In contrast to perceptions among many in the West that Soviet uniforms in the cold war were notable for their drab sameness; postwar Soviet uniforms were actually quite varied and often even spectacular. Nor was Soviet uniform development ever stagnant.

Changes were constant, although these usually impacted one section of the military at a time – generals, officers or soldier/NCOs. Periodically, however, across-the-board updates were issued or enough individual changes accumulated to justify a collective summation of uniform changes – as occurred in 1969 and 1989. Although somewhat simplistic, reference to five major military time uniform periods is made.

Note

these periods only apply to “military” uniforms – not uniforms of other uniformed departments or ministries

Uniform Periods at a Glance

Recap of major uniform changes in the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Uniform at Every Occassion

Recap of the Soviet distinction between Parade, Service and Field Uniforms.

Although the uniform periods discussed are the ones referred to on this site, viewers should be aware that the 1955, 1958, 1969 and 1989 regulations were mostly codified summaries of scores of individual uniform changes announced over preceding years as changes to the previous set of regulations.

Few things were ever accomplished overnight in the USSR! For example: the wave green officer’s parade uniform was a key component of the 1969 regulations, but had actually made its trial debut to selected units under an addendum to the 1958 regulations as early as 1965. Likewise, keep in mind that Soviet uniform changes typically allowed for a “phase out” period during which both old and new uniforms could be worn. Sometimes these periods could last up to two years.

Post War 1946-1954

Immediate post war and early Cold War modified M43; 1946-1954

The “Zhukov” 1955-1957

M55 or “Zhukov” Officer Uniforms & M56 Soldier Uniforms

The Icon 1958-1968

Cuban Crisis era M58 Soviet uniform is probably the most frequently portrayed in western movies

Modernised 1969-1988

Modernised M69 uniform that introduce the first field update since WWII

End of Empire 1989-1991

"End of Empire" M89 Uniforms mark the termination of Soviet Union and the transition into sovereign states

Randall Stewart

US – Military Veteran