Austerlitz military fashions: the Russian imperial army


A still from the film “War and Peace” (1965–1967). The battle scenes and the uniforms of the soldiers of the Russian army are shown very well, including during the Battle of Austerlitz. But there are still few grenadiers in the scenes. More and more musketeers. But, nevertheless, soldiers in shakos meet with “fat sultans”.

Always, studying history from the perspective of our today’s post-mortem, I want to say:

“And it should be like this.”

But what is not, that is not.

The past cannot be changed. And everything that was there, including military clothes, can be studied, but in no way changed!

“But pantaloons, tailcoat, vest,
All these words are not in Russian … “

“Eugene Onegin” (Ch. 1, XXVI) A.S. Pushkin

Greatest battles in history. Last time we left the heroes of our story (three emperors-generals) for preparations for the battle of Austerlitz.

But in order to win or, conversely, to lose, they did a lot in advance. And, in particular, they took care of what and how their soldiers would be dressed.

And this is not an idle question. Because military affairs do not tolerate inconveniences. Troops, especially in powder smoke, must be clearly distinguishable. Not to mention the fact that in that distant and completely wild time, people believed that the uglier you were dressed for battle, the better. That is, to paraphrase a well-known saying, it is quite possible to say that in the world in red, even death is red!

Austerlitz military fashions: the Russian imperial army
Chief officers of the Preobrazhensky Life Guards Regiment in uniforms of the early 19th century. The uniforms of the Russian Guard 1802-1805. A set of 18 postcards. State Memorial Museum of A.V. Suvorov. SPb, 2008.

Well, now for one more important note.

It is difficult to say why it so happened, but in practice all Russian tsars, starting with Peter I, were downright obsessed with uniformism.

That is, they constantly dressed and changed their soldiers in different uniforms, changed their hats, sultans, and laces for them. And all right, all this would be aimed at reducing the cost of military uniforms. Not at all. Although individual attempts along this path have sometimes been undertaken.

Most importantly, almost more money was spent on all these “reforms” than on weapons.

In fact, the “blunt-strap” service in the Russian imperial army was not a military one. Because practically none of the kings really engaged in combat training in it.

So, for training in shooting, soldiers at the beginning of the 19th century were given 10 live cartridges … a year. Not a day, not a month, but a year! The gamekeepers were given 120 rounds a year. But only those of them who had fittings, and there were very few of them. However, we will talk about the tactics on the Austerlitz field later.

In the meantime, we will focus only on the uniform of the fighting. And let’s start, first of all, with the army of Alexander I.

And he began his reign with reforms … uniforms


[center]Junior non-commissioned officer and regimental drummer of the Life Guards Preobrazhensky Regiment in 1802 uniform. The uniforms of the Russian Guard 1802-1805. A set of 18 postcards. State Memorial Museum of A.V. Suvorov. SPb, 2008.

Moreover, he was concerned with the reform of the uniforms of his army a year after his accession to the throne.

So to speak, he promised to rule according to the behests of his grandmother Catherine the Great. And as he promised, he did so: he introduced a new uniform in the army that somehow combined elements of modern fashion with the fashions of Catherine’s times.

Already on April 30, 1802 there was

A new report card regarding uniforms, ammunition and “rifle things” for the entire Russian imperial army was confirmed by the highest,

very seriously changed its appearance.


Non-commissioned officers of the Life Guards of the Jaeger Battalion in uniform 1803. Uniforms of the Russian Guard 1802–1805. A set of 18 postcards. State Memorial Museum of A.V. Suvorov. SPb, 2008.

The soldiers received tailcoat uniforms and fashionable high collars. And the shoes were replaced with knee-high boots.

The gamekeepers received hats with a high crown and brim, very much like civilian top hats.

But for the soldiers of the line infantry, the headdress was a leather helmet with a double-headed eagle and with a high plume-caterpillar made of horsehair across this helmet. The back of the helmet was adorned with a colored splint. And as a result, it became similar to the headdresses of the so-called “Potemkin uniform” of 1786-1796.

Outwardly they were beautiful. But at the same time they are so impractical that already in 1804 they introduced “hats” of the 1803 model and 4 ½ inches in height, which were sewn from black cloth. Two blades were sewn to them from the inside and replaced the headphones that were used in the cold.

The “hat”, which became the prototype of the future shako, had a visor of patent black leather, a cylindrical shape and a black cockade with an orange stripe in a circle with a copper button in the center. And a little higher – colored “thistle”. On the face, the cap was held by a chin strap. Officially, this headdress was called

“Musketeer cap”.


Privates of the Life Guards of the Jaeger Battalion. The uniforms of the Russian Guard 1802-1805. A set of 18 postcards. State Memorial Museum of A.V. Suvorov. SPb, 2008.


The hat of the grenadiers was exactly the same. But it was additionally decorated with a brass pomegranate right above the visor and a magnificent black sultan and downright frightening size, while the musketeers had white tassels with a colored center instead of sultans on their hats. The sultans on the drummers’ hats were red. And the uniforms had white chevrons on the sleeves and shoulder “porches”.

Uniforms in the latest fashion


Musketeer 1805-1806 From the book: “Drawings of uniforms and banners of the Infantry of His Royal Highness the Prince of Prussia. From 1805 to 1843

On the shoulders of both the privates and the officers of the line infantry were shoulder straps, which, however, the rangers were not supposed to.

The uniform was double-breasted with two rows of brass buttons and a uniform cut, which is for the line infantry – grenadiers and musketeers, which is for the rangers. And it was sewn of dark green cloth. He was girded with a white leather belt in the line infantry, where all other belts were also white, and black for the rangers. Moreover, the huntsmen had a black leather cartridge case attached to their belly. Whereas the musketeers and grenadiers wore it on their side. And the grenadiers adorned it with four grenades in the corners. And in the guard there is also the star of St. Andrew in the center.


Chief Officer. From the book: “Drawings of uniforms and banners of the Infantry of His Royal Highness the Prince of Prussia. From 1805 to 1843

The pantaloons were supposed to be white. Cloth – in winter. And from “Flemish linen” – in the summer with a folding flap in the front, fastened with buttons. Moreover, pantaloons were worn tucked into boots. The rangers had their trousers in a green uniform color and also tucked into their boots, which, of course, was very convenient.

But the officers’ tailcoats were longer.

The officers had a very practical uniform: a green tailcoat uniform with tails that were longer than those of the privates. And gray hiking trousers, sewn between the legs in black leather. Together the belt is a scarf. On the head – an impressive size bicorn hat (it is not for nothing that in the battle of Austerlitz the French riflemen will be given the command to aim at large hats), decorated with a cockade and a black plume.

Non-commissioned officer hats were trimmed with galloon.

The grenadiers of the guards regiments differed in the color of collars, cuffs and shoulder straps. In addition, in the guards regiments there are three stripes on the cuffs of galloon, buttoned up.

Non-commissioned officers (unlike privates) had a white top on the Sultan with a longitudinal orange stripe, a halberd, a soldier-style sword, and also had a cane with them to punish negligent soldiers.

The drummers of the guards regiments had orange chevrons and buttonholes on the chest, as well as red sultans.


Drummer 1805-1806 From the book: “Drawings of uniforms and banners of the Infantry of His Royal Highness the Prince of Prussia. From 1805 to 1843

The Horse Guards wore white tunics (for some reason, even cuirassiers were not given cuirasses at that time), high helmets made of pump leather with a chased forehead with a star and a small comb, which, however, was adorned with a lush hair “caterpillar”.

The uniforms of the dragoons and artillerymen were green, of the same cloth as those of the rangers or line infantry. Hiking trousers are gray, lined with leather. They wore them over boots.


Fireworks (non-commissioned officers) of the cavalry company of the Life Guards Artillery Battalion. The uniforms of the Russian Guard 1802-1805. A set of 18 postcards. State Memorial Museum of A.V. Suvorov. SPb, 2008.

Guards foot artillerymen wore the uniforms of the guards infantry.

But the guards horse artillerymen are dragoon uniforms, but with a black collar and cuffs, also decorated with guards embroidery.

An additional difference in ranks in the cavalry was the hair plumes on helmets: white with a black ending for officers, black with a white ending and a longitudinal orange stripe for non-commissioned officers. The black “caterpillar” was worn by privates. The musicians had red. And by a red one with a white ending and an orange longitudinal stripe, they distinguished the headquarters trumpeters.

The dragoon regiments, like all the others, were distinguished by colored collars, cuffs on the sleeves, and shoulder straps. And more … horse saddlecloths!


Trumpeters of the cavalry company of the Life Guard of the Artillery Battalion. The uniforms of the Russian Guard 1802-1805. A set of 18 postcards. State Memorial Museum of A.V. Suvorov. SPb, 2008.

And a long-sleeved greatcoat

The overcoat for all privates relied on gray cloth with a colored collar and shoulder straps in the color of the uniform. It should be worn belted with a uniform belt, fastened with seven copper buttons. Moreover, her sleeves were long, with slouching on her hands. And she herself is free and also quite long. The removed overcoat was worn in the form of a roll over the left shoulder. An officer’s overcoat differed only in that it was with a cape.

Interestingly, although the high miter of the previous reign was abolished, they continued to be worn. In particular, the Pavlovsky infantry regiment operated in them on the Austerlitz field.

The most elegant was, as usual, the uniform of the hussar regiments – each regiment had its own.

Although the hiking pantaloons were all the same, gray or fawn, fastened on the side along the seam with buttons. All wore colored mentics and dolman. However, the shako was unified with the infantry. Although they had a differently arranged sultans.

The most variegated uniforms were the Cossacks. However, the Cossack Guard, which arose under Catherine, and was considered a regular army formation, wore a strict uniform: a soldier’s greatcoat, a dark blue chekmen, a red half-jacket and blue trousers over boots. Their fur hats with a red blade and twisted tassels were very spectacular, as well as a small sultan of feathers, the color of which the privates were distinguished from the non-commissioned officers (the black and orange top of the sultan).


“War and Peace” (1965-1967). Prince Bagration and Andrei Bolkonsky walk in front of the musketeers in order to lead them in the attack on the French.

In general, it is this uniform of the Russian army that can be described as the most comfortable, practical and appropriate for its purpose.

Of course, you can dream a little.

And … in an alternative reality, you can put a little more intelligence into the head of Alexander I. So that he put all the infantry in a green jaeger uniform. He took off the stupid sultans from the “musketeer caps”. From the helmets of the cavalry – thick “caterpillars”. And he also dressed cuirassiers and cavalry guards in green and gave them cuirasses.

But what was not, that could not be.

The only pity is that in the future, the development of uniforms under Alexander, and then Nicholas followed the path of her increasing service and stupid decoration.

But this was already the trend in military fashion.

And our kings were very greedy for her.

To be continued…

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