beginners guide to Soviet reenacting
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beginners guide to Soviet reenacting

Beginners Guide to Soviet Infantry Impressions


Enlisted Uniforms and Basic Equipment

1943 – 1945 Eastern Front

(A reenactor’s reference)

(Equipment In English and Russian with transliteration)

 "Ivan" - the museum centerpiece                            The above diagram is from the Handbook for Infantrymen of the Workers and Peasants Red Army
                                                                                                                                             by Igor Dobroff and Mark Sevigny   Available on ebay

By Glenn Williams (Иван Иванович)

Curator of the C Street Red Army Soldiers Museum (http://redarmysoldier.info/)

Email: cstreetmuseum@mediacombb.net


This is not copyrighted so use and distribute as you please (unless you make money- then you owe me half.

-------------------------------------Table of contents:-----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

1. Disclaimer and some important facts to know

2. Fighting knife, canteen and shoulder boards

3. Gas mask, entrenching tool and haver sack

4. Tent, pouncho, M41 pilotka or forage cap and boots

5. M38 Telogreika or Padded jacket, padded trousers and M35 great coat plus ushanka (M42 fleece cap)

6. Helmet, ammo pouch, belt and socks

7. Underwear, rifle,  mess kit and grenade pouch

8. Gymnastiorka (Blouse or field shirt) and breeches (sometimes called trousers) plus tips

9. Correct way to wear uniform and place equipment

10.  Where to buy and about the author

11. The extras to enhance your impression

1. ---------------------------------Disclaimer and some important facts to know-------------------------------------------------------------

I have taken care to be correct and helpful to beginners who are trying to purchase the right equipment for reenacting. All mistakes are mine. This guide is for enlisted men only, infantry only, basic riflemen only (No one really wants to be a stinking officer!) I have supplied the Russian name for everything, along with the English name, and the transliteration so you can pronounce the Russian word(s).


Translation: Often we apply our own words and try to find a translation or reference for that. However - and for example: Our word canteen translates as a “dining room.” Russian has its own word for a portable liquid container. (Even in English canteen can refer to a place to purchase and eat food- often used in the military that way.


Some important basic nice to know:

The Red Army’s full name (up till about 1943) was: Workers and Peasants Red Army or RKKA.
In Russian it would be PKKA (with P pronounced R in Russian)

In Russian it is: Pабоче Kрестьянской Kрасной Aрмии


USSR (united soviet socialist republics) in Russian is:

CCCP Соединенные Советских Социалистических Республик


Don’t waste money on improper gear! Each unit will have their own equipment and uniform regulations. They may be more or less ridged than my recommendations. Always refer to the unit regs first. The problem with most of them is they give no pictures or specific things to avoid. It is easy to spend good money and get the wrong thing.


Important battles (you can sound really educated):

·         1941-06-22 Operation Barbarossa launched – Axis invasion of the Soviet Union

·         1941-07-10 – 1941-09-10 Battle of Smolensk – Soviet 16th and 20th armies encircled

·         1941-08-08 – 1944-01-18 Siege of Leningrad – the city of Leningrad

·         1941-10-24 – 1942-01-07 Operation Typhoon – German advance on Moscow

·        1942-06-28 Operation Blue launched from the Don to the Volga

·        1942-07-23 – 1943-02-01 Battle of the Caucasus –axis cannot fight through to the oil fields

·        1942-09-01 – 1943-02-02 Battle of Stalingrad – Bloodiest battle in history

·        1942-11-19 Operation Uranus launched –  300,000 Axis troops trapped at Stalingrad

·        1942-12-12 – 1942-12-29 Operation Winter Storm – fails to relieve Stalingrad

·         1943-07-05 – 1943-08-01 Battle of Kursk – largest tank battle in history; Germans defeated by defense in depth

·         Battle of Smolensk (1943)

·         1945 -01-12—1945-02-02 – Vistula-Oder Offensive – Soviets advance from Poland to within 50 miles

·         1945-04-16 – 1945-05-02 – Battle of Berlin – One month of street-by-street fighting

·         1945-04-30 – Death of Adolf Hitler

·         1945-05-08 – End of World War II in Europe


Red army soldiers are short haired and clean shaven. (Mustache sometimes allowed).

There is no historical basis for older reenactors having beards under the guise that they

fought in the revolution. The no beard policy was due to allowing gas masks to seal against

the face and keeping soldiers looking well kept.


Reenactors are courteous historians striving to give the most accurate impression possible.

There are two types of medals - "unit" type that all can wear and individual type. Check with your unit
regulations on what is proper. You should not award yourself any medals.

2. --------------------------------Fighting knife, canteen and shoulder boards-----------------------------------------------

fighting knife     борьба ножа     borba nosh

FIGHTING KNIFE:  The "fighting" or "scout" knife is usually not required. I have never seen an original for sale.
It is often worn by reenactors inside a boot and strapped to the calf. It can also be worn on the equipment belt.

Shoulder boards      погоны      pagonay

SHOULDER BOARDS: They are required on the 1943 pattern uniform. Infantry enlisted are "field gray"
with raspberry piping. Field gray is actually a light forest green. They are attached with small buttons.

canteen     походный ящик     pafodi yeshik  

CANTEEN: Most canteens used by reenactors are reproductions or post war. That is ok as long as they are
the same as original. Very early models were made of brown glass with a cork.

3. ----------------------------------------Gas mask, entrenching tool and haver sack---------------------------------------------------------

gas mask bag        газ Противогаз сумке           gaz prativogaz soomkye

GAS MASK BAG: I admitt to being confused by the masks and bags. The one pictured would go with the
1943 pattern uniform. It hangs from the shoulder strap on the left rear. If you kept vodka in it you would
probably be period correct. Usually not required.

Лопата            shovel                 lapata

ENTRENCHING TOOL: Shovels and their covers seem to come in two or three different types - both in
canvas and leather. I know the one pictures is a correct type. I am dubious about the leather ones I see for sale.
Some canvas models have the wood dowl and loop closure which is also ok. A very handy item even if your
unit does not require them!

haver sack                     Мешок                       meshok

HAVER SACK: A correct back pack has no pockets or straps (except for the shoulder straps). Many for sale
are post war with pockets and straps. However, you can usually remove them for a correct look. The one
pictured has the typical wood dowl and loop arrangement to tie the shoulder straps together across the
chest - others have a metal buckle. I would stick with the wood to be sure of being correct.

4. -------------------------------------------Tent, poncho, forage cap and boots---------------------------------------------------------------

cloak / tent        Плащ / Палатка          plash / Palatka

PONCHO / SHELTER HALF: Regular infantry units were not  issued camoflage anything. So the "omeba" pattern
tent in the foreground would not be correct for the average unit. The two tents behind behind it are ok. In the rear it is a "squad" tent.  Following is a link to a web-site with excellent instructions on use of the Plash /  Palatka:  operationeastwind.com/plastch.html

forage cap                   Пилотка                      Pilotka

FORAGE CAP: Worn when the helmet is not needed. As with other armies, you must be "covered" while outdoors.

 boots                   сахпохгих                    Sahpohgih

BOOTS: Reproduction boots run from about $50 to $125. Some are either all vinyl; others have vinyl
impregnated uppers and leather lowers with "hob nail" soles. Those are more correct. Make sure to
get them large enough and wear two pairs of socks. Check your unit regs before buying.

5. ---------------------------Padded jacket, padded trousers and great coat plus ushanka-------------------------------------------

padded jacket             Tелогрейка           Telogreika
padded trousers          
ватные штаны                       Vatnic sharovari

PADDED JACKET AND TROUSERS: These are great to have for cold weather.
There is currently a seller on ebay that offers them for about $100 and has all
the various sizes. This is a great deal compared to just a couple of years back.
They are less bulky than the great coats. Just search for "telogrika"

Great coat              шинель                 shinye   (l very soft)

GREAT COAT AND USHANKA: These two items are the most iconic of the WWII soviet stuff.
Reproduction hats are fairly cheap but the coats are high. The one pictured is authentic and the
hat purchased in Moscow. They are more for early war and the padded stuff for later war.

6. ----------------------------------Helmet, ammo pouch, belt and socks-------------------------------------------------------------------------

M40 helmet above                 M36 below

helmet                шлем               shlem

M40 helmet: Be careful buying a helmet. There are polish models that look the same from the outside
(except for rivets) but have a completely different liner. Check your unit regs as many units require
the true M40's. They are currently $40 to $50. The prior helmet was the M36 but I have not seen
anyone wearing one.

ammunition pouch      боеприпасов сумке        byepripasiv soomkye

AMMO POUCH: Some say the "pebble grain" pouches (right picture) are post war. I have not been able
to find out for sure - which is a shame since they are cheap and usually come with the purchase
of a Mosin 91/30.  So to be sure I use the authentic leather ones. note: I saw the pebble
grain pouches used in the movie Enemy At The Gates - which would be 1943!

belt                          ремень                            remyei

EQUIPMENT BELT: Proper belts are either all leather like the one pictured on the left, or web and
leather like the one on the right. Both have a "roller" buckle and two leather loops to hold the
free end. The ones with the brass hammer and sickle buckles are post war.

socks                     носки                                     noskie

SOCKS: Any brown, olive drab, kakhi will work. No white or striped etc.

7. -------------------------------------------Underwear, rifle,  mess kit and grenade pouch--------------------------------------------------

underwear              белье                        bilya

UNDERWEAR: White tank tops (wife beaters) and boxer shorts. Absolutely no designs on them.
If you take your blouse off and have a "greatful dead" tour shirt on - your impression is ruined.

Rifle                       винтовка                       vintovka

RIFLE: The old Mosin 91/30 is cheap to buy, cheap to shoot, and will work for any time frame.  The M38 carbine
will also work for any time frame. On the other guns like the M44 carbine, PPSH41, PPS43, you need to be careful that they were issued prior to the period being reenacted. The semi-auto SVT-40 will work for any period but cost around $800 and need to be modified to accept a blank firing adapter (BFA).  All automatic weapons need to be fitting with a BFA to supply the proper "back pressure" to cycle the action. The bolt action rifles do not require them.

kettle oval   котелок овальный    kettyelok ovanli           

kettle cylindrical     kотелок цилиндрический       kettlelok cylindreliski

MESS KIT: There are two types. On top is the "kettle oval."  On the bottom, is the "kettle cylindrical."
both will work but your unit may want you all to have the same type. The oval ones are cheap and
may be available in your local surplus store as many armies used them. If you want to be perfectly
correct, it must have the little tab with slot that is circled in black. Some do not have that.

grenade pouch       Гранаты сумке          granata soomkye

GRENADE POUCH AND GRENADES: This is an authentic 3 pocket pouch with a reproduction F1
grenade. They look like the U.S. pineapple grenades but are not the same.

8. ----------------------------Blouse and breeches plus tips------------------------------------------------------------------------

blouse               блузка          bloozka
This is the  blouse (field shirt) I wear reenacting. The medal is a unit type award that the 416 rifles won for the defense of Moscow. I have no personal medals. I borrowed an idea from the Germans and sewed two belt hooks on that the equipment belt rests on. This keeps the belt up. It is a good deal because the belt is heavy with all of the equipment in place. To the left (facing the blouse) of the collar buttons is a red "wound patch." Red is for a light wound and gold for a heavy wound. I awarded this to myself and no one has said anything.

Breeches      брюки       bryuki
The breeches (trousers) I wear reenacting. You can see the buttons added to attach the suspenders. Another good tip is to change the fastener loops at the bottom from a loose end type to a stirrup type. This works much better at keeping the breeches tucked into your boots. At right is the 1935 pattern blouse being displayed by a 416 regiment

9. ----------------------------------Correct way to wear uniform and place equipment-----------------------------------------------------

You may now be asking the correct way to wear all this stuff. Below are two pictures showing
correct placement. I think they are self explanitory except for a couple of "tips".

a. The trousers are made to take a belt to hold them up. Many reenactors use suspenders because you can't get get to the trousers to pull them up etc. with the blouse and equipment belt on. I use the kind that fasten to buttons sewed to the inside of the trousers waist band. They are much more authentic looking that the ones with metal clip on fasteners. This will cause you to do a little sewing but it is worth it. Pick a pair in a color like brown, gray, or kahki.

b. During combat I shed some equipment and just wear the helmet, canteen, ammo pouch, and grenade pouch. Again, your unit may have guidelines on what to wear in combat.

A properly "kitted out" Red Army rifleman

The leather ammo pouch on the left is the primary one, on the right is the reserve. It can be either leather or canvas.
He has no grenade pouch. It can be placed between the primary ammo pouch and the shovel.

10. -----------------------------------Where to buy and about the author-------------------------------------------------------------------------

OK, where do I buy this stuff?  1. From a reenactor getting divorced. 2. In my own opinion the HIKI Shop
(home page shown below) is a good place. They are priced low and the stuff is good quality. If they don't have
it - try searching the net for vendors. Below are some links to other vendors and informational sites.










ABOUT THE AUTHOR: I am retired, lazy, and a little over-weight. I have a passion for WWII eastern front
history. Puttering in my shop and spending money on my museum and reenacting is my hobby.

I visited The Russian Federation in 2010 and was in Moscow for the big celebration on May 9th of the winning
of the great patriot war. I also visited Volgograd (used to be Stalingrad).

I even own a Russian R72 motorcycle and have a working DPM machine gun mounted on the side car.
I am a private in the 416 rifles regiment and a member of HRS (Historical Reenacting Society).

  A bike in a museum in Volgograd (photo by author)                      My bike at the 2011 event in Mexico Mo.

10.---------------------------------The extras to enhance your impression---------------------------------------------------------------------

A working DPM or DP28 is a fine addition

A PPS-43 - these are now available for about $300. Look in ShotGun News.

The M44 is nice but severly limits the time period usable

The SVT40 is cool but is expensive and difficult to have a blank firing adapter installed

The Budenova hat is great for around the campfire in the evening

The model 1895 Nagant pistol is cheap but not generally issued to enlisted troops.

Thanks, and good luck, Glenn Williams - October 2011




beginners guide to Soviet reenacting
Meet Ivan
Curator trip to Russia
Books and Links
Battle of Stalingrad