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Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
    << Back to Soviet Union (former) Government

    In 1989 the uniforms and rank insignia of the Soviet armed forces were similar for all services, except the Naval Forces. Uniforms of officers and enlisted men differed only in the texture and quality of material used, not in their cut and style. The services could be distinguished from each other by the colors of the shoulder boards, the collar tabs, and the service hat bands. In each service, the uniforms for women generally possessed the same color and texture as those provided for men. Marshals, generals, and admirals wore double-breasted uniform coats. All services, except the Naval Forces, used full-length, medium gray, winter overcoats. Lower ranking enlisted personnel wore olive drab short overcoats. Naval personnel wore black overcoats in winter. In general, Soviet naval uniforms (in cut, color, and style) and rank insignia resembled those of foreign navies.

    Each service generally had five categories of uniforms: full dress, dress, service, field, and work, with variants for winter and summer. Full dress uniforms were worn during such special military occasions as formal reviews, parades, annual service holidays, ceremonies conferring promotions or military decorations, and when taking the military oath or performing in honor guards. Dress uniforms were used for national anniversaries, such as the Bolshevik Revolution; for official receptions; while attending the theater; and as otherwise ordered. Service uniforms were worn for routine duty and during off-duty hours. Field uniforms were worn during training, maneuvers, and firing exercises. Work uniforms were worn while performing equipment maintenance, fatigue detail, and construction tasks.

    The colors of the uniforms varied according to the service and the category of uniform. Full dress uniforms were sea green for the Ground Forces and the Strategic Rocket Forces and nonaviation components of the Air Forces and the Air Defense Forces. Aviation components' uniforms were blue. Officers of all services wore gold belts, breeches, and boots with full dress uniforms. The dress uniforms resembled the full dress uniforms, except that long trousers and low quarter shoes were worn. The service uniforms and field uniforms for all services were olive drab. Officer field uniforms had color-suppressed insignia instead of gold, and the garrison cap or steel helmet was substituted for the service hat. The work uniforms for all services was a field uniform devoid of rank insignia. It was usually an old field uniform or overalls worn as a protective garment over a field uniform.

    Each of the Naval Forces four categories of uniforms (full dress, dress, service, and work) had seasonal variants. The full dress uniforms--white for summer and navy blue for the remainder of the year--were worn with dirks and white gloves. Dress uniforms were less ornate than the full dress, and ribbons replaced medals. Service uniforms were the same as dress uniforms, but without dirks and white gloves. A summer service uniform variation had a blue jacket and a garrison cap instead of a service hat. Junior enlisted personnel wore service uniforms, which were white, navy blue, mixed combinations, or other variants in winter and summer. Their jumpers had broad light blue collars with three white stripes. Shipboard work uniforms were either gray and khaki. Lower ranked seamen wore visorless hats with black bands and pigtail ribbons in the back.

    All services exhibited rank insignia on shoulder boards, using a system of gold stripes with gold stars on colored backgrounds and colored piping on the edges (see fig. 34; fig. 35; fig. 36). Naval officers also wore sleeve stripes. Shoulder boards of marshals, general officers, and admirals possessed large stars on broad, ornate gold stripes with piping on the edges. Shoulder boards of field grade officers displayed three longitudinal gold stripes and smaller gold stars, and those of company grade officers had two longitudinal gold stripes and even smaller stars. Shoulder boards of warrant officers had two or three gold stars superimposed on a gold checkerboard pattern. Enlisted ranks were indicated by transverse or longitudinal gold stripes on shoulder boards.

    The background colors of shoulder boards, collar tabs, and service hat bands varied with the service and the branch of service. The Strategic Rocket Forces had black shoulder boards, as did the Artillery Troops, Engineer Troops, Tank Troops, and certain other components of the Ground Forces. The Motorized Rifle Troops had red shoulder boards. The Air Forces and aviation personnel of the Air Defense Forces had light blue shoulder boards, as did the Airborne Troops. The Naval Forces had navy blue shoulderboards (see table 54, Appendix A). Metallic insignia of gold or silver were also employed to identify selected branches of the services. Personnel belonging to one service or branch but serving in another wore the background color prescribed for the latter service or branch. For example, members of an artillery battalion, which was a component of a motorized rifle division, wore the red shoulder boards and collar tabs of the Motorized Rifle Troops but displayed the crossed cannon insignia of the Artillery Troops on their collar tabs. The Airborne troops wore the light blue background color of the Air Forces, but with the insignia of the Airborne Troops on their collar tabs. An exception allowed the Medical Troops, Veterinary Troops, Quartermaster Troops, Justice Troops, and Administration Troopss to wear the color--magenta--prescribed for their branches regardless of assignment. Shoulder boards of enlisted personnel of the armed forces, except the Naval Forces, had large Cyrillic letters identifying the particular component. For instance, the Cyrillic "CA" signified Soviet army; other letters identified the Internal Troops of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, the Border Guards of the KGB, and other elements.

    Data as of May 1989

    NOTE: The information regarding Soviet Union (former) on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Soviet Union (former) UNIFORMS AND RANK INSIGNIA information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Soviet Union (former) UNIFORMS AND RANK INSIGNIA should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.

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