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Under the Red Star – Border Guard Caps

Caps of the Soviet Border Guard

Included here are caps worn by officers and men of the Soviet Border Guard. These troops were responsible for protection of the frontiers of the USSR. Their duties ranged from passport and customs control to full blown counterinsurgency and positional defense against invading armies. They were the first to resist the German invasion in 1941 and fought the Red Chinese in a series of violent battles along the Amur-Assuri Rivers in the late 1960’s. They were also engaged in many smaller battles with Afghan guerrillas and Islamic militants during the last years of the Soviet Union. All branches of service were represented within their ranks; from infantry, armor, artillery, aviation (helicopter), to naval forces. Except for the naval elements which wore naval uniforms with green piping, Border Guard troops were instantly recognizable by their distinctive “kelly” green topped visor caps. This recognizing feature remained unchanged since the 1920’s (and continues in Russia to this day).
A thumbnail image accompanies each cap description. Clicking on that thumbnail will bring up a larger, higher resolution image.

Border Guard Officer Service

1945-1955

This cap, dated 1951, typifies the “teller form” Border Guard cap of the pre-1969 era; with one significant exception – a modified leather visor. Colors are standard border guard – “kelly” green crown with dark blue (not black) band, with magenta piping standard before changing to red in 1970. Use of an older, brass red star emblem limits this cap’s wear by officers until 1955, when the new officer cockade was introduced. Soldiers could have worn a similar cap up until 1969/70. In contrast to Army/Air Force enlisted personnel, Border Guard soldiers and sergeants usually wore the visor cap on “service” vice only on parade. Pictures of Border Guard soldiers wearing the “overseas” (pilotka) are virtually non-existant. A black oilcloth strap is held in place by standard Army buttons. As mentioned, the one exception to conformity is the leather visor. This unauthorized visor was clearly a local modification – one presumes in the interest of “style”. The visor is professinally made from fine, kid leather; obviously removed from or intended for a leather cap and machine sewn onto the border guard body. Such a non-regulation cap could only be owrn by an officer on remote duty, since it would be bound to attract unwanted attention from one’s superiors! Scarce

Border Guard Officer Parade

1955-1958

In accordance with 1955 regulations, a new medium gray (steel) parade uniform was introduced for officers of the Border Guard as well as the other branches of the armed forces. However, while all other branches adopted caps with matching gray crowns, the Border Guards retained their traditional cap colors of bright green and dark blue with crimson piping. Only the accoutrements on the cap (metal visor leaves, gold cords and a new M55 parade cockade) were added to bring it in line with other services. Scarce

Border Guard Officer Service

1970-1991

Except for different materials and shape, Border Guard caps remained virtually unchanged in appearance from the 1930’s until the fall of the USSR. All these caps had a bright (or Kelly) green crown, very dark blue band, with crimson or red piping (red piping replaced crimson around 1970). This cap and color combination was considered such a distinctive feature of the Border Guards that officers and enlisted personnel wore essentially the same cap with parade, service and field uniforms. Only cockade and cord changes reflected the different uniforms. This particular cap has officer service “fittings” consisting of the oval cockade and gold cords. Although belonging to a junior officer, this cap is a private-purchase item mirroring general-grade caps. It has a patent leather visor, leather sweatband and a silk lining and was manufactured around 1990. Available-Scarce (for private purchase version)

Border Guard Officer Parade

1970-1991

Very similar to the officers’ service version shown above, this Border Guard officers’ parade cap differs only in having the M70 officers’ cockade pinned to the dark blue band. Available

Border Guard Enlisted Service/Parade

1970-1991

The enlisted version of the above two caps, this cap was worn with both parade and service uniforms. Unlike the rest of the Soviet military, enlisted Border Guard personnel seldom wore the pilotka, preferring this visor cap instead. Enlisted rank is shown by the M69 wreathed star and the black chinstrap. Available

Border Guard Warrant Officer Service/Parade

1972-1991

In 1972, the USSR MoD instituted the ranks of praporshchik and mitchman (warrant officers). These officers were granted the right to wear slightly modified officers uniforms. This cap is typical of a praporshchik. It is identical to an officer’s, with the exception it has a black chinstrap instead of gold officer cords. Note: This same combination of the M55 officer’s cockade and black chinstrap was worn by all officers (and by extended service sergeants) on their service caps from 1958 until 1969 when officers received gold cords on their caps. Available

Border Guard General Parade

1970-1991

My vote for the most beautiful Soviet military cap! Except for different materials and shape, Border Guard caps of all ranks remained virtually unchanged in appearance from the 1930’s until the fall of the USSR. All these caps had a bright (or Kelly) green crown, very dark blue band, with crimson or red piping. Even Border Guard generals retained this same color scheme. Except for the color, this cap mirrors that of other military generals’ caps. The cap has appropriate parade-style gilt wire leaves embroidered on the band surrounding a general’s all gilt cockade, a patent leather visor and natural color leather chinstrap with gold wire embroidery, and general officer buttons. Inside, it has a leather sweatband and silk lining. This style cap was in service from 1970 through 1991 (and later with Russian emblems). Although this cap was rarely seen in actual service (there weren’t that many Border Guard generals), this cap is surprisingly available to collectors (just like the KGB generals’ caps discussed earlier). Clearly most of these caps, although “original”, were never issued (this one was manufactured in 1988) and reflect dealers buying up excess caps from former Soviet uniform warehouses or Russian/Ukrainian uniform shops continuing to manufacture them solely for sale to collectors. Available

Border Guard General Service

1980-1991

Except of the color, this cap mirrors that of Army generals’ service caps. The cap has the appropriate gilt wire leaves embroidered on the band surrounding a general’s all gilt cockade. This band ornamentation was introduced on generals’ service caps in 1980. It also has a patent leather visor, gold cords, and general officer buttons. Inside, it has a leather sweatband and silk lining. Although theoretically a “lesser” cap, the Border Guard general’s service cap is, like its KGB counterpart, rarer than the parade version. Officially part of the service uniform, this same cap was also uniquely worn with the light gray walking out parade uniform. Scarce

Border Guard Enlisted Field

1980’s

One of the favorite caps in my collection! This cap was worn only by Border Guard personnel with their field “spetsodezhda” (computer camouflage) uniform in the 1980’s, until it was replaced with a “spetsodezhda” pattern field cap with earflaps matching the style of caps worn by the other Soviet military services. This cap is dated 1987, putting it towards the end of the period it was in use. Although Desmond’s “Camouflage Uniforms of the Soviet Union and Russia” shows one of these caps with a subdued officer’s cockade, the only pictures I have seen of border guards wearing them in action are of enlisted personnel wearing the small red star seen elsewhere on winter pile caps. Officers typically wore their normal green-topped service caps while on duty. This cap is made from the same weight cotton material the matching uniform is made of, and is unlined – making it very “crushable” and comfortable to wear. A cotton sweatband was sewn inside the band and a small tab is sewn inside the crown to protect the wearer’s forehead from the red star mounting prongs. With those exceptions, the cap is assembled like a normal visor cap, although the band is very narrow. The visor is double-sided cloth without any stiffening. A green oilcloth/plastic chinstrap is held in place by two green painted buttons sewn to the band. Green grommets under the crown enhance circulation. It has no piping of any type. Rare