Marshals of the Soviet Union
Shown here are caps worn by the highest ranking officers in the Soviet military - Marshals of the Soviet Union. Of the millions of Soviet army, navy and airmen, only 39 individuals ever achieved this lofty rank. A thumbnail image accompanies each cap description. Clicking on that thumbnail will bring up a larger, higher resolution image.
Marshal of the Soviet Union
This cap is unfortunately not in my collection - but in a friend's. I have included it to illustrate the first blue-green parade uniform (variously referred to as "Czar", "Wave", and "Ocean" green) specifically developed to commemorate victory over the Germans in 1945.
Complimenting the wave-green wool crown is a red band and piping with gold cords held in place by buttons stamped with the Great Seal of the USSR. The center cockade remains the same as that authorized for generals and marshals since 1940 as does the high quality gilt wire embroidery surrounding that cockade authorized since 1943.
As you can see, this was quite extensive and ornate.
This embroidery pattern was unique to MSU and remained basically unchanged through 1991. This specific cap has a rounded black fiberboard visor, which was an optional variant often found on high-ranking officer caps as different from the spade-shaped visors usually seen on caps of this era.
The inside has an upgraded kid-leather sweatband but the lining is cotton, instead of the silk normally found on these general-officer caps.
The pinnacle in Soviet visor cap ornamentation - if not in beauty, at least in quantity! This undated Model 1969 cap is typical of MSU parade caps of the late Cold War period. Despite that late manufacture, it displays many elements used on MSU caps since the Victory parades of 1945: wave green crown, red band and piping, and a MSU-unique pattern of band gold-wire embroidery.
MSU parade caps were upgraded in 1955, when leather visors with MSU-unique embroidery were introduced and the simple woven gold cap cords were replaced by a leather chin strap also embroidered in gold wire as shown here. Like the other embroidery, the pattern on this strap was different than that found on generals' and lesser marshals' caps - based on stylized oak leaves vice laurel leaves. Also in M1955 an oval all-gilt generals' cockade replaced the round cockade in use prior to that date.
Although the elements of the MSU parade cap remained basically unchanged from 1955 until 1991, in 1969 the crown size was increased to match that of other Soviet Army caps of the period. Crown height and circumference were again increased in the early 1990s to the extent shown here.
The interior of this cap is typical of general officer caps: silk lining, real leather sweatband and a leather maker's label stamped with the manufacturer and cap size. The cap manufacturer (which translates as "43rd Central Experimental Manufacturing Combine") was the most common manufacturer of general and admiral caps in these later years. While lack of a date could indicate immediate post-1991 manufacture, this company stopped dating its caps around 1990 so the exact date of fabrication cannot be determined.
However, I believe this one was made in the 1991-1992 timeframe based on its materials and the crown size (as already mentioned). These very-early post-Soviet generals/marshals' caps were usually characterized by Soviet-era
quality embroidery, markedly superior to that seen on later caps made for collectors.
Although the interior markings and larger crown lead me to believe this cap was made in the immediate post-1991 era, it accurately represents those in use in the late 1980s and was likely part of the last high quality caps produced by former Soviet uniform factories using residual Soviet-era fabrics and wire in the early 1990s. To all but a few collectors, this cap appears identical to gray Army generals' walking-out caps common in many collections. What sets this cap apart and identifies it as unique to Marshals of the Soviet Union is the design of the gold embroidery surrounding the general-officer cockade.
Whereas Army generals' band embroidery of this period took the form of elongated laurel leaves, MSU caps were done in stylized oak leaves and acorns.
As in the above parade cap, the embroidery is done in gilt wire, although with a simpler pattern. In fact, this pattern of 7 oak leaves per side is unique to the M69 Marshals' gray walking out cap.
Other than the band embroidery, the remainder of the cap is the same as for an Army general. It is made of light gray cloth with red band and piping, with officer's gold cords held in place by two gold colored buttons cast with the Great Seal of the USSR. The visor has a patent leather top covered underneath with black cloth. Lining is dark gray silk while the sweat band is kid leather pierced with a red ribbon.
The everyday cap of a Soviet MSU during this period. This late-model cap is very similar in design and construction to the gray walking-out cap described above, with the exception of the khaki colored crown. As you can see, it too has the MSU-unique oak leave wreath embroidery on the band. In this case, the spray of gold thread leaves is smaller (four leaves per side vice the seven on my gray cap) - which reflects the 1989 regulations. The remainder of the cap is of the same style as the walking-out cap; red band and piping, standard officer's gold cords held in place by two gold buttons cast with the Great Seal of the USSR, and a patent leather visor covered
underneath with black cloth.
The lining is silk and the sweatband is kid leather pierced with a colored ribbon. Again, there is no date which indicates late 80s or early 90s production. The date range referenced is based on 1980 regulations that added embroidery to the marshals/generals' service caps in conjunction with the phasing out of the similarly embroidered gray walking-out caps. Prior to 1980, marshals and generals' khaki service caps had no embroidery and, as a result, were identical to each other.
Not in my collection, but I'm making an exception in the case of one of my heroes: Marshal of the Soviet Union Akhromeyev. The first (and I believe last) time this cap was seen in the West was when he and his escorts visited the United States in the summer of 1988. The cap is identical in construction and design to the Marshals' M80 khaki service cap shown above, except that the crown material is made of light tan cotton material and the embroidery "appears" to be gold cotton or silk thread - vice gilt wire. This style of cap was introduced in the mid 1980s as part of a new shirt-sleeve tropical uniform for Army and Air Force officers and generals.
See my Army 1970-1991 page for a picture of a junior officers' cap of this type. Air Force officer caps of this model had, as to be expected, azure-colored bands and Air Force cockades and wings.