way to add on to your uniform.


Uniform: Winterwhites are a perfect way to portray a Russian soldier in winter.  They were a favorite for equipping troops as they were easy to manufacture.  These could be seen being worn over civilian winter clothing by last ditch conscripts, or famously on the Siberian shock troops that started the counterattacks that would mark the beginning of the end for the Germans in 1942.  Typically, these would be worn over the Telogreika winter uniform.  However, on a budget, these can be worn over a normal uniform or winter clothing and will look fine.  Tip:  Keep in mind that these are see through when wet.  Stick to tan, black, or green colored warm weather items underneath if a period uniform is unavailable.  White Russian pattern winterwhites can be found for around 25-40 dollars.  Otherwise, surplus ones of any origin can be found for 10-20 dollars.  (the one pictured is surplus Russian)  Avoid ones with any form of camo painted on!

Gear:  The gear here is the same as any other time of the year.  Though white items are available for "snow camo", these are highly optional.

Little things:  Sometimes getting the right look is all in the details.  One such thing is the "bulge"  around the head.  Soldiers would often be seen securing the hood to their head using elastic or cloth bands.  The winter hat underneath (in this case a ushanka)  would cause a bulge around the head.  For gloves, get trigger finger mittens in a green to tan color.  These were common issue for Russian soldiers.  These particular ones were picked up at a Fleet Farm for under 5 dollars.  Finally dirt!  Get your uniform dirty!  Most pictures of Russian winter soldiers look pristine.  But be wary that many photos were staged during, or postwar for use in publications.  Cameras were not too common in Russia at the time.  Therefore all the pristine, perfect quality photos with clean soldiers may be ones meant for the news.  Real winterwhites would get dirty very quickly from crawling around in the muddy trenches.  The more ragged you look, the better!

Posted by Aldrich on Jul. 13 2013,11:12

Uniform:  The soldier here is wearing the standard issue wool jacket of the Russian army.  This was issued throughout the war and would keep the wearer well insulated from the winter weather, unlike its German counterpart.  As time progressed, however, this would be gradually phased out by the Telogreika padded uniform which was easier to manufacture.  The jacket is from Trident Militaria and was purchased for 75 dollars.  However, these jackets are now usually more pricey.  (avoid postwar with buttons, these are fastened by hooks, jackets with insignia on them are ok, but commonly these were not applied in wartime)  Luckily, telogreika uniform sets (pants and jacket, not pictured)  can be found on ebay for around 50 dollars.  Reproductions are also available from Trident.

Hat:  This particular hat is the classic Russian Ushanka.  Russian ushankas were different in the cold war than in WWII.  Avoid furry postwar ones with the big brass emblem (or anything with big brass emblem).  One good way to find a WWII style ushanka is through East European surplus.  The one here is Bulgarian, and is about as close to WWII as you can get for around 20 dollars.  Czech ones are also pretty similar.  For a unique look, get the cone shaped budenova.  Additionally, you could wear a ushanka underneath your helmet.  (this is not possible with the post war Czech helmets due to the liners.)  

Boots:  Standard lowboots or jackboots are fine with this uniform.  However, the Russians had a winter boot known as Valenki.  These are solid wool boots made for the harsh Russian winters.  They are even still used today!  For a WWII look, get the plain, pure wool boots.  These usually retail for around 80 dollars.

Note:  Russian winter gear was designed to cope with winters in excess to -40 degrees below zero.  Russian winter gear therefore is WARM!  For example, they did a heat scan on the Russian trench-coat above and showed it leaked no significant levels of heat.  While a trenchcoat over telogreika with valenki boots, a ushanka, scarf, and trigger finger mittens may have been good on the Russian front, it may be a bit too much for a mild midwest winter.  If you do not handle heat very well, keep this in mind.  However, I can also say they may prove useful when camping out on a freezing night.  Choose wisely!

Posted by Aldrich on Jul. 15 2013,13:06
Rifleman:  Pre 1942.

The early war Russian uniform differed from later variations in that the rank system was based on the collar of the tunic.  This came in the form of green tabs on the collar, rank denoted by small stars.  (Shoulderboards seen as too "Czarist")    However, it proved to be too difficult to tell rank from a distance.  This became detrimental in the early stages of the war when scattered Russian divisions were trying to reorganize themselves.  However, though phased out in 1942, the Russians still used up existing stocks of early war uniforms and gear, so such a uniform is acceptable for any of our events.   For a transitional look, add shoulderboards to an early war tunic.  

Tunic and Pants:  The tunic here is a m35 reproduction from Hikishop.  This model has the hidden buttons and exposed pockets.  The pants are the m35 breeches, also from Hikishop.  Here the "riding pants" cut that was standard on Russian uniforms is clearly evident.  On the 1943 versions this is less pronounced (see above photos)  The tunic currently goes for around 50 dollars and the pants about 45 dollars.  These can be bought from their site online.  These can also be found at Trident for around 90 dollars a piece.  

Gear:  Early war troops were typically better supplied than their quickly levied mid-war counterparts.  Here the soldier is wearing two Mosin Nagant pouches.  (A quick note on the pouches:  there is ongoing debate whether or not the two toned pebbled pouches were used in WWII, if anything, they were late war.  (For our reenactment they are fine)  For a correct WWII pouch, get an all leather pouch.  These can be found for about 20-40 dollars reproduction.  Or, you can take a pebbled pouch and make it one solid color to look like the leather pouches.  The pebbled pouches can be found for around 5 dollars online, or come with a purchase of any Mosin Nagant rifle.)  Other possible early war combinations could be one leather pouch, and one fabric pouch.  Commonly, the leather would hold stripper clips, while the fabric single rounds for loading partially empty magazines.  Troops have also been seen with two fabric pouches as well.  Other pieces of early war gear would be the canvas "Y" strap suspenders that would hold up the belt.  These can be found for around 10-30 dollars reproduction.  Otherwise, the gear was more or less consistent throughout the war.

Helmets/headgear:  Though headgear remained more or less the same (with exception to the limited "tropical" panama hats and budenova winter hats issued to some troops) there were multiple helmet variations used by the Russians in early WWII.  Many were old designs leftover from before WWII to troops who had yet to be issued the new helmets.  Examples include the French Adrian helmet painted green with a big red star on front, the Ssh-36 with the wide ear flaps, and the Ssh-39/40 that were used throughout the war.  Many early war helmets were painted with a large red star on the front to identify them as Russian to friendly troops once heads started peeking out of trenches.  For obvious reasons, having a big red star on your head is not a good thing in combat and this practice was abandoned as the war progressed.

Posted by Aldrich on Jul. 15 2013,13:20
Conclusion:  A Russian uniform is not too hard to put together once you know where to look.  Variations in uniform mean there are plenty of ways to personalize it to fit your fighting style.  Whether you prefer the early war tunic to the late, jackboots to low boots, starred helmet to no star,  the options are out there.  If you have put together your own Russian uniform and would like to show everyone, or have any questions or comments, please post to this thread.  If you post pictures, make sure to give a brief description of your uniform, the gear, and what you are trying to depict.
Posted by Aldrich on Aug. 27 2015,18:55
Russian Telogreika

While ideally every Russian soldier should have been issued the greatcoat, many were not.  Instead, many wore the telogreika padded jacket.  These were cheap and simple jackets meant to keep the user warm.  In colder climates, some soldiers would wear them under the greatcoat.  Luckily for you, the weather here will never be that cold.  Due to its simple but effective design, the telogreika suit was manufactured up into the 1980's.  Surplus sets of jacket and pants can be found on ebay for as low as 50 dollars.  With shipping, they usually come to around 100 dollars.  The telogreika can be worn in replacement of the standard tunic and pants during winter events.  Otherwise, the gear stays the same.

Posted by Aldrich on Aug. 27 2015,19:05
Russian Scout/Sniper

The Russians developed sets of camouflage suits meant to be worn over the uniform.  These came in a large variety of colors that were issued based on the environment, and time of year.  Since these suits were issued mission specific, they were made of a thin material and they are not the most durable uniform out there.  Common recipients of these suits were snipers, scouts, combat sappers, machine gunners, and paratroopers.  Currently, the most affordable place to buy these suits is Trident Militaria.  They can be found for around 80 dollars.  More durable versions made from a thicker fabric are available as well, but these will run around 120 dollars.

Gear:  The gear largely depended on the soldier wearing it.  Scouts and snipers typically only wore the bare minimum so as to not make noise and to reduce weight.  Sappers, paratroopers, and machine gunners, on the other hand, were laden with everything they would need to complete their mission.  So what gear one would need is up to the wearer.

Note:  Since these uniforms are typically thin (like a bedsheet), it is highly recommended that one first purchases a Russian tunic and pants to go underneath.  These are not suitable to wear on their own!

Posted by Fritz Moos on Aug. 27 2015,21:01

Although my German uniform is the best looking and favorite suit I own, your variety of Russian impressions and individual immersion into each portrayal is truly noteworthy!
Well done kamerade -
The photos  grouped together is of an entire unit of individual fighters and your work toward these impressions is a units worth of effort.
With respect,

Fritz Sepp Moos

Posted by Aldrich on Sep. 01 2015,19:45
Thanks!  I have to say, although I do like the German uniform, the Russian uniform has been one of the most fun to collect.  I find it fun to see just how diametrically opposed the Russian and German uniforms are.  While the German uniform embodies the personality of a business suit  (probably more designed for the parade ground than the battlefield) the Russian has the personality of a dive bar brawler:  rugged, blunt, functional, and cheap.
Powered by Ikonboard 3.1.5 © 2006 Ikonboard