The Russian Federation
The Russian Federation (Российская Федерация), or simply Russia, is the largest country in the world in terms of landmass, incoporating forty percent of the land in Europe and most of northern Asia. Following the dissolution of the USSR (Soviet Union) in 1991, Russia elected its first president and embarked on a vast number of reforms including privatization, market & trade liberalization aimed to make the former Socialist state a more progressive nation. Although an attempt was made to retain control over the former Soviet Army and transform it into a unified armed force of the new Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), this idea was ultimately rejected by most of the former Soviet republics resulting in the division of assets and the formulation of a new Armed Forces of the Russian Federation (Вооружённые Силы Российской Федерации)
Unlike many of the former Soviet states, the new Russian Armed Forces (Вооружённые Силы Россий, or VSR in romanized letters) retained some symbology of the Soviet Army and continued wearing Soviet uniforms for a number of years. With regards to combat uniforms, changes had already been implemented prior to the breakup of the USSR to introduce a durable and practical camouflage uniform that would be standard issue for all military personnel. Although older Soviet era camouflage patterns and uniforms continued to be issued and worn by some Russian military personnel for years to come, by 1990 a plan was already in place to issue a completely new camouflage pattern for conventional forces. This design, the 1990 3-TsV or simply VSR pattern did not enter widespread service until 1994, but it did become the first camouflage design to be universally issued to Russian military personnel. The pattern was also adopted by a number of ex-Soviet republics, including Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia and Kazakhstan. Within a few years, another general purpose camouflage design would be issued, the Flora pattern (introduced in 1998), which also populated the armed forces of several former Soviet republics.
Beyond the issue of "general purpose" camouflage, Russia has in fact been one of the most innovative nations in terms of camouflage design, producing a wide variety of unique patterns since 1991, many of which are associated with special units of the VSR or the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD). Some of these camouflage designs saw only limited production and distribution, whilst others continue to be worn in one form or another into the present era. This is particularly true of spetsnaz (special operations) units of the Army and Ministry of Internal Affairs.
Soviet Camouflage Patterns used by Russia
- During the transitional period, and for several years to come, a number of the camouflage patterns designed and used in the USSR continued to be worn by the new Russian Armed Forces. Of these, the oldest pattern to see widespread use was the solnechnye zaychiki (sunshine rays) KLMK uniform, which has continued to be worn by some Russian special forces, as well as reservists, Engineer & Cossack units of the Russian Army. The contemporary term for this pattern is berezka (birch) or serebryanyi list (silver leaf).
- The Soviet era 1988 tritsvetnaia kamuflirovannaia odezhda (TTsKO) or three-color camouflage uniform also remained in general service with some units of the Russian Armed Forces (particularly the VDV or Airborne Forces, Naval Infantry & GRU special forces). An early term for these patterns was Бутан or butan (butane), which was reputedly adopted from the project name assigned to the camouflage development program in the mid-1980s.
- First issued towards the end of the Soviet era, the two-color (or bicolor) variation of the woodland pattern above incorporates sparse darker green shapes on a lighter olive or khaki base. This pattern was issued to airborne and special operations units.
- The pattern below, known as sliva (Слива) or "plum," appears to have been experimental, originating in the early 1990s. It is undetermined to what degree this design was utilized or worn by Soviet or Russian forces.
- Another experimental pattern from the early 1990s is seen below.
Russian Armed Forces (VSR) Camouflage Patterns
- Although developed in the late 1980s (following an eight-year test period during which the early designs were known as barvikha), the camouflage designs most commonly known simply as VSR (for Vooruzhennyye sily Rossii or Russian Armed Forces) or dubok (little oak) did not enter service until 1991, and then only initially by specialized units such as the Airborne Forces (VDV). By 1994, the pattern was being distributed universally to most ground units of the Russian Armed Forces, as well as many units of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD). The VSR 3-TsV is a three-color pattern consisting of vertically aligned irregular shapes in two darker colors over a lighter colored field. As with the Soviet TTsKO three-color "woodland" patterns, the number of color variations of the VSR 3-TsV is quite high. Initial production runs released a green and a brown dominant version, but over time quite a number of variants have been documented. Summer and winter weight uniforms, aviation uniforms, and several accessories have been produced in these patterns. The VSR pattern has declined in usage with the Russian Armed Forces since the introduction of Flora pattern in 1998. Illustrated below are several examples we have collected, although more are known to exist.
- Introduced circa 1998, the Flora series of patterns (Arbuz or watermelon in Russian) are in fact a modification of the earlier 3-TsV pattern, in which the drawings have been enlarged and horizontally aligned. As with the earlier VSR pattern, a number of color combinations have been produced, and the uniform has now become the standard general issue camouflage pattern for both conventional units of the Russian Armed Forces and the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD). Illustrated below are several examples we have collected.
- A commercial pattern called Klyaksa (ink blotch) is in use with some members of the armed forces. Consisting of spotty blotches of dark green on a white field (and based on the German schneetarn), it is worn by personnel operating in snowy regions.
- Introduced around 2004, the SS-leto (SS Summer) pattern is heavily influenced by WW2 German SS oakleaf pattern camouflage. The style of uniform is called Partizan. The summer version of the pattern features loam, dark brown & sandy yellow shapes on a moss green background, and reverses to a subdued version. An autumn version incorporates black, loam, dark brown, ochre & moss green shapes on a sandy background, and also reverses to a subdued version of the pattern. Both patterns are popular with Russian special operations troops in the VSR and MVD, as well as the Spetsgruppa Al'fa of the FSB, who were the initial users. A reversible variation of this uniform, the Partizan-M incorporates a spring coloration (approximating the shades of the original WW2 German pattern), with autumn colorations having more subsued tones.
- A copy of the German-designed flecktarn pattern has been observed in use by some Airborne (VDV) units, as well as by some units of the Federal Security Service (Федеральная служба безопасности, or FSB) since 2005-2006. Known locally as Flectar, the pattern has black, dark green, greyish-olive, and russet spots on a yellowish-tan background. Presumably locally-produced, the pattern is remarkably similar to some versions that are commercially available, as well as the German original.
- A variation known as Flectar-D or ryaska (duckweed) pattern has black & sand-colored spotty clumps on a grass green field and is very similar to Danish M84 pattern.
- The pattern seen here, known as Излом or izlom (meaning "fracture" or "fissure"), was reputedly developed as early as 1997 but only brought into production around 2004. It is documented in use by by some reconnaissance units of the Armed Forces, as well as MVD special forces units.
- The commercial pattern here is known as skol and has also seen use among reconnaissance units of the Armed Forces.
- In 2008, Russia introduced a pixelated camouflage design intended to replace the VSR and Flora patterns. Officially called единая маскировочная расцветка (Edinaya maskirovochnaya rascvetka) or EMR, translating roughly as Universal Camouflage Pattern, the pattern is often referred to as Tsifra or "digital flora." Several variations of this pattern have been produced, the most common of which is the leto (summer) variant incorporating tiny pixels of black, reddish-brown and foliage green on a pale green background. Other versions include sever (northern regions), zima (winter), and gorod (urban). Full-scale adoption began in 2011.
- Also introduced in 2008, a pixelated camouflage design for the Border Guards.
- Recently, a pixelated version of the flecktarn design has also been worn by some Russian Airborne (VDV) units.
Ministry of Internal Affairs (MVD) Camouflage Patterns
The Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs (МВД or Министерство внутренних дел) comprises agencies for public security, criminal investigations, immigration services, internal security and special operations. Although by no means are all MVD personnel trained for combat duties, a fair percentage of its personnel operate either as police or as a paramilitary force similar in most respects to the regular armed forces. Within the Main Office for Special Technical Actions are a number of special operations units as well. It is these units in particular that have embraced the concept of camouflage not only as a pragmatic method of concealment, but in many cases as a means of standing out to the public and to potential enemies of the state. Indeed, the largest number of camouflage designs that have emerged from Russia are attributed to the elite units of the MVD.
- The old Soviet KLMK (kamuflirovannyi letnyi maskirovochnyi kombinezon) uniform was given a new life in 1992 as a series of camouflage patterns reputedly designed for the Brigades of Special Designation (BONVV) of the MVD. Four different camouflage patterns have been documented: a two-color desert pattern, three-color mountain pattern, four-color tropical pattern, and a four-color European pattern. Printed on the same lightweight fabric as the original uniforms, these spetsnaz KLMK uniforms were issued with a removable hood, face mask, and beret. These uniforms were only issued for a short period of time. The four camouflage patterns are illustrated below.
- A series of special-purpose summer and winter wet weather uniforms called spetsial'nyi maskirovochnyi komplekt (SMK) were also produced for MVD units and printed with a dense, four-color mottled pattern in both woodland and urban colorways. In addition to the summer & winter weight uniforms, hats, helmet covers and special assasult vests were also issued in the camouflage design, which was in turn copied and reproduced by the commercial market for hunters. In service through much of the 1990s, the uniforms were worn by MVD spetsnaz (Vitiaz), OMON, & GUKVV counter-terrorist units.
- Introduced in 1992 for use primarily by MVD Special Purpose Brigades (BONVV) and Spetsnaz (Vitiaz) units, the Komplekt kamuflirovannogo obmundirovannogo (KKO) was printed with a series of three camouflage designs loosely based on the US M1948 ERDL or woodland camouflage patterns. Two styles of uniform were produced (Type I and Type II), the former in both a woodland and an urban colorway, and the latter in both of these plus a version using the same coloration as the USA m81 woodland. Accessories for these uniforms included hats, beret, and assault vests.
- Another camouflage design dating to 1992 is also loosely based on the US M81 woodland drawings, and produced in both an urban and a woodland colorway. Called Лес or Les (forest) the two variants are worn by MVD Internal Troops & GRU spetsnaz units.
- A Russian version of tiger stripe pattern was introduced circa 1993 in both a green and a blue (urban) colorway. Referred to in some period literature as the Piatnisto-fioletovoe obmundirovanie (spotted violet uniform) or PFO, the two designs are more commonly referred to as Kamush (Cane), or as Tigr (tiger) and Тень (Ten) (shadow). The patterns were initially only worn by MVD OSN (Vitiaz) and OMON, but use has spread to a variety of special units of the MVD. Indeed, the tiger patterns have continued to be worn by Russian forces into the present period, making them one of the longest-lived MVD camouflage designs. Some variations in coloration have been documented, depending on the fabric and manufacturer.
- The MVD камышовый рисунок (Kamyshovy risunok) or "reed figure" pattern emerged in 1995 and has seen service with MVD Internal Troops Divisions, RUOP & Opnaz units. The pattern is today referred to as podlesok (underbrush). Green and blue (urban) colorways were originally produced, and later a grey version called SKOLM (night owl). The full modern terms based on color would be zelenyi podlesok (green underbrush), korichnevyi podlesok (brown underbrush) and seryi podlesok (grey underbrush).
- A more recent introduction, but heavily based on the above "reed figure" pattern is the Pactr (Rastr), introduced in 2004. This pattern has seen usage by MVD Internal Troops fighting in Chechnya, as well as by OMON special purpose troops.
- Presumably dating to the mid or late 1990s, a general purpose urban camouflage pattern has been fielded by special units of the Police (милиция) or Militsia of the MVD, particularly those with riot control or similar duties.
- Circa 1998 some Russian manufacturers have been reproducing copies of the US m81 woodland camouflage pattern. These have seen use with MVD SOBR (Special Rapid Reaction) units, among others. Several versions exist, depending on the type of fabric and manufacturer.
- A copy of British DPM pattern has also been produced commercially, but worn by some MVD Interior Troops as well as the FSB (Federal Security Service). The pattern is known colloquially as Смог (Smog,) or Кукла (kukla) (doll) pattern, and there are a number of variations based on the manufacturer and type of fabric.
- Since 2000 a reinterpretation of the old Soviet "sunray" camouflage pattern has been issued to MVD Interior Troops and Frontier troops of the FSB (Federal Security Service). The new pattern is called Берёзка (Berezhka) (birch tree) and despite some coloration differences it is certainly based on the original design.
- Heavily influenced by the Finnish M05 Maastopuku (forest) camouflage design, the Russian Ягель or Yeger (hunter) pattern has seen service with MVD special operations Internal Troops since it first appeared in the South Ossetia war in 2008. Although showing remarkable similarities to the Finnish design, the print screens are not precisely the same, with the Yeger pattern having slightly different shapes and a different combination of colors.
- Since 2008, some units of the FSB are wearing a Russian-made copy of the Multicam design.
- The pattern below appears to be a re-interpretation of the Soviet WW2 era TTsMKK three color "stair step" pattern, recolored for modern usage. This has appeared recently scattered among operators of the MVD special units.
Ministry of Emergency Situations (MYC)
- The Ministry of Emergency Situations (Министерство по чрезвычайным ситуациям) or MYC manages several key duties, including disaster relief, search & rescue and civil defense. Some units of the MYC wear a brightly colored variation of the standard VSR 3-TsV camouflage pattern having black and dark grey shapes on a bright orange background.
Commercial or Unofficial Camouflage Patterns
- Introduced circa 2009-2010, SURPAT is a commercially developed pixelated pattern of black, brown and moss green on a tan background that has been used by the MVD, FSB and Presidential Security Service.
- By 2011, several other Russian-produced pixelated camouflage patterns of commercial origin had appeared in various markets. Of these, a pattern known as Ryab (рябь), which means "ripple," has been documented in use by Russian military personnel. Seen here, the pattern incorporates black, medium brown, ochre, reddish-brown, and white colors; the brown and white have an interesting overprinted feature, which allows them to blend in more readily with the surrounding colors.
- A series of other patterns can be seen here, although as yet their usage by Russian military or paramilitary personnel has been undetermined. The pattern called Сумрак (Sumrak) or "dusk/twilight" has strong similarities to the Ryab design, but it nevertheless distinctive.
- The patterns below, called Цифра (Seefra) (meaning "digital") and Цифра-ночь ("night digital") seem to be heavily influenced by CADPAT.
- Also introduced are several variations of the Ягель (Yeger) design, inspired by Finnish patterns.