May 2, 2008
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Russian army to show off new uniform at Red Square parade

May 2, 2008

MOSCOW, May 2, 2008 (AFP) - When the Russian army marches onto Red Square for the annual May 9 parade, they will be kitted out in stylish new uniforms designed to evoke the military's golden age.

Russian President Vladimir Putin(R) and fashion designer Valentin Yudashkin(C) examine new uniforms - Photo : AFP

"Our goal was to create a uniform for victors," said designer Valentin Yudashkin, who has also refashioned Aeroflot flight attendants and the Russian Olympic team.

Gold decoration on the parade uniform is a throwback to Tsarist times, caps are reminiscent of those worn by the Red Army during the victorious Red Square parade in 1945, and the long grey coats are similar to those used by Soviet soldiers, said Yudashkin.

The uniforms are more shapely and more chic, says the defence ministry. No less important for soldiers, the outfit weighs a kilogramme less than its predecessor.

Soldiers will model the uniform at the parade, which celebrates victory over Nazi Germany, just three months after President Vladimir Putin gave his approval to the new look. Mass production will start only at the end of the year.

Before designing the uniform, Yudashkin studied the Russian army's outfits back to the time of Tsar Peter the Great.

"I used red, the traditional color of the Russian army for the parade uniform," said Yudashkin. "Nobody will confuse a Russian soldier with a foreign soldier anymore."

A new uniform was previously introduced in the 1990s, following the Soviet collapse, but it was unpopular and officers complained that it made them look like they were serving in a Third World army.

In the first makeover, the Russian two-headed eagle replaced the Soviet red star, and the dark green Soviet look was toned down to olive green.

Among the latest changes is an end to the famous footcloth, which the army has used for more than two hundred years, in favour of more hygienic cotton socks.

Knee-high boots that soldiers have worn since Ivan the Terrible will be replaced with boots with laces.

"My soldiers ask how they will be able to get dressed in 45 seconds flat with all these laces," grumbled Valery Petrovich, a 40-year-old major in the Air Force.

Still, the new hats and collars made from astrakhan fur received his approval.

"It makes it smarter. Moreover, our families will be happier," Petrovich said with a crafty smile. Relatives of soldiers traditionally benefit from being passed on any surplus of clothing material such as fur.

One critic attacked the new look and the extravagance of hiring a top designer.

"The army is missing tanks and planes and we are getting dressed up. It is completely ridiculous," said nationalist writer Alexander Prokhanov.

"It is a decadent and raffish style which completely disfigures the army," he added.

"We should have used the uniforms which beat Nazi Germany in 1945," said Prokhanov, adding emotionally that "with their tent-like raincoats the Soviet soldiers were like angels."by Marina Lapenkova

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