March 01, 2008

Our Naked Army **

With great pomp and circumstance (and less than laudatory press coverage), it was announced in January that the Russian military would be getting new dress uniforms, designed by Valentin Yudashkin. A noted Russian military expert and editor of the newspaper Yezhenedelnaya Gazeta offered this take.

It has long been noted that an army’s uniform curiously reflects a country’s reigning ideology. Take Hugo Boss' infernal SS uniforms (which Russian designers tried to reintroduce rather unsuccessfully for the FSB), or how a US Army General’s uniform differs little from those of enlisted men – except in what is on the shoulders and collars. Or the fact that all US military men get the same set of uniforms (dress, everyday, and combat), no matter the rank.

The opulence of golden embroidery, karakul, braiding and aglets on the new Russian uniforms symbolizes the current government's attitude toward the army. If the Kremlin needs the army for one thing, it's for propaganda, for showing that "Russia is getting up off its knees." So glitter and glitz are quite useful. Just like calling strategic bomber flight training "combat duty" and saying that four military ships in the Atlantic "obliterates the US Sixth Fleet’s monopoly in the Mediterranean." Braids and aglets fit in quite nicely.

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