Sunday, October 7, 2012

Painting WWII Soviet Infantry - Part 4:
Winter Uniforms

Articles In This Series
Part 1: Series Introduction, Plus Ranks & Insignia
Part 2: Summer Tunics & Trousers
Part 3: Basing Tips & Tricks
Part 4: Winter Uniforms
Part 5: Painting Guides
Part 6A: Finished Black Tree Design 28mm Infantry
Part 6B: Finished Black Tree Design 28mm Infantry
Part 6C: Finished Black Tree Design 28mm Infantry

Series Overview
This is the fourth in an ongoing series of articles documenting the research I have been doing for painting my 28mm Black Tree Design miniatures for 1:1 skirmish gaming. Finding historical information on Soviet uniforms that gamers can use was very difficult, with much of it scattered across various Osprey and other books, along with some websites. I hope folks find this series of articles helpful and might even stir some interest in gaming the Eastern Front. While I painted 28mm miniatures, nearly all this information is useful for all miniature sizes.

The M41 and M43 Winter Uniforms
In earlier articles, I focused on Soviet summer uniforms. Now I turn my attention to the padded winter uniforms, which were designed to withstand the brutal cold of the Eastern Front.

There are two main patterns of padded winter uniforms: the M41 introduced in 1941 and the M43 introduced in 1943. Both patterns feature nearly identical padded trousers, called "vatnie sharovari" in Russian. These are so similar that gamers really needn't worry about the details because on 28mm and smaller miniatures one pair of padded trousers looks just like the next pair to my eyes. However, when we look at the winter uniform's padded jackets, called "telogreika" in Russian, we can spot some significant differences between the M41 and M43 patterns.

The M41 Telogreika
The M1 telogreika has the same large, folded-down collars as the M35 summer tunic pattern, which I discussed in Part 2 of the series. Rank insignia are displayed on these collars, as you can see in the drawing of the uniform to the upper left. As I discuss later in this article, most telogreika-clad Soviet WWII miniatures use the M41 pattern.

The M43 Telogreika
The M43 pattern, on the other hand, eliminated the telogreika's large collar, replacing it with a short upstanding collar buttoned at the top. This follows the same collar design as on the M43 summer tunic. As with the M43 summer tunic, senior NCO's wearing the M43 telogreika were to have shoulder boards displaying their rank insignia. However, photos show that many NCO's chose not to wear any sort of shoulder board on their telogreika. The photo to the right clearly shows the M43 telogreika, though the photo looks like a publicity shot because the uniforms and equipment on these soldiers look practically brand new and way too clean to have seen any fighting. (Soviets in WWII were fond of staging publicity photos, including combat photos.)

Mixing and Matching Jackets and Trousers
Because the telogreika was warmer than summer uniform jackets while still allowing a soldier more freedom of movement, soldiers often wore their telogreika in spring and autumn as well as in winter. You can see this in some photos, with soldiers wearing their telogreika and regular (non-padded) wool or cotton trousers, while other soldiers are wearing the full summer uniform.

In fact, on the cover of Red Army Uniforms of World War II in Colour Photographs (1993), you can see the fellow on the right wearing a telogreika along with the summer uniform trousers. By the way, this is a great book, with each page featuring one or more color photos of reenactors in Soviet uniforms. There is also a section of gear. This book has been a valuable asset for me, but its info can be a bit sketchy at times. You can pick up perfectly fine used copies of the book on Amazon for $20.

The Ushanka
Nothing screams Soviet/Russian winter like the ushanka! The ushanka, which means "ear hat" in Russian, is a distinctive feature of Soviet WWII uniforms and remains popular today. (In fact, my nephew up North likes to wear a rather large ushanka. Of course, we in Central Florida have little use for such a hat. But I digress...) Sometimes you might see this hat called a shapka or chapka, but from what I've read WWII uniform books prefer calling them ushanka. These hats come in many colors, from the same color as the uniforms, to shades of brown, to shades of cream, to shades of grey. The Soviet Star on the front flap could be red or gold, though I prefer red for my miniatures. You can tie the ushanka's ear flaps at the top of the hat, pulling the flaps up, or you can lower the flaps over the ears, tying them under the chin to keep you nice and tosty on those cold Stalingrad nights. Pretty nifty and very Soviet-looking!

28mm Miniatures in Winter Uniforms
On the page WWII 28mm Soviet Infantry, I discuss in detail which miniature companies make soldiers clad in winter uniforms and identify the uniform patterns they wear. (Originally, that page started as part of this article but grew too large!) Still, I'll briefly say that Artizan, Black Tree Design, Crusader, Warlord Games, and West Wind figures all wear the M41 telogreika with large collars. The Assault Group and Victory Force figures wear the M43 telogreika with short collar and shoulder boards. Some figures wear padded trousers, while most others wear regular trousers.

Painting Winter Soviet Uniforms
Information about painting Soviet winter uniforms can be found in Part 5 of the series, Painting Guides, which will be posted in a couple of days. I'll also post it as a page. This is a comprehensive list of guides covering all the uniforms covered to date.


  1. Some interesting points about the different jackets. I'm surprised about the larger variety in kit, Especially the Russian uniform I'd of expected it all to be just one type for some reason

  2. Jay, I posted your comment then accidently deleted it three seconds later! Sorry! (I've been getting so much spam that hitting the delete button has become a natural response for me!) Here is what Jay wrote:

    "Nice. I'll trot over to GD and ck the store out. Thanks."

    Brummie, check out the Soviet reenactor uniform companies. It's crazy the variety. BTD figures gives you that crazy variety, which I came to appreciate. How many styles of grenade satchels does one army need??? Or ammo pouches. Crazy.

  3. Great series, exactly the kind of thing I appreciate as a reader and follower of blogs. I've spent close to a lifetime reading about the East Front but I haven't painted it yet. If I ever make the leap, what you've provided is a roadmap.

  4. Thanks, fellas! I'm posting the painting guides tomorrow, so stay tuned.


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