Thursday, 2 September 2010

If you want to get ahead.....

There's a member of our group who has a saying. It goes "The army with the simplest uniform wins...."

As aphorisms go it isn't a million miles away from the truth, if you think about it. My view, however, is slightly different. I tend to the view that the armies with the best looking hats win. (I'm not sure if this applies to helmets however, although I have always preferred the look of the battle bowler to the coal scuttle.)

Now the Russians have great hats. Here's a picture of three of the hats I bought on our trip, all lined up on a shelf in our cabin:

I wanted to pick up the odd hat or two on our trip, but never thought I 'd get that lucky.

The first hat is the classic Red Army Civil War budenovka. This is the winter version. Not sure about the red piping, but it does fold down and button under the chin. Cost me 250 roubles (about £6). The next one along is a Naval Cap for the Baltic Fleet. As you can see it has lovely long tassels at the back - I got a stripy shirt to go with it later on in the holiday. Again about £6. Both of these were bought off souvenir stands next to the Cruiser Aurora, so I think added kudos for that. Later on in the holiday I saw budenovka's in grey and also in khaki with the blue cavalry star on the front. Bizarrely you can also buy them with white army badges and piping.

The last one is the classic WarPact era furry hat. Alas it is synthetic, but it has a lovely badge on the front. This one came from an official souvenir shop and so cost me €10. I could have got it cheaper from a street stand.

You could easily get peaked caps with various size peaks and tops from the post revolutionary Soviet era. I'd have bought more, but Mrs Trebian pointed out that there's only so much you can get in a suitcase without destroying it.

Finally, last but not least, I picked up a budenovka in black felt. Okay, so it's not in leather, but it is a ringer for the Cheka version*. I feel a funny hat game coming on.

* On the boat we had a "Russian Dress Night". This mostly consisted of people wearing a variety of hats. One chap had one of these. His wife said she didn't mind him buying it as she was a Key Stage 1 Primary School teacher and it'd go in the class dressing up box when she got home. I'm sure there aren't many British schools that give children the chance to dress up as secret policemen.


  1. Trebian,

    I also have several Russian hats (also bought from traders in St Petersburg) including 3 'Budenovkas' and a 'fish fur' hat.

    I also bought several 'pilotkas' covered in USSR Army badges.

    By the way, our guide told us it was illegal to buy them and export them from Russia ... but he also told us the the best view in St. Petersburg was from the basement of the old KGB building; apparently you can see Siberia from there!

    I don't think that the two comments we linked in any way.

    All the best,


  2. Bob,

    If you've got a load of budenovkas as well I should think a silly hat game at coW is certainly on the cards.

    All the guides do the KGB basement joke, - plus the one that goes "all Russian mushrooms are edible - but some only once".

    No one said it wasillegal to export the hats. however it is illegal to buy anything in any currency other than roubles. This law is followed notably by exception; it was only applied in state owned shops and on the cruise boats. One souvenir shop had dual EUR/RUB pricing, whilst another had prices only in USD.

    The Russians are great, although not everyone on our boat was convinced of this as I'll explain in a later blog.


  3. No big General peak hat bought? Shame on you. Big General hats are all the rage you know. ;-)

  4. The Russians are people, just like any other. A mixed tale of good and ill. And just like any other place, life is a lot easier if you have some money in your pocket. The more, the better.

    Like the hats, though the Navy hat and the furry hat are the only two I recognize. I know, I am a philistine, but what're ya gonna do?


  5. To be honest PiP I looked long and hard at the General peak caps and nearly bought one. It was really carrying capacity that stymied me (after all you can only wear one on the plane). I saw a genuine cossack job as well with red top & white cross but it was 6,000 roubles.

    Steve - The other hats are the design from the early days of the Red Army. They were designed by Viktor Vasnetsov, who was a painter/theatre designer. The uniform cassock that goes with it is great as well. It's based on the Kiev style pointed hat.

    I take your point on people liking you more or less on the amount of money you've got, but I've been places where it's made no difference at all.