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Under the Red Star – Merchant Marine

Caps of the Soviet Merchant Marine

Shown here are caps worn by sailors and officers of the civilian Soviet marine services. This includes the Riverine Fleet, responsible for marine traffic within and contiguous to the USSR, and the Merchant Marine (MORFLOT), responsible for all international shipping and fishing operations. As with the other non-military ministries, uniforms of these personnel are rather poorly described, although a 1999 Russian-language book called “Morskoi Costume” has done a fair job in explaining MORFLOT uniforms. This lack of information and their similarity to Soviet Navy uniforms can cause a great deal of confusion for those new to these caps. With naval types being a rather independant lot, there are also many instances of mariners wearing cap decorations that are not exactly authorized for their particular position. A thumbnail image accompanies each cap description. Clicking on that thumbnail will bring up a larger, higher resolution image.

Riverine Fleet Senior Command Staff

1977-1991

Like the Navy, Riverine (and its cousin, the Merchant Marine) caps changed little over the years, with the exception of emblems. This cap is made of black fabric and although nominally a winter version, was worn year round by many officers. Neither the crown nor the band are piped (differentiating Riverine and Merchant Marine caps from white-piped Soviet Navy caps). The visor differs from most Soviet Navy ones in that it has reinforcement sewn around the outer edge. This appears to be a common feature of civilian marine caps up to the present day, although the Soviet Navy dropped this style apparently by the 1960’s. The cap has regulation gold cords of a senior officer since 1977 attached with normal brass Navy (anchor) buttons. The hat emblem is unique to the Riverine Fleet. Both metal and embroidered versions of this emblem were used. Metal leaves are pinned to the visor – these were actually only authorized for general-director equivalent officers, but in practice were apparently worn by many ship Captains as well. Scarce

Riverine Fleet Senior Command Staff

1977-1991

A summer or tropical version of a Riverine Captain’s cap. Superior construction and upgraded decorations indicate its wear by a senior ship’s captain – probably Captain 1st Rank equivalent. The cap is light tan rather than white (white was traditionally worn by those serving in the Black, Azov and Caspian Sea areas; light tan/beige was worn elsewhere) and has an unusual square-shaped leather visor lined on its underside with black cloth. Again, the cap is not piped in a contrasting color. The Riverine Fleet emblem is entirely embroidered while the officer’s cords are attached with gold buttons embossed with the Great Seal of the USSR (rather than the Naval Admiral’s emblem!). Gold leaves pinned through the visor round out the decorations. Scarce-Rare

Riverine Fleet Highest Command Staff

1969-1991

This cap does not follow uniform regulations and has probably been “badged up”, but is included for comparison purposes. The cap itself is a normal Riverine Fleet/Merchant Marine type – black overall including piping; gold cords of a senior commander; small plain plastic visor and regular navy buttons. However, the embroidered emblem is one reserved for only the highest ranks of the Riverine Fleet – director/admiral equivalent. What gives me pause is that there are no metal or embroidered decorations on the visor – regulation for these exaulted ranks, and the buttons are the regular anchor-embossed kind, rather than general-officer type (with state seal or admiral’s crossed anchors). As a result, the “authenticity” of this cap is questionable. Available-Scarce (emblem is the scarce element)

Riverine Fleet Senior Command Staff

1977-1991

Although clearly a summer cap worn by a Senior Commander (Captain 3rd-1st rank equiv.), I cannot narrow the period down further. Assuming Riverine Fleet personnel followed MORFLOT regulations, the combination of the embroidered emblem, gold cords and lack of metal leaves on the visor indicate this cap could have been worn by a senior commander between 1980-1991or by a ship’s Captain as early as 1977. Besides the ornaments mentioned, this cap has a synthetic leather visor with reinforced edging, an older, finer made set of real brass buttons, the normal black ribbon band, and a dark tan crown. In contrast to the white covers on other summer caps, this cover is not removable. This tan cover was traditionally worn by MORFLOT and Riverine personnel on all water bodies other than the Black, Azov and Caspian seas. As is standard for these civilian marine caps, it has no piping. Available-Scarce

Merchant Marine (MORFLOT) Ship Captain

1980-1991

At a distance, this 1980-dated cap seems to typify all the standard elements of a senior officer (or ship’s captain) within the Merchant Marine (MORFLOT) – or the Riverine Fleet. This is the winter varient with a black napped wool crown without piping, a silk ribbon band, and gold cords held with gold buttons. The reinformced plastic visor is pinned with Captains’ metal leaves (other Senior Officers who were not ships’ Captains were not authorized to wear these leaves during this period). The emblem is the standard gold-wire embroidery on a wool backing worn by MORFLOT senior command staff during this periord. Past these basic elements, however, lay a couple unusual “upgrades”. Most strikingly, the silk ribbon – rather than being the plain ribbed design ususally seen, is emboidered with black silk laurel sprays. I have never seen such an ornate band on a Soviet cap – and it may reflect material picked up by the Captain on one of his overseas cruises. Likewise, the cord buttons are very ornate – similar in overall design to the standard “anchor” buttons, but of much higher quality; embossed with fouled anchors and detailed edging. The combined effect of these enhancements stands out in comparison to most rather austere MORFLOT caps. Of note: this cap is marked as made in a MORFLOT clothing factory in Odessa. Scarce

Merchant Marine (MORFLOT) Medium Command Staff

1980-1991

A typical summer white cap worn by medium command personnel (lieutenant equiv.) of MORFLOT, dated 1988. The white crown indicates service on the Black, Azov or Caspian Seas – tan was worn elsewhere. The unique gold embroidered wreathed anchor emblem indicated the “medium” level of rank. Gold cords were introduced for these officers in 1980 – prior to which they wore black chinstraps. As is normal for most summer caps, the white cover is removable for cleaning. Standard gold navy buttons hold the cords in place and a black ribbon encircles the black band. The plastic visor is unusually small for this later period. Available-Scarce

Merchant Marine (Tug Service?) Medium Command Staff

1980-1991

Clearly a variant of a mid-level winter Merchant Marine officer’s cap, this one was reportedly worn by “escort” (tugboat?) pilots. The cap is standard Merchant Marine winter style – overall black without colored piping, heavy plastic visor, gold anchor buttons and black ribbon band cover. Mid-level officer status is indicated by the gold cap cords and the embroidered anchor emblem on the band. This emblem is mostly obscured by a metal & enamel pin representing a waving Soviet flag surrounded by a white field. This pin is not a local modification; it is a high quality, factory made attachment without price markings (as civilian “znachki” pins are invariably marked), leading credence to the “regulation” nature of this cap ornamentation. Any additional reporting on the wear of this emblem would be appreciated.

Scarce

Merchant Marine Fisheries Junior Command Staff

1965-1991

Another civilian marine cap that closely resembles its counterparts in the Navy. It is a summer version, consisting in this case of a white cover worn over the black winter cap. The emblem is unique to Merchant Marine Ministry of Fisheries junior commanders (petty officer equiv.) and cadets (other MORFLOT groups wore different emblems). The band is black and the cap has no piping. As prescribed by MORFLOT regulations, it has a black chinstrap (for junior commanders) attached by gold colored naval buttons. Available